On the Death of a Dog...

 

The late Ben Hur Lampman (August 12, 1886–March 2, 1954), one of the most beloved Northwest writers of his era, joined The Oregonian staff in 1916 and enthralled two generations of readers with his graceful poems and poignant essays. The following originally appeared in The Oregonian in 1926 and later was included in the author's book of essays and poems, "How Could I Be Forgetting." He served as Poet Lauteate of Oregon from 1951 until his death.

 

Where to Bury A Dog

 

A subscriber of the Ontario Argus has written to the editor of that fine weekly, propounding a certain question, which, so far as we know, yet remains unanswered. The question is this -- "Where shall I bury my dog?" It is asked in advance of death.

 

The Oregonian trusts the Argus will not be offended if this newspaper undertakes an answer, for surely such a question merits a reply, since the man who asked it, on the evidence of his letter, loves the dog. It distresses him to think of his favorite as dishonored in death, mere carrion in the winter rains. Within that sloping, canine skull, he must reflect when the dog is dead, were thoughts that dignified the dog and honored the master. The hand of the master and of the friend stroked often in affection this rough, pathetic husk that was a dog.

 

We would say to the Ontario man that there are various places in which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog. 

 

Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else. For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last.

 

On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost -- if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.

 

If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call -- come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

 

The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of its master. 

 

Donald McCaig's "Passports" from his small book "A Useful Dog" ...

 

"Moose died here, where twelve years ago he was born and he's buried in the graveyard on the hill where I hope to be buried someday...We carried him to his grave on his sheepskin bed and set his letter underneath. My wife, Anne, writes a letter for every one of our dogs and I have never asked her what she writes. She says it's a passport and I like to think of Moose coming to the last river he will ever cross and offering the boatman his letter,

 

'Oh, yes, I was a very good dog.'

 

"But it may be, it just may be - all our dogs waiting on the far side of the river that Anne and I must one day cross - those letters may not be dogs' passports. They may be ours."

 

 

I lost a treasured friend today
The little dog who used to lay
His gentle head upon my knee
And share his silent thoughts with me...

He'll come no longer to my call
Retrieve no more his favorite ball
A voice far greater than my own
Has called him to His golden throne.

Although my eyes are filled with tears,
I thank Him for the happy years
He let him spend down here with me
And for his love and loyalty.

When it is time for me to go
And join him there, this much I know...
I shall not fear the transient dark
For he will greet me with his bark.

 

- Author Unknown

 

We have a secret....

We have a secret, you and I,
That no one else shall know,
For who, but I can see you lie,
Each night, in fireglow?
And who but I can reach my hand
Before we go to bed,
And feel the living warmth of you
And touch your silken head?
And only I walk woodland paths,
And see, ahead of me,
Your small form racing with the wind,
So young again, and free.
And only I can see you swim
In every brook I pass...
And, when I call, no one but I
Can see the bending grass.

- Beulah Fenderson Smith

 

AWAY!

On a cold starry night
In a barn sweet with hay,
A tired old dog
Wove dreams as she lay.

She thought she heard sheep 
And a voice - it was dim
The light slowly faded
Then whispered again.

Through the mist, in the fog,
How she wanted to go!
But her old legs were heavy
Outside was deep snow.

Then the Voice-Light rang clear 
"We need you out here"
The cloud curtains parted,
The Voice-Light was near!

So she leaped from the body
That bound her in place
Racing! She soared across time
And through space

And her heart fairly surged!
"I'm ready," she cried!
And she flanked out past Pluto,
Transcending the sky. 

She floated right out of that
deep bed of hay.
Her master was calling.
She's flying! "AWAY"! 

 

-Jeanne Bell

 

So this is where we part, my friend,
And you'll run on, around the bend,
Gone from sight, but not from mind,
New pleasures there you'll surely find.

I will go on. I'll find the strength.
Life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
Share one last look, before I grieve.

There were others, that much is true,
But they be they, and they aren't you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
Will remember well all you've taught.

Your place I'll hold, you will be missed,
The fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
Take this with you....I loved you best.

-- Author Unknown

 

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