A Perfect Dog’s Life, Recounted On My Last Day With Him
WARNING: I speak about home euthanasia and home cremation here. This may be too graphic for sensitive people. Do not attempt home cremation unless you have the appropriate facilities, safety gear, experience and motivation to do so.
WARNING: The extreme dog raising tactics described in this article should not be attempted unless you are willing to take the inherent risks and accept the responsibilities involved. I am an extreme dog owner, and was willing to take full responsibility for any consequences that arose out of my actions. I realize most dog owners are going to cringe and call me irresponsible when they read the things I chose to do – I understand where their perspective comes from. But how they raise their dog is their business, not mine. I expect the same respect.
I’ll be up front, this post serves no real purpose on this site. I am writing for purely selfish reasons – mainly as a release to help heal my pain, and secondly to share a few of the stories that made Scrappy such a unique character that touched so many people. He was not only my dog, friend and companion, but my guru too.
Anyway, it’s partly my site, and I can cry about my dog if I want to. 😉
With all that said, this is the story of my pal Scrappy’s life, recounted through the memories I had on my last day with him.
The Wake Up
I woke up after a restless sleep, like most recent days, but unlike past mornings by the time I took my second breath the reality of what day it was hit my chest like a sledgehammer, knocking the breath out of me and ripping my heart into pieces… it was December 3, 2012, the day I had to say goodbye to my best friend, guru and companion of 18 years – this was home euthanasia day. This was the day I had to lay Scrappy to rest.
Before my feet hit the floor I was sobbing uncontrollably, hyperventilating… then I glanced outside and saw Scrappy sleeping peacefully on his bed where he always was, blissfully unaware of the day’s fate. I became hysterical.
The Shake Up
Holy shit. Ya, I had cried about losing him over the past few weeks, but this was ridiculous. I couldn’t breath and was going to faint from hyperventilating. I had to settle down. I told myself not to let him see me like this – try to make his last day as comfortable as possible. I tried to collect myself, but it was no use – I turned into a child. “I don’t want to do this!! I can’t do this!!” I screamed through the rapid breathing and flood of tears. But again it was no use, reality was still there, and today was the day. I had to accept things and get on with the preparations. The vet who would be perform the home euthanasia would be here in 4 hours, and I had to get “the spot” outside ready for the procedure, as well as get all the wood prepared for the cremation.
You see, I WAS going to wait until after the euthanasia to prepare the wood because I wanted to keep Scrappy as peaceful as possible beforehand – I had to use a chainsaw to cut about 10 hardwood pallet skids into pieces for the fire. My plan was to make a stack of 12 intact skids, then stuff the open areas of the skids with the pieces I had cut to help create as much heat as possible. I had tested this method out a few weeks previous during a poker party I hosted, so I knew the intensity of the flames would do their job. The problem was, realizing how hysterical I was before the procedure, there was no way I’d be able to use a chainsaw afterward, so I quickly decided I had to do it before the vet got here.
Realizing the condition that I was in was far worse than I expected, I stumbled through teary eyes to text my girlfriend Laura to get here as soon as possible – I was going to need help. I had previously asked her to let me be alone through everything and with her compassionate understanding she agreed, but now I wasn’t sure whether I’d even be coherent through the procedure, let alone able to complete the cremation. Unfortunately she couldn’t make it – I had forgotten that she had traffic court that afternoon, and wouldn’t be able to be here until 6pm. The procedure was scheduled for 12:30pm and would be done by 1, so I was scrambling to think of who might be available to be with me. I thought of who might be home and texted my old friend Sherri-Lee. She immediately agreed. I texted her that she didn’t need to talk to me (because I probably wouldn’t be able to), but just to be there, and maybe rub my back once in a while to help me catch my breath. She understood, and would be there by 2:15.
My mind began racing with memories of my last few days with him; playing with his new sister Fiona who totally brought him to life, eating the finely chopped roast chicken I prepared so he could chew without hurting his teeth, going for our last drive with his head hanging out the window, tongue wagging happily, …him sleeping on his bed outside on the front deck. He was an outdoor dog through and through. The only thing that would get him inside was roast chicken, thunderstorms, or anything below minus 10 degree weather!
