Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
Yesterday, September 2nd, 2006, at 2:20pm, Sparkey left his body and this physical existence in the most peaceful way imaginable. The screened-in porch was a sacred space---a shrine created lovingly by Mary---of photos, candles, objects of devotion, and mementos of Sparkey's sweet and noble life. The party lights were lit all night on Friday, the porch glowing, the cool breezes cleansing the space. Mary smudged the house with sage, and also smudged Sparkey several times briefly.
The vet arrived at 1:30, Tina already in the care of a neighbor, her shades drawn so that Tina would not see the vet's van and be traumatized by the sight of it. Rene and I dug the grave in the morning, the area protected from rain with a brown tarp suspended from surrounding trees, that piece of earth blessed and consecrated by the three of us before beginning our task. We had at the ready an urn of our dear friend Woody's ashes, several of Rene's wisdom teeth, three sticks representing the three of us, a bone unearthed while digging the grave (most likely buried by Tina some long-forgotten afternoon), and a sage smudge stick. We had chosen a lovely cotton tapestry of aqua and earth tones and Native American design in which to wrap his body. This fabric had covered a favorite chair in our house where he had lived as a puppy. The grave was round like a womb and three feet deep.
The compassionate doctor sat with us on the floor of the porch as we connected with Sparkey. He had ensconced himself in the very spot where we had planned for his transition to occur, and we only had to shift him slightly so that we could all kneel on the foam mattress at his head. The vet sat at his feet and explained that she would inject a strong sedative into his buttock muscle so that he would become very drowsy and probably fall asleep. Only when he was completely relaxed would she access a vein on his hind leg and insert a needle and small catheter which would allow for the overdose of anesthesia which would actually stop his heart. Following the first injection, we all brought our faces very close to his, looking in his eyes as they became heavier, telling him sweet things, what dogs to look for in his new home, and how grateful we were to him for his service and loyal companionship. Even after more than a minute, he still was not completely drowsy, his head moving slowly from right to left, approximately four inches above the bed. I had the image that he was already slightly above his body, trying to detach, and was looking from left to right to take in a final image of the three of us and the scene in which he was the central player.
Following a whispered conversation between myself and the vet, she injected another dose of sedative and he slowly lowered his head to the soft mattress covered with a maroon flannel sheet, closing his eyes for the last time. Crying, we all said goodbye and urged him to float on, and we each placed a hand on his heart which was still beating slowly. The doctor then began the infusion of anesthesia into the needle placed in a vein of his right hind leg. A small patch of hair had been shaved and that hair was stowed in a small wooden urn kept on hand for that purpose. With our hands we could feel his heart slow and then peacefully cease its motion. He did not take a final deep breath as is sometimes experienced. His heart simply stopped beating and his respirations halted. Beautifully, a single tear formed at the outer corner of his left eye, fully visible to the three of us, and we wept as this lone tear increased in size and then streaked down his lovely orange face. The muscles around his nose were the only ones which twitched for a minute or so, almost as if he was getting a last scent of this earth which he so loved.
Taking her leave, the very sensitive vet exited quietly, and we were left to tend Sparkey's beloved body in private. Rene brushed him down, and gathered some of the fur. We also cut some of his hairs from several places with a pair scissors. I fetched Tina from our neighbors and brought her to see her brother's body. Wrapping him in the chosen fabric, we carried him to the grave, lowered him in gently, each took a turn kissing his head, and tucked him in, his spine gracefully curved, his front paws below his chin. The three sticks, Rene's wisdom teeth, and the bone were placed in the grave, and some of Woody's ashes were rubbed into the fur over Sparkey's heart by each of us in turn. Finally, covering his head and face, we then took turns putting handfuls of dirt over his shrouded body. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was gently place a shovelful of dirt over what I knew to be Sparkey's head. It was at that moment that I knew he was gone forever and would never return. Rene assisted me in completing this task of closure, and we then had our private family time around the grave, Tina at our side.
His body is now resting in the earth, his soul free to run with his friends old and new, and we give thanks for this loyal companion who loved us so unconditionally. His grave is now our sanctuary, and we will tend it with as much love as he tended our home and lives.
Sparkey's body is dead. Long live Sparkey's spirit.