Monday, January 26, 2009

Pet Cemetery

Yesterday we took Paco up to Napa.

It's fortunate that the one pet crematorium that was open on a Sunday also filled the desire to get the f- out of town. While making the reservation the woman on the other end of the phone asked me, "Do you have someone to carry him? Because I'm the only one here."

"Of course," I answered, "we can carry him."

"Are you sure?" she asked, "Because I'm the only one here."

It seemed strange to me that she didn't think we could handle carrying a 48 lb dog (actually 47.5... I had just taken him in last week to get his rabies booster and was shocked to discover he was a pound under his ideal weight). But I dismissed it.

We hopped in the car and went to get Paco. Carolyn had taken away his body the night before. She's an ACO for Contra Costa County and, therefore, the one I called to find out what to do with the body. When we discovered Paco, his extremities were cold but his core was still warm. By the time Carolyn took him away his core was cold as well. But as we took Paco out from her trunk to put in ours, I pulled back the quilt to expose his elbow and rib cage and was shocked to feel how utterly chilled his body was. This, of course, sparked a fresh crying session.

We dried our eyes, picked up Donyale and headed north.

The drive was absolutely beautiful. The air was chilly but the sky blue and full of moist clouds that threatened to rain at any moment. The wine country made a beautiful backdrop to distract us, as the mood in the car was somber. As we climbed the hill to the Bubbling Wells, I was amazed at the scenery. I mean, check out the view.

the pet cemetary

Inside the office/chapel, things were... um... creepy.

creepy poodle

The woman instructed us to drive around the side to the refrigeration area. She pointed to the astro-turf covered bench and told us to put the body there. We carried him out in the quilt and placed him on the bench.

She produced a large, black trash bag. "Okay, and now you need to take him out of the blanket and put him in this bag."

We peeled away the blanket, lifted up his stiff body, and that's when we all started bawling. I realized then why she had stressed so much about asking for help. Carrying him wasn't the hard part, this was.

"Oh my," she said, "he looks so young." As the three of us stood there sobbing, each with a hand on Paco, I tried the best I could with what little oxygen I had to explain what happened. While she had seemed a bit hardened before, I could see that the story impacted her generally tough demeanor. "Oh dear, how tragic," she kept saying over and over.

I don't know how long we stood there petting Paco. Somehow his mouth had closed during transport and his lip was hung up on one tooth, which was always my favorite facial expression of his.

We lifted him up and slid the trash bag around him, sobbing and following her instructions about pushing him to the bottom.

"Now twist up the end," she said. I was staring at Paco's face and reaching toward the bag but I couldn't do it.

"Now twist up the end and tie it in a knot," she instructed again. But I couldn't do it. I was, literally, frozen in shock staring at his little snaggle-tooth.

"You don't have to do that," Aaron said, as he bear hugged me and pulled me away from the scene, breaking the trance. And that's when I really lost it. I was crying hysterically and couldn't stop. All the pain came crashing down in that one moment, and I felt the loss in a way I hadn't experienced before. The reality of it all hit me, and I just let it all out.

Eventually I pulled it together and we lowered Paco into the fridge. Stacked on top of those other bags he was indistinguishable. We took a few minutes to pull ourselves together and potty Xochitl, who was doing a really good job at distracting us with her puppy-antics.

this sucks

Randomly, Leslie and Nickie were up north, so we met up with them at one of their favorite wineries to toast Paco. This is the view from the winery (and also what I look like with a purse dog... this is only until she gets all of her shots, I swear).

the winery

It was on the drive home that we decided we'll be tearing out the fence. We just can't look at it anymore.


B-More Dog said...

I can't begin to tell you how many tears I've shed in the past 24 hours for a dog and a friend that I've never met. Paco won't be forgotten, he knows how much you love him and he loves you just as much in return (yes, all of those present tenses were intentional)

I am so very, very sorry for this horrible event, Ana.
~Amie (PBF)

Kadillac Grrl said...

I'm still so upset. I am glad Donyale and Leslie and Nickie were there with you and Aaron.


Shanda Drawdy said...

I wish I could be there to help you tear the fence down. Then we could burn it and curse the gods right back. It won't fix anything, but it might feel good for a little while.

Katya said...

Ana, we are all here for you. Just let me know if you need help killing the fence!

Ditto on present tense... Paco knows you love him and he loves you back just as much.

From our family to yours,
Katya, Oleg and Sheba

Erin said...

What an awful, horrible, tragic nightmare. I'm so sorry, I don't really know what to say.

Erin (PBF)

kellid said...

Ana-I have made that pilgrimage three times and I know the heavy heavy feeling the drive up there is and then it gets so much worse. I am so so sorry and know how devastated you are. You are in my thoughts>>>>>hang in there.....

lucky kachina dancer said...

I'm so, so sorry Ana. I literally feel ill every time I think of you having to go up there; I don't know how you found the strength, but I'm glad you weren't alone.

I still have the postcard with me and Paco on my mirror, and it sits on the desk at work. My head reels every time I glance at it.

Let me know if you want help tearing down that fence, if you need company, someone to watch Xochitl or if you just want to talk.

-- Juliene