The following originally appeared in The Oregonian in
1926 and later was included in the author's book of
essays and poems, "How Could I Be Forgetting."
Thursday March 25, 1999
By Ben Hur Lampman
A subscriber of the Ontario Argus has written to the
editor of that fine weekly, propounding a certain question,
which, so far as we know, yet remains unanswered. The
question is this -- "Where shall I bury my dog?" It is asked
in advance of death.
The Oregonian trusts the Argus will not be offended if this
newspaper undertakes an answer, for surely such a
question merits a reply, since the man who asked it, on the
evidence of his letter, loves the dog. It distresses him to
think of his favorite as dishonored in death, mere carrion
in the winter rains. Within that sloping, canine skull, he
must reflect when the dog is dead, were thoughts that
dignified the dog and honored the master. The hand of the
master and of the friend stroked often in affection this
rough, pathetic husk that was a dog.
We would say to the Ontario man that there are various
places in which a dog may be buried. We are thinking
now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine,
and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a
mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried
beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and
at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green
lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or
any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to
bury a good dog.
Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy
summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to
challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in
life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches
sentiment more than anything else. For if the dog be well
remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams
actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing,
begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long
and at last.
On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are
roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or
somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most
exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one
to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost -- if
memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog.
One place that is best of all.
If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must
already have, he will come to you when you call -- come
to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the
well-remembered path, and to your side again. And
though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not
growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he
belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no
lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no
whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who
may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for
you shall know something that is hidden from them, and
which is well worth the knowing. The one best place to
bury a good dog is in the heart of its master.
The late Ben Hur Lampman, one of the most beloved
Northwest writers of his era, joined The Oregonian
staff in 1916 and enthralled two generations of readers
with his graceful poems and poignant essays.
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