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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 67.0° F  Fair
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Tell All: Indecent burial
I lied to my son about our dog's ashes

Dear Tell All: When our dog, Boots, died a few years ago, I wanted to do something special for my 10-year-old son, who was absolutely devastated. So I told him I would have the dog cremated and he could keep the ashes. Then I was shocked when I found out how much it would cost! As a single mother, there was no way I could afford it, but I had already promised my son. So I panicked. I ran downstairs, scooped a bunch of ashes from our fireplace into an empty ice cream bucket and gave them to him instead.

I've felt guilty ever since. Every time I clean his room, I see the ice cream bucket on a shelf or on his desk, with Boots' collar around the handle. Whenever I see it, it reminds me of how I lied to my son, and I feel terrible. I have to do something. Should I admit that I lied to him? Will he understand that I only did what I thought was right? Or should I just get rid of the ashes and hope he doesn't notice?

I'm Gonna Burn for This

Dear I'm Gonna Burn for This: You know, my mother was right. She told me not to go into journalism. She said, "You're just going to end up writing obituaries." She never mentioned the long hours, low pay or the fact that newspapers would one day be wheezing and coughing and hanging onto life like Jerry Lewis.

But did I listen? No. I chose to be a wRiter. Well la-de-flippin-da! And now I somehow have to come up with answers to questions like this. Do you really think I know this stuff?! Where do you people come up with these problems?

Actually, I do know the answer, so shame on you for doubting me.

I think it will help to focus on what's important here: the fact that you were there for your son when he needed you. The ashes are completely secondary. Although I don't want to advocate lying, admitting your mistake now will probably do more harm than good. It may make you feel better, but it will likely only confuse and anger your son.

There's an alternative that will allow you to make amends, get rid of the ashes and honor the memory of your beloved pet, all at the same time. Hold a ceremony to dispose of the ashes. You could sprinkle them outside in a meaningful place. Or bury them and plant a flower or tree. Then perhaps you can tell your son the complete truth later, when he's old enough to understand that you were only trying to do the right thing.

Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email

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