September 29, 2021

For the love of pets and kitty caskets

 (Note: This is a chapter from my 2019 book, The Last Man to Let You Down, My Daddy the Undertaker.)

            On Ichauway Plantation in Southwest Georgia, you can see how much Robert W. Woodruff loved his dogs. The Coca-Cola baron, affectionately called “Boss,” set aside a special place on his 29,000-acre quail-hunting mecca for the final resting place for his bird dogs.

            Mother’s daddy, Howell Vines, operated Ichauway’s country store for a few years during and after World War II. It was in the house—connected to the store—on the banks of Ichauway-Notchuway Creek where my parents said, “I do.” 

In 2006, on what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary, our family made a pilgrimage to that special place. Big Dink had been gone for eight years, but he was there in spirit as Mother retold of their storybook romance and marriage.

And as with each visit to our Baker County roots, I take our children and grandchildren to visit Boss’s bird-dog cemetery. Even the youngest in our family “gets it.” We love our pets, especially our dogs. That’s why we’ve erected a split-rail fence around a plot of ground, just to bury and remember our dogs: Duke, Jack, J.E.B., Little Betty, Whaley—and the list goes on.

Growing up in the funeral home, I remember a cat-loving lady who couldn’t just bury her pet in the backyard. She asked Big Dink to embalm her cat. Next, she purchased a baby casket and a vault. When her second cat died, she did the same.

Her instructions were specific: “When I die, bury my cats with me.”

            Retailing pioneer Marshall Field was quoted: “Give the lady what she wants.”

            And that’s exactly what Big Dink did. 

Once, twice, three times.

            As an unashamed pet-lover, I’ll drink a Coke to that.