We placed Maxy gently into the back of my Escape. The hub gave me a long hug, kissed me goodbye and headed to work.
I took Maxy for one last ride.
I chose the scenic route, winding through the quiet, tree-lined streets.
I drove remembering all the mornings he went with me to drive my daughter to school and all the afternoons he rode along to pick her up. It was our Monday through Friday routine – drop her at school by 8:30 a.m., go for our morning walk, pick her up again at 3.
I thought about how excited he used to get when we drove him to the dog park – he knew a mile away where we were going and he would spin and cry – louder and louder as we approached the park – unable to contain his excitement.
But this morning he was silent.
My eyes held wells of tears as I pulled up to Faithful Companions.
A gentle man named Jon offered me a seat at a conference table. He needed to take some information. Name, address, phone number, how long have you had Max?…
“Fifteen years,” stuck in my throat. I reached across the table for a kleenex.
Paperwork completed, I backed my car into a bay.
Together we lifted Maxy into a white cardboard casket that sat upon a metal cart. Jon wheeled the cart into the family witness room while I re-parked my car.
The large room had a comfortable seating area in one corner.
There was a coffee and water station along one wall and an oven on another.
I said a final goodbye to my good friend and then watched as Jon closed the lid, wheeled the casket to the open oven door and slid it in.
He adjusted some nobs on the control panel and then asked if I wanted to push the button.
I shook my head, “no.”
The temperature was at 1625 degrees.
“It must remain between 1600 and 1700 degrees at all times,” he later said, “we turn it down to closer to 1600 when a family chooses to witness, otherwise the casket will ignite as soon as it is slid in.”
“How long does the process take?,” I had asked back when we were still in the conference room.
“A little over an hour. You can wait in the room the whole time, or you can leave after you see me slide him in and then come back.”
The least I could do was wait.
Abide with him one last time.
So there I sat in the warm room, staring at the oven door.
After about twenty minutes Jon came in to stir the contents. “Do you want to leave the room?,” he asked.
“No, but I’m not going to look.”
Oven door closed again he came and sat on the adjacent sofa and answered my many questions.
“We’re about 85% there,” he said, as he stepped back out of the room.
When he came back to stir a second time he asked me if I wanted to look. I did, since there were only bone fragments and “sparkles” left to see.
“The sparkles,” Jon explained, “are tiny pieces of non-bone.”
He closed the oven door again and left again. When he returned a few minutes later the sparkles had ceased.
Nothing but bone and the red glow of hot concrete.
He swept the bones into the bin below and then offered me a look – varying sizes of small fragments.
“Some people want to take them like this,” he said, “but I don’t know why.”
He took them into another room to spread them out, let them cool a little and then grind them into powder.
I waited in the reception area so the oven could be used for someone else’s friend.
Faithful Companions cremated 71 pets yesterday. 73 in one day is their record. So they need to keep all their ovens operating all day. Every day. 8 am until midnight.
Especially since they promise to return the “ashes” within 24 hours.
Which is exactly what they did when they brought Bebe’s ashes to my door a year ago. Remember? They had picked her up directly from the emergency animal hospital.
But since Maxy died at home, I wanted to drive him there myself.
And stay with him.
It wasn’t long before Jon called me into another conference room. He was carrying a gift bag which contained several thoughtful items. From the bag he removed a small wooden box engraved with “Maxy” on the lid.
He opened it and pulled out a burlap bag. Inside the burlap bag was the plastic bag containing Maxy’s ground bones. He removed it and placed it in my hands.
“They’re still warm,” I said.
“A little bit,” he replied.
They felt good.
Karley, the kind office manager with whom I had corresponded via e-mail in anticipation of this day, gave me a hug goodbye.
Her dog, Sam, who seems like a really good boy, greeted me when I arrived and then rolled over to offer me his belly.
I put the gift bag containing the box of cremains on the passenger seat, took the pleasant, scenic route home and cried.
I have parent packets to assemble for an upcoming presentation, but I think I’ll just sit here awhile with Dixie and Lambchop, listen to the birds chirp
and rest my sad soul.
Maximus Aurelius Rodriguez
March 7, 2003 – May 8, 2018
Good, good boy.