Buried Deep in Our Hearts

Tracie Barton-Barrett

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“I remember when you were just a tiny, puffy ball of fur, fitting snugly in my hands,” Nivie Emerson said, leaning down and whispering to her tortoiseshell cat, Minerva, or Mini, for short.

Mini’s tiny stature, punctuated by her rabbit-like fur, endeared her to Nivie and her husband, Alex. The two-inch nub Mini had instead of a tail was an added bonus. Whenever Nivie or Alex lay down, Mini would leap up on them and begin kneading, or “making biscuits.” Didn’t matter where, or when; Mini was flexible. Nivie said Mini was so advanced in her skill, she could be employed at a fast food restaurant. Mini’s habit of walking on her humans’ hair, as well as directly upon sensitive anatomical areas, appeared almost deliberate. As a kitten, Mini enjoyed climbing up Nivie’s jeans like a mountaineer and loved to pour her tiny body into boxes that, at first glance, appeared to be too small, but she made it work.

Over the years, her meows morphed from a sweet kitten mew to a throaty warbled moan that seemed especially earsplitting in the early morning hours. Nivie and Alex almost lost their breath from laughing so hard when their laser pointer “chase” took Mini’s attention to points on the wall previously unnoticed.

Nivie met Mini as an undergrad. Their strong bond cemented when Mini had been the mascot of the women’s softball team. Although she never played any sports, Nivie eagerly agreed to house the team’s stray kitten for a few nights when asked by a team member. Those “few nights” turned into weeks and she became more and more attached to Mini, despite the dorm’s strict no-pet policy. Nivie eventually used her passion, charm, and humor to convince the team that Minerva was hers.

She and Mini were constant companions, surviving school, assorted jobs, relocations, and boyfriends. Five years ago, when Nivie married Alex, Mini initially was not a fan of these new living arrangements. Hissing was constant until one night when Nivie was away at a teaching conference. Mini unceremoniously climbed onto Alex’s lap as he watched TV, silently acknowledging that she had accepted him. He could stay.

Twenty years had passed since college, and now Nivie and Alex were stroking a lifeless Mini on the sterile, cold veterinarian’s examining table.
“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Tamika Carmichael, their beloved veterinarian, whispered. “Mini was such a sweet kitty.”

They had both dreaded this inevitable day. But, from the time she was a kitten, Nivie made a pact with Minerva: when the time came, Nivie would not let her suffer. Unfortunately, the suffering she had spared Minerva had now been transferred to her and Alex.

Dr. Carmichael brought out a clay paw print imprint keepsake kit. Gently pressing Mini’s front paw into the clay, she wiped off Mini’s paw and handed the circular tin holder to Nivie.

“I’ll give you two some privacy. Take as much time as you need,” Dr. Carmichael said, tip-toeing out of the room. “Please let me know if there is anything I can do.”

Alex put his arm around his wife as she reached down for the bag of Minerva’s toys, still clutching the paw print tin. “Here’s your milk ring, sweetie. And, your mouse.” Her voice cracked when she gently placed them in front of Mini’s open eyes and still face. Nivie tenderly kissed the top of Mini’s head as she pushed her own shoulder-length reddish-brown hair to the side. Due to her short stature, Nivie didn’t need to bend too far over the examining table. Taking a pair of scissors and gently cutting a few swatches of Mini’s fur, Nivie placed the strands in a Ziploc baggie. She slowly zipped it shut, illustrating the chapter of her life she was now closing.

After discussing all the options, they decided Mini would be cremated. They left her with Dr. Carmichael and Mini’s ashes would be returned to them.

On a sunny, late spring day, walking silently out to their Toyota Prius, Alex put his arm around his wife again. “So, that’s it? Years of love, and then, she’s gone? Just like that?” Nivie asked, her green eyes filling up with tears. “This is it. Mini’s really gone.” She paused and shook her head, handing the Ziploc bag to Alex. “I need to go to The Gardens.”

Alex stopped. “All right, Love. Do you want company?”

“Thanks. But, I think I need to go by myself.”

He wiped his eyes. “I understand,” he said, kissing the top of his wife’s head.

Buried Deep in Our Hearts Description:

The unique and special connection we have with our animals cannot be underestimated. In an ultimately uplifting novel, BURIED DEEP IN OUR HEARTS celebrates the important bond with our beloved animals and honoring them when they’re gone.

Following three different families, the book highlights various forms of grieving from the heartbreaking loss of an animal, leading to a community solution of healing. Resources and Reflective/discussion questions are available at the end of the book.

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