The Day Brutus Found His Bark

Brutus finds his bark

You may remember a story that I wrote about the garbage truck and how Rocky would start the ‘Dog Choir’ in notifying the dogs on our street that the evil garbage truck was out to eat all the dogs and their families.

Brutus would wait for Rocky to start and as soon as that pesky truck came from round the corner, Brutus would dance and prance around the garden and give his best bark to assist Rocky in the warning that everyone would be eaten and turned into recycling material.

It was serious stuff and it didn’t matter how well the dogs knew and recognised that this was a weekly thing, each and every time it happened, they would treat it like a new event.

Well since my darling Rocky has crossed over to Rainbow Bridge, Brutus has been lost in a way I have never seen him lost before. Even worse than he was with Gordon, my big brown gentle giant doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.

On the Tuesday after Rocky died, we heard the garbage truck coming and wondered if Brutus would bark at it. But no, Brutus tucked himself away in the kennel and you could just see the tips of his paws sticking out as he pretended that he was anywhere but the garden that provided him with so many memories of his kelpie brother.

The boys

Brutus and Rocky in happier times

Well a couple of weeks ago something happened and I am not going to kid you, it brought a tear to my eye and trust me there have been quite a few of those happening to me lately let me tell you.

Brutus was out in the garden just before the garbage truck was due. He really didn’t want to go out at all and I had to force him, after all there is only so long one can hold ones urine for.

‘Let him out, it’s for his own good’, my husband insisted as I was getting dressed.

Brutus looked so pitiful curled up on the sofa – which has now become his bed. Yes I know, it’s a new sofa and slowly getting wrecked by Brutus and Kevin but hey ho, this sofa isn’t a patch on my Rocky dog who will hold far more fond memories and love than any leather sofa ever could.

Brutus alone

Brutus in his chair

Anyway, I digress.

Forcing Brutus to go out into the garden for his morning pee, I left him standing outside for a few mins before he walked to his kennel, climbed in and went straight back to sleep (without taking a pee I might add).

You could see his little black eye tufts covering the slits of his eyes as he tried to imagine what his brother would be up to at Rainbow Bridge – playing with Gordon probably, or tennis balls because Rocky’s life always involved tennis balls as you well know.

‘Pssst, Brutus! It’s time!’ Vader the boxer’s voice came from behind the fence.

Brutus ignored him, sighed and tucked his snout up against his bottom.

‘Pssst, Brutus – the truck is on its way, you have to start the dog choir off! We can’t do it without you, it’s the position you see – you are first in line!’ Vader barked firmly.

‘I am scared of that truck, I only barked at it because Rocky did, I can’t do it Vader, just get someone else to do it – you can do it, you have a good bark on you’, Brutus replied just quietly enough so that Vader could hear him.

Sounds of frustrated snout snuffling could be heard at the fence from Vader, ‘Brutus we depend on you bro, you have to sort this garbage truck out, for all of us. Remember what Rocky said about them eating our families and stealing our toys?’

Brutus buried his head between his paws, ‘I can’t hear you so there is no point in asking me!’.

Vader growled in frustration, it was no good, he had to do something.

A few seconds later several parrots jumped on to the fence, a lorikeet landed just by Brutus’s kennel but not quite close enough for Brutus to eat him as a snack which was quite possible.

‘Brutus my friend, you have to defend your garden and start off the suburban dog choir. Our lives depend on it’, the lorikeet said gently.

‘Go away, I could eat you if I wanted to’, Brutus said in a sad voice and he was sad, so very sad.

The brightly coloured bird stretched out his wings and admired his wing span. The lorikeet suggested to Brutus that if he was too scared to start the dog choir and bark at the garbage truck then it was highly unlikely he would be brave enough to eat a small parrot such as himself.

‘If you must know, I am scared to start it off. What if I am not up to the job, in case you haven’t noticed I am not Rocky you know!’

The lorikeet hopped on to Brutus’s paw and stared at him straight in the eyes, ‘We know you are not Rocky, nobody is saying otherwise but this is YOUR home and this is YOUR family, this is YOUR garden and now Rocky is not here, you have to defend it all and by defending your garden, you remind us to defend our gardens!’.

‘I mean how on earth are we all meant to know about everything if you don’t start the dog choir off and protect us from the garbage truck?’

