In Defense of Walking on the Dead

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Palm Sunday I was walking my dogs in the cemetery. Sundays are busier there than any other day of the week, and holiday Sundays even more so. Team Puggle and I do our best to steer clear of people tending or visiting graves, as well as other dogs, so upon seeing five cars parked along the front drive, we took to the back paths.

The dogs were sniffing away in a clearing, enjoying the perfect weather and all the new spring smells. A car pulled slowly down the road about a hundred feet from us and someone in the car did my all-time least favorite thing: made a passive-aggressive judgmental comment just loud enough for me to hear as they drove by, not stopping to actually confront. The woman said, “How dare anyone walk a dog in a cemetery? That’s disgusting!” Her Jersey accent dripped with contempt.

The Puggles perked their ears and tilted their heads at her. She said some other things but I didn’t quite catch them, though her tone of voice made it sound as if I were personally digging up graves and toppling headstones.

I assured the Puggles that they were not, in fact, disgusting and we went on our way to sniff somewhere else. I asked Jack if he wanted to go track her down and inform her that we likely visit the grave of her dead relative far more than she does, because for this woman to be surprised and offended that people walk their dogs in this cemetery, she can’t come here very often.

Jack scented the air and opted out. He is a better man than I, and his insistence that we merely carry on with the walk shut off the imaginary conversation I was having with her in my head- you know, the one where I judge her back and put her in her place and make her feel at least as bad as she made me feel. Jack pulled in another direction and brought me back to where we were.

For a moment there, I second-guessed myself. About walking my dogs in the cemetery being a good thing.

I started walking them here on the advice of my therapist when I could barely get out of bed from depression a few years ago. For a couple of months it was the only thing I could accomplish in a day besides show up to work.

Walking in the cemetery is their very favorite thing in the world. Because we don’t have a yard, they consider the cemetery to be theirs. It’s part of their territory, and I’m willing to bet every other dog that walks there feels the same. It’s the kind of place that inspires ownership.

 

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For me, it’s a chance to serve. I let them choose which way we go. I let them sniff. I pick up their poop; I don’t let them pee on the flags.

 

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They explore as far as they can on the end of a leash. They notice the new trees the groundskeepers plant to replace the ones destroyed in the storms, the flowers and shrubs added by relatives around headstones. They find the evidence of deer, of raccoons, of owls; of the struggle for life and death that goes on in the animal side of things there. We’ve found dead moles, mice, birds and an inside-out rat, picked clean by crows.

 

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I cannot keep a straight face while walking behind two Puggle butts. Jack walks on an extreme diagonal, as if he is in desperate need of an alignment. If he ever requires a wheel, I fear he’ll only move in circles.

The dogs lead me to the change of seasons through all the small signs. I find the first of spring in the new shoots of grass that Casey likes to eat, the crocuses bursting through the ground that Jack has to investigate; I notice the buds on the tree branches as they both stare at the trunk, mystified at a squirrel that magically disappeared by going up.

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We visit the graves of the ones who touched our family: The boy who died on the high school baseball field. The kid who committed suicide, though some say it was an accident. The mother who very intentionally jumped off a bridge. The 20-year old girl who lost out to a brain tumor.

I’ll stop at a grave I don’t know and wonder about the person there. I wonder how they died, and how they lived. I wish peace for their families; I know it is harder to come by for some than others.

One thing I’ve learned from walking on the dead is that nobody gets enough time.  The cemetery is full of people who probably would have given anything for one more day or a chance to make a different decision had they known what was on the other side, and what they were leaving behind.

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More so than in yoga, or while meditating, the only time I truly appreciate the present moment as it happens is on these walks. Because we are present, Team Puggle and I. We are warming in the sun, we are having our floppy ears blown straight out by the wind, we are smelling all kinds of unbelievable smells.

The definition of reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. Walking my dogs in the cemetery is the most reverent thing I do all day.

I guess this whole business of living and dying can be plenty disgusting if you think of it that way, but I don’t. It’s just life. All the gross things that come out of a body have to be tended to, canine and human alike. Is a dog taking a whiz in graveyard dirt any more disgusting than what happens to a body when it expires?

No one here gets out alive.

That’s how I dare walk a dog in a cemetery.

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 Every day above ground is a good day.

 

 

 

 

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What’s that Sound?

I was in our bedroom writing. The kids were all downstairs and CC was at work. Casey was sacked out on the bed behind me.

And there was this sound. . .

One of those sounds that’s just on the edge of your consciousness. You don’t really notice it at first, but it keeps repeating. It repeats enough and you suddenly realize you can’t identify it, and that’s a problem.

Because unidentified sounds at home fall into one of two categories: Things That Will Kill You – think: burglars, bears, or bombs – and Things That Will Cost You Money like, say, maybe a tree falling on the house. Or a toilet overflowing for so long before someone mentions it that it floods the garage. Not that I would know anything about either of these.

This sound was a little knock-knock, a little tap-tap, with a bonus suction sound.

“What the hell is that?”

I said this out loud. I talk to myself out loud a lot. I am not bothered by this. It’s only a problem when another person is in the room and they go, “What?” and I get all indignant and say, “I wasn’t talking to you!” because they just interrupted me when I was talking to me.

I walked out of the room to investigate.

In one of many moments as a pet owner in which I have regretted not having a camera on my person, I found that a single dish had been left on the table when the kids cleaned up after dinner: the top to the tupperware cake keeper.

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The cake keeper in our house serves only one purpose: to keep people from eating the cake between the time it is made and the time it is served. We never have “leftover” cake. Thus there was no need to replace the cake keeper top on the cake, since there was no more cake. Like many other things in my house, because it was unable to fulfill one of their immediate needs, it became invisible to the kids.

But not to Jack.

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The knock-knock, tap-tap, suction sound was the sound of Jack having wedged himself entirely inside the lid as he licked out the little bits of icing stuck to it. He was moving himself all over the table as he shifted side to side, licking the edges. Kinda like one of those balance boards at the gym. Except with icing. And sides.

It reminded me of a similar experience when the one dish that had been left on the table was a measuring cup half full of gravy. I came out to find Jack, head jammed down in that cup, drinking for all he was worth before someone discovered him, gravy all over his ears.

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Do you think there’s a market for cake-keeper-as-small-dog-hamster-wheel?

What’s your dog gotten into lately?

 

 

 

Wordless One & Done

Hey. It's One & Done Sunday.
Hey. It’s One & Done Sunday.

Here are your links:

There’s a lot to be said for feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Go Jules Go writes about posting a video clip of her singing on her blog: Hitting The Right Note Please do click on the clink in the post of her singing- it made me really happy.

Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson wrote this really cool and disturbing piece that stuck with me. Not a Tale for Children. 

Darla always makes me laugh: Top Fifteen Signs You’re Old– She’s a Maineiac

Another badass post from Melissa Stetton on Pretty Bored: Bikini Auditions, Ugh.

I loved this post too– it’s funny-yet-poignant-but-not-in-a-way-that-makes-you-want-to-strangle-kittens-or-kick-babies: Life- The Yelp Reviews on Byronic Man. I gotta work on my own review.

Happy Sunday.