It’s been almost two years since my darling kelpie Rocky crossed over to Rainbow Bridge – 2 years on 9th September to be precise. I remember that day as though it were yesterday and never did I imagine that losing a pet would hurt that much, it were as though he took a piece of me with him.
Brutus took months and months to find himself after Rocky left before he realised that he could bark at the garbage truck with the best of them. He even learned how to swim in the ocean which is something that we never thought that he would do. Rocky was the swimmer, Brutus was the barker that would give accusing looks if he was made to go in the water. Now Brutus can swim like a fish, although his motive is to catch water birds but that is another story entirely.
So this story is dedicated to the memory of my Rocky dog because this is just what I can imagine him doing.
Sunday afternoon at Brutus’s house
It was a cold, wet and windy Sunday afternoon where most animals would be snuggled up inside their warm kennels or their homes. Kevin was curled up on his cat tree planning on what he would have for his tea. He spent a large part of his day thinking about food and this was a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time for him.
Brutus was standing by the dining room window. He was bored and rather fancied catching up with Vader and Pippin but he knew that they would be up to other things.
Turning round to Kevin, Brutus shouted “Catch you later, I am just going for a walk!” and before Kevin had chance to reply, Brutus had slammed the door and was trotting down the garden path. Kevin barely looked up, in fact I don’t even think that he heard him. “Yes, I am definitely looking forward to my roo meat tonight!” He mumbled to himself and noticing that he was already salivating, he quickly tried to clean the drool off his face with his paws.
Brutus didn’t need to go far to amuse himself. He stopped at the side of the road and checked for cars – just like his human had taught him. Straining his eyes to look at the park, he saw that there were no dogs or people there and it was completely empty.
Making his way to the small row of shops at the edge of the park, Brutus thought that perhaps if he checked the cafe out, he might be able to score a snack of some kind. And you can’t blame him for that as any self respecting dog would do the same.
Sighing, he saw that all the shops were closed – except for one and it was a shop that he had never noticed before. All the same, it was open and Brutus thought he would go and take a sticky beak to pass the time. ‘Antique Dog Toys’ Brutus read the sign on the outside of the shop out loud, “How strange, I wonder when this opened?” Then giving himself a good shake, he decided to go in and see what toys they had on offer.
As he walked in, a loud bell sounded to alert the owner. The shop smelled positively delicious to Brutus, it was a mix of cooked beef, bones, Schmackos dog treats and a touch of excitement. “Wow, where am I?” Brutus gasped and as curiosity got the better of him, he started checking out the shop in more detail.
Heaps of tennis balls, old stuffed toys, rope tugs, frisbees to name but a few, adorned the shelves. There was a shelf with an old cash register on top and a bowl of dog treats was placed next to it. On a lower shelf were old smelly bones that may well make a human look away in disgust, but to any dog – it was like the best thing for them to smell. And the older the bone, the better especially if it has been buried for months and then dug up. Just ask your own dog if you don’t believe me.
Brutus gasped when he noticed in the corner of the shop, was a bright red mini lamp post with a small picket white fence surrounding it in the corner of the shop – it was there for dogs to cock their leg if they chose to. Not Brutus though, he still squats like a female dog.
“How on earth did I not notice this shop before? All these old toys, do they belong to other dogs?” Brutus thought to himself. It was true, the toys didn’t look new at all, far from it. They looked chewed, played with, tatty and some might say, ‘well loved’.
Brutus was so engrossed in looking around this little shop, that he didn’t notice the owner sitting in a leather chair behind the counter. A little black kelpie dog sat on an antique leather chair from behind the counter. Wearing a tweed suit with gold half rimmed spectacles perched right on the edge of his snout, the look was complete with a large gold watch on a chain that was carefully placed in the inside pocket.
The kelpie studied Brutus noting his excitement to be in such a shop. His tail wagging furiously like the propellor of a helicopter, he managed to knock a few tennis balls off the shelf.
Feeling his jowls burn with embarrassment, Brutus frantically tried to grab some of the tennis balls in his mouth. Managing to pick up only two of them, he looked up to see the little kelpie peeking over the top of his gold rimmed spectacles and staring at him.
“Oh my days, no way, it can’t be! Is that you?” Brutus dropped the tennis balls out of his mouth letting them bounce on the floor of the shop.
“Hello Brutus!” The kelpie wagged his tail and jumped off his chair towards Brutus who had his tail tucked in between his legs because he was so overwhelmed.
