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Burying Pets the Right Way

Updated on August 12, 2014
Pets Need Our Respect When They Die
Pets Need Our Respect When They Die | Source

I dislike the veterinary hospital. My throat hurts at the sight of wounded dogs lying on cold steel tables. I want to take home all those abandoned and lost dogs that wait for some kind soul to notice them. Their paws, scraping at the steel mesh of their cages, shred my heart to pieces. Their pleading eyes fill my own with tears.

“My Shadow Dog,” I murmur to Rasputin as I carry him in. Sae, the Buddhist nun rests a soft pudgy hand on the dog’s flanks, as though she can give him some of her vitality. The beloved dark head droops over my arm. When Rasputin was newborn, he was the only one in the litter of three to open his mouth to my probing finger and suck on it. It had been instant recognition between us of some bond from a previous life, perhaps. A gasp escapes Sae as we hurry down a long corridor.

“What?” I ask.

“That poor dog!” she points to the Golden Retriever being rushed to Emergency. His beautiful red head flops over the shoulder of the man who carries him, his tongue lolls.

We are told to wait before the vets can examine Rasputin. It makes me impatient and anxious. He lies beneath my chair, panting and limp. When I try to get him to stand, he collapses, yet struggles to follow me when I rise to pet a pup. Sae picks him up when he falls, legs splayed beneath him.

“I’m so glad you’re here with me,” I tell her.



With my Shadow Dog, Rasputin. How I Wish I Had Given Him A Decent Burial!
With my Shadow Dog, Rasputin. How I Wish I Had Given Him A Decent Burial!

My Dog Has An Unexpected Illness

After half an hour, we are summoned in, and Rasputin is placed on a cold metal stretcher. I can hear the cries and howls of dogs, and am glad I cannot see them. The stench of antiseptic, blood and phenol fills the air.

We hold Rasputin down as the young vet checks for heartbeat, respiration and temperature.

“Your dog is in a very serious condition,” he says. I can tell he is moved.

“Serious? But he was fine two days ago. It’s all so sudden!” I feel his words like a blow. Something seems to squeeze my heart with iron fingers.

“It’s not sudden, Madam. It’s a chronic condition and has been this way for three to four months.”

“But I tell you he was all right. Running around as usual, eating normally. He showed no signs of being seriously ill and he’s always around me, so I know.”

“That’s right, doctor,” says Sae.”

“My Shadow Dog!” I stroke Rasputin’s head. “But what’s exactly wrong with him?”

“Lots of things. He may need surgery if he recovers after a drip. “How old is he?”

“About thirteen.”

Rasputin’s eyelids seem heavy with fatigue but his eyes have not left my face.

“He’s old. Surgery won’t be a good idea. We’ll try our best. We’ll have to put him on drip.”

Desperation seizes me. This can’t be happening to my favourite dog. “What do we do? How long will it take?”

“About two hours.”

“Can we go out and come back?”

Sae looks at me with a ‘no’ in her eyes. I think it will prove too much for me, and perhaps for her too, in this depressing place.

“No, Madam. It’s a rule in this hospital that the owner stay with the animal.”

I remember with a jolt, how I had wanted to stay away from the room that had smelled of my father’s rotting lungs as he lay dying, yet I loved him so.

“It’s better we stay here, Anita san,” says Sae. “Rasputin will be happy to know you are here with him.”

“But he’s not going to die. He was fine!”

The vet inserts the drip needle carefully into the dog’s foreleg after feeling a long time for a vein.

“Even his vein is hard to locate. His heartbeat is so slow,” he says. “Be careful with the drip. You’ll need to hold it in place, so the needle doesn’t come out.”

I place my fingers on the needle gently. “Does it hurt him?” I ask.

“Who says it hurts him?” says the vet.

“No, Anita san. It hurts. I know. I’ve had the experience when I had that bike accident. Sometimes it feels like too much is getting into your veins.”

The vet leaves the room.

According to The Buddha, My Pet Could Be My Ancestor

“My poor Rasputin.” I stroke his head. “I’m here, Rasputin, I’m here. I wonder who you were to me in my previous life.”

“Could have been your great, great grandfather,” says Sae, and we laugh, a bright moment in all that darkness.

“Really?”

