Last night my son and I had a first together. We dug a grave. It wasn’t one of those things you put on your to-do list for raising kids, but it can happen.
CJ, our not so beloved Jack Russell died yesterday. He was almost 13. The breeder claimed he was a Jack Russell – a rough coat Jack Russell like Eddie on the old Frasier show, but I swear he was part poodle. He had way too much hair. I think he was part looney bird, too. He had issues. He definitely wasn’t as smart as Eddie. We took him to obedience class early on, but it didn’t take.
CJ and I had a special relationship. Sort of like Batman and the Joker. As my arch nemesis for the last 12+ years, we had some epic battles. CJ gave me the opportunity to learn screen replacement, fence repair and dog grooming.
As he aged, I knew a day would come when I’d have to deal with the inevitable, but this was a surprise. My wife, Angie, came home to find him lifeless in his crate by the back door. He hadn’t been visibly sick or in pain. The day before he didn’t eat, but I didn’t think much about it. He did that every now and then. No, I expected to have a vet visit one day and be told it was best to put him down. That’s what happened years ago with CJ’s predecessor.
Angie called me at work, upset, of course. Our daughter wasn’t taking it well, either. She’s only 10, so she’s never known life without him.
“Do you want me to come home and take him to the vet so they can handle it?” I asked. By “it” I meant disposal of the body.
“No”, she said. “I think we should bury him in the backyard.”
Hmm. “OK”, I replied.
She placed the crate on the screen porch and went to console our daughter.
We had a cross country meet to attend in Aiken, about an hour away. Our son was running, so we waited until after the race to tell him. I didn’t know what to expect. He had picked out CJ at the breeder’s all those years ago. So he, too, didn’t know life without the dog. He seemed to take it OK.
It was well past dark when we arrived home. I changed my clothes and headed out to the garage to gather a couple of shovels and the mattock. Shortly thereafter, I was joined by my son. I gave him the good shovel, and I took the mattock.
By the light of our iPhone flashlight apps, we scouted for a final resting spot. Behind the swing set and close to the woods looked like our best option. I cleared away some poison ivy and made an outline in the dirt with the mattock.. We started digging. The ground was hard with plenty of clay and a few rocks. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter too many roots.
We didn’t say much, and Angie held the flashlight while we dug. The deeper we got, the tougher the digging became. We took turns with the mattock to break up the soil. After about an hour, we had worked up a good sweat, and the hole was ready. I retrieved CJ from the screen porch and wrapped him in newspaper. Feeling I had to cover him in something, newspaper seemed our best option.
I gently placed him in the hole, and we filled it in. We placed several cinder blocks on top, both as a funny reminder I used them to block his digging under the fence (the most epic and long running of our battles) and to deter any critters from poking around too much. I told him thanks for the memories, and we called it a night.
RIP, CJ. You were a worthy adversary.