THIS BLOG HAS THREE PARTS. TOGETHER, THEY WILL TAKE ABOUT 20 MINUTES TO READ.
It was 2013 when King Tut died. As you can imagine, by then I had a collection of pet ashes. We decided to have a Pet Funeral when the kids were with us for Thanksgiving.
I thought it would be nice to gather under the big mesquite tree under the dining room window and bury the ashes of Libby, Allie, and Tut there, and recognize Sunny, too, even though we had already buried her in the herb garden. Since Gene and I had taken care of stepdaughter Katie’s bunny, Miss Piggy, while Katie was a visiting nurse in California, we included Miss Piggy in the ceremony.
David suggested hanging pictures of all the pets from the tree branches, so I bought little black frames and ribbon, and the day after Thanksgiving we got everything ready.
My father, an Episcopal priest, had written a prayer for a friend’s dog in 1939, when Papá was in his 20s.
A Prayer for Taffy
O Lord, we pray thee to receive into thy
kind hands this, thy servant, a dog. Look upon
him with the love thou showest all thy creatures;
and, as thou art the final judge of evil and
the eternal reward of good, take this clear heart,
faultless in our eyes, under thine own protection,
making such provision as thou hast ordained for
him in thy goodness. For, as the temptation
toward evil and the opportunity for good were
both less freely offered to him than to us, thou
knowest, Lord, what little evil was in him and
what great good. Finally, we are grateful that,
having lent him to our imperfect affection, thou
takest him back again to thee. Amen.
A few days before the service, I asked Aidan, our oldest grandson, who was nine, if he would read the prayer for Tut. He said, “Well, Nonnie, Tut and I never really hit if off. But I’ll read the prayer for Allie!” Then I went to daughter Annie and asked her if she would like to read the prayer for Tut. She said, “Tut and I were never that close, Mom. Why don’t you ask Mamá?” So much for Tut being the favored pet.
The big kids hung the pictures, daughter-in-law Kim helped me bring out my clay garden animals and some flowering bougainvillea. We gathered around the tree, read the prayer for each pet, and shared memories of them. David dug the holes around the tree, and Gene poured the ashes into the tiny graves and covered them with dirt. Grandsons Caleb and Asher, ages six and four, collected rocks and decorated the little mounds. It was a sweet day.
And as I think about the animals that have been a part of my life, I am thankful for each one of them.
Whether it’s trust or responsibility or the importance of consistency and predictability or simple affection or biology, our pets are some of our best teachers. They are role models for unconditional love.
But it hurts deeply when we lose them. And sometimes we wonder if we want to take that leap again because we know what’s going to happen: we’re going to lose our greeting committee, our biggest fans, our quiet companions, our exercise buddies, those who love us no matter what.
And we usually take the leap, figuring the many gifts they bring us far outweigh the pain we know will come when it’s time for them to leave.