“Rocky!” Brutus yelped and playfully nudged Rocky in recognition, “It is you! I knew you would come back for me!” As the two dogs greeted each other, their tails wagged so hard that they not only cleared all the tennis balls off the shelves, but managed to knock off a few stuffed toys as well.
“Come on my friend, we have some catching up to do!” Rocky said firmly.
“What if someone comes in and disturbs us?” Brutus frowned.
“They won’t, well they can’t actually.” Rocky replied.
Brutus pondered about asking further questions but didn’t. He had never needed to question Rocky because Rocky knew everything – he had been to Kelpie university you know.
As the storm picked up outside and the rain lashed against the windows of the shop, the two dogs chatted without barely stopping for breath. They didn’t even notice the weather outside because they were so engrossed in each other.
A short while later
“So what’s with all of these old toys? I don’t get it?” Brutus questioned Rocky.
“Well, when a pet crosses over to Rainbow Bridge, their spirit remains in their toys, furniture or anything that they may have loved, chewed or loved sleeping on. Take Kevin for instance.”
“I’d rather not, he is a right bastard!” Brutus muttered.
Rocky laughed and carried on talking. “Kevin is sleeping in that old grey plastic bed that Mum bought for their very first cat Bruno way back in 1995 I think it was.
“That catnip blue mouse with the leg chewed off, well the leg that I chewed off. That belonged to Mums other cat in England called Juniper and then it was handed down to Gordon.”
Brutus cocked his head to the side, “Yes, you are right. Mum has the box of toys that belonged to Gordon and she gave them to Kevin and some of those toys were way back from when they lived in England.”
“It’s not just toys Brutus, it can be anything that the animal loved. Take the food bowls that Mum brought over from England – they belonged to Bruno and Juniper. Gordon used them and now Kevin has them.” Rocky added.
“But what’s the connection with these toys in the shop?” Brutus repeated his question to
Rocky, “What IS this shop?” He pulled off his spectacles from his snout and fiddled with them for a few seconds. Then removing his silken red handkerchief from his pocket, he huffed on his glasses and set about cleaning them.
Once he had done that, he looked at Brutus and said matter-of-factly, “It’s a magic shop of memories because every toy in this store is just that – a memory. They have all belonged to a dog or cat that was loved and has now crossed to Rainbow Bridge.”
“Even the tennis balls?” Brutus questioned and looked at the tatty tennis balls scattered on the floor.
“Especially the tennis balls!” Rocky smiled and placed his spectacles back on the end of his snout.
About ten minutes later Brutus reluctantly stood up. “I guess I had better go home now, Mum will be worried about me.”
“Take care my friend and remember that those you love, never really leave you – we are always around somewhere and our memories appear when you least expect them to.” Rocky gave Brutus a friendly nudge. “Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do!” Rocky said with a firm nod before jumping back on his leather chair and fiddling with the cash register.
“Goodbye Rocky and thank you!” Brutus smiled at him and walked out of the door. As the door shut behind him, Brutus realised that he had meant to ask Rocky if he would see him again. Turning round to go back in, Brutus was confused to see that the shop that he had just left, was actually nothing but a vacant building with ‘For Rent’ on the front and not the antique store that it was a few minutes ago.
Sounds of thunder rumbled in the distance and it had started to rain heavily again. Brutus shivered and looked at the shop before running home as fast as he could because he hated storms.
It was a cold and wet Brutus that arrived back home. His Mum hadn’t even noticed that he had gone and Kevin was fast asleep in his basket.
After rubbing his soaking wet body on his blankets to dry himself, Brutus inspected the toy box outside under the pergola. There were dog tugs, tennis balls, Brutus’s old tatty flappy cat which no longer had any stuffing inside, there were cracked rubber dog tugs, old honking pigs without the squeak inside them and a few old scruffy Kong toys that were there before Brutus’s time and had belonged to Rocky as a pup.
Brutus startled as he heard a noise from behind him. Three tennis balls bounced randomly on the concrete – it were as though they had been thrown from the box.
The balls were tatty and fluffed up from where Rocky used to carry them around for hours on end. They had certainly seen better days that’s for sure. But you know what, they were still OK and had some life left in them.
As Brutus carefully picked up the tennis balls one by one, he placed them back in his toy box and went back inside.
Every toy in your pets toy box tells a story and keeps the memory of the last pet that played with it, alive. Especially tennis balls, let’s not forget the tennis balls.
Samantha Rose (C) Copyright August 2020