Rainbow Bridge

The Importance of Being Ernest
The Life and Loss of a Beagle

Ernest lost the use of his hindlegs yesterday evening, and this morning he yelped once in pain. It was time to say goodbye. His two-week fight against kidney failure was over.

I thought if I cried all the way to the veterinary clinic, I might not cry in front of the vet. I was wrong. I had remembered to bring a bath towel with me, Ernest doesn't like cold stainless steel tables. Twenty dollars to end discomfort and prevent suffering. I've spent much more on gifts for my friends which weren't nearly as appropriate.

When you lean over them sobbing as they draw their last breath, does their soul pass upward through yours on its way to Higher Ground? Does it blaze a trail we can follow later? Will we recognize them at our reunion without their earthly appearance, when we can judge them only by their spirit and not their species? I hope so.

I drove home in a torrent of rain and tears, and now know what it feels like to pilot a submarine. I halted at an intersection and watched cars and people bustle about their everyday life. "Why don't they ring church bells?" I wondered, "or stop traffic, or observe a moment of silence? Don't they know that I am chauffeuring one of the kindest, most gentle and loving spirits who has ever walked the planet?"

I thought about the little things, like how he wiggled his butt when he walked. I thought about the enormous, like why is it that the world's only imperfect species, the only one which sins and suffers guilt, should have been granted dominion over the Earth?, and how we should take that stewardship more seriously. I dug his grave in the rain and obsessed about keeping it dry. Ernest always avoided mud puddles. I looked around at the other graves, each marked by a plant or tree: Amber, Khufu, Sir Edmund, Katerina, Ebony, Viva...too many. Over decades and on two continents, I've done this all before - why does it always seem that it rains, or do they weep with me?

I remembered what a roly-poly riot he and his brother Julio were, the Laurel & Hardy of Beagles. How he'd lose his temper and chase off a wolf when she got to be too obnoxious. How he counted the minutes until dinner and then sang for his supper. I am so grateful to their former hunter owner who abandoned them on my road a couple of years ago, and our neighbors on this road who do as they always do, ignore any stray animal until it becomes our responsibility. They gave me one of the best friends I've ever had of any species.

I remembered how, when he was too weak to eat or drink on his own, he always managed to wag his tail for me. Even when I had to stick needles into him, that look of absolute trust and undying devotion never flickered in those beautiful brown eyes. I closed his eyes and gave him one last kiss.

I have to tell Julio now that Ernest is gone and that he'll have to sing more often and more loudly now to make up for the silence - which he'll gladly do - and explain that, no, he cannot have Ernest's dinner from now on. Then I'll hug him and probably cry some more, and we'll remember that there was something so wonderfully important about the being, Ernest.

Jim Willis
Copyright 2000

Dusty Due to probable abuse resulting in brain or spinal cord damage, Dusty couldn't jump and often sat up like a prairie dog to look around. Dusty had a hard life until he arrived at the shelter, where he liked nothing better than to sit in a lap and be petted. Dusty had been adopted by someone who understood his special needs. The last few months of his life were probably the happiest he had ever known.

Dusty has gone to the rainbow bridge.

Sparky's Story


Rainbows and 4-Leaf Clovers

I was 21 the day I met my first true love.  He was an 8-week old terrier/beagle cross, didn't weigh more than 3 pounds and it only cost me 20 bucks to take him home.

  When I held him upside down on my lap he looked like he just stepped out of the movie "Gremlins".  That's why I named my beautiful boy Gizmo.

  I was a waitress, a secretary and a student before I assumed the role of Gizmo's "Mom".   We became the best of friends.  I took care of his needs and he took care of mine.  Gizmo became my study partner, my bedmate, my therapist, and my confidante'. I could not have asked for a more loyal friend.

  One day before Gizmo turned 2 he awoke in a stumbling stupor.   He was disoriented, vomiting and losing his bowels.  My first thought was that Giz had been poisoned.  Terrified of losing him, I rushed him to the vets.

  I soon found out that Gizmo was epileptic and would have to take medication for the rest of his life.   It wasn't easy, but we finally found the correct dosage and had the seizures under control.

  Medications twice a day became routine and, for the most part, our world was normal. Sometimes loud noises would scare him into a seizure so we'd make sure to stay away from parades and firecrackers.  Thunderstorms were difficult.

  I continued my job as a waitress and would surprise Giz with his nightly doggie bag.  He devoured prime rib, pot roast and lamb.  Sometimes I'd even share ice cream with him.  He loved to eat and sometimes he seemed to LIVE to eat.  I gave him anything he wanted because I was a good mother.  Or so I thought, until another emergency vet visit diagnosed Gizmo with pancreatitis.   I learned that dogs couldn't digest food the same way people do and should only eat DOG FOOD to stay healthy.  It was my fault that Giz was sick and I was a nervous wreck while he was hospitalized.    

I liked to search for 4 leaf clovers and wish upon them so that weekend I found a nice one, pressed it in my photo album and wrote the words "For Gizmo, Please Get Well."  

