There’s a dog in the bag: A surprise guest pays his last respects

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post

Even amidst grief, there are moments of light, even moments of levity. Sometimes when you least expect it.

I recently attended the funeral of a close relative of some dear friends. The service was in another state. I thought I left in plenty of time, but alas, traffic on the interstate had me dashing in at the last minute.

My pastor had graciously saved me a seat, so I slid in beside him, to his left. To my left was a lady wearing a blue and white wrap dress with darling white shoes.

During the prelude, I glanced around the pretty chapel, but I kept coming back to those shoes. They had cork wedge heels and white patent sling-backs with cute flowers at the toes. Just an adorable pair of shoes.

My neighbor to the left also had a humongous white, quilted purse, also super cute, sitting at her feet. Now, my mother often teases me about the size of my large purses and tote bags, so I was cool with this purse. But it was honestly a humongous bag — like the size of a carry-on bag. Still, I didn’t think much of it. You know … pot, kettle, and all.

By this time, the service was under way, with the chaplain welcoming the group of family and friends. In a few moments, I noticed my lovely neighbor to the left reaching down into her giant purse, to retrieve a Kleenex, I assumed.

That’s also the moment I noticed THAT THE BAG MOVED.

Now, if you know me, you know I strive to maintain an overall sense of decorum, especially at events as somber as funerals. You probably also know it doesn’t take much to send me over the edge into a fit of laughter — and usually at inopportune times such as this.


I was not sure what I should do with this bit of information I had suddenly uncovered. Maybe I was not familiar with local funeral customs in this particular town. Maybe it was not such a big deal that there was A DOG AT THIS FUNERAL. Maybe I should concentrate and mind my own business.

I cogitated on this bit of knowledge for a few minutes during the sermon, until there was an opportune time to speak discreetly with my pastor.

Rhodes,” I whispered. “THERE’S A DOG IN THE BAG.”

What bag?” he whispered back.

THAT BAG,” I whispered again, discreetly attempting to nod my head to my left.

That bag?” he whispered, pointing to a black clutch in front of us that could not contain a dog of any size, even a miniature Chihuahua.

No!” I hissed. “THAT bag!” I jerked my head to the left as nonchalantly as possible under the circumstances.

Oh!” he said, a little louder.

By this time, the service was about over. (I would just like to say at this point that I was paying attention more than it sounds like I was.)

We made our way into the reception area and Pastor Rhodes started grazing at the refreshment table, and saying, “I’ve got to stop eating.”

(I would just like to say at this point that he always says that, but keeps right on chewing.)

A lady came up to me and said, “I loved your reaction.”

She had been sitting behind us.


Obviously, she had figured that out.

A couple days later, I texted my friend whose loved one had died.

So, I have to know,” I said, “can you shed any light on a dog at the funeral?”

She texted back that she and her husband had no idea about any dog at the funeral, and asked me to describe the owner. Clearly, since I loved the shoes so much it was no problem to describe the rest of the outfit.

She called me in a few minutes, laughing. She knew who it was. She knew what kind of dog it was. Evidently, this dog not only goes to funerals, but to weddings, out shopping and even to restaurants.

Clearly, I hope the health inspector doesn’t find out about that.

Funnier still was the fact that her friends told her they saw this blonde in front of them and she was trying to tell her husband — my husband … buhahahaha! — that THERE WAS A DOG IN THE BAG!

My girlfriend knew right off it was me. Clearly, who else would it be?

Thanks so much for telling me this,” she said. “That’s the best laugh I’ve had in the last few days.”

It takes effort to go to a funeral, to be sure. But people appreciate it.

My good friend, Fred Corriher, recently told me that his granddaddy always told him, “If you don’t go to people’s funerals, they won’t come to yours.”

Wonder if he took his dog.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.