A while back I wrote in this blog about the death of my great dog, Ray. I was astonished by the supportive response from Powells.com readers all over the country and thought I'd share the end of the story.
I pulled the truck into the parking lot of Bob Straub State Park. Ray's ashes rode shotgun and Sonny the husky jumped for joy in back. She knew where we were — Nestucca Spit.
My dog had been gone three months now, victim of a swift and vicious cancer. I always knew that when Ray died I would return him to Earth at Nestucca Spit, the place where we rambled together over a thousand times and I launched my writing and spiritual life.
Today was that day. The grieving needed to end and my edges needed sharpening. For the occasion, I wanted relentless rain, a deserted beach, and this being Spring Break on the Oregon Coast I normally would have found the Spit in exactly that condition.
But the sun shone extra bright that morning and to me, it augured well for my damaged country, which was at ridiculous war over a question as simple and humane as whether one of my terribly sick students should receive the decent healthcare she can't possibly afford. My mom always taught me: help people. What's wrong with that?
The wind whipped hard as I walked Sonny around the dunes for a few minutes. I put her back in the truck, shouldered a backpack, and headed out with Ray for one last ramble.
I'd never seen the Spit so crowded, even in the summer! Close to 30 people and half a dozen dogs frolicked to and fro. It was practically Paris on Bastille Day. I desperately wanted privacy but hardly begrudged these vacationers. Better here than Disneyland.
Spreading the ashes to the wind would never work. Too many humans, too stiff a breeze, and the tide too far out. I needed a new plan.
I hit the beach, began walking north, and then turned back to see a motorcycle half a mile down the Spit, motoring north. As it approached I noticed a portly man driving it with a portly boy seated behind him. Strapped to the boy's back was a quiver holding two fishing poles. They stopped 50 yards away and I snapped a few photographs of them for my ongoing documentation of the decline of American fitness, which pretty much means I take photographs all the time.
A white pickup with the words "Beach Ranger" emblazoned on the door cruised into the scene and halted near the motorcycle. Driving a vehicle is legal on Nestucca Spit, but I wasn't sure if motorcycles were allowed. I also didn't know if spreading your pet's ashes was legal. Doubtless, Oswald West would have approved of my plan, so that settled that.
I walked north away from the law, a green ocean to my left, until I came upon an ancient, gigantic, and snaking root wad 20 yards above the wrack line. It was charred black in some places from a million campfires and bleached white everywhere else from floating forever.
My dog will rest here, I thought. I dug a burial chamber in the sand under the root wad, emptied Ray's remains, and then propped up the first picture I ever took of him. I shot a couple of photographs, covered the ashes with sand, said goodbye aloud to my greatest friend, and left Nestucca Spit. All around me life went on, including two thin boys tossing a football.
I turned to look back once. It might take a few days or weeks for the tide to roll in high enough to reach the root wad. But it would, and when it did, Ray would return to the sea. I can't think of better ending for him, or me, when the proper time comes.