“We are connected to those close to us – lifetime to lifetime, and depending on one’s karma, souls can be reborn in either animal or human form. Even the animals we eat, Anita san, could have been our ancestors.”

“Oh God! I wonder who I have eaten in my long life,” I say. “Maybe he was my pet like he is now. You say a human being is not reborn as animal unless he’s done something terrible, right?”

“Right. Only as human can you raise your spiritual level. That’s the purpose of life, isn’t it?”

“Yes. You can be beautiful, famous and rich, but if you’ve done nothing to work towards your true purpose, all is worthless.” I caress Rasputin’s long muzzle that I so love to kiss. His white moustache, his long white beard that gives him the look of a wise old man. “Rasputin, when you come back in your next life, come back as human.”

“I always say that to Ume, our Temple dog,” says Sae.

“Ume is a lucky dog. She’s got you near her. But you won’t die, Rasputin. You won’t leave me alone.” I am truly alone. My father dead at forty seven, my mother vanished, a sister lost to suicide.

“You are great, Anita san. You have transformed yourself so much. Understood so much. Rasputin is lucky to be connected to you. You have influenced him with your light, raised his spiritual level.”

“My light? *You* have the light, Sae san. You’re a ‘sanyasin’. You live in the Temple. Your whole life is the Temple.”

“No, no, no,” she shakes her head. “I am in the Temple because of my karma. I need to cut so much of it.”

“I’m sure Ume will come back as human,” I tell her, thinking how humble Sae is, and loving her for it, wishing I can be like her. “She’s doing her divine duty, guarding the Temple. But Rasputin…can he?”

“Why not? He’s influenced by your spiritual cultivation, Anita san. He’s connected to enlightened souls through you. He’s been in the Temple garden, he’s waited patiently for you so many evenings outside the Temple in your car. He’s had the light from the Ceremony performed thrice in your home. He’s really blessed among animals.”

I caress Rasputin’s flanks. Once in a while, he lifts his head to look at her.

“And now, he has a ‘sanyasin’ by his side,” I say, smiling at her. “Lucky dog!”

Rasputin tries to shake the drip out of his leg.

“Rasputin, don’t!” I cry.

“He looks like he’s getting a lot of energy,” says Sae. “Rasputin, just a little while more. Then we can take you home.”

“He’s really got a lot more strength in that leg.” I laugh. “Maybe now he’d like that bone I bought him. I thought I’d reward him for being a good patient – he’s always taken his shots so patiently.” I show him the bone. “Rasputin, look here! A bone, eat!” I place it near his mouth.

The vet walks in. The dog does not react to the bone.

“Won’t he eat, doctor?” I ask.

“No.”

“Oh, he’s still so weak.”

My Shadow Dog lifts his head to look at me.

“See, he’s lifting his head,” I point out. “Rasputin, you’re getting better. How much longer, doctor?”

“Almost done. We’ll give him a couple of shots and then you can take him. But you’ll have to bring him back tomorrow. We’ll have the results of the blood test by then.” He leaves the room again.

“You must find it terrible here with your sensitivity,” I tell Sae.

“Yes. It’s not good at all. So much pain. Bad vibrations. Very dark. But Rasputin, he’s really amazing. He’s not made a sound at all.”

“My brave dog!”

The doctor walks in with a syringe. “Okay, the shots now. This will hurt. Talk to him.”

“Rasputin,” I say, “we’re going home now, okay? Shall I sing for you your favourite song?” I sing to him. Rasputin did not move as the needle goes into him. “You know, whenever I sing to him, he sings along.”

Sae laughs. “He loves you, Anita san.”

“Right. You can take him now, Madam. If he’s in a critical condition, bring him back immediately.”

Leaving the Veterinary Hospital

I caress Rasputin’s flanks. Once in a while, he lifts his head to look at her.

“And now, he has a ‘sanyasin’ by his side,” I say, smiling at her. “Lucky dog!”

Rasputin tries to shake the drip out of his leg.

“Rasputin, don’t!” I cry.

“He looks like he’s getting a lot of energy,” says Sae. “Rasputin, just a little while more. Then we can take you home.”

