All right, this is going to sound really strange. Actually, it will only sound strange if you read this aloud, otherwise it will read strange, but nonetheless the story will seem a bit odd and pointless, maybe even surreal, until I get to the point. And we all know I don't get to the point until the very end of these things.
A few weeks ago I received this urgent phone call from the sister of one of my best friends. She lived quite a distance away and was calling me to check up on my friend because he had recently had a loss in his family. I was taken back. He didn't share anything with me. What kind of friend was I?
"What loss? Who passed on?" I asked.
"Moxie. Moxie died," she replied.
Moxie was my friend's puppy, an energetic ball of fur that had been his savior for a few months as he transitioned his life from one career into another and dealt with the trials and tribulations of bachelorhood - yes, ladies, it's not all it's cracked up to be.
Anyway, Moxie had passed on from respiratory complications veterinarians couldn't seem to alleviate. Not only was it a time of loss, it was a time of recovery from witnessing a loved one suffer, despite how short of a time the puppy did struggle.
I called my friend. His voice was cracked, broken. It was evident he was mournful, tearful, completely distressed. It wasn't until this time I thought of my own dog of eight years, Joplin. We'd been through infinite adventures together and had grown to understand each other. She not only understands my commands, she understands tone in conversation among friends, and I swear she has more compassion than half the people I've met.
I thought about how I'd react if I lost her, if she died ... it would surely affect me in one of the most horrible ways. Man's best friend, right.
My friend told me he didn't leave the puppy with the vet after it passed on. He brought the puppy home and wrapped her body in a favorite blanket, placed at the foot of his bed. When he returned home roommates called around to friends to announce a sunset funeral service for 7 p.m. That was the time Moxie ran around the yard and often played with the other resident pet ... a cat.
Here's where I establish a bit of demented humor, but most importantly the resurgence of humanity - two things I've been thinking Americans have been lacking.
I arrived to my friend's house at 6:45 p.m. and found him lying on his bed watching television. He was dressed like a the late Doors singer Jim Morrison, only shipwrecked; cut-off khakis, stained button-up white shirt, bearded, Ray ban® sunglasses, cigarettes set beside him being smoked by the boatload.
"How ya doin' man?"
"I'm sorry, really I am."
We hugged as grown heterosexual men do, with a few back slaps to ensure friendship and nothing intimate.
"So, where's the pup?"
"Right there," he said, pointing at my feet.
Good to know. I won't sit there now.
We went outside and examined how the funeral was going take place. He was burying Moxie outside, below the window of his library/office where he wrote. He said he'd rather do this than cremate her and carry her remains around not knowing what to do with them. Moxie enjoyed the yard, this is where she belonged.
As we walked to the spot I was beginning to feel more like a funeral director instead of a friend. Why the hell did I want to see where it's taking place? Who did that?
We stood looking into a hole my friend was digging earlier in the morning and afternoon. Due to blisters on his hands he stopped. He stopped too early I thought.
"Dude? Do you think that hole is big enough?"
"I'm hoping so. I've got blisters and can't dig anymore."
This was my cue to grab a shovel and a sleeping roommate. We returned to the site where we dug deeper and wider. At this time, a couple other friends arrived and I began thinking, wow, this was an actual event.
Small talk occurred and I felt uncomfortable, so I broke it up with the typical insult to injury.
"Not to sound all twisted, but we've got to get this hole bigger. The last thing I want to see today is him bringing his dog here and having to slide her into this hole headfirst, or worse, fold her."
A few grossed-out chuckles broke the tension. The moment was not unlike any funeral I've been at before, aside from it being an animal funeral and I was digging.
"All I know is next funeral I go to I'm asking if the hole is dug first."
After the hole was dug, we walked around the side of the house and found my friend with a small group of other mourners. One brought potato salad, chicken fingers and beer, one brought cookies, another incredible man brought Kentucky Fried Chicken® and Jack Daniels®, all of which was meant to ease the pain and help the our friend get through his time of grief.
At first, it was almost comical. It's only a dog, right. Wrong. It was friendship. It was support. It was simply being there in the moment, in the present, something people call "consciousness," yet fail to produce during most of their daily lives.
I looked over at my friend knowing he had to get this over with. His soon-to-be inebriated face returned a tearful, baggy-eyed glance and I understand how tough this was. We all did.
"Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin," I announced, stealing a famous line from Jim Morrison.
My friend held the body of his puppy for a few moments before lying her down in the grave. He then stepped backwards and said the first few things that were on his mind, all of them emotional, stuttered through like a preacher tied to closely to a death he presided over.
It came to the time when we all should say a prayer. I choked out a few lines of the Lord's Prayer. Is it debt or trespass against, anyway?
Scoops of dirt were placed over the body and the grave was filled, but not before a couple new pairs of socks (she always chewed on the roommate's socks) were thrown in symbolically - rebirth and life after this world. A flower was planted above the grave and the cat, the puppy's best friend, ran over and sat above, inquisitive and purring.
Nobody said a word, everyone got it. If you don't, I feel sorry for you. It's that easy.