I recently reached the milestone of my 60th birthday. In most ways I feel better at 60 than I did at 50. In other ways I definitely feel my age. But aging is not for sissies. I don’t complain (much) and keep as mentally and physically active as possible. There was no huge celebration with family that day. We usually wait until Memorial Day and wrap my birthday up with another in our family. One grill session, one cake; makes it easier on everyone getting together.
At any rate, my plan on my actual birthday was to come home from work, maybe have a run, relax, perhaps drink a ceremonious scotch or two while sitting on my front porch watching the sunset. But that was not to be.
Jennifer called about mid-afternoon while I was at work to inform me that a ‘big’ dog was dead on my property. Since we live practically in the middle of nowhere, one has to usually take care of these things oneself; no city or county services to assist. I could have loaded the dog up on my truck and carried him to a veterinarian to be incinerated, but, since it was late in the day the dog's body was already swelling, that was really more trouble than burying him.
I arrived home after work and assessed the situation. It was a large dog, well over 100 pounds, and it looked like a collie mixed with something else (Labrador maybe?) mutt that wandered onto my property from my neighbor to the north. Before I did anything, we contacted the local busy-body who knows all the area gossip to see if she’d heard of a dog missing. Indeed, it was my neighbor’s.
So, I ventured over to his house to inform him. Unfortunately, he is recovering from a series of strokes. Although he was coherent and functional, he was certainly in no condition to deal with this dog situation. His son, about 30, answered the door and the father joined soon thereafter. I asked if they were missing a dog and they indicated yes. I apologetically informed him that the dog was dead on my property.
As it turned out, the animal had been having strokes recently, like his owner. There were no signs of wounds or trauma to the dog. I offered that somehow he might have been poisoned. The man, a detective by trade, surmised that the dog probably had a heart attack, perhaps related to his strokes. Whatever, I said I was going to bury the dog but didn’t feel right about doing so until I checked with him first. He thanked me and we spoke briefly of his illness before I left. For reasons unknown, I inquired about the dog’s name. It was Trident and had been a rescue dog from the sheriff’s department. I guess, I felt I wanted to know the name of the animal I was about to bury even if that made no difference whatsoever.
Pulling out of his driveway I couldn’t get the annoying thought out of my head that his son should have at least offered to help me with the situation. But, he’s a millennial and they definitely operate under different rules of etiquette. Certainly, not ‘southern gentleman’ material. He was visiting from Las Vegas anyway. What the hell do they know about being respectful?!
Anyway, it was 85 degrees out. My contemplated run turned into a hard work project. The dog was situated toward the middle of my property. I wanted to move him closer to the pet cemetery where several of our past animals are buried. I had mowed the area where he was laying two days previously, so I knew his death had happened in the past 48 hours. He was covered in flies and stank to high-heaven but at least he wasn’t jellified yet. I brought a tarp and gently rolled Trident upon it. Then, with Jennifer’s help, I drug him into the woods with a specific place in mind to make the shallow grave.
She couldn’t stand the stench and the undergrowth of the woods so I was pretty much on my own for the rest of it. First I had to get my chainsaw and hack through some large branches that had fallen. Ordinarily, I would have left them there to rot, but this day they were in my way. I couldn’t drag the heavy tarp over them.
After I cut the path I pulled Trident to a perfect spot near the back of my property. For some reason talking to the body helped me as I rolled him off and put him in place. I covered the body in a large amount of lime we had in the pole barn. This immediately helped with the odor and cut down on the swarm of flies and bumble bees that crawled and hovered over the poor dead dog.
By now sweat was pouring down into my eyes so badly I could hardly see. I was in a sleeveless t-shirt and had to pause frequently to wipe my forehead with the bottom of the shirt. Next I covered the body with a small mound of soil, keeping at it until the dog was completely covered, patting the soil down with my gloved hands to firm things up. The whole time I was talking to Trident, telling him I hoped he didn’t suffer too much and that my efforts to bury him would be adequate.
Finally, a little over an hour after I got home, the ordeal was over. This was the second time I’ve had to bury a dog in emergency fashion like this. The other was back when Nala died. You never know what strange situation you are going to encounter living in the country. But you usually have to be prepared to handle whatever it is yourself.
Afterwards I showered, had dinner, and sat in my recliner listening to classical music. My plans for my birthday evening were disrupted and I really didn’t feel like a celebratory drink (or anything else) at that point. Thanks to death of Trident, I will always particularly remember my 60th birthday. Nothing like dealing with death as you enter your sixth decade. It’s messy business, however it comes.
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