Having Sparkey's grave right outside our door, I'm clearly seeing for the first time the beauty and emotional balm which a well-tended grave provides. In my personal cosmology, the body is a shell in which the spirit briefly travels, and although I realize that Sparkey's body is not truly "him", there is great comfort in knowing that his body, which we knew and loved so well, is returning to its organic source directly under our gaze, on land which he himself knew and loved.
Sitting out there tonight after sundown, lighting a candle, I found it easy to talk to him. It's simply a place to connect, a place where I can feel his spirit, knowing that, on some level, he feels my love and beams his love back to me. I feel even more connected with him when we're out walking or biking in his beloved fields, and Mary felt his presence the other day as we wheeled along the pond in the late afternoon sun, Tina racing behind us.
This autumn, I plan to climb a few small local mountains that Sparkey loved, to sit and contemplate this land with which he was enthralled, and to relive some of those moments of joy we experienced side by side in nature. He loved the snow, he seemed to enjoy the slowness of the heat and the coolness of a splash in the pond or the creek, although he admittedly seemed repulsed by getting wet in the rain, and would often sit at the door and refuse to go out in anything more than a sprinkle. When he did get wet, however, there was nothing he seemed to like better than a vigorous rub-down with a nice dry towel. I would thread the towel under his belly and "floss" his undercarriage, and he would stand so still as I did so. He seemed to love these post-walk ablutions, and it was a joy to rub him down and then watch him roll on the carpet in satisfied delight.
Now, the times when he rolled in rotting mushrooms or got a face full of porcupine quills were not such fun, but they were part and parcel of life with a dog, especially a dog as spirited as old Bob. How we loved so many things about him, like a benign uncle who just always seemed to be there when you needed him, but rarely asked for much in return. He was beloved by many,and even our friends who are not such "dog people" admit that he captured their hearts and filled them with joy with just a glance or a turn of the head. His specialness was contagious---and unavoidable.
So, his body slowly melts back into the earth, returning to the soil from which it sprang. The bulbs which blossom in the spring after the thawing of the long winter will be a testament to his enduring beauty, and to our unending gratitude for his kind soul's visit to our home, and our hearts.