‘Come on Brutus, you can do it!’ Vader shouted from his garden.

‘Come on lad, we are all going to be eaten at this rate, don’t you love your Mum and Dad and Kevin the cat enough to defend them?’ Another dog piped up from a house opposite – he had moved in a few months ago.

The sounds of the garbage truck grew closer and it would have been about this time that Rocky would have gone running round his garden while yelling ‘Save us all, save your souls and save your family! The garbage truck is here!’

This of course would have escalated the whole thing and set Vader off and dogs in the surrounding areas and a whole domino effect would have occurred and all the dogs in the suburb would be singing the songs of their people.

‘I can’t, I just can’t! I am scared! I want my brother, I want Rocky, he always knew what to do!’ Brutus sobbed.

The lorikeet flapped his wings just as a wagtail bird landed by Brutus’s kennel. ‘Well do it for Rocky, if you can’t do it for any of us, do it for Rocky’, the wagtail butted in as he hopped from one foot to the other.

‘Yes, do it for Rocky!’ Vader snorted and one by one, the dogs of the street echoed one another until all you could hear in various doggy voices was ‘Do it for Rocky!’.

Brutus stepped out of his kennel and slowly stretched his hind legs. He glanced around and could hear the dogs barking ‘Do it for Rocky’, he could now see several wagtails, about ten lorikeets, a few black cockatoos plus some doves, three galahs and two Corellas cockatoos in his garden – something Rocky would have gone ballistic over. Birds always did make Rocky furious because they had a tendency to gossip and exclude Rocky from it all.

‘Do you think he can do it?’ Vader asked the dog opposite.

‘Not sure, he seems to have fallen apart since Rocky went!’ the dog shrugged.

And as the garbage truck went past the house, the dogs waited with baited breath for Brutus to take over the warning signal which would in turn, tell them that the awful garbage truck had come to eat them and their loved ones plus steal their bones and toys like a thief in the night.

Suddenly a quiet ‘woof’ sounded, so quiet that you could barely hear it, followed by a slightly louder ‘woof’.

‘Did you hear that?’ Vader cocked his head to the side.

‘No, I don’t think so’, the dog opposite replied.

But before he got chance to say anything else, the ‘woof’ got louder and louder until there was no mistaking it.

‘Come on Brutus, you can do this my friend!’ one of the galahs encouraged him.

‘Is that Brutus?’ Vader demanded and tried to peak through the fence.

For there standing behind the wall for protection, but peaking out just enough to see the garbage truck, was Brutus. He was shaking so badly that he had urinated himself.

The ridge was up on his back as he forced himself to let out a series of barks aimed at the garbage truck.

‘They are here to kill our families, eat us all, take our toys and steal our bones, tell everyone you love, warn them so it doesn’t happen!’ Brutus’s bark got deeper as the truck got closer.

‘The truck is here! It’s going to take us all!’ Vader yelled, ‘Save yourselves and your owners, take your toys and your treats!’.

‘Save our souls! It’s a thing of evil!’ shouted the birds.

Before long every single dog and bird was shouting and chanting about the dangerous truck in the vicinity.

Meanwhile I was inside sorting some stuff out. ‘Did you hear that? I think he has found his voice!’ I said to my husband while trying not to cry. Because believe me when I say that Brutus really has lost himself since Rocky died and in so many ways.

‘Yep, it sounds like he is barking again’, my husband smiled.

‘Well done lad, well done! We all get to live another week thanks to you!’ the dog opposite barked approvingly through the fence.

‘Do you really think so?’ Brutus asked him.

‘Totally!’ Vader wagged his tail and looked absurdly proud and somewhat emotional, ‘You rock Brutus, you are our new hero!’

‘Same time next week?’ the wagtail grinned at him.

Brutus took a deep breath and nodded firmly, ‘Same time next week it is’. Then without saying another word, Brutus got back into his kennel and curled up in a tiny ball – almost as though his sudden burst of bravery had exhausted him.

‘I did it Rocky, I saved everyone and I wished you could have seen me do it’, Brutus whispered to himself.

Brutus Oct

Brutus the brave

But what Brutus didn’t see was Rocky standing behind ‘The Brutus’ tree (Brutus’s favourite Conifer tree) and wagging his tail. He didn’t appear to have any pain his hips, he looked young, fresh and full of