As a Navy wife I’ve had to manage all kinds of “issues” that a civilian wife probably doesn’t. We all know about the stash of curtains rods for every imaginable window size. We can manage the “I don’t need a lawnmower at this house, but we might at the next” sell-don’t-sell debate. I’ve chosen houses and neighborhoods based on schools that I can only hope live up to their reviews. I have watched my every worldly possession drive away in a big rig driven by a man I’ve known for two days just praying that the lunches I’ve bought and casual conversations we’ve shared will be enough for him to treat my things with care. These things are almost common place to me these days, but just when I feel smug and think I’ve got a good handle on our Navy life, I’m thrown for a loop that I never saw coming.
What do you do when you are living 3000 miles from family and an enlistment or two away from a forever home, and the unthinkable happens … to your family pet?
About six weeks ago, after a good long life, our little sausage dog, Jaydon, passed away. He was old (a month shy of his 14th birthday), mostly blind and deaf, and had been going down hill for some time. We had all in our own ways been preparing for his passing for a while. Each of the older girls and I had had talks about his declining health and that dogs don’t live forever. We all reasoned that when Jaydon passed it would be a sad loss for us, but for Jaydon it would be a mercy to leave his old, tired body behind and move on to the next place. When it finally happened, there were tears and sadness and a few laughs over silly memories, but we all handled it as well as could be expected.
But then we had to decide what to do with Jay’s remains.
Growing up, Josh lost a pet he loved, and his dad buried her in the backyard behind a shed with a nice little stone with her name on it. I’m grew up in the country so there was plenty of land for a final resting place for a beloved pet. It was a foregone conclusion that that is what you do. But what if you live in military housing? What if you not only rent and don’t own the land you live on but know for certain that your time in that place is going to be short? What if there are laws about burying pets on personal property where you live? (There are. In lots of places.) What if a property owner doesn’t want a little pet cemetery in a yard they will eventually have to re-rent or sell? On top of all that, we’re LEAVING here in a year or two!!! We will leave, but Jay won’t. Visiting a loved one’s grave, even after much time has passed, seems like a given … but it’s not. It’s not a given at all!
I worried about this in my normal fashion. Frantically and with a Google search.
I found that there are a few options. Some people choose to have their pets cremated. This was not an option for us. Firstly, it isn’t cheap by any means, and second, I couldn’t imagine what to do with the remains afterward. Keep them? With cross-country moves a given, and packers that don’t really care about what goes in a box with what, that seems like a bad plan. Sprinkle them somewhere? Where? Where does a dog want to be “sprinkled”? From the get go this option didn’t make sense to us. Another option was a pet cemetery. Again this option is kind of pricey, and it doesn’t solve the problem of leaving him behind. I could understand it if we were staying here, but it seemed silly to me to create a memorial in a place that, after our time in Washington is up, no one would ever visit and take care of. The final option, and what we decided was best, was to simply bury our little guy ourselves. He is somewhere that gets good sun in the summer, and he will always be close to a family. He has his favorite beach towel with him, and for a dog who loved nothing more than a good nap, it was the best we could do for him. We have said our good-byes and paid our respects. In lieu of a grave to visit or a stone, we hung a picture of him napping in the family room so we can remember our little buddy in his good days. When we move to another duty station, the photo and memories will come with us even though Jay cannot.
This was the best option for us, for Jay, at this time, and in this place. If this comes up for you, I suggest you do whatever brings you peace. In the meantime, I suggest you give your little dogs and big dogs, kitty cats, and hamsters a little extra love. As a military family, we never know where the Navy will take us or what life will take from us. We just do the best we can with what we have and hang on tight to those we love while we have them.
Rest in peace, Jaydon.