While riding down the road going to an estate sale, my friend Connie told me the most interesting story about something that happened when she was a child.

Now before I retell this story, let me add here that both Connie and I are dog lovers and we both STILL found this incident very strange.

Let me set the scene: It’s the early ’70s in little Rome, Georgia. Connie is a child about 12 years old. Her mama tells her they’re going to a viewing and funeral for a dog. Yes, a dog.

Here’s the backstory: At the time of the incident, there’s a lady named Mama Sue who is Connie’s sort of surrogate grandmother-slash-godmother. Mama Sue never had kids, she had married late in life and was ex-military. Everything about her life and her home is meticulous and neat.

Mama Sue gets a Pekingese dog she names Honey and Honey becomes the center of her world.

“Honey wasn’t your typical dog,” Connie recalls. “Honey was the queen of that house. Honey would bite your hand off if you got near her or her mama. Even as little kids we knew not to touch her or go near her when we went over to Mama Sue’s house.”

Now most people’s dogs might come up to you to say hi or be petted when you visit their homes, but not Honey. Connie said Honey just sat on her little throne (yes a throne) next to Mama Sue and it was made clear she was not to be touched or played with. Her long hair was perfectly combed and she had a bow on her head. When riding in the car, Honey had a special pillow she would sit on.

“The dog was treated better than I was, truth be told,” recalls Connie.

And the best part was that Mama Sue had a pool in which Honey had her own float that she would sit on and float around on the surface of the water NEVER to be disturbed.

“You didn’t touch Honey or get her wet,” Connie said. “There was no splashing or playing when Honey was in the pool. You didn’t get her hair wet and you didn’t get Mama Sue’s hair wet either. I don’t even know why they had a pool if they didn’t wanna get wet.”

Well one day, Honey went to be with the Lord. She died, as all things must, and Connie’s mama told her they were to be dressed appropriately for a viewing and funeral.

Mama Sue was having a VIEWING for her dead dog.

I never understood viewings. The tradition may have started a very very long time ago when, for one reason or the other, people needed to prove that someone was dead and they displayed the body so people could say yes they saw the dead body with their own two eyes. But I don’t know why people would want to see a dead body. I know I’d prefer to remember that person as I knew them in life, but that’s just me.

Anyhow, Connie recalls vividly her mama telling her and the other children that there was to be no laughing or horsing around when they got to Mama Sue’s house.

“And it was very somber when we got over there,” Connie remembers. “We were told we could not laugh or cut up and we needed to act like we were at viewing of a person.”

So Connie gets over there to Mama Sue’s and sure enough right there in the middle of the living room, Honey is laid out in a child’s silk-lined coffin. Her hair had been perfectly brushed one last time.

Neighbors and family members had been invited and everyone had to file past the coffin to pay their respects to Honey.

“It was pitiful,” Connie said. “When you’re a kid and you see this dead dog laying there, it was very traumatic for us.”

After the viewing, Honey was buried in the back yard. A hole had already been dug and Honey was laid to rest with a tombstone and everything.

Years later when Connie’s mama sold Mama Sue’s house, Connie told her she needed to be up front with the buyers and tell them there’s a dog buried in a child’s coffin in the back yard near the pool. That’s not something a homeowner needs to just stumble across if they decide to dig up the back yard.

So somewhere in north Rome, Honey’s final resting place is in somebody’s back yard.

Please do not disturb.

Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.

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