My mind then shifted back to when I first got him. I remembered how this little soul picked me right from his litter. My friend Marilyn had just adopted a tiny little mutt (miniature border collie++?) who was only about 10 lbs. One night shortly after getting the dog Mars was awakened to find that her new addition was adding quite a few more to the equation! Fatefully, she called to see if we were interested in adopting any of the pups. As soon as I walked in and saw them I was called to him – there was a little golden bundle that stood out alone from the rest of the dark furballs – he was different. I knew right away there was something special about him, and that we would be inseparable.
Because as a teen I was employed as Scooby-Doo at Canada’s Wonderland, someone suggested I name my new little golden sidekick “Scrappy-Doo”, which simply became “Scrappy”, “Scrapper”, “Doo” or “Freak”, depending on the situation…
After pacing and sobbing for what seemed like an hour, I gathered myself up, got dressed, and went outside to be with my little man. I walked quietly up to him not to disturb him as he slept, and gently started petting the soft, fluffy fur on his head. I’ll never forget as he lazily opened his old droopy eyes, looked up at me and wagged his tail. He was happy. I was trying to be.
The Realization of Perfection
After spending 10 or 15 minutes with him, just petting, hugging and the odd nuzzling, I knew it was time to get to the preparations. I wanted everything to be perfect. It was just as I was getting started that I realized how perfect everything really was. Not only did I have the amazing experience of sharing the life of the world’s most perfect dog, but I got to spend 18 long, happy years with him, and I was granted the very fortunate gift of saying goodbye and thank you in a peaceful setting, at home, my way, planned, before he slid into deeper ill health. So many people don’t get this opportunity, and my heart felt for them. I was granted this gift. The day was beginning to feel… perfect.
I got up as he lay there and went in to make his favourtie dish – roast chicken. He was waiting eagerly as I put out his last meal. He eats on his deck which overlooks a vast valley with beautiful scenery in front of our house. I choked back tears as I watched him knowing this was the last time I’d prepare and give him his food. I walked away and let him eat in peace. I needed to go get everything ready because I wanted things to be perfect.
The Memory Floodgates Crack Open
I grabbed the chainsaw and started cutting away, but my thoughts were in other times and places.
I remembered how he loved to ride the bow of the canoe or boat whenever we took a trip up to Algonquin Park. I remembered on one trip where he was chasing a rabbit into a burrow, and he sliced his paw pad wide open on a broken beer bottle someone had thrown there. It was my first experience of inner hurt because of his injury – like a parent feels when their child has to go in for an operation. I took care of it though – bandaged it up with some gauze I had and taped a plastic bag over it. As soon as I was done he was right back at the chasing like nothing had happened.
I chuckled because that reminded me of the time I was walking with him in Cabbagetown (Toronto) when he was just over a year old. I don’t believe in collars or leashes, so he was walking freely beside me. He was great at ignoring other dogs we walked past, but there was one thing he couldn’t ignore – squirrels. As we passed by an open spot between parked cars he noticed a squirrel across the road… and took off after it like lion after a gazelle. He didn’t get half way across the road before getting struck, tumbling far underneath the large car as I and several other pedestrians watched in horror. I remember screaming at the driver, who then decided it was a good idea to back up, which caused Scrappy to unravel back against the undercarriage of the vehicle. I was ready to kill the stupid fuck who ran over him, but as soon as Scrappy was free of the car, without hesitation or shaking it off he spotted the squirrel and was in full chase mode again – unscathed, except for a little tar smear on his coat.
The “Let A Dog Be A Dog” Philosophy
Yes, I know, I was the stupid fuck for not having him on a leash – this is the risk and responsibility I was willing to take. I have a “let a dog be a dog” philosophy, and I take it to extremes, as you’ll see. I don’t believe in collars or leashes. I believe in letting a dog wander. I don’t believe in dog food. I don’t believe in “shots”. And I believe that a dog’s home is outside. Extreme? Maybe. But much of it came from my experiences with Scrappy as I was raising him: He was able to stay by without a leash. He always came back when he wandered. He wouldn’t eat dog food. I’m very leery of vaccines, period. And while I always wanted my dog to come inside and cuddle, he wouldn’t – when I asked him to come in he would droop his head and stare up at me with his big puppy-dog eyes like he was being scolded, then literally shake his head “NO”. I’d say “OK”, then he’d jump up prancing around, tail and tongue both wagging, and a glance back at me with a happy smile as if to say “Thanks Dad, I like it out here where all the squirrels are!”
