Ani DiFranco, ‘In The Margins’.
The death of my dog was the most traumatic thing I think I’ve ever been through… ever. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve been through some pretty traumatic shit (https://underalilactree.com/2012/09/19/history-as-gravity/. See also: Ex-hole.). The idea of life without Buckley was something I couldn’t even imagine. And to have him taken so suddenly, where there wasn’t even a moment for me to “imagine it”, let alone say goodbye, was devastating. I didn’t even believe it was real.
I suppose that’s what inspired that in-the-moment decision to have him cremated. I remember the vet asking me if I wanted to have him cremated and I instantly said yes. He was laying there, right in front of me, still warm… I don’t think there was any other possible answer. Then she asked if I wanted a group or private cremation. Um… private. Obviously. I wanted to take him home with me. I wasn’t ready to let him go.
The next week, I was talking with a good friend about it… a friend who I consider a soul mate, someone I love deeper than almost any other person on this planet. I was telling him pretty emotionally how I was dreading the day that I was to go “pick him up” from my parent’s. That I couldn’t imagine that my dog, who was so full of life and love and joy, would come home with me in a stale, wooden box.
My friend, an artist and a magician with wood, said to me almost instantly, “I will make something for Buckley to live in.” Of course, it was the perfect thing to do. My friend, who’s artistic talent I’ve admired for years, was the perfect person to create something meaningful. My friend, who was with me for some of the greatest moments of my and Buckley’s time together, was the perfect person to know how to make me feel like Buckley would live on forever. My friend, who knows me deeper than almost anyone else in my life, knows exactly what I need to feel peace with all of this.
A few weeks ago I was in NYC for a business trip and was able to pick up the piece that he did. It was breathtaking and emotional and perfect. My Buckley has a new forever home, and it’s exactly what I imagined it would be. No, it’s even better. It’s the second best thing to him actually still being alive.
Instead of tell you myself what the significance of it is, I thought I would let the artist himself explain it in his own words. Below is an email he sent to a friend and colleague of his, who was interested in writing a blog article about the piece as soon as she saw the images:
I hope you have been well and staying warm this chilly season. I would be happy to inform you about the meaning behind the urn and how it came to be. Let’s start with the pup who now lives in it.
Buckley was a 3 year old, 75lb Boxer mix who a dear friend of mine rescued as a puppy. He spent his life with my friend, Em, in New England. They often visited the ocean beaches to let out all of his enormous amounts of energy. During the summer of 2013, Em, Buckley, myself and my two dogs, Harriet and Myrtle, took a week long trip to a house located on the mid coast of Maine.
Being a woodworker and natural wood gatherer, I began collecting beautiful pieces of driftwood. I had the intention of creating some drift wood inspired pieces. Buckley and Harriet kept me company while I searched the beach each day and night. Buckley was certain that the wood was soon to be used to demonstrate his superior fetching skills. Much to my dismay, he took some of the best ones for laps around the beach. Overall, the week long journey was an unforgettable experience in amazing friendships, both human and animal.
On Thanksgiving day 2013, Buckley was playing with his best dog buddy, as he did quite often. In mid stride, Buckley suddenly collapsed. It is presumed it was due to heart failure, as Boxers often suffer the same fate as Buckley. When I spoke with Em, she mentioned how carrying her 75lb dog home in a tiny box was the worst thing ever. Her daily companion deserved to be memorialized in a positive way, one that brought a smile to her face. I asked Em if I could make Buckley a proper urn, she gladly accepted my offering.
I began by examining all the drift wood I had gathered and trying to see which ones spoke to me as “special”. I also began sketching different designs. As I often do with my woodwork, I decided to just start working on the urn. After finishing my normal work day in the cabinet shop, I began bringing my thoughts from the past month to life. I calculated the volume based on Em’s measurements of the current container, increased it by a little, and worked out a scale for the urn that worked well with the delicate driftwood. I chose walnut for the main structure, as it is dark, yet warm and comforting. The darkness of the walnut would contrast nicely with the driftwood base. I spent most of my time trying to make the drift wood actually hug and embrace Buckley’s new home. Taking that into account, I also wanted it to represent a tree house, as Em and I often discuss the joys of tree houses and wanting to live in one as adults.
After several hours of working everything together just right, it was complete. It was delicate, yet secure. It didn’t look like a depressing box that held a dead dog. It now represented some of the most precious memories of Em and Buckley’s time together.
Death is never easy. With this piece, I aimed to create a truly positive resting place. The memory of Buckley will live forever in a tangible memorial to his playful nature and the joy he brought into our lives. My dogs would much rather plop their head on my pillow, while thrashing around my sheets to create a comfy little nest. I hope this piece acts as Buckley’s comfy nest, where he can rest peacefully and have little barky doggy dreams of scouring the beach for drift wood. RIP Buckley.
Thanks Amy, I am glad we met.
I can’t even describe how perfectly the piece came out. In talking with Chris, I had told him that I wanted something the made me feel like Buckley was eternally being “hugged”… as I often did because he was the perfect size for hugging. And that’s exactly what he did. And beyond that, he incorporated a feeling, a memory, a moment, into the piece that will forever capture the heart of who Buckley was and the joy he brought to my life. The mischievous, adventurous, ‘I want to take your stick’ Buckley…will now be surrounded by his favorite driftwood, from one of his happiest moments, forever.
I will be eternally grateful to Chris.
To see more of his phenomenal work, check him out here: