Monday, October 4, 2010

Death's hand

We were eight, mouth agape, the day they covered the graves in concrete, sealing them in, ensuring they would never return. Unattended ice cream melted, running in sticky rivers down our fingers, as we froze in the shadow of finality.

"It's just their bodies," they said, their best efforts at comfort clattering hollow in our ears.
____

Hobo was my first brother, that lived. I had an older brother that did not make it through child birth. In my earliest memories, Hobo is there exploring the hill with me. Carrying me at times on his back.

The hill on which we lived was surrounded by thick forest, the top occupied by four houses. Ours was in the center of the gravel loop, surrounded by those of our aunts, uncles and cousins. If you followed the loop to the exit, you would find the cemetery.

I walked among the dead most of my life, their names familiar, even though I never met them. Many a day I lay stretched across the face of their sarcophagus, or resting my head on their stone, staring at the sky. For as long as I can remember, there has been an open grave, waiting for the next to fall asleep.

At the end of the cemetery, a stone wall forms a large square. This is where we laid Hobo to rest when his time came. It was fall. The pick axe bounced on the hard ground, until it cracked to accept him.

Hobo was a floppy eared, belly dragging hound dog, but to me he was my first friend. I would rub his soft haired ears and the world would be okay. When he died, they gave me a stuffed animal, in his likeness. I slept with it every night, but it never replaced the warmth of him next to me.
____

A cloud of dust reached for the sky, behind a truck making its way up our gravel drive way. No one ever came to our hill, so it became an event. Cousins dashed in lazy circles, excitement spilling out on everyone. We got ice cream cones as treat to watch as dirty men climbed down from the white clackity truck, they had backed between the tomb stones.

A great white tongue swung out over the stone wall of the pet cemetery and lumpy grey concrete began to pour, spreading slow across the dirt. My friend. It had been two years, but I still knew the feel of his ears. And my little heart stopped as I knew he was now locked in. Forever. Away from me.

"It's only a dog," they said, as if it did not matter. As if he did not.

Melting ice cream waterfalled from my knuckles, painting the grass in milky rain. Hiding the tears. Death wrapped its clammy skeletal fingers around my other hand. I had felt them before, only now I felt them squeeze.

85 comments:

SY said...

I've never felt a strong connection with a pet but Pets seem to be the most loyal of friends and I can see how it can be painful

Daniel said...

This one pains me too for my lost friend Barney. He was one of the most loyal friends I have ever known. I still miss him although he died when I was in high school.

Prayer Girl said...

Very powerful post. I can feel the pain of the loss and the terrible horror at having all sealed in cement.

Dark, but so well written.

PG

Tracy said...

Oh, boy, I know how you feel. Pets are like a family member. This is so timely for me, as you know, and as you don't know we adopted a new shelter dog over the weekend! Photos coming soon. :-)

DJan said...

Well, everything that lives must die some day, but it doesn't make it hurt less. And those loyal companions that don't live as long as we do... it will always hurt. Well done, Brian.

clean and crazy said...

this is just a beautiful peice. i love how you make the reader a part of the picture, you tell a story so well. and yet i feel the pain and the love. there is more than just sadness here. it is bittersweet, it is a memory and it makes it alive. i am glad i feel today, i am glad not to cover the hard and painful memories up, they are important to not forget.

Slamdunk said...

"Its only a dog" is carelessly muttered by those who have not experienced that wonderful love. I feel sad for them

Great read Brian.

Tina said...

Nice little reveal there, towards the end. You had me thinking human brother for quite a while. Achingly descriptive, and poignant. I've buried three dogs. They will always be missed. Nice tribute to the unconditional love of a dog.

ModernMom said...

Pets really are part of the family:(

Kulio said...

oh chills...love "this time it squeezed"

Nancy said...

I could feel your pain. We've lost two friends this year. It's been a tough one for our pets.

Loved your ending. Another house for the cousins?

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

A dog is not just a dog, it's family. I've lost 4 of them in 21 years...still miss them. Great post.

Bonnie said...