“He’s really got a lot more strength in that leg.” I laugh. “Maybe now he’d like that bone I bought him. I thought I’d reward him for being a good patient – he’s always taken his shots so patiently.” I show him the bone. “Rasputin, look here! A bone, eat!” I place it near his mouth.

The vet walks in. The dog does not react to the bone.

“Won’t he eat, doctor?” I ask.

“No.”

“Oh, he’s still so weak.”

My Shadow Dog lifts his head to look at me.

“See, he’s lifting his head,” I point out. “Rasputin, you’re getting better. How much longer, doctor?”

“Almost done. We’ll give him a couple of shots and then you can take him. But you’ll have to bring him back tomorrow. We’ll have the results of the blood test by then.” He leaves the room again.

“You must find it terrible here with your sensitivity,” I tell Sae.

“Yes. It’s not good at all. So much pain. Bad vibrations. Very dark. But Rasputin, he’s really amazing. He’s not made a sound at all.”

“My brave dog!”

The doctor walks in with a syringe. “Okay, the shots now. This will hurt. Talk to him.”

“Rasputin,” I say, “we’re going home now, okay? Shall I sing for you your favourite song?” I sing to him. Rasputin did not move as the needle goes into him. “You know, whenever I sing to him, he sings along.”

Sae laughs. “He loves you, Anita san.”

“Right. You can take him now, Madam. If he’s in a critical condition, bring him back immediately.”

“Rasputin, you’ll be fine, won’t you? Let’s see if you can walk without falling.” I pick him up from the cold steel stretcher. His head lolls over my shoulder. I place him gently on the floor, and his legs splay out beneath him.

“Rasputin, you’re such a good actor!” cries Sae.

“He’s just lazy,” I say, and pick him up again, prop his head against my shoulder, and walk out into the corridor, Sae behind me.

In the sunlight outside, Rasputin suddenly lets out a loud and painful howl. The flame of the ‘gulmohar’ and jacaranda trees crowding about us, drop red and purple petals like tears.

“Rasputin, Rasputin, what’s wrong?” I lay him down on the sidewalk.

“Rasputin, what’s wrong?” asks Sae, brow furrowed, bending over him. “Come on, get up.”

But the dog’s eyes have begun to roll up in their sockets.

“I’ll call the doctor!” I run back in, hitching up my long red tight skirt, cautious on my high heels.

“Doctor, hurry!” I cry, when I see the vet. “Something’s happening to Rasputin!”

He runs out ahead of me. Picking the dog up in his arms, he runs back inside. We follow him. I still cannot believe this is really happening to my Shadow Dog – I call him that because he is wherever I am.

The vet tries to get Rasputin’s heart beating again, pressing down upon it with his hands. An attendant in starched white comes in and holds cotton wool soaked in ammonia to the dog’s nose. There is no reaction. And I was about to take him home! Sae’s dark, slanted eyes are filled with sorrow.

“Rasputin,” she says softly, touching the inert body.

“Rasputin!” I cry, tugging at his paws, stroking his head. The sightless, clouded eyes stare at me horribly. “He’s gone!” I am numb, incredulous.

“Oh, but he’s still warm.” She touches him again. The vet takes off the stethoscope around his neck, a look of sad resignation on his face. His eyes cannot meet ours.

My Beautiful Shadow Dog and I in Happier Days
My Beautiful Shadow Dog and I in Happier Days

Tips on Burying a Pet in a Loving, Respectful Way

I have learned a few things from the Temple about burying our pets in a respectful, loving way. Never euthanize your pet. Here are burial tips:

  1. Do not leave the dead pet alone. Stay by him.
  2. Get a ditch dug which is at least 3 feet deep and wider than your pet's body. If you bury your pet on your premises, he will look after you even when he has passed on.
  3. Wrap your pet in a clean piece of cloth. His body should not touch the earth directly.
  4. Lower him in gently. Sprinkle him with flowers.
  5. Place his favourite toy and/or food in the grave.
  6. Throw in a whole lot of rock salt which will help dissolve the bones.
  7. Be the first to throw in the first handful of earth.
  8. Once the earth has filled the grave, light three incense sticks and place them on top in the earth.
  9. Say a little prayer for the soul's easy journey and rebirth in better circumstances. Thank your pet for looking after you and for his love.
  10. It's a good idea to plant a lemon tree or citrus of any kind near the grave. It will help purify the area.
  11. Do not step on the grave.
  12. Remember to pray for him on his death anniversary. Every year. If you see him in your dreams, pray for him.


