Life is full of joy and equally full of pain, particularly for pet lovers. Today is one of the painful days, the day my beloved Clue passed over the Rainbow Bridge, way too soon.
Sixteen years ago I lost my Golden, Max, and six months later his sister Chauncey; they were 16 by then. I swore I'd never get another dog. Never. Losing them was too painful. That resolve lasted through weeks and months filled with deep loss and sorrow, jabbed by constant pricks of memory when I found a lost chew toy or finally got around to sanding down the door they had used as a teething ring.
Eventually the pain subsided, the memories were more of happy times than the bad last days. Like most animal lovers, I felt a void which could only be filled by another dog. In my case, another Golden.
I didn't want a "replacement" for Max and Chauncey, I wanted a new dog to love. For me, that meant adopting from a shelter.
After six months of searching, I found a picture on Petfinder.com. A shelter near Hartford had a tenth-month old Golden which been abandoned, dumped on a back road to fend for herself. And she was a dead-ringer for Chauncey. I drove to Hartford the next day.
Our introduction was not the most auspicious. Young, frisky and totally untrained, she immediately jumped up on my then 80-year old mother and knocked her to the cement floor. Oops. But I'd dealt with Goldens for years and as soon as I took her for a walk around the shelter grounds, she was mine for life.
She got her name on the way home. Running around in the back of my SUV, trying to crawl into my mothers lap, laying on the gear shift, attempting to lick the rear view mirror. And Clue it was, from then on, as in "hasn't got a ..."
She was well named. We laboured through three beginner obedience classes before she got the hang of "sit," "stay," "heel." "Come" never made it into her vocabulary. And contrary to Golden lore, she could not be trained with treats; she wanted praise, petting, and hugs. Her instructors never understood this--some even disapproved-- but all fell in love with her cheerful disposition.
It didn't, however, take her any time at all to train me. She had a built in alarm clock and fifteen minutes before meal time, she'd appear at my side and give me "the look." Need to go outside? She never learned to bark or scratch the door, she simply walked up to the door, cocked her head and gave me "the look." Fortunately, I'm a fast learner.
Clue believed her purpose on earth was to love and be loved. She would stand patiently while little kids on the street stroked "the big doggie's" ears or while senior citizens rolled up to her in their wheelchairs at the local nursing home. She gave everyone, whether they knew they needed it or not, the opportunity to give and get love through petting her.
She was the world's worst guard dog. She'd rush to the door or the garden gate meeting everyone with a her long, plumy tail wagging to a beat only she heard. She'd had shown a robber here the silver was, if she'd known. And if, by some human mental lapse, you forgot the obligatory biscuit immediately after meals and before bed. . . well, let's just say she had that look down pat, too. And used it as I walked the walk of shame to the biscuit jar.
Clue loved car rides, walks and any other adventure. Her favourite word was "wanna?" She was always up for adventure, even after her hearing turned off all sounds, her sight began to get fuzzy, and her back legs started to give way. She still responded to the sight of her leash - sign language for "wanna go?"
She wasn't perfect. She snored like a sailor and belched like my brothers did when they were teenagers. She wasn't the smartest dog on the block, but she was the most loving. And I'm going to miss her head in my lap, the wave of her tail under my nose, and the sweet smell of her fur when I go to bed tonight without hugging her. I also know she'll live on. In my heart. In my memories. And in my writing.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass
, his legs carrying him faster and
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....