Thu, 12/03/2020 - 4:20pm

Rainbow Bridge

The goodbye is final, but the pain is not

Having my normal lifestyle so completely changed to one that is even more sedentary than normal (make that boring) results in a lot of time to just sit and think. And that is not always a good thing. Spending more time online often results in buying things from the “fabulous, can’t miss” offers (will this help me win the Publishers Clearing House big check?), causing my wife to ask, “Do I have to start worrying about you?”

This extra time also winds up with more Facebook time, where I become increasingly aware of the many members of our dog community paying homage to their recently departed fur-family members. Unfortunately, each of us knows what this pain feels like. It is the terrible price we pay for being blessed with having our dogs be part of our family, and we all share in that pain and love.

We all know the poem about the Rainbow Bridge. (If you don't know it, send me an email and I will send it to you.) So as I find myself sitting here with nothing to do but think, my thoughts stray to my many dogs that have already crossed the bridge, and my cheeks get wet somehow. I picture a place over that bridge where every dog somehow has a private door to sit before, waiting for his or her human to arrive. All the dogs there may run and play, but they return to their door often to check on it, and sleep there at night. Some very special ones never leave that spot. They are able to sit there, muscles trembling, anticipating – and willing – the door to open at any moment.

Have you ever had your sleep interrupted by dreams of your dogs long gone? Are they trying to tell you that they are thinking of you? Have you awakened with tears falling down your face and an ache in your chest? Do you quietly go to another room so as not to wake the one sleeping next to you? But the pain is there. It is a pain that we all have to experience to be blessed with the love of our dogs.

Can you remember when you first brought your dog home – when that responsible dog breeder entrusted you with one of her dogs? Did you realize that this person was handing you a piece of her heart? You may have chosen this dog as a show dog, a hunting companion or “just a pet,” but either way, he quickly became part of your family. Can you remember the first time that ball of love looked you in the eye, and you just
knew” that he was saying, “I'm all yours”?

Do you remember when something set him off – maybe it was a bath – and he got the “spin and grins” as he tucked his tail and ran in circles, completely full of pure joy? Or the time he won that rosette for you and looked up as if to say, “I did it for you”?

Or do you just remember the LAST time the look in his eyes said, “It’s OK. It’s time.”

I have seen others who love their dogs as much as I do mine declare that they cannot bear to go through this pain again. I feel that way every time, and yet they – like me – also cannot bear the thought of not having one of these wonderful creatures as part of their family. And so we add another dog’s love to our lives.

I recently saw a quote that said, "It takes sadness to know what happiness is, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence." Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

With all the show cancellations we have witnessed this year, we have been reminded of how much those competitions and exhibitions mean to us. But our dogs are so much more than just the way we garner ribbons and accolades. They are essential to our very lifestyles. We often have to make adjustments to our lives, miss social engagements and other functions because of our responsibility to our dogs – yet we do not question it. Yes, our dog-show community is important, but it does not exist without our dogs.

Dog shows have been an integral part of my life for much more than 50 years, but I would give it all up in a minute if it meant I could not have my dog just lie next to me on the couch. The fun and joy brought to us by puppies and youngsters are wonderful, but cannot match the comfort we share with the older dog who may now need steps to get up on the bed with us to lie practically on us as we sleep.

I have been an AKC judge for more than 45 years, and as much as I love the up-and-coming youngsters and the in-their-prime mature dogs, it is the gray-faced veterans who have brought me to tears many times.

I still remember judging a very large entry of one of my favorite breeds that has lived with us – shortly after having one of them cross the Rainbow Bridge – and the Veterans class was the first one in the ring. I was thankful that one side of the ring was a cement wall because I was able to turn toward it to wipe away the tears that just would not stop. This was in contrast to the joy I felt when I was able to reward a veteran of my original loving breed with a Best in Show rosette.

So, are you thinking of your dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge now? It is OK from time to time so that they know we are thinking of them and how much they meant to us. Don’t worry about the tears. It is OK sometimes.

What do you think?



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