Crossing Over (Part One)

I cremate pets. For about seven years or so, part of my job as a kennel attendant has been to perform cremations. I’m pretty good at it too. It’s not a hard job, not really. Mostly it takes, tack and compassion. And empathy. Lots of empathy.

I gather the bodies of beloved furry friends. I curl them up, holding their heads, making sure they don’t flop. I wrap their tails around their legs. Bend up their paws. Nestle their muzzle on top of those paws. I push down their eyelids and close up their mouths. I cover their back ends and wipe off their lips. I’ve wrapped them in the blankets, towels, beds, or any other special material an owner might have brought. No matter what they are finally wrapped in, it is if they are a baby wrapped in a bundle from the winter snow. As tiny, and tucked safe as I can make them. I always like it when I can make them small enough for me to carry alone, like they were again the kittens or puppies they once were.

One by one, I carry a tightly wrapped bundle close to my chest. It’s true. The dead do feel heavier. On the way to the cremator, I whisper to the bundled body. Though I know the spirit is gone from the body, I always figure it’s not far. I tell the pet how wonderful he or she was, what a great job the pet did, and now it was time for the heavens to take care of the pet. When I lay the pet’s body in the cremator, I say another short prayer. Closing the cremator door, I say a blessing in Latin, and then turn the cremator on.

Bronte liked going to the vet. She liked everyone there, and thought the place was hers. After all those years of training, that little girl would let you poke and prod her anywhere. Saturday evening was no different. Recently, the only place she went for rides to was the vet.  Even though, she had been a bump all day Saturday, as soon as I said, “You want to go for a ride?” she got up and wiggled out of her kennel. I took a deep breath, grit my teeth and off we went.

Bronte’s routine upon arrival was usually after greeting anyone and everyone, was to make a beeline for the backyard. On the way back it would be to meet and greet the boarding dogs. Then she would sniff and stopped at any opened runs thinking that maybe that would be a good room for the night. Saturday was no different. In her time, we make it back to treatment. We let her decide her choice of room for comfort. Bless my little dog’s heart. She picks a hospital run. So we put down a big comfy blanket and my good little patient just goes over and lies down. The good Dr. asks if I know what the whole process entails? She starts talking about holding off veins and tourniquets. For some reason, I nod.

All I know is that the doctors get the euthanasia “shot” from a special locked cabinet and that this drug is pink. Specifically pink, so it doesn’t get mixed up with others. I know sedatives, sleep, shots, and done. I think if I slow down my thinking to ask questions, I will fall apart. So instead, I say, “just tell me what to do.” I do what the good Dr. says, and I tell Bronte what a good girl she is. God, she was a good girl. One shot under her skin between her shoulders, already lying down and she got sleepy.

Then we try to find a good vein for the pink stuff. Neither front leg did well with finding a vein. We had to go to a back leg. So with my first practice at holding off a vein, I helped find the “golden” vein for my girl’s final destination.

Life may slip silently away but death is instant and heavy. I knew before the good Dr.’s stethoscope confirmed the absent heartbeat. Bronte’s head lying on my leg, suddenly felt like a brick. I knew stroking her neck and shoulder. She was gone. Just that easy. Leaning over her, that’s when the great big moon tears dropped. I watched them fall on her ears and collar. “I know,” I whispered.

To be continued…


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