I’ve been keeping one of my New Year’s gardening resolutions – the one about sitting down when I’m outside, instead of just doing frantic job after job. I expect I’ll sit a bit more now that my beautiful little dog, who died this morning, is buried in the garden.
My mother believes that heaven is a garden. What do you think? I think it’s true for Lizzy, our lovely 16-year-old terrier cross with the comically outsized front paws. She was usually with me as I worked outside, and the other day she lazed in the sun and watched me tackling my new project.
It’s a seating area; I was digging out a proper path towards a bench we never use, behind a sick apple tree. I’d removed the tree and piled up the soil by the bench; I was thinking of the Gardener’s World episode about Monet’s Giverny garden — it packs in so many flowers because the borders are mounded in the middle.
When I’d placed all the plants, I sat down and watched Lizzy watching me, and I tried to take a vivid mental picture. I will especially remember your wonky, silky ears, I thought — the right one always stood up, the left one folded back.
You need a plan if you’re burying your dog in the garden
If you know your dog may be nearing the end, and you want the burial to be in your garden, don’t put off planning how to do it. Lizzy’s health had been so bad that I had a bit of time to think. In fact the night before last I didn’t sleep at all. Between fits of crying – wailing, really – I made myself plan.
The place for her grave was obvious – I’d dug down very deep to take out the apple tree, and the spade would go in easily there. I would beg the vet to do a house call. How could I bring her to the clinic? She hated it, and on this trip, I couldn’t lie and tell her she’d nothing to worry about. I’d wrap her in my old silk robe; it smells of me, she’d like that. And I could use the clean wicker mat I’d just seen in the closet. More crying, more sleeplessness. At 3:30 I got up, picked up Lizzy from the kitchen and brought her to the couch. She settled into the crook of my legs and we both fell asleep.
This morning, when my husband and I saw how much Lizzy was bleeding and her back legs dragged behind her worse than ever, we rang the vet, who agreed to come to us. I gave Lizzy chicken for breakfast, and a long, luxurious brushing in the garden. Thank God I didn’t need to think, just do the plan: cuddles, robe, mat, grave. The rain was coming on, so I dug out the first bit; my husband would finish it after he’d dropped off the kids. He returned as the vet arrived.
I sat on the ground with my robe over my legs, cradling Lizzy and speaking to her. She never liked to see me cry, so I wasn’t tempted to – I wanted her to experience only my strong, positive voice and the smell of me as I stroked her. After the first injection, a sedative, her sleepy head got heavier on my arm and she began to snore. After the second injection, she was gone in less than a minute. I kept stroking her and kissed her head; my husband finished the digging.
We wrapped her gently and laid her down.
My plants to remember Lizzy – including lamb’s ears, of course
This evening I spoke to Lizzy as I put in the plants: stachys byzantium, silky like her lovely ears, are by the arm of the bench. The rest is a collection of pink to catch the autumn sun: Aster Alma Potschke and Cosmos Bipinnatus Candy Stripe. A few evergreens are around the triangle edges of the mound: Festuca glauca at the tip and helleborus foetidus along the sides.
When I first found Lizzy in the foyer of my apartment building, she had a plastic bag around her waist with a note: “Someone take this dog, as I can’t afford to keep it.” That’s when I was 25. I’m 41 now. It’s a lifetime, isn’t it? For Lizzy, it was a lovely lifetime; and the rest is garden.