My Dog Has a Heart Attack

“What happened?” I ask him.

“Heart failure.”

“I never knew he had heart problems.”

“If you’d like to know exactly what went wrong, we could do a post mortem.”

“No.” I shake my head. “There is no point any more, is there?” An instant of frozen realization, and then, when Sae puts out a hand towards Rasputin, as though to say, but you can’t leave him here, I snatch her hand and hurry her away without a word. I cannot speak. My throat aches. I can barely see through my tears.

“You did your best, Anita san.”


Giving Pets a Decent Burial is Important



The attendant who brought in the ammonia, rushes after us. “You’re leaving your dog here?”

“I’m not taking him home,” I tell him. “It’s not him. He’s gone! Isn’t it Sae san? It’s not him any more.” Once the soul leaves the body, what is the body but a discarded garment?

The man retreats, surprised.

“That’s true. Rasputin will be so happy that someone is there to cry for him, Anita san. Weep, for you must, and then, let him go. That is freedom from attachment. It is the lesson you must learn now. That is why The Great Mother has taken him from you. It is necessary for you, or it won’t happen. But how lucky he is! It was his wish to die in your arms.”

I drive in a trance, tears streaming down my face. It amazes me that I can drive, as it amazes Sae who keeps asking if I am sure I can drive.

“Do you think he will be all right?” I ask. “He’ll really be born as human?”

“I think so. He has a lot of virtue, for he fulfilled his duty as your pet. He was loyal and loving till his last breath. Animals get stiff immediately at death, but his body was still soft and warm. It is a sign of virtue.”

Her words comfort me.

“It is really amazing, Anita san. It reminds me of my grandmother who waited for my return to Japan before she died.”

“You mean the soul has the power to time its death?”

“Yes. And Rasputin has had so many connections to enlightened souls – to be born in your home. The more you practise spiritually, the more he will be influenced.”

“I wonder in what form I will meet him again…I will, won’t I?”

“Of course. Who knows, maybe he’ll come back to you as your grandson, and you can cultivate together.”

I looked at her in surprise.

“Yes, Anita san, even an animal can help you reach enlightenment. He has taught you, as you have taught him.”

“I’ve been alone Sae san, but I’ve never felt the aloneness. Now I will be truly alone at home. But never in the Temple. Never with you, never within.”

“The true cultivator of the Way is never alone, Anita san.”

“If it weren’t for you being here for me and Rasputin, and the spiritual path we share, I would have been inconsolable.”

When we arrive at the Temple, Sensei looks at my face and tells me she has never seen me that way before.

“I have three dogs at home,” I tell her. “But Rasputin was closest to me.”

The other two ‘sanyasins’ have cooked a late lunch for us. My favourite ‘Japanese Curry’. I eat with them gratefully, thanking Sensei for her blessings, for allowing Sae to be with me. I tell them they are my family.

“Is there anything I can do for Rasputin now?” I ask Sensei after lunch.

“Pray for him, Anita san. It will help him.”

As I pray, curled up like a babe in the womb, my tears glisten upon the fake red leather of the prayer cushion. I am glad they cannot see me weep. My shoulder –length hair covers my wet cheeks; only my sniffling must give me away. But they say nothing to me.

Three days I weep for Rasputin in the nights. When on the fourth day, Sae notices my tears in the Temple, she says, “Enough, Anita san. Let him go. Don’t attach yourself.” I take her advice.

A couple of years later, when Ume, the Temple dog dies, I realise the importance of a proper burial for a pet. I am ravaged by guilt. Sae does not leave Ume’s side even for a second. She laughs and jokes with the dying animal as though everything is as it should be, and thanks her many times for guarding the Temple, beseeches her to return in human form.

“But why didn’t you tell me to take Rasputin home?” I ask her.

“I tried,” says Sae. “But you were in no state to listen.”

“Why is burial so important?”

“Attachment, Anita san. The soul is attached to the body. But don’t worry. Rasputin understood. Just pray for him.”

Yes, my Shadow Dog understands. He comes to me often in my dreams to play with me.



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© 2014 Anita Saran

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