...only a dog!!! I still grieve for my departed. You brought it all back so vividly. Thanks, ... I think ...

Cinner said...

Oh Brian, It is so hard losing a pet,this wwas like watching Old Yeller..and I just watched my old dog walk with arthritis across the room and I knowing it will not be too far off. We had lost two family dogs before....my Dads dog is still alive, that will be hard when he goes because he is such a tie to my Dad...They definately do make best friends. My dog has always been there when I have had my Cataplexy spells and just lays on the floor beside me, it has always had a calming effect. I will forever remember this post. you will always remember your first brother.

Alan Burnett said...

Great post. So says me (and so says Amy the Dog)

Bossy Betty said...

Oh. It just tears me up when I think about my wonderful dog Cedric and the day he died.....

Steven Anthony said...

one of my bigggest conncetions with another living thing was my dog bastian...this brought back many memories;)

California Girl said...

I feel the ache, the loneliness, the loss. Only a truly good writer is able to pull those feelings from their readers.

Strong stuff Brian.

R. Burnett Baker said...

Mine weren't "only cats". They were family for 18 years. A heartbreaking story, Brian, but heartwarming just the same!

Rick

TALON said...

So sad. All the dogs that have been in my life (and are now in my life) have been my friends...so much more than just a dog.

Vicki Lane said...

It's never 'only' a dog when it's your best friend.

Vicki Lane said...

It's never 'only' a dog when it's your best friend.

adeeyoyo said...

My dogs have always become a part of me, as close to my heart as my children. Especially since I have lived alone with them. I can't relate to people who don't love animals. It seems there is something missing in their soul.

JStar said...

This is a sad story and hard to understand as a kid...

5thsister said...

This story is a remarkable read. The emotions took me back to the pets I've owned and lost in my life. It is never easy to say that final goodbye. Thank you for eliciting memories of my beloved Gretchen, Isaac, Phoebe, Winston.

Liza said...

"I had felt it before, only now I felt it squeeze."
we lost our dear Bandit earlier this year.
"It's only a dog,"
that dog was a better human than me.

I love the opening line,
hook!
You inspire Brian.

Myrna R. said...

I'm too sentimental to read this without the welling of tears. My dogs - how I miss them all.

You captured the tender love and pain that goes along with accepting these heavenly companions into our lives.

As always, your writing is superb.

Cheryl said...

Beautifully written and so evocative. Couldn't bear the thought of burying ours. She was better off on wings of angels in her favorite places: the mountains and the ocean.

Anonymous said...

its so good that you have pet cemetaries over there. where you can lay your four legged friends at rest and visit their graves.

trisha
mydomainpvt.wordpress.com

Claudia said...

this was heart-touching...
i had a dog when i was a child - and throughout my teenage years - when no one else seemed to love me, he did..i can so relate to what you wrote brian - a dog can be so much more than just a pet..

Mighty M said...

So hard to lose a beloved friend. I have vivid memories of when my precious, sweet, kitty got hit by a car when I was a kid. That was a tough day for the whole family.

Mama Zen said...

Oh, this is sad!

Becky said...

Oh this hits close to home Brian.I have a Border Collie who is 13 he will be 14 in January.Some one told me one time they dont live long well he is,lol and hes a great great dog.Seriously if you are ever going to buy a dog for the boys buy a border collie.Anyway dogs are close to my heart I have 2....if you like pets at all you can relate to this.Loved this one Brian!

Kay said...

please stop killing puppies... it makes me (all of us) sad...

yet, you do it with such ease that one can look upon it and say, "awww... so eloquent...poor thing..."

dang it!

nicely done, once again.

drybottomgirl said...

Nice one. I like that you captured both the innocent carefree happiness of childhood and the impending lessons of adulthood all in the same story. When I was 14 my dad told me on the way home from school that he had had our 15 year old lab Duke put to sleep the day before. I remember standing in front of his pen sobbbing in the pouring rain and feeling my heart shatter into a million pieces. "It's only a dog" works if you've never given your heart away to one.......

Tabor said...

