Of course my kids have been on the lookout for dinosaur bones ever since they learned what a paleontologist is. (Boys acquire this knowledge when they are quite young.) Unfortunately for our boys, our yard is mostly covered with grass, so their digging space is very limited. There is one place alongside the chain link fence in the backyard where a year-round blanket of pine needles keeps the ground otherwise bare, so Shaun designated it as their one sanctioned digging spot.
Shaun didn't think they'd get too far, since the spot is between two trees and laced with roots. He didn't count on the determination of a six year old boy (armed with an adult-sized shovel) who wants to be a scientist when he grows up. Within a few days the hole was waist deep, and Nels would disappear from sight when he bent down to inspect his work.
I was summoned to the site only once. The boys had disturbed a nest of insect eggs and the distraught parent was scurrying around trying to put things to rights. They were totally fascinated (we'd just read several books about bugs) and were sure I wouldn't want to miss it.
A few days into the digging frenzy, Nels came home from school with some big news.
"Guess what? Maya dug up a crystal in her yard! Actually I think her mom did. But Maya brought it. She showed it to us. They dug it up! Can I go dig now? Can I go dig?"
"Sure." I put his backpack down inside. I heard yelling. He'd been digging for less than a minute.
"Mom! Mom! Come here! I found a bone!"
I was happy for him. What were the chances that he'd dig up something cool right at that moment? We have a lot of little critters around; I figured maybe a squirrel had gone belly up at some point, or a rabbit, or...
I was not expecting a jawbone. With teeth attached. Canines.
You can imagine the jubilation. Nels told everyone that he'd found bones. He asked if he could call Grandma, and when he talked to her he told her he had news so exciting that her eyes were going to explode out of her head. Of course he wondered what kind of animal he'd found. I told him it was probably a dog. He didn't think to ask how the dog came to be there and I didn't feel the need to volunteer any theories.
It was all rather appalling, but Nels was so excited that I didn't have the heart to call the excavation to a halt immediately. It wasn't until a cold, damp day, when Nels emerged muddy and triumphant from his pit, calling, "Mom, look what I found!" that my conscience (which is not overly tender towards dogs in general) started to trouble me. As Nels approached, I saw that he was holding a circle of blue webbing. A dog collar.
I'm sorry, very nice family who lived here before us. We did not mean to disinter your beloved pet.
And if any of you reading this have a yard with only one good digging spot in it...well...proceed with caution. Proceed with caution.