I don’t recommend anyone follow my example, unless you share my philosphy, which I’m sure 99.9% of you think is absurd. That’s your problem. This dog turned out perfect. Everyone who knew him would admit that he was an exceptional dog, and lived the most amazing life that any dog could live – he lived a life other dogs dream of. Not only did he have free reign to do pretty much any dog stuff he wanted, but he was extremely well mannered to other people on the street and in their homes, he wasn’t needy, he was extremely obedient and was highly intelligent.
If you do decide to take the route of this philosophy, I’ll warn you – as you’ve learned above it has its hazards, worries, costs and considerations. But I feel that these things – the human factors – are far outweighed by the gift of freedom I gave my dog – the freedom for my dog to be a dog, not my possession to control.
The Memory Floodgates Open Wide
As I robotically sliced through the skids with the chainsaw, more memories flooded in.
I remembered how my friends would welcome him excitedly into their homes because he was such a cool, respectful dog. (In addition to being respectful, playful and smart, he was attractive as well – very “cute”, and he was surprisingly clean and didn’t shed much.) Often I’d get a reminder to “bring Scrappy too!” whenever I got an invite to visit. Sometimes the invite didn’t include me! LOL. I remembered how oftentimes friend’s children would ask if I could bring Scrappy over for them to play with. Or whenever we were leaving how they’d ask if he could stay. People loved him.
As I mentioned, he was a wanderer. I remembered how he’d make weekly treks into town (sometimes two or three times a week!), which was over TWO MILES away from our country cabin. Because of his previous encounter with getting ran over, he became “car savvy” – he knew to avoid cars and stay on the curb. But, the first few times he wandered off I was worried sick that he’d been killed by a car or coyote. I drove the sideroads looking in the ditches for his body – only to get a call from a someone in town that he was playing with their dog for the day! He liked to wander. So I let him. Dogs wander, then they come home… if you’re patient enough. Or if they’re not having a great time at someone else’s house!!
When I say he was a wander, I mean he’d sometimes be gone for DAYS. As I mentioned, the first few times I freaked out and drove around looking for his body, but soon I learned that DOGS COME HOME. Yes, he got picked up by the dog pound a few times or five or six, but I looked at the fines as “contributing to the welfare of animals in their care”. The few other times he didn’t come home by himself, I’d get a call from the family who’d been taking care of him, or friends that saw him galavanting, but he always ended up back home. One time a friend noticed him walking back home from somewhere way north, as he was about 5 miles away! There were more than a few times I had friends drive up the road behind our house and give a quick ‘BEEP’, then let him out of their car to run up the hill to the house. Everybody around the small town we live near knew him.
He had a few choice spots that he liked to visit. He would frequently head straight to the same few places each time. He’d stop in for a drink, a quick snack, a play with their dog, then be on his way to his next stop. He loved visiting my friend Lynn, because she treated him like he was hers. He was so cute and cuddly that he was very easy to fall in love with. When he wasn’t visiting Lynn and her dog, he would walk another half mile up to the top of town to the Corrigan family residence where he would proceed to make himself right at home. I’d get a call from their young daughter… “Scrappy is here, but can he stay the night with us?” Of course he could, if he wanted to. They’d let him out in the morning, and he’d come home. They eventually became his regular sitter whenever I traveled. I will cherish them forever.
There were a few wandering instances where I was sure he was tapped in to my higher source. One time, instead of going to his regular hangouts – out of the hundreds of local houses he could have chosen to go to – he managed his way directly to the house of an enemy of mine, a dude who had become somewhat of an adversary to me. We were both volunteer firefighters and had a few disagreements in the firehouse that kept us at arms length from one another… but when I got a call from his wife that Scrappy was at their house (?!?!?!) I nearly died. Eventually this lead to us chuckling about things and became friends.
Don’t get me wrong – he was wanderer – but he deeply loved being around me. He was never under foot, but always close by willing to lay and rest while I did my thing, then get up and follow me to my next chore where he’d lay and watch quietly and intently, unless there was a squirrel around.
The One Mistake / Blessing
Get your pet spayed or neutered. I didn’t for a long time. I couldn’t bear to agree to get the nads cut off my little buddy! But, after a few litters with the neighbour’s dog, and death threats from a concerned individual in town (LOL – whole other story), I had it done.
I take a certain perspective on this as a blessing, because he was able to bring happiness to so many other people who took the pups. Because people knew Scrappy and how awesome he was, they wanted his offspring. They came in all sizes and colours. We had no trouble finding homes for all the pups, and I still see a few of them to this day. I’ve have seen a few of them cross the rainbow bridge before him.
