It’s rare that headline news strikes our families directly, but the big news in 2007 about tainted pet food from China hit my family hard.
My brother Glen had to put down his 12-year old Great Dane, Abby, because her kidneys were failing and she couldn’t hold her bladder. He had switched three months earlier from feeding her Alpo to Iams Canned Chicken & Chunks, one of the recalled foods, thinking at the time it would be better for her digestion. It may be that both brands were tainted.
He cried for three days before she was euthanized. The vet took care of disposing the body. “I don’t think you get as much closure when you put them down and you don’t have the body to dispose of,” Glen said.
I know about feeling guilty over the death of a dog. Many years ago, I let our family’s Basset Hound, Lady, out one cold winter day. I didn’t walk her because I was sick in bed. A neighbor called to say Lady was hit by a car on a busy road around the corner from our house.
My penance was burying her body. I’m sure it was totally against local ordinances in Maryland. I transported her stiff remains, wrapped in an old comforter, by wheelbarrow to the back edge of our property. Digging dirt in freezing nasty East Coast weather was hard work.
Still, the physical effort was a release for the emotional burden. With tears, sweat, and a runny nose, I buried her and placed a large rock to mark the spot. It was a comfort to see her resting place in the back yard, and seeing any Basset Hound still delights me.
Glen got another dog within a year of Abby’s death. He got a tri-colored Basset Hound with a big personality named Charlie. He’s a totally different pet, yet Glen is very much a “dog person” and wanted another one in his life. I have yet to meet Charlie, but look forward to the day I do.
For my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, my brothers and I gave them a small parrot – actually a white eyed conure. We thought Condo was a fun gift. That bird lived almost 30 years, during which my mother changed the paper in its cage, saved the seeds from peppers and cantaloupe as bird treats, and swept up the mess it constantly made. It laughed the same way the family did, chuckling along whenever something funny was said. We never did find out if it was male or female, but it usually tried to bite men and cooed at women.
My parents buried Condo in a sock shroud, in the front yard of their Florida home, right next to a Bird of Paradise plant – an appropriate spot for a bird that has gone to its final roost.
A week after the bird died, I asked my parents how they were doing. Dad missed saving the papers to line the cage, and Mom thought of Condo every time she cut up a pepper. They both missed the cheery “Hello” the bird called every time they walked in the house.
Our beloved pets’ spirits live on in our hearts forever.