At the fist I had imagined a pet and then I wasn't so sure. But pets are like our human friends. Even the Dog Whisperer says he wants to come back as an American dog.

Eva Gallant said...

I was 12 when my dog Buster, also 12, was put to sleep because of the complications of dog old age. I don't even know where he was laid to rest. I don't remember much about it, except that I missed him, terribly. He was my constant companion growing up. His demise was pretty much kept secret from me, and I think even now I don't want to know what happened to him. I just want to remember him following me everywhere, helping me gather the cows at milking time (I grew up on a dairy farm), and giving me wet kisses whenever I returned from being away from him.

Travel & Dive Girl said...

We had to put our dog about 2 years ago. It was the worst decision I've ever had to make. Rest assured, he's still missed on a daily basis. Great post Brian.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Ah, I have a memory like this. Thanks for helping me retrieve it...
Wonderfully told.
I'm out here, still reading, just not commenting so much.
-J

Kim A. said...

We have 10 rescue dogs and love each of them for the quirky, furry kids they are. We have parted from other ones that were loved. Rainbow Bridge waits for them...and us. I felt your words today.

♥namaste♥

ladyfi said...

Oh, the love of a child for his or her first pet is an unbreakable bond. Lovely writing!

Gabriela Abalo said...

heartwarming memories - What a great way to remember him :)

steveroni said...

Brian...for your final paragraph I have simply no words. I copied it, not to use anywhere, just to read it again and again. That might be in a moment when I wish to delve more deeply into those timeless questions, Who, Why, Where, When, What, and yes...even HOW!

Thank you my blog-friend!

Doubtfulpoet said...

I miss my dog. I think sometimes he was the only one who really got me lol. Two years of running four miles every morning with him, and then having to leave him when I came to London. <3<3 this work hun x

AmyLK said...

OH! Poor Hobo!

Birdie said...

oh Brian, now my heart is squeezed too! I understand every and each of the words and sentiment of this post. Dogs are man's best friend. And every other pet. Dogs they walk or sit silently next to us and they seem to understand the deepest part of us, sometimes it feels like they do understand us better then we do ourselves. I'm so sorry for your lost friend, I know he was happy with you and I'm so sorry hearing it has been all sealed in cement, and the cruelty of those words 'it's just a dog' ... that's terrible. It's like to have him die twice ... our dog is sending big hugs to you!

william said...

that was the best I have read in a long time :)

tori said...

Beautiful Brian. I always thought it was a little silly when I felt bad leaving behind a pet who was buried in our yard when we moved...maybe it wasn't silly after all.

she said...

I feel so sad. For your loss. I understand and can relate.

Jen said...

Pets always love us, are always happy to see us, comfort us when we are sad, never talk back, never argue, never have unkind words...

ds said...

You have a way of getting your reader (anyway, this reader) to feel every word, every emotion. Even that final squeeze of the hand. So beautifully handled, thank you.
Am now re-grieving the childhood dog...

Caty said...

I love how you considered Hobo your brother. My dogs are not "only dogs" either. Great write...and I loved the word sarcophagus.

Hilary said...

Such a beautiful post, Brian. I'm sure everyone who has ever loved a pet can relate. It tugs at the heart.. and it aches.

shootingstar said...

Good n really Touching !
Star was here..

alex said...

i did get teary eyed, it reminded me of a friend i had who passed a few years back....
but great read
):)(:(

Nenette AM said...

What a beautiful piece. I've never had to live through the death of a beloved pet, but your words helped me understand. Thank you. :)

blueviolet said...

My daughter has that bond with her cats. I'm sorry that you lost your special pal.

otin said...

Never been real close to a pet like that, even as a kid.

Nancy C said...

Oh my word, this is lovely. And yes, yes, dogs do matter.

CM said...

So sad. I had a German Shepard growing up named Chico. He was my best friend and protector when I stayed with my dad and step mother. One day, he ran away and I never saw him again. I always wondered what happened to him...

Sophia said...