The Final Preparations
I finished cutting up the skids, and put all the tools away in a daze.
As I walked down from the shed Scrappy saw me and ran up to greet me (which was very difficult for him as he had a painful limp and hind legs giving out). Whenever he first saw me he would make the effort to run to greet, but had also become very ornary and painful and didn’t like people touching him, so he would stop a few feet away until he was sure you weren’t going to maul him. Crouched down, with an extended hand palm up usually coaxed him to let me pet him. The only other thing that got him dancing around like a kid was our new rescue puppy, Fiona, a Boston Terrier/Sheepdog mix. (Scrappy dog was my guru, and I can only hope that by his example when I’m his age that I’m still chasin’ the bitches like he did. LOL (Of course, no disrespect meant to you ladies – just a joke.))
After hugging and cuddling him for a while, I realized it was only about an hour before the vet would arrive. I broke down. It was time to get “the spot” ready for the procedure. “The spot” was a small patio we have out on the hill where we sit for sunbathing or evening fires. It’s a centerpoint of the property with a vantage of all the surroundings that were Scrappy’s domain. It overlooks the property as well as a small valley with the Credit River below.
I wanted it to be peaceful and comfortable for Scrappy and I, as well as for the vet who would perform the procedure. I wanted it to be perfect.
I started a small fire, put out the lounger to lay Scrappy’s bed on, got some cushions for the vet to kneel on, and placed a small table beside it where I could put my glass of water.
As I swept up the patio tears were pouring down my face. I was watching Scrappy just mozy-ing around, doing what he always does, completely oblivious to what was about to take place. I was glad he was unaware, but also sure that he had had enough of the pain that he endured over the past few years. He had obvious signs of arthritis in his hips, a limp in his front left leg, had an enormous lipoma on his chest, had gone deaf, was getting cataracts, but still had his appetite and was in control of his bowels.
When I was done I played a little game of “chase” with him where I pretend to chase him and he runs away. He got tired quickly and headed back to his bed on the deck. It was now about 45 minutes before the vet got there so I decided to let him rest and just sat out on the lounger for 15 minutes in deep reflection.
I thought about how Scrappy just loved being outside. He had a few favourite perches and burrows, and that’s where he spent most of his time – either keeping watch over the property from an old easy-chair I put out for him on the side deck, or under the deck where it was cool and quiet. In the winter it was no surprise to see him covered in snow with his head sticking out of a bed he’d made in a snowdrift. He wanted to live outside, like some dogs do, so I let him.
I recalled one of our northern experiences when we were at a friend’s cottage near Novar, which is close to Huntsville. My friend and I were planning to make a trek way back into the woods to do some pond fishing and quail hunting. He had an ATV and a chariot trailer that carried all our gear. Normally, Scrappy would just run behind or beside us, but it was late fall and it was cold and rainy up there and the trail we were going in on was pretty much non-existent and far away. It wasn’t a good idea to have Scrapper running all that way, so I put him in the cottage. As we got on the ATV he started howling at us through the glass door. He looked so sad I just couldn’t bear to leave him, so there was only one alternative – he had to ride on top of the chariot! He managed to stay up there and keep his balance the whole way. I think it was the ride of his life.
It was getting near the time the vet would arrive, so I made my way down to Scrappy’s bed on the deck where he was sleeping, and quietly bent in to give him a kiss on the nose. He woke up gently, and I nuzzled him for a minute or two with my face next to his. I’m sure he was wondering what all the attention was about, but I know that he gladly accepted it as he stretched out for me to scratch his belly, which I did.
My heart started sinking but somehow it was quickly replaced by a feeling of peace coming over me. All of the fear, worry, and heartache were being washed away by a feeling of profound comfort. I know it’s weird, but I felt as though I had won a victory, that I had accomplished something, and I was… happy.
The Profound Realization
I suddenly realized that I HAD won a victory! A few years before I even got Scrappy I was inspired to get a dog by my friend Colin’s dog that I thought was just the coolest. I vowed to myself then that some day I would find the perfect dog and give him the most awesome life possible. I never paid another thought to that vow until I came to the realization in that moment that I had fulfilled it. I had been blessed with the perfect dog, and shared a long, full life of happiness and adventure with him. There was nothing to be sad about… I was one of the luckiest people on the planet. I felt blessed, thankful, full of gratitude, calm, and… happy.
