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Preparing a pet’s grave turns into history hunt

Preparing a pet’s grave turns into history hunt
La Vernia News correspondent Pascalle Bippert unearths a stoppered medicine jar May 25 in the yard of her La Vernia home, as she prepares a final resting place for her beloved dog, Bootsie.

We adopted this shy black lab-mix puppy in 1999 from the vet clinic in Floresville. She came home and became our backyard companion. After 18 years, her once-black, shiny coat has turned a dull rust color, and she is not shiny. She cannot hear, and refuses to play in water, and also refuses to go into the garage to get in out of the rain. She’s old and stubborn, much like the rest of us end up being.

One morning last week, 18-year-old Bootsie didn’t want to get up. She didn’t want to eat the food I brought to her out of the bowl. Her arthritic bones hurt her and she just wanted me to go away. I had mixed aspirin into the food, hoping it would help ease her joint pain. She got up and relieved herself, and then was ready to experiment with eating. Just watching her torturous walk across the yard, I realized that her time on earth is limited. Because my husband had surgery on his shoulder the week before, his arm is in a sling for three months and he’s unable to use it. I realized that if Bootsie dies soon, I will have to dig the hole.

Anticipating the need, I chose one of her favorite spots in the yard to lay her to rest and started digging. About 2 feet down, however, I unearthed a water pipe. I called the plumber, who advised me to move the location of the grave.

I started digging again.

During the dig, I unearthed two old snuff jars totally unscathed by time and unbroken.

I called Susan Richter, La Vernia Heritage Museum director, and told her that my old neighbor once told me that my house is where “Old Dr. Martin used to live.”

Dr. Martin served La Vernia citizens for many years. Artifacts related to his practice are part of a permanent exhibit at the La Vernia museum ...“Dr. Martin, small town doctor, nurse, dentist, secretary.”

I texted Susan a photo of my discovery.

“Can I come over?” she asked, excitedly.

I said yes, and soon I had a digging partner. I had already started the second hole near the original location and was already pulling pieces of relics out of it: A bone, shards of pottery, bricks with glazing, unbroken apothecary bottles, and the like. One bottle even has the original top on it with liquid inside! We also found some iron spring coils and pieces of some elegant gold-rimmed porcelain plates.

Susan said she loved finding things like this and said that her days spent digging in the dirt are her favorite days. She texted some of the photos to her historian friend, La Vernia Historical Association President Elaine Stephens, both of us knowing how envious Elaine would be.

I have to be satisfied that this hole has yielded the last of its treasures before I lay Bootsie to rest in it.

It does give me peace of mind that she will be laid to rest in such a favorite place of hers, and also that it yielded such history.

Learn about Dr. Martin

The La Vernia Heritage Museum, 13136 U.S. 87 W. at the intersection of Bluebonnet (F.M. 775 and U.S. 87), is operated by the La Vernia Historical Association. It is open every first and third Sunday of the month from noon to 3 p.m., and by appointment. Admission is free.

For information or appointments, call 210-392-3281, or visit

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