Greg went and picked up Bowie’s ashes on Thursday night. I didn’t want to go do it because I was sure that I would break down, but when he brought everything home, and we looked at all the stuff, we were oddly cheerful. Not because we were happy he was gone, far from it, but that there were parts of the process that were amusing, and that brought back wonderful memories. The pet cremation company, Gateway, makes every effort to be as classy and inoffensive as possible in dealing with people’s beloved companions. We opted for the cedar box as opposed to an urn, and it comes packed in a gorgeous blue box. If not for logo on the front, you’d swear it was something from Tiffany’s. 100 pounds of dog is still pretty heavy when it’s converted to a bag of dust, and the cedar box inside weighed about 8 pounds.
We had wondered all along what would become of the pins in Bowie’s knees from his two surgeries. The gals at the vet’s office didn’t know, so after we unwrapped the box we stood there, shaking it back and forth, listening to hear any kind of metal sound, since the pins do not burn down with the body. Sure enough, there was a quiet clink, and I grabbed a screwdriver to open the box. The pins were in a little satin pouch, and we pulled them out to marvel at what $6000 ($3,000 for each knee) looks like after it’s been through a fire. The pins were a lot smaller than we thought they’d be, but the screws that kept them attached to his bones were really long. They were probably shiny once, but the heat had left them flaky and black. The other thing the cremation service did was to make a plaster cast of his pawprint. These are normally painted, and have the animal’s name on it, but we asked for no painting. We were worried this was going to be twee and cutesy but it looks as if they use a standard size of terracotta mould, so Bowie’s huge paw barely fits onto the plaque. His outer toenails went off the edges, and without the paint and glaze, the rough edges of the calloused skin on his pads can be felt in the clay. It’s as big as my hand, and I have huge hands for a woman. I love this little bit of plaster more than words can say. It’s sitting on the table next to my spot on the sofa, and I have taken to sitting there while watching TV, rubbing my fingers over his big ol’ toeprints, remembering our game of “five cents” in which I’d take an IOU for a nickel in the form of a handshake in exchange for scratches and treats. Dude died owing me a lot of money.
The vet sent back the blankets we had wrapped his body in. I figured that would be the thing that sent me over the edge, that I’d pull them out of the bag and bury my face in them to catch his smell. But they had been dirty, and the girls at the vet had washed them, so instead I got a nose full of perfumy laundry detergent stink and ran around going “Ewww!” instead of crying. We’re still missing him like crazy. I still come around the corner from the living room and expect to find him stretched out on the kitchen floor. I still save the last bite of whatever I’m eating to hand over to his impatiently waiting mouth. And I totally still miss rubbing his velvety soft ears and our evening “foot rubs” where he’d lie on the floor in front of the sofa and I’d rub my feet back and forth along his back. I miss his demanding “Roo roo roo!!” when I’m scooping up food for Tula, or when Greg arrives home from work (something he’d done literally from the very first day I brought him home as a puppy). And while a cedar box or a slab of clay is no replacement for the real deal, at least he’s back here with us now. He’ll never be gone from my heart.