I picked Scrappy up by wrapping his bed around him and carried him in my arms up to “the spot”. I sat down in the lounger and laid his bed between my legs so that he was in my lap.
I stroked him gently for the next while, until he got restless and wanted to get up to pee. I grabbed the hose and put the fire out so the smoke wouldn’t bother the vet. I took a while to put the fire out, but I was watching Scrappy most of the time anyway. Once it was out I started to wind up the hose and carry it back to the reel.
That’s when I heard the tires of the vet’s truck coming up the driveway. I started shaking as I saw the silver minivan drive up. My blood pressure dropped which made me dizzy, and I started to panic. I wanted to cry, scream, run, tell her I changed my mind, puke, shit, cry and cry some more. But I didn’t. I held it all in and managed to exchange a weak smile as she drove past me.
As she was getting out of her truck, Scrappy gave a few barks welcomingly. I had made a previous agreement earlier with her to minimize the chat, do the deed, and scram. But I was feeling much more at peace than I expected to, so I said a hello and asked a few questions that I can’t even remember. I handed her the fee, and walked over to pick up Scrappy to bring him to his bed one last time. I sat down with him in my lap, his head in my left hand as the vet approached with her medical bag.
I don’t want to minimize the role of “the vet”. This woman was an angel, in appearance and in presence. Dr. Faith Banks showed nothing but compassion and understanding throughout the entire process from the first call and making arrangements to leaving peacefully. She was perfect. I will share more about her later.
I was MUCH calmer than I had expected, mainly because of the epiphany I had just realized about fulfilling my vow to myself and my dog, and because Dr. Banks had previously described the procedure to me, which is two part; 1) the sedative stage, allowing the owner 5 or 10 minutes with their pet while it is in a calm, peaceful state, and also reduces any spasming that may occur from stage 2) administering the lethal injection.
Dr. Banks peacefully came to my right side, with Scrappy’s haunches toward her so she could give him the sedative. I held his head firmly as he was definitely feeling the initial prick of the needle, but quickly he fell into a very relaxed state. She got up and went back to her van while I shared my last minutes with Scrappy. I of course told him how much I loved him, but I also thanked him for such an amazing experience that our life together was as I stroked his soft furry body. It was very peaceful. I kissed his head a few times, and thanked him again. As he lay there in my lap I lifted my stare from him, and through glassy eyes looked around at the beauty of the surroundings we enjoyed most our time together in. I started weeping heavily again, not from sadness, but because I was blissfully happy – like the first time I saw RiverDance.
I was happy not only for the life we had, but for this amazing opportunity to say goodbye in our own setting. I can’t imagine how people who do not have this opportunity cope with losing a pet in a violent or sudden manner. My heart and thoughts shifted to those people for a few moments, and then I heard the van door opening.
This was it. Stage 2.
As Dr. Faith approached us I asked her if we could do the paw-print casting before Stage 2. She agreed, so we spent a few minutes doing arts & crafts preparing the molds to get Scrappy’s paw-print. We did two for good measure.
Next, she needed to shave a small patch of hair off his rear leg in order to find a vein for the injection. She carefully placed the shaved hair in a little zip-lock bag and gave it to me as a keepsake. After searching around for a vein she decided to try the front leg – his age and circulation made it difficult to find a satisfactory vein in his rear leg. She moved to my left side, and shaved a spot on his right forearm (leg), again carefully placing the hair in the baggie and placing it with the paw-print molds. It wasn’t long before she found a vein, and asked me to help by twisting his upper leg to cut off circulation so the vein would pop. Once she swabbed the area and placed the guide needle in, she tested it for accuracy, and it was good. She then asked me if I needed any more time, and with a few sobs I said “nope, this is what we’re here for” and she went into her bag for the two vials that were Stage 2. She raised the first one to the guide needle and emptied it. I felt Scrappy go still, but I said nothing. She raised the second vial, attached it to the needle, and emptied it. I knew he was gone, and let out a sob. She waited a moment or two, took out her stethoscope and placed it on his lifeless body. Searching for a heartbeat, she found none. She removed the stethoscope, looked at me and said “He’s gone.” to which I said “No he’s not. He’s everywhere here with us.” and she agreed.
