Toxic waste indeed. A man brought a 55-gallon drum to the animal hospital where I tech, saying his dog had died and he brought her to us for body disposal in said drum. Gross, but you know. You see dead stuff at an animal hospital. So we take the 55-gallon drum inside and we note that it is a little funkier than we might have expected. After some deliberation and a bunch of trepidatious hesitation, we unsealed the lid, (because clinic policy states that all dead things must be bagged and frozen,) and

Yellow smoke billowed out of the barrel.

Followed, of course, by an odor so pungent it straightened one's hair and made the color drain from one's face. (The stink, I later learned, was caused by anaerobic bacteria eating away at the carcass and giving off horrendously stinky gas...)

Evidently, things that are dead actually sort of liquefy, and if there's no place for the "liquid" (which, as a point of interest, is black,) to drain, it pools. A 55-gallon drum isn't designed for good ventilation, you know?

Come to find out that this particular dog had been dead nearly 4 days, sealed in that godforsaken barrel, sitting out in this yahoo's lawn in 90 degree North Carolina heat. The flesh was sloughing off the skeleton and the clinic stank like a corpse for several days after the remains (and the 55-gallon drum) were disposed of.

Hell of a way to get a biology lesson. 55-gallon drums have been ruined for me forever.