Friday, January 14, 2011


From the book Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup:

When my shiny black Belgian sheepdog, Cornelia, was struck and killed by a car, I bured her myself. I was eighteen years old. I dug the hole in the part of my family's property reserved for the internment of beloved pets, lined it with a bed of wildflowers, then placed Cornelia's body on top ... I gathered rocks from the surrounding fields and woods and piled them on top of the grave ... I pulled apart the pile and began stacking the rocks again, more deliberately this time, with greater care ... I built and rebuilt that pile at least six times. For as long as I was fussily gathering, placing, and judging stones, then casting them aside, I still had a dog. When I placed the last stone on the grave and walked away, my dogless life would commence. It was a moment I desperately wanted to postpone.

Last weekend we lost our pet snake, Bethsheba. She was a corn snake, and we inherited her from my brother, who inherited her from a reptile education program. She was a good snake.

We knew something was up for the last few weeks, as she became more lethargic than usual, and refused all the food we offered her. But still, on the morning that Carbon woke up and found her stiff and dead in her tank, he was shocked and upset. He went through a stage of guilt, sure that he hadn't taken good enough care of her, blaming himself for turning off the heat lamp for the night.

Then he wouldn't let me bury her right away. He wasn't convinced she was truly dead, and was worried we might accidentally bury her alive. So we had a wake, leaving her in the tank for a day while he would go in occasionally to check on her and talk to her.

She started to smell. I insisted she had to be buried at that point, and so at our first chance we went out in the yard and dug a hole near the place we buried our old chicken, Wicked Witch. I would have just done it by myself, but he wanted to bury her. He dug the hole, and when I placed her body in it he covered her with dirt. It was a process that he insisted had to be very gentle, so that we wouldn't "hurt" her body by dropping the dirt on it too hard. He made a wooden grave marker for the spot.

For two days after, he went outside to talk to her at the grave site, and to check that it hadn't been disturbed by animals. It's been a whole mourning process. From the earth we are born, to the earth we return. Goodbye, dear Bethsheba. You were a good snake, and we were glad to have you in our lives.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear about your snake. We really get attached to our pets here, too. I never dreamed I would be so broken up over a rat, but when our first fancy rat Pip died last year, it was hard on the whole family.

    I hope Carbon is feeling better now--it's so sweet that he wanted to bury her and that he made a grave marker for her. What a sweet kid. It's tough, but it's a good experience for children to go through.