Last Saturday I went on a hike with J and Little Guy. We drove out to the foothills, to a trailhead we had been to innumerable times; it was, in fact, the place we first went hiking when we moved to Idaho two years ago. Ziggy was with us too, or at least her ashes were. They were stored away in a compartment of my backpack in a pretty little wood box that seemed much too small to be holding the remains of a fifty pound dog.
We hiked uphill until we reached Forest Service land. The place I chose was a small knob with no name. There were a few trees scattered on the top of the knob and I chose a large ponderosa to bury her near. Ziggy’s ashes, when I opened the little box, were in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. They didn’t even fill it up.
I dug a small cat-hole and emptied the bag into it. Then we hiked back to town. That was it.
The other night I had a dream about Zig. Not much of a dream. In it, I was standing in my house — maybe the living room, maybe Little Guy’s room, I’m not sure which. Ziggy was there, sitting under a chair (she always liked small spaces) and looking at me. I of course was really happy to see her, and I crouched down and started talking to her in the way I used to do. Part of me felt embarrassed because I knew she was dead, and I felt sure anybody else coming into the room would think I was crazy. Maybe they wouldn’t see her or worse, maybe I would suddenly realize she wasn’t there and I wouldn’t be able to see her anymore. I kept talking to her anyway. She was wagging her tail and it was great, but then I realized that I was dreaming and that she wasn’t actually there.
I’m pretty unimaginative in how I see dreams; I see them as a product of whatever my mind happens to be dwelling on in my waking life. But it was comforting to see Zig again, even in a dream. And a little confusing, too.
Daily walks were hard when she was gone. The first couple times I went out were hard. I used to walk everywhere with my pup, and everywhere reminds me of her. I would trace familiar routes and feel like the ground was dropping out from beneath me. Now, a couple weeks later, I’m doing better. I go on walks, I meet up with people and do things. More than I used to with a sick dog, in fact. I get out. But letting go is a slow process.