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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Over The Rainbow Bridge | For Our Rosie

Most of us have suffered the loss of a beloved pet. Pet loss is quite different from losing one's humans. People tend to show lots of support and sympathy over the loss of a loved one, but what happens when your beloved is a pet, a dog, a cat, a ... goldfish? Lots of people don't get it. They don't get what cherished pets mean to their owner. Most folks don't even understand that there are some of us out there who have opted for a fur ball instead of a human child, whether out of necessity or by choice. Pet loss is tragic to the animal lover, and that's why I feel the need to address it. In our animal blog-dom, sympathy abounds. We're all in this together, but the rest of the world, thinks differently.

I remember many excruciating losses, but one of them stands out. Rosie was the first dog I lost to a tragic accident. I got a call around 11 o'clock one evening by a sweet woman who was telling me my dog was dead. After arguing with her that my dog was just fine and I had just let her out into our back yard just 5 minutes earlier, I took a deep breath, and, with the woman still on the phone, I went to my yard to call my Rosie's name. Rosie was a chocolate lab and she was only four. She didn't respond to my calls. The lady was right. Instead of finding my dog, I found out that our block wall had collapsed quietly after a heavy downpour. Rosie was lying dead by the entrance of the freeway near my home. By the time my son and I got to Rosie, we found a circus. Police cars blocking the freeway entrance, people covering their faces; they were all there to watch. My son and I carried her to the car and then . . . we didn't know what to do. We called the Emergency Animal Hospital who told us to bring her in and they'd take care of the rest.

At the hospital we were treated with love and respect. We were all animal lovers. They took our Rosie and asked if we'd like her cremated. We did. We went home devastated and feeling empty. My birthday was dawning. I still hate my birthday since that awful day seven years ago.

The "party" started the next day. The phone rang first thing in the morning. It was our regular vet offering his condolences and telling me something about a rainbow bridge. I'm European. I thought he may be on acid. Why, oh why would anybody be talking to me about rainbows and bridges at a time like this? I wanted to tell him he was fired and that I'd find a different vet, but I couldn't. I thanked him and hung up.

A couple of days later, I received a card from the Emergency Hospital. It was a picture of a bridge with a rainbow. Damn it! What was wrong with everyone in this country? I looked at the back of the card and read the, in my opinion, infamous Rainbow Bridge Poem:

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

The rainbow bridge poem hasn't been around that long. It was written sometime around the year 1980. It's meant for humans to deal with their grief mourning the loss of a beloved pet that has died. It's about a utopian place animals go to after death. It is Pet Heaven. 
Our family was suffering as random Rainbow Bridge cards kept coming in. None of us felt better. Finally, Rosie's ashes arrived. They were in a plastic container that was placed inside a tacky purple pouch wrapped in a tacky golden cord. Our 80lb dog fit inside a tiny pouch. The purple pouch was embroidered and it read, "Until we meet again at the rainbow bridge." Dang it! But now I realized that my anger shouldn't be aimed at the nice people who sent me the only thing they could think of, a promise that my Rosie was not suffering. I was angry over the actual event, Rosie's death. I started to calm down and not cringe so much when a well-wisher mentioned the Rainbow Bridge.

Ever since I've joined the animal blogging community, I have seen clearly that there is a purpose to the rainbow bridge. It is soothing. It makes sense. The rainbow bridge poem talks about joy and a reunion. I want my pets to go there. I want to meet them again. I have learned to take consolation at the thought that all the wonderful animals that have touched my life will all end up in this pet heaven. 

Once I had come to terms with the idea of the rainbow bridge, a good friend of mine, one of the bloggers we interact with, a lampworker, started her own line of memorial beads for pet owners.  Holly Dare, a dog lover, rescuer, advocate herself, having suffered her own pet losses wanted to be able to keep her beloved departed fur babies close to her. She put her creativity to work and came up with beautiful memorial beads using cremains. This is the link to Holly Dare's Memorial Beads. There are many lampworkers who create glass beads out of cremains, but she's my number one choice because she's my friend, I love her work, and I know that she cares. 

I haven't yet had the courage to ask for a Rosie Bead. No matter how many pets have been in my life since that awful day, Rosie still occupies a large chunk of my heart. Having a memorial bead I can actually touch might make me miss her less, I'm just hoping. 

Animal lovers and bloggers, we have each other. We can at least comfort one another, because sometimes non animal lovers simply don't get it!

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