Today I was asked something that I've never really thought about before. A friend's in laws are having their aged and sick dog put to sleep, and she knows and appreciates my love and understanding of animals, asked me - how to explain Rainbow Bridge to her son, who is taking the loss of the family pet very hard. I had to ponder what to say, as it's not something I've actually thought about before. As an animal lover we just know about Rainbow Bridge, and it's our comfort just knowing our animals go there to await us when they pass.
So how do I explain what Rainbow Bridge is?
Basically it's a place reserved for all our pets and animals - a place where they all go to from years gone by, where they await our arrival when our time comes, when we will join them again one day. At Rainbow Bridge, they are free from pain, sickness, disabilities, age and are whole again, running free with all of our other lost beloved pets. I guess it's a kind of Heaven just for animals, where all the abused, neglected, surrendered animals from the pound that never found their forever homes, victims of BSL, dogfighting and cruelty, and of course our beloved pets of all kinds, can run free again - free from any affliction they were subjected to in the human world. At Rainbow Bridge, there is only unconditional love of the animal kind.
When I thought about it, I found explaining the concept of Rainbow Bridge rather difficult, because it is just something as an animal lover, I've always known and taken comfort in. I guess we just kind of take that way of thinking for granted - that everyone else does too. But this friend's son is just a child and I'm sure the mere thought of losing a pet is heartbreaking enough, without trying to make some kind of sense of it....though some children do surprise us with their childlike wisdom in such matters. And such is the case in what I believe to be the best explanation for the passing of a beloved pet. I thought of this, the best explanation ever, as I stood there holding our beloved Sheba in my arms after she had passed....and I choked on the words as I shared with everyone who was there the paraphrased version of this story I share with you now - as the best explanation.
A Dog's Purpose - from a 6-year-old
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?"
The six-year-old continued,
"Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."
The wisdom of that child to make, not only a statement, but share such a comforting explanation is just mind-blowing! I've never heard it explained so perfectly before, and I will never EVER forget that story. It has done the rounds on the internet, I'm sure, for many years but it never grows old.
I shared this story with my friend and she found it extremely helpful to help comfort her grieving son with the loss of a beloved pet. Because truth be told, this is the best explanation I have ever heard!
I want to share with you the poem I wrote when we had to let our beloved Sheba go to Rainbow Bridge. It hurt like hell, and I was inconsolable for days! I wrote this as a form of therapy in the form of a message from our Sheba.
~ Message from Rainbow Bridge ~
Today I went to Rainbow Bridge
for it was time to go
But I take with me fond memories
more than some ever know
I'd had so many years on earth
yet I was truly blessed
To know a life so rich in love
and filled with happiness
You see I'd had a second chance
that was given to me
And it was then I found new hope
and a loving family
And yet it was much more than that
for it was by design
That I would bring a special gift
into their hearts from mine
Together we shared many things
walkies to the park
Lots of smells along the way
where I could leave my mark
Playing ball with daddy
when he tried to mow the lawn,
A clever dog I surely was
bringing laughter in all forms.
Then in the twilight of my years
when I relied on mum
To be there when I needed her
she did so out of love
When my legs stopped working
and I suffered my strokes,
Mummy was there to guide me
full of sacrifice and hope
She soothed me and she talked to me
as she went about her day
Singing silly nonsense songs
which I loved anyway
She'd take me out for pee pees
and always clean my mess,
Mummy was so very special
but to me she was the best!
But soon the body dwindled
and time was drawing near
When I knew I'd have to say goodbye
to those I have loved dear
I didn't want to leave them
but I knew my time had come
I'd given them my very best
and my work on earth was done
So today they granted me the wish
I had been searching for
And I looked within their tearful eyes
that I would see no more
Mummy held me long and strong
as I gently took my leave
And walked me to the Rainbow Bridge
then let me go in peace...
I know you won't forget me
just as I never will
Our memories join us heart to heart
so I'll be with you still
And whenever you feel my presence near
or hear the echo of my bark -
Just know I'm watching from the Bridge
to where I left my mark.
© Christina aka Stina
22nd September 2008
Ten days after Sheba left us, I brought home Ciara and for a while I felt as though I was somehow betraying Sheba's memory by loving Ciara, but that's normal. Sheba wanted us to have Ciara - I believe she chose her for us - and I brought her home where she made herself completely at home at once, but most of all, she was the perfect therapy to help grieve for Sheba. We still miss Sheba and we always will, but with time the pain eases. Getting another dog was the best thing to help the grieving process, and I've never looked back. I cannot imagine my life without a dog.
Christmas 2010, I found a bedraggled looking Blue Heeler wandering the streets and after some chasing, he jumped into my car. He look tired, weary and as though he had been on the streets for a while. He had just a rusty chain for a collar and no microchip, no ID - nothing. He was dirty, smelly, flea-ridden and when I bathed him he cried in pain. I took him to my vets and he had a flea allergy which caused a skin infection which then in turn was causing the odour he had. But I loved him and looked after him, and within a week of treatment he was a new boy! He had a smile and a little prance in his step. Ciara adored him, and he adored her. I had him desexed, microchipped and registered. It was thought he had a neurological condition that was causing some weakness to his lower extremities, causing his incontinence and the weakness in his back legs. By the end of winter he could no longer walk unaided. I ordered him a wheelchair from the US which he loved and it gave him a new lease of life...even if for just a few short months. Even his front legs grew weaker and the time had come to make the decision once again. Jasper touched everyone's hearts who met him - he had overcome being abandoned, neglected then incontinence, dementia and ultimately the loss of the use of his legs. And just 3 days shy of the year since I had rescued him, I held Jasper one last time and I stayed with him and looked into his eyes as he left us for Rainbow Bridge. No matter how hard or painful it was, I would not leave him at this hour. He had already been abandoned, probably because he was beginning to show signs of incontinence and whoever owned him previously didn't want the bother or expense of looking after an older disabled dog. I was not leaving him now. And I didn't. My beautiful boy left us, but he was now free from pain and disorientation and could run free again at Rainbow Bridge.
Ciara grieved for him. She was there to say goodbye to him, but she was very subdued when he left us. I was sick in bed for 3 days after that and she never left my side. On Christmas Eve I got her Christmas gift in the form of Dexter, to whom she was indifferent for a while due to grieving for Jasper. But 10 days after bringing Dexter home I took him in to be desexed, and all day Ciara pined for him! The last time her "brother" went to the vet he never came home again! When I picked Dexter up that afternoon, Ciara was so overjoyed to see him...and they have been inseparable ever since!
No matter the pain of losing a pet, I would do it all again. You see, the years of love, joy, happiness, devotion and laughs they have given me far far FAR outweigh the pain of losing them - no matter how painful it is. What they have given us while they were with us FAR OUTWEIGHS that....by far!
Below is my boy, Jasper, whom I rescued from the streets 23rd December 2010, and who left us for Rainbow Bridge 20th December 2011.
Neither beloved pooch is forgotten....