I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

” I couldn’t believe that she was gone…I could feel that something huge, a tide, had washed in, and then washed out.” – Anne Lamott on the death of her old dog.

Yesterday we buried Pearl. We weren’t home when she died in January, and it was deep winter, so the kids wrapped her up and Beth and Gregg found room in their bait freezer for her.

The ground isn’t frozen and Easter has come and gone. Chip and I both had a free day. The sun was shining.

It would have been easier not to dig the hole in the backyard by the cottonwood tree overlooking the beach.

It would have been easier not to imagine how deep, wide or long it should be.

It would have been easier not to open that freezer and not to lift up the white plastic bundle, feeling her stiff legs, head, middle, back-end.

But death is never easy is it? I think it’s right to feel the weight of it.

“She’s heavy,” Chip said. “70 pounds. Got her?”

My wool mittens slipped on the wrapping. We set her down, and I took them off and lifted my end again.

“She’s cold. Don’t you need gloves?”

“I’m fine. I want to do this.”

I may have wanted my hands to hurt so I’d be as sore on the outside as I was inside. I wanted to be brave.

It’s easier to imagine the dead vanishing into spirits.

It’s also easier to remember Pearl alive.

We didn’t say a proper goodbye. Could she even see the screen when we FaceTimed from Australia? I tell myself she knew it was us, and that we loved her, but did she? I hope so.

The thing about Pearl is that she was so good, always. Better than I am. She was a good puppy, a good friend, a good babysitter, a good patient when she had the knee surgery and a good nurse when Chip had his hip surgery. She was gentle with chickens and with Papa Bob.

I really don’t want anyone to make the call not to bury a dog wrapped in plastic on a beach of all places. Or to have that moment unwrapping it and praying for the courage to see it. Or to feel ashamed to be so relieved that there was a sheet, all snug around her.  It was blue.

I am so grateful our children are that smart. (They learned everything from the dogs, I bet.)

It would be so much easier to ship the body out, cremate it, keep the ashes in a can on the dresser.

Instead, we held that dear old frozen dog as closely as we did puppy Pearl twelve years ago. We didn’t care if our backs tweaked as we gently lowered her into the ground.

On Easter, a pastor gave a sermon about the meanings of the resurrection. He pointed out all the ways we live in a resurrected world. He linked his greatest teacher, who is no longer alive, to all the lessons he taught his generation, and the way that knowledge has multiplied into a second and a third generation, and continues long after his death. More than a spirit lives on.

I know that each dog we have buried in our 42 years together, is still here in some way.  What they taught us, we carried on to the next family dog. What Pearl gave the other dogs, they give to us.

Jeff sat a long time at Pearl’s grave.Then he went off for a ride in Chip’s truck with him.  And Trixie? She stuck right up against my leg for the rest of the day.  Even when we took a long walk on Pearl’s beach.