From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 13 2010 – in memory of Jack who died 7 years ago today
Today is the 13th anniversary of the death of my old Collie-mix Jamie and tortoiseshell cat Cedric. They were put to sleep together, due to cancer and crippling arthritis, and they’re buried together behind a house I used to live in. The present occupants of the house know they’re there, but in future no one will know the significance of that small bed of orange and white dahlias and tiger lilies. Now my animals have plots at Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery just south of Eden. The first time I went there, I was in the area with a bit of time to kill. I was driving around Calton, Richmond and Eden, looking at the places that were home to my parents’ families a century ago. On the Plank Road (#19 Hwy), I saw a sign for the pet cemetery.
So in I went. I quickly used up all the tissues in my pockets and was using old napkins from Tim Hortons that I found in the car, then my sleeves to wipe my eyes and nose. It’s the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen. And active! Seasonal flowers, small toys, photographs, solar lights and notes left on beloved pets’ gravestones. It’s lovely and gut-wrenching. There are people’s graves too, with their pets.
I looked up the website and contacted the owners, the Cowans. I broached the subject with my husband. He thought it was a good idea for the pets. Then I moved on to the subject of us. Expecting his response to discussion of our own mortality to be “lalalala my fingers are in my ears I can’t hear you”, I was surprised that he heard me out and thought about the options. His family is from Kentucky, so the family plots are there. My family plots are in London, Tillsonburg and Dorchester – not places with any real connection for me or him. The scattering of ashes over a waterfall or lake is a romantic idea, but leaves no mark of your existence. He realized that some ‘I was here’ marker mattered to him, at least for the sake of his sons. I realized it was important to me because I do genealogical research and gravestones are a solid connection with the past. They tell you something about individuals and families.
So we bought a family plot for us and pets. Too soon we had to use it. January 30th 2008, our German Shepherd Jack died. He was buried the next day. We, our mothers, my sister and the Cowans were in attendance. A month later, Henry, the oldest cat, joined him. It was a bad, sad winter. Eventually, we’ll all be there in this plot demarcated with granite ‘S’s at the corners.* And it feels ok, knowing that others like me will walk along the path and read names and dates and reconstruct bits of family history. And cry.
*In 2012, the Ontario government demanded the removal of the human graves. Human ashes only were there, but they and the gravestones had to be moved away from the spots the people had chosen for their final repose.