When the decision to help Biscuit die had been made, we had to talk specifics with the vet’s people. A very gentle, soft-spoken woman named Heather, presented the options to me over the phone. I asked for the prices of each option. I was somewhat in a fog of grief, so I had to ask her to repeat several things. The gist of it all was, Biscuit’s body could be returned to us for burial (no charge, except for the injection); he could be cremated individually and returned to us in a basic urn, or in a decorative urn of our choosing ($200 plus injection and urn cost); or he could be cremated along with all the other animals who had recently died, and nothing would be returned to us ($90 plus injection). After going over the prices, Heather added, “I know your bill is already huge, with the last week of day hospital, so I imagine you want to keep costs down…”
“Well, yes,” I answered, on autopilot, while mulling our options. We had once buried another dog in the yard of our old house. We had been told then that it was illegal to do so in our area, and this was a source of anxiety for a very young LG. I thought aloud that cremation would be better. I mentally dismissed, though apparently did not state, that I did not want Biscuit lumped in with all the other deceased pets.
So Heather continued trying to help me with arrangements. “OK, then, we’ll have $90 for the euthanasia; we’ll do the cremation; the mass is an additional $90…”
The mass? We would, I was certain, say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing as we buried Biscuit’s ashes in the yard, but we had no intention of having a mass for him. $90? For a priest . . . mass cards . . . ? Just when I was mentally finalizing the funeral arrangements, Heather throws in this monkey wrench. I went through an elaborate inner process, trying to find a compartment for this new mass information. I finally decided that I needed to respond something like, “Thank you for thinking of that [clearly, Heather is Roman Catholic, and apparently assumed that we are as well; she is only trying to be sensitive and attentive to our spiritual needs], but we are Presbyterian [Biscuit has received communion (and by "received," I mean stolen, and by "communion," I mean bread) on at least two occasions], so we really won’t need a mass, we’ll take care of our own service.”
I opened my mouth to make this rather odd reply, but instead, out came, “Wait, what?”
Turns out, “the mass” meant “mass cremation,” as in, with all the other pets. That’s not what we wanted. Even though we were already dipping into all the $ we had, and some we didn’t, for his care, we wanted him cremated alone. I told Heather this, and that we’d take the basic container, nothing fancy, and we’d bring him home to bury him.
So that’s the story of how Biscuit was almost converted at the end of his life. We were greatly surprised that the “basic container” which I imagined as a plastic margarine tub, is actually a lovely wooden box with an intricate floral carving on the top. It is now on a bookshelf. I don’t know when or if we’ll bury it. Presbyterian.