And he did!  

Gizmo had to go on a prescription diet and was not allowed leftovers.  It broke my heart to suddenly have to deny him one of his favorite past times.  Giz could do some dog tricks and even say, "I love you".  He seemed quite perturbed by the fact that although he would say I LOVE YOU quite distinctly he wasn't being rewarded with food anymore!!  To compensate for this, I found myself talking to him more and showering him with unconditional love.  

Gizmo helped me pick my boyfriends.  If my date wasn't interested in dogs, I saw no need for a second date.  We had an agreement, Giz and I.   He was top dog and no other male would take his place.  That's how I ended up marrying my husband, father of a Golden Retriever named Whiskey.  We became a family of 4 and Gizzy was quite content with this arrangement.

  Whiskey taught Gizmo how to fetch and catch dog treats in the air.  They wrestled for fun and kept each other company all day. 

  Life was wonderful for several years thereafter.  Then one morning Gizmo woke up trembling.  He vomited and wouldn't eat his breakfast.  He seemed to be having mini seizures and we were told to increase his dosage.  The bouts of trembling and vomiting continued and the medicine wouldn't stop it from happening.  My 91/2-year-old boy with the big, voracious appetite didn't feel like eating at all!   Blood work ruled out Cushing's disease and Diabetes.  His kidneys were not functioning to capacity and an x-ray indicated an enlarged liver.  I was told that it was highly probable that Gizmo had cancer. 

  I was crippled with anxiety and the only thing I could focus on was the well being of my sweet, little friend.  I wanted him to be comfortable and enjoy life.  I vowed to never let him suffer.  

  I had always kept a copy of the anonymously written poem "The Rainbow Bridge" on my refrigerator.  Whenever a friend of mine lost a pet I would send a sympathy card with a copy of this inspirational poem.  The poem speaks of a bridge that is believed to be between here and heaven and when a beloved pet dies he waits there for his master.  The sick and maimed pets are made well again and while they wait for their human to meet them they are happy and pass the time playing and having fun.  I would tell Giz of the bridge and explain how I wanted to make sure he was enjoying himself while he waited for me.

  To my complete dismay, the day finally arrived that Giz was no longer enjoying life.  He didn't feel well enough to eat and even the best people food didn't look appealing to him.  There was nothing more I could humanly do to fix him.  I had exhausted all avenues.

  I took the day off from work and spent it holding Gizmo cooing to him and dreading that 5:00, final, appointment.  We reminisced about all the things we had been through.  I talked and he listened.   He gazed into my eyes while I spoke to him and I felt his soul touch mine as we spent our last quiet time on Earth together.  He understood me but his eyes were not as insightful as they once were.  He was tired and he was ready for a gentle journey to the bridge.  I begged him for a sign.  I wanted anything as encouragement that we would meet again.

  I thanked him for his devotion and promised that I wouldn't leave his side until his soul had departed and I made sure he wasn't afraid and that he left in peace.  It was the least I could do.  I fought the tears during these final hours because I wanted Gizmo to feel comfortable and not worry about me.

  My husband drove us to the vets and I carried my boy inside.  He was given a sedative and soon I heard the distinctive sounds of his little snores.  As I held him on my lap his leg was shaved and the needle was inserted into his vein.  I whispered, "I love you.  Please don't forget my sign.  Mommy will see you later." 

  The snoring stopped.  Gizmo was peaceful.  I was distraught.

  The veterinarian allowed us some time alone and I lifted him onto the examining table.  We said our final good-byes to his lifeless body and stroked his fur for the last time.

  I limply laid my head in my husbands lap and cried while he drove home.  We were almost back when he excitedly stopped the truck and pointed to the cloudless sky.  "Kathy, LOOK!!!" and there, through the tears, I saw a beautiful rainbow.

  Although I should have accepted this as my sign from Gizmo, I became skeptical.  I chalked it up to coincidence and fought the desire of believing it was truly meant for me.

  That night, I sat in the window staring at the moon and I prayed.  I addressed my prayer to Gizmo and begged for ONE MORE SIGN.  I think I half-expected the moon to turn pink or something drastic like that to satisfy my need of knowing if there was, indeed, this so-called Rainbow Bridge.   Certainly, if I received just ONE MORE SIGN I would know that he was at the bridge waiting for me and having fun.

  The moon never faltered.  It just hung there in the sky…. this big, huge, yellow moon looking back at me in defiance. 

  I fell asleep feeling defeated and cheated by life itself.  

Over the next few days, concerned friends and family surrounded me.  I was depressed and wondered how long it was going to take for me to heal.  I didn't go to work. 

  It was just a few days later that my brother talked me into going to a yard sale with him.  When I stepped out of his truck I ecstatically landed in the middle of a patch of 4 leaf clovers.  As I picked them one by one I felt my face smiling and I felt my soul starting to heal. 

  I picked over 30 4-leaf clovers that day and put them in a frame with the words "To Mom, please get well.  Love, Gizmo."

  And I did.

by Kathleen Hartford Auclair
May 17, 2000