I needed a break from some things going on around here, so I walked over to the vet's today and picked up Chase's ashes. I am uncertain why I thought crying my eyes out in front of a Starbucks would be a good life choice, but I needed a walk, and I needed to pick up his ashes, so out I went.
I was about 10 steps into the half hour walk over when I realized I didn't want to make this walk. I didn't want to pick up Ma Petit Chu Chu's ashes and have the box sitting on the mantel. I didn't want the reminder that my little dog was gone and not going to come walking down the hall, clickety clickety clickety. My feet were heavy as they kept moving me forward.
As with most walks, I was able to shift into a meditative state about two minutes in. The meditation wasn't as deep as they sometimes become, but the rhythm of my steps, the movement of my body, the sun in the sky, all helped me keep me moving forward.
The vet office was gracious, coming out quickly with the box containing his ashes. I was relieved to see it was a small box. Annie's ashes are in a giant box that sits giant on the mantel. She wasn't that big of a dog. I suspect my ashes could fit in the box along side Annie, it is that big. Chase's box, thankfully small.
I thanked the vet as best I could without bawling in her face, tucked the box into my bag, and considered the line at Starbucks. With tears welling in my eyes, I was grateful that everyone was wearing masks.
No one can see you ugly cry behind a mask and sunglasses.
I ugly cried as I walked away.
Instead of my normal route which winds along some back streets and through an apartment complex before wandering past a school, I decided I wanted more park, more green, so went a slightly longer way through a park that I would take Chase to wander on occasion.
I walked through the great field and was walking up to the edge of the playground when I saw a couple walking their two dogs. We had seen them frequently when we walked Chase in a bigger loop than his last couple months, and chatted with them. I was surprised to see them so far from our usual walking area, so as I approached, I asked, "Did you walk over here or drive? It's a long walk to here from home." Their oldest dog is blind, so walking the mile over to the park seemed daunting.
"Oh, we drove." I talked a little bit more before the woman, Karolyn, recognized me. "Oh, none of us recognize each other all bundled up!" she exclaimed.
"Ah," I responded. "You probably don't recognize me without my white beagle Chase," I said, gesturing low to the ground. I could see full recognition dawning in both their faces. Dog owners seem to recognize dogs, and then maybe their humans.
"Yes! And how is Chase?"
"He died a month ago today. I have him here on my back," I gestured to my backpack. "I'm taking him home."
And, oh boy, only someone who has lost a pet can understand just how hard those words were. Karolyn and John understood. They stood with me in that park, memories of Chase, and Bella, and Annie, and their dog Gracie, surrounding us, running free around the park, sniffing everything, each other, as we swapped dog stories and pet tales. We talked vets, and the kindness of our mutual vet. We talked new dogs, and I told them my plan: let's be real, there aren't any dogs during a pandemic, everyone is adopting. Come the vaccine, and things returning to normal, people are going to be dumping their pets in the shelters, and beagles will be available for adoption. They agreed, even if sorrowful, about the fickle nature of some dog owners.
After a lovely chat, I continued my walk back to the house. I managed a deep meditative state this time: I don't recall the walk back.
Part of me is grateful for that lack of memory, that moment free of this pain of loss.
I miss you, ma petit Chaseachu.