I cried quietly, caressing my long time friend as Dr. Faith patted Scrappy on the head, packed up her gear, got in her van, and waved goodbye as she left.
I sat there for a few moments, just petting him, then I got up, wrapped one of his towels around him then started a cry that sounded more like a howl. I couldn’t get my breath in because it all wanted out, and it created a howl as I exhaled. After a few moments of that I chuckled inside that I was howling, and remembered how I always used to entertain people by getting Scrappy to sing – he was great at it and could howl up a storm. At that point I just let go and cried for a while without thought – just being in the moment, staring at him laying there peacefully.
After about 15 minutes I started to settle down and went to sit down to let everyone who was close to Scrappy know that he had been laid to rest. I first wrote to Laura, and simply said “He’s gone”. Then I wrote a group text to about 15 people that read “Scrappy has been laid to rest. Thank you all for sharing a part of his life with me. I will remember and miss him forever.” I also posted a note and his picture to Facebook as well. The responses of condolence flooded in as I spent my time quietly with him. (Thank you so much everyone for your overwhelming support, kind thoughts and words.) Over the next 15 or 20 minutes I became more calm and peaceful as I stroked him. I wrote to Laura and Sherri-Lee explaining that I was now OK with everything, that they didn’t need to stop by, because all that was left was the cremation and they didn’t need to be here for that. Laura wrote back to make sure I was OK and said she would be by the next day with Fiona. I was looking forward to it. Sherri-Lee was already on her way and just wanted to stop in to make sure I was alright.
For the next 1/2 hour or so I just sat there with him. It was a beautiful day now, the sun had come out and was beaming down on us but it was still cool. I restarted the fire to keep warm by as I sat with him. I was actually OK with everything. I actually felt GOOD about everything. Everything was perfect.
Sherri-Lee arrived and was another complete angel showing up. The glow of her smile warmed me, but I could see she was also fighting back tears as she knew how much Scrappy meant to me. I brought her over to see him and she gave him a gentle pat, then gave me a reassuring hug. We sat down on the patio with Scrappy and had small talk/catch-up time for about an hour and a half. She talked about her angels. It reminded my to get up and cut some sage from the garden to bring back and put on the fire for its cleansing scent. It was perfect. I sat there chatting with her, occasionally patting Scrappy, while my mind was taking a short break from this heavy day before I had to get to my final chore – the cremation.
It was getting colder and darker, around 4pm, and I knew I had to start getting the fire ready. Sherri-Lee patted Scrappy again, gave me another hug, asked me if I was REALLY OK with things, to which I assured her that everything was perfect, and she was on her way.
I’m not going to get too graphic here, it’s not necessary. But I will share a bit of the procedure of the cremation and the things that I recalled about Scrappy.
As I started dragging the skids into the middle of our property where the fire would be far enough away from buildings and trees, I was feeling very good. There were almost no tears, but many smiles.
As I was carrying the skids I remembered when Scrappy was a pup I carried him around in a backpack on my back as I rode through the city to take him to the beach, and nearby parks where he could play with other dogs. His head would pop out of the backpack and peek over my shoulder as we sped past people who smiled as they saw his cute little happy face.
It reminded me that soon after getting Scrappy when he was only a few months old we got another call from Marilyn to take one of the other pups. We had one now, so why not two we thought, and gladly accepted. The other pup was more Corgi like in his appearance. And in the same way we named Scrappy-Doo after a little cartoon character, we named this one “Boo-Boo” after Yogi Bear’s little sidekick. The pups learned so fast and were hilarious to be around. When we were in the car they would get up in the back window and bark at cars we passed. They played endlessly together and got into a lot of puppy-mischief too, eating part of my wedding outfit.
I would bring them everywhere, and even brought them to my brother’s wedding party. I showed a few friends the pups and everyone fell in love with them – they were extremely cute and very well behaved. One friend, Luke, said to me, “I’ll give you $400 for that dog (Boo-Boo) right now.” Boo-Boo left with Luke that night and became “Paco”. I saw Paco a few times, and he recently crossed the rainbow bridge a few years ago as well.
By this time I had the 12 skids piled about 6 feet high, then I filled the spacing with all the pieces that I had cut, as well as branches that had fallen from trees in the forest that surrounds us. I wanted there to be an element of the nature that he spent in within the fire that would return his body back to the elements.
