Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hiss-Spit and the Rainbow Bridge

Sailor here.

Hiss-Spit was old and sick. This morning, her time on earth came to an end. Mom was sad. I was sad, too, but Mom said that that we would meet again and be best friends. This next time around, she may introduce herself by a completely different name, but I will know her and she will know me.

“Where is Hiss-Spit now?” I asked Mom.

“She went to the Rainbow Bridge today,” Mom said.

“What’s the Rainbow Bridge?” I was puzzled.

“The Rainbow Bridge is the place to which all pets go to wait for their people to join them,” Mom explained. “The Bridge is just this side of heaven and is surrounded by every pet’s favorite things.”

“What things?” I asked.

“For the dogs, there are fire hydrants, cookie trees, and squirrels to chase,” Mom explained. “Cats get to chase mice all day long, lie in the warm sun and purr, and eat canned tuna fish. Horses can run with the wind through fields of alfalfa and never tire. It is almost like heaven.

“Then when a pet’s human dies, that person goes to the Bridge, too, and here they are reunited with much excitement and laughter. Then the pet and his beloved person cross over the Bridge into heaven together, never to be parted again.”

Zoe was drowsing in the sunshine. She turned over on her side and looked at Mom and me. “For northern breeds,” she said, “the Bridge is surrounded by ice and snow and all the huskies wear harnesses that are all the colors of the rainbow. They spend their days running, pulling sleds and chasing lemmings. When their people arrive, the huskies dance and leap with joy and happiness. Then their people hop on the back of their sleds, and they all rush into heaven together.”

Mom smiled. “Yes,” she agreed, and went on, “and the glint of the sunlight dancing from the huskies’ harnesses can be seen on earth. We call this fire the Northern Lights.”

“What will Hiss-Spit be doing at the Rainbow Bridge?” I asked Mom.

“She’s having the time of her life. Let’s imagine her there,” Mom answered. “What are some of Hiss-Spit’s favorite things? If we can picture her happy and whole and well again, it will help us be less sad.”

I said, “She loves chicken necks and freeze-dried liver and lying on Mom’s chest purring while having her ears scritched.”

“Her favorite things are stalking birds and chasing mice and sleeping in the warm sun,” Zoe added.

“She also likes climbing the oak tree,” Zoe and I said in together.

I looked at our kitty’s place on the lower limb of the tree. It seemed strange that she wasn’t there, looking down at us and giving us her silent meow.

We sat together in the back yard and remembered Hiss-Spit. Mom told us funny stories about when she was a kitten and when she had kittens herself. I laughed at some of the stories, even though I was sad at the same time.

“Our kitty is back together with Puffin, her sister,” Mom told us. “Puffin went to the Bridge last year, and the two of them are probably chasing each other and dancing with mice and squirrels.”

Zoe jumped up and exclaimed, “Oh, I want to go to the Bridge!” She thought the part about the mice and squirrels sounded too good to be true.

Mom smiled. “You’ll go someday, Zoe, but not just yet. Every living thing has its own special time to go, but your time is not now.”

“When will I go to the Bridge, Mom?” I asked.

“Oh, Sailor,” Mom patted me on the head. “You won’t go for a long time, either.”

“How will I get there?” I found the Bridge idea exciting and a little scary.

“And me,” Zoe chimed in. “How will I get there?”

Mom’s voice grew soft with a catch in her throat.

“You, Zoe, will fly to the Bridge on the leading edge of winter. And Sailor, you will be called by the Good Shepherd to herd His sheep until I arrive.”

“We won’t all go together?” I asked, and I felt nervous and unsure.

Mom explained, “I’ll probably send you both on ahead to wait for me just like I sent Hiss-Spit today to wait for us.”

I started to drool about leaving Mom. “I’ll be alone?”

“No, Sailor,” Mom said, wiping me under my chin, “you won’t be alone. You’ll be with your doggie Mom and with Roxy, your doggie step-Mom, and with all the dogs and cats you have had ever known and loved who have gone before you.”

“The Bridge is not a lonely place, Sailor,” Mom went on. “You will not be unhappy. In fact, this place might be your favorite place yet. It’s pretty special.”

I couldn’t imagine a better place than here with Mom, but she is always right about this stuff, so I stopped drooling.

Zoe jumped to her feet. “I can’t wait to get to the Bridge and run in harness and be the lead sled dog and never get tired or thirsty.” She thought this was the perfect way to pass the time until her people arrive.

“Mom, what happens if a dog’s people all go to the Bridge at different times?” I asked.

“Once a dog is in heaven with one of his people,” Mom explained, “he may go back to the Bridge any time he wants to greet his other people and escort them into heaven.”

“Oh, good,” I was relieved. I wanted to greet the rest of my family, too.

“And guess what?” Mom smiled. “Some people who have had many dogs are greeted by all of them together and the reunion gets loud and a bit crazy.”

This made me wag my tail, and Zoe began to bounce between Mom and me with excitement.

"I’m pretending to greet you at the Bridge!” she told Mom. “I’m leading a hundred other dogs and cats to say hello. Jump on my dog sled! Let’s race into heaven!”

I chuckled at that and rubbed my head against Mom’s shoulder. Mom gave me a hug.

I had a sudden bad thought. “What if a dog is unhappy at the Bridge without his special person?”

“Don’t worry, Sailor,” Mom said, “If a dog misses his human too much, that dog is allowed to go back to earth to be with his special person. But once there, he will be invisible.”

“Invisible?” I asked. “You mean she won’t know her dog is there? She can’t see him?”

“She won’t see him, no, but she’ll know her dog is by her side,” Mom said, “She’ll be able to feel the fleeting touch of a cold nose in her palm and see the rippling grass part to let her ghost dog run by.”

“Mom, I will be your ghost dog,” I announced, feeling much better about the whole thing.

She hugged me and said, “I know, Sailor. You will be the best ghost dog on earth.”

“And at the Bridge,” I told her.

She smiled through her tears and nodded.

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