Where to Bury a Dog
This piece by Ben Hur Lampman originally appeared in The Oregonian.
A subscriber of the Ontario (Oregon) Argus has written to the editor of that fine weekly, propounding a certain question, which, so far as we know, remains unanswered: “Where shall I bury my dog?” It is asked in advance of death. The Oregonian trusts the Argus will not be offended if this newspaper undertakes an answer, for surely such a question merits a reply. It distresses (the writer) to think of his favorite as dishonored in death, mere carrion to the winter rains. Within that sloping, canine skull, he must reflect when the dog is dead, were thoughts that dignified the dog and honored the master. The hand of the master and of the friend stroked often in affection this rough, pathetic husk that was a dog.
We would say to the Ontario man that there are various places in which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted his head to challenge some intruder. These are good places in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else. For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture lane where most exhilarating cattle graze, it is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, nothing is lost, if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.
If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call – come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death and down the well remembered path and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not growl at him, or resent his coming, for he is yours and belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing. The one best place to bury a good dog is the heart of his master.