I’ve had to come back to England due to our beloved labrador Ben being ill, he’s lost a lot of weight in recent months, and there’s something not right with his liver in terms of what the scan’s thrown up – but, liver function test came back very normal, strangely so for a dog his age, said the vet. So it’s not wholly clear now how ill he really is, so we need more tests.
Meanwhile you do what the ads on Channel 5 recommend, ‘peace of mind’, ‘save a few bob and stress for your loved ones for when the day comes’, and start looking at funeral arrangements, because when you’re old and got nothing to do but watch daytime TV you want constant reminding of how close you are to being on your way out.
I don’t mean funeral arrangements for Ben as in invitation lists or caterers for the wake, but options. No-one seems to do burials, no pet cemeteries a la Stephen King (we’ve nowhere to bury him ourselves, except the allotment, and we don’t want him dug up with the cabbages). Seems to be all crematoria, but no Viking longboat pyres, which is what I want, I want my pallbearers to have ankle-length cloaks that sway as they carry me along, singing the somber Viking song, then being out to sea aboard a blazing ship.
Anyway we visited a perfectly nice one today, glossy brochures of caskets and urns with paws printed on, or ones in the shape of the animal that’s died, even the breeds of dog, although we weren’t taken with the labrador one as it had its paws crossed in a fay way that Ben dog just doesn’t do (I don’t mean he’s too butch or owt, it’s simply not a mannerism of his. Also caskets for horse ashes, which weren’t on display, but must be huge. You’d need some massive curry tureen to carry that, and a ladle to dish out the ash). Anyway the striking thing was, the woman showing us around, very nice she was, but she’d always pause, ‘so you know, when the vet comes to, … *excuse me* do the deed’, ‘but when … God forbid … the time comes,’ ‘You might want to consider – but I hate to be so cold – but you might want to consider …’ ‘There are – I hate to say this – other options…’
Yes it’s obviously a job that requires delicacy and tact, but I kind of think you can overplay it. ‘God Forbid’ doesn’t make sense. He’s going to cark it, like we all are, that’s why we’re here. On that, the little funeral shop that’s opened opposite is officially in business, we know as the guy who moved into the house next door to the parlour when Prat and Ginhead moved away, died only a few days ago, and is I think the parlour’s first customer (no he’s not, his wife is, he’s not really in a state to do business What do undertakers call the dead? Simply the deceased? Clients? Stock? Meat? Meat stock?), and was until today held in the mini morgue they’ve built. Must have just hoyed him over the wall. Maybe slid him out the window aimed at next door, he speared into the yard. Even the local racist who told me this sad news had to add, ‘Well, that’s handy.’
Back at Pet Crem Inc., a big selling point is that they distinguish between pets, i.e. if you want your pet to go up in a pyre with a load of others (images of bulldozers in death camps come to mind), that’s one way, but if you want it individually done they do individual cremations so you’re sure the ashes you get are those of your pet (to whit, they don’t divvy out the mass pyre ashes, if they stick it on the grill with the others that’s the last of it). Big dogs can take four hours to go up in smoke.
They also have scatter tubes for the ashes, like big pepper pots (although they’ll have already done the grinding of any remnants I hope, you don’t want the thing bunged up by chunks of charred hound, and then have to turn the top the grind the rest out. That could go wrong in many ways, don’t leave it in the kitchen). And scatter cushion things, made of wicker, which I thought at first were scatter cushions, but terribly designed because surely every time you sat on one plumes of dog ash would seethe out of it.
So many nuances to all this.