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The Dog Funeral

By Ricki Segal, posted June 1, 2011

It was May of 1996 and I had moved to Toronto from Winnipeg six months earlier. I longed to see some of my friends from the West, so I was very excited that my girlfriend Sharon was coming to visit me. 

Meanwhile, through my work in Toronto, I had met a woman named Maureen who was becoming another dear friend of mine. We both worked in a call centre and often chatted on our breaks. Maureen’s dog Sparky, her ever-faithful companion, had passed away in January of that year. He had been her comfort and joy through tough times and Sparky’s death made Maureen very sad. After her dog died, Maureen had him cremated. She kept his ashes in a container on the mantel in the living room of her apartment.

Shortly before my friend Sharon arrived in Toronto, Maureen decided that Sparky should be laid to rest. Knowing that I was Jewish, she asked if I would recite the mourner’s Kaddish (prayer for the dead) at his funeral. I was pleased to be asked and honoured to do so.
Sharon decided to join me in paying my respects to Sparky, so we ventured out together, using her rental car to follow what we thought were simple directions to get to the final tribute to Sparky. After what seemed like a long time, we realized that Sharon had been driving around and around without coming any closer to our destination.

We decided to park at what I thought might be the cemetery where the funeral was happening. Shortly thereafter, we were approached by two policemen who had been riding around in a police car. We began to explain that we were trying to find a dog funeral. I can still see their faces when they both looked at each other and then asked us if we had been drinking.

We were shocked! After several more minutes of talking with them, they must have decided that we were totally innocent but somewhat strange women who were a little whacked out, making up the story of a dog funeral.

So we left that spot, with no help from the police, and continued to drive around and around until we saw a restaurant. We decided to ask someone there if they knew where a dog funeral would be held.

Sharon felt brave and left me in the car while she went inside to hopefully get some insight into the situation. It seemed to me that she was taking a very long time when she finally came out and said that no one in the restaurant could tell her about a dog funeral. I wondered what she had been doing all that time, but I never did ask.

So we proceeded to drive around some more and found, would you believe, another restaurant! This time, it was my turn to go and inquire about our destination. As I walked in, I turned to a man who looked like he might be the owner and asked him if he knew where a dog funeral would be taking place. He looked at me and said, “You are the second person coming in today asking for a dog funeral.”

Suddenly, to my horror, I began to realize that this was the same restaurant that Sharon had gone into just a few minutes earlier. We had driven around in circles – again!

I quickly thanked the man for his help, or lack of help, and almost ran out to the car. I looked at my companion and said, “Sharon, step on the gas! We have got to get out of here!”

She looked at me rather puzzled, so I proceeded to tell her that this was the second time we had stopped at this restaurant and that we had best be on our way – now! Sharon shook her head, then revved up the motor and away we went.

We drove around and around for quite some time after that and finally decided that we must have missed the service, so perhaps we should just join everyone at the pub for a drink. This certainly seemed like a good idea – especially after I looked at my watch and realized that we had been gone from my apartment for four hours and still weren’t any closer to our destination.

So then we tried to find the pub. Lo and behold, we ran into the same situation again. We were just driving around and around, getting nowhere. This time, I asked Sharon to stop and I went into a laundromat that was run by a Chinese lady. I asked the woman if I could use the phone, but she kept asking me if I was going to be calling long distance. After several attempts of trying to reassure her that I wasn’t trying to make a long distance call, and trying to explain our dilemma to her, I realized that she spoke very little English and my attempts at an explanation were falling on deaf ears. So I quickly got back into the car and we made another plan.

We decided to go, together, into a store to see if we could use their phone but as soon as we walked in, we both became so intrigued by the merchandise in the store that we forgot to ask for the phone. We looked around the shop and it was quite awhile before noticed that it was getting dark outside. I started to get a little nervous at that point and I suggested we leave to try to get to the pub. After several more minutes, I persuaded Sharon to leave the store and get back into the car so we could continue our search.

By this time, we both had to use the washroom. We stopped at a restaurant, went in and use the ladies’ room. Feeling much better, if still very anxious, we left the restaurant and stood on the sidewalk for a few seconds, to contemplate our next move.
All of a sudden, we heard shouts behind us. It was the angry proprietor of the restaurant, yelling at us that only patrons of the restaurant were allowed to use their washroom.

This just made a bad day worse.

By this time, it was around 7:30 in the evening and we were starved. We decided to give up on finding the Dog Funeral, which we were sure was long over, and give up on finding the bar where the wake was being held as well.

We simply stopped at a friendlier restaurant for a bite to eat and then went home.

Our search proved to be quite an adventure, though, that we laughed about for several days afterwards. It took me a few days to compose myself enough when talking about it so that I could call Maureen to give her my apologies with a much-edited version of our attempts to attend the funeral.  Thankfully, she was sweet about it and didn’t hold a grudge. 

Sharon and I are still the best of friends and we still laugh about our adventurous day long ago, when we searched unsuccessfully for Sparky’s funeral.

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