Now by this time, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself… “why would he do a home cremation, HIMSELF???”. No, I’m not some masochist. I’m very spiritual and this was to be a ceremony honouring and thanking the dog spirit that I knew as Scrappy-Doo. This fire would liberate his spirit from his body and return it back to nature. It was an honour for me to be able to do this myself for him, “keeping it real” as it were. I was feeling deeply touched by the whole experience. I was actually inspired to do this from an independent Korean movie I saw called “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring.” about the cycle of life. The climax of the movie occurs when the Buddhist Monk realizes he is at the end of his life cycle, and he builds a ‘cremation raft’ for himself. At peace with himself, he climbs atop the pile of wood on the raft and sets it adrift, and aflame. He liberates his own spirit and returns his body to the elements. This is what I was so honoured to do for my friend and guru, Scrappy.
It was getting dark and I had the cremation stack all prepared and ready. I doused it with two bottles of BBQ charcoal fluid for good measure as the wood was damp from recent rains.
It was time to say my final thank you and goodbye, which I did in prayer-like form. I sat on the lounger facing Scrappy as he lay there on his bed, silently. I cupped his head in my hand, and began to thank him for choosing me to share his life with. I thanked him for showing me who I am, and who I can be. I thanked him for all the laughs and experiences, and I thanked him for being him. I then thanked the universe for bestowing me with the gift of his life, and now his passing. I thanked the universe for his two sisters, Daisy and Fiona who are our Boston Terrier rescue dogs – Daisy who Laura lost just over one year ago, and Fiona who is now our new dog spirit. (Very spirited!!) I asked him to say hello to Daisy when he gets there, and then I told him I loved him.
I picked up his bed with him wrapped in his towels, and walked slowly over to the cremation stack. I gently placed him at the top, in the middle with his head pointing north. I walked over and grabbed a branch that was laying on the ground, lit the end on fire in the firepit on the patio, and took it over to light the stack. I started about 4 skids down from the top, letting it burn downward for increased time and consistency.
I watched over the next 4 hours as the fire returned his spirit to the universe, and his body back to nature. I was in a very pleasant, calm mood, and a few times found myself raising my arms in the air, pumping them in a victory “V”. I was happy. I had done it. From start to finish – everything, the whole thing, and in that moment… was perfect.
There are so many more memories here that I haven’t shared, I could write a book, and may someday… if I have the same resolve I did about Scrappy.
It is the next day now, and I have collected a few tiny bone fragments that were left in the ashes. I will return them to some of our favourite hiking spots and camping areas over the next year. More perfection.
What made the day perfect was the realization that I had accomplished a long set out goal – I was finally successful at something. As a struggling entrepreneur who has faced a lot of rejection over recent years, this meant everything to me. It gave me a new outlook on my potential and my future. I think it’s partly why I wanted to share this message. You really can do anything you set your mind to. Ignore the fear, doubt, criticism, lack, and all that crap, but pay attention to what inspired you in the first place. Shit is going to happen, but if I didn’t let Scrappy wander, he wouldn’t have had such an amazing life. Who knows, if I had fed him dog food or got all his shots, would he have lived this long? Did living outside increase his age? I don’t know. All I do know is I went with my intuition on a lot of things – that were typically against the grain – and everything turned out… perfect.
The Thank Yous
Thank you so much to Dr. Faith Banks for her compassionate understanding and angelic presence. It means everything to someone going through the loss of a pet. I highly recommend her. Please learn more about Dr. Faith at www.MidtownMobileVet.ca, and please like her page on Facebook at facebook.com/midtownmobilevet. Please read her guest post here, titled “Holiday Pet Grief: 5 Tips on Getting Through the Season After the Loss of a Beloved Pet” – I know it will help me.
Thank you to the very long list of people who took Scrappy into their home, or brought him back to our home, fed him or took care of him while I was away. You are all blessings to a perfect life.
Thank you to Sherri-Lee for being there for me.
And lastly, thank you to Laura whom I love deeply, who understands me fully, and who gave me the space to make this day perfect.
Pet rescues make all the difference in this crazy world, so please make a donation to one this Christmas to help make some other pet spirit’s life perfect. If you’d like to donate in Scrappy’s memory, please make a donation to Boston Terrier Rescue Canada at www.BostonTerrierRescueCanada.com.
Paul Marek is a technical partner in petEnVogue.com, is the owner of 3RING.com, a Toronto based web design firm, and founder of an exciting new tech startup, www.muuver.com.