Oh my gosh. Some people roll their eyes when individuals mourn the loss of their pets. It's sad. Most often for people, pets are like "a child". Pets are so faithful and love unconditionally. I would be at such a GREAT loss if I lost another pet. My pups now is my main lifeline. He loves me. Uh huh, yes he does.

secret agent woman said...

Pets are unconditionally loving (most of them anyway) and I hate to see any mistreated. But I guess I tend to be fairly pragmatic about them given that their lifespans are so much shorter than ours.

kkrige said...

some aches never go away.

emily wierenga said...

i wrote about a cat tonight.

brian... this was fantastic. have you considered compiling some of your works and offering them to a publisher? well done. and heart-breaking. my brother still can't talk about the loss of his dog.

Joanna Jenkins said...

That gave me a lump in my throat.
Nice job.
jj

Susan Deborah said...

Quite poignant and tender. I have never been emotional about pets as I did not have any except for one for a brief period. But nevertheless I was moved by the line: "It's only a dog. . ."

Love is love, whether human or non-human.

Have a good remainder of the week, dear Brian.

Joy always,
Susan

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Losing a pet at any age resonates deep within. There's a sadness that will never go away. Pets are friends that love us unconditionally. Beautiful post, Brian.

Zuzana said...

Loosing a dear pet is very tragic and dramatic for a child but I guess it teaches us about life and death early on.
I have heard terrible stories from people that were not allowed to grief the passing of their pets as children, because the grown ups said exactly that; "it is only a dog".
To me my pets are my dear companions and they mean to me at times me more than people do, as they love me unconditionally.
Beautiful tribute to our best friends;)
Have a lovely day Brian,
xo

♫♪♥Lonely Dreamer♥♪♫ said...

I hated it when my dog died. I loved her, and I still do. A lot.
I loved what you have written. It's amazing!

Just Be Real said...

I know I went boo-hoo big time over a precious bird. Thank you Brian for sharing.

Valerie said...

You've done it now Brian. Where's the tissues? I felt the loss as I read this post, and still do. My animals are still missed ... dreadfully.

Lorraine said...

when I become coherent again and not feel the ball in my throat and those tears that can never fall enough, I'll leave a comment

the walking man said...

Well written.

Goofball said...

oooh why did they need to pour concrete over there? :(

natalee said...

aww this post made me miss my first dog Pepperoni... awwwwwww

Chris G. said...

Very powerful, really spoke to me. I've always had a pet myself, a dog, every day of my life. One goes, and I always get another...it hurts to lose them, each time they go, but such companionship is to be cherished.

Also poignant to me, at the moment, as my mother's 2-year-old dog just recently died...she was so broken up. Amazing the connection people can have with their pets.

Sad, but beautiful. I've never understood people that could say, "Its only a dog" and actually mean it.

BeMistified said...

Very well written. Pets are people too, IMO.

Syd said...

I have a pet cemetery here. We have the animals cremated now and each has a wooden cross that I made. It is so painful to lose an animal and to be told not to be sad is a negation of feelings. I understand how you felt about Hobo. I really do.

Beedeebabee said...

Gosh, this one really got to me...I need a tissue now. :(

The Empress said...

So real, I heard the truck on the gravel.

And that last sentence? on how you've felt deaths grip before, but now it squeezed.

No way to describe how that phrase did it's magic on me over here.

Just. excellent.

How many more stories do you have in you???

sheila said...

When our dog died after 9 yrs, suddenly and out of the blue...it overtook me. Actually I couldn't even talk about it with people who called, it was horrible. 5 yrs later it still makes me sad.

Jill said...

As much as I wish I was not...I am a die hard furry animal lover...each one's loss is a blow...a punch in the stomach.

I love this one.

Magpie said...

They aren't "like" family...they are family. Their loss is very hard to take because they give us so much, bring out our best, and validate God.

Marla said...

We just lost our 18 year old kitty. I get this.

The Retired One said...

Oh this tugged at my heartstrings for several of our pets that have gone....I know they will be waiting for me on the other side though,and we are going to have some romps and some great head scratches when we have that reunion!! You will too, with Hobo..you'll see. That is what all those dog smiles were about when he was alive. He knew.