Once upon a time, there was a dog named Brody. He could fly through the air with the greatest of ease that daring ‘young jack’ on the flying trapeze. Describing a dog like Brody is like describing the air that you breathe. He was a one-of-a-kind dog and sharing his ‘tale’ will be cathartic for me and potentially provide some solace for grieving pet owners.
Brody was one of those dogs that just happen in your life. It wasn’t planned or even conceived he would become such a permanent fixture in our lives. He was meant for someone else but granted to us. Brody was a special gift from God. It’s curious really, how animals find you or you find them. Just one of those twists of fate.
When Brody first came to live with our family, he was so small he could fit in the palm of your hand. When he ran, his front legs couldn’t keep up with the back legs causing him to flip and roll. He slept a lot and had the most wonderful smell. We all know that puppy smell (pause and take a deep breath).
Brody’s fur was white and tan and on the top of his head between his brow was a heart-shaped spot. We always thought the heart-shaped colored fur was a sign he was meant to be ours. He was always smiling. My husband called him ‘smiling jack’. And the dark eyebrows above his golden brown eyes reminded me of Groucho Marx.
Brody was a Jack Russell Terrier mix. The mixes are a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua dog breeds. They are high energy, playful and overall friendly dogs. The mixes are short-legged and stocky with white fur and black or brown spots. According to Caesar Millan, the well-known Mexican-American dog trainer, he said when choosing a dog, don’t choose the breed, instead choose the dog’s energy level.
During the years our family loved Brody, there was a lot of turmoil. Unfortunately, it affected his behavior and he would ‘act’ on his anxieties by snapping at people. When dogs aren’t getting what they need from their humans, they misbehave. Brody would bite. Not all the time, but if you couldn’t ‘read his vibe’ you should be prepared to get bit. Other than the biting, he was a joy.
Playing fetch with a ball was his most favorite game. He could play catch for hours. The backyard was Brody’s basketball court. ‘Air Jordan’ had nothing on Brody’s hang-time. He was like an animated character that would suspend in time and just ‘be’. And if it was too cold, the ballgame moved inside.
The whole family was part of the team. We each took our turn pitching the ball but Brody was the star player. ‘The pitcher’ stood over the kitchen sink with a clear view of the ball field ‘family room’. The ‘all star’ Brody would bolt across the hardwood floors, around the table, jump onto the couch, and wait for the throw. He never missed a pitch. As soon as the ball was caught, back to the pitcher it would go only to resume play for another 50 plus games of fetch.
The Rainbow Bridge is a place that gives pet owners peace after discovering their pet isn’t going to survive a terminal illness or it’s ‘their time.’ The bridge is an ethereal overpass that connects heaven and earth. It’s a spot where owners and pets reunite for good after they’ve both passed away. It’s a beautiful, mythical place that gives comfort to owners after losing a pet.
The reassurance of imagining a wonderful field of grass where animals go to play with other animals is comforting. They play fetch and live without pain, fear, abuse, hunger, any of the bad things humans may have thrust upon them. Waiting for the day to reunite with their master or best friend.
The poem originated in the 1980’s with some confusion as to the author (hence unknown author). The person with a copyright for one of the versions is Paul C. Dahm. He’s one of three authors that claimed to have written the poem and one of three that wrote books in the 1990’s about pet loss.
The books opened a whole new dialogue for grieving pet owners. There were websites created to help with the loss of the pet. Wallace Sife, one of those claiming to have written the poem, started an organization called Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement and wrote the book entitled “The Loss of Pet”. It wasn’t until the books on bereavement were published that pet owners were set free to grieve without shame or judgement.
Today, veterinarian clinics are ‘on board’ with the whole pet bereavement thing. If a beloved pet needs ‘end of life’ care, the clinics are very accommodating. Candles are lit in honor of furry friends and a quiet place is provided, either at the clinic or at the owner’s home. It’s truly one of the most difficult, yet necessary practices pet owners have to endure.
That’s exactly how Brody’s story ended. He had a tumor the size of a cantaloupe on his spleen and ‘mets’ on his lungs. Metastasis or ‘mets’ is the spread of cancer from one body part to another to form secondary tumors. The veterinarian said it was highly unlikely he would survive the surgery and would most likely bleed out on the table. He was in pain. It was an incredibly difficult decision. Brody was 11 ½ years old.
A friend of mine recently lost her Jack Russell mix and shared her pain and love for ‘Sophie’ on social media. Actually, her son shared his grief and I happened to be online that night. His grief really resonated with me. Sophie was the same age as Brody, a mix-breed, and very loved. As my friend’s son was grieving, I shared my experience about losing Brody. I told him he would be sad for a while and the hole in his heart will always remain. However, as time passes, the loss will hurt less and he’ll start to remember the joy she brought to his life. Memories will be good memories.
Remembering our pets and the possibility of meeting them again at The Rainbow Bridge is a wonderfully, imaginative end to life’s journey. A bridge where ‘there’s plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.’ Personally, I can’t think of a better ending.
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