i'd rather be in haena   

or anyplace with more trees and less concrete

Pet’s Rest

by admin - July 2nd, 2005.
Filed under: cats, friends.

It was only about ten years, but it seemed as though Magdelene had been wandering around the office and sitting on the floor next to my desk forever. She was of indeterminate age– the vets told us she was at least 16 or 17, if the condition of her teeth was any indication.
Late last year she’d been diagnosed with a heart condition. Right after Christmas she pretty much stopped eating. The veterinarians shrugged and said it was inevitable. We tried everything to get her to eat, but two weeks later she could barely stand, so we made the decision to have her euthanized.
I made arrangements to have Magdelene cremated at Pet’s Rest Cemetery in Colma. The person on the phone asked if I wanted a witnessed cremation. I asked what it involved and agreed to it. It wasn’t that expensive and it sounded like it might add some degree of resolution to what I knew would be a very sad event.
After leaving the veterinarian, I headed for Pet’s Rest. My girlfriend at the time went with me, and a friend from work joined us.
We walked into the cramped basement reception area. I hesitated. The place was funky– faded and dusty, with junk lying all over the place. The receptionist, a woman in her early 20s, was wearing a cheap warmup suit and seemed distracted. I filled out some paperwork and she told me that someone would come up front to assist me soon.
After about twenty minutes a man asked me to bring Magdelene’s body and follow him. We went out through a garage and around the building to a separate building out back that looked like…another garage. It turned out to be another garage, actually.
Dominating the room was what looked like a huge pizza oven. To its left was a long plank propped up across two garbage cans. The man gestured that I should lay Magdalene down on the plank and get her ready. I took her out of the carrier and half-unwrapped her. I put one of her cat toys, a small cloth mouse, on the wrapping in the crook of her front legs.
I picked her up laid her on a big, paddle-shaped thing the man was holding. It looked like a pizza spatula. He used it to slide her body into the middle of the crematory oven.
I was pretty wrung out from the experience at the vet and didn’t seem to have a lot of tears left in me. The whole experience just seemed absurd and surreal.
He lowered the metal door and punched a couple buttons to its right. The oven roared.
He told us we could go into the chapel next to the garage and wait, that the procedure would take about an hour.
The chapel turned out to be a drafty garden shed with a shabby shrine at one end, surrounded by dusty plastic plants and drab religious figurines. The place appeared to have not been swept in months. The walls were covered with faded, curled snapshots of peoples’ pets.
I pinned one of my favorite photos of Magdelene up just to the right of the door.
The chapel was beginning to creep me out so I joined my friends out on the walkway adjoining the burial grounds. We noticed that a crawlspace door under the house was being propped open by a disused/displaced gravestone.
After what seemed like hours, we were called back into the garage. The man opened up the oven and brushed some ashes into a bucket, along with some bone fragments. He crushed the remains in the bucket with a long-handled tamping tool and poured them into a small plastic sack. We followed him back into the basement. Using a small nail gun, he sealed the sack into a plain pine box about 5 inches square. He pasted a sticker on the bottom with Magdelene’s name on it, handed me the box and thanked us.
We took her remains back to the office and put them on the speaker in front of the north window of my office, among a bunch of plants– next to those of Magdelene’s friend Judas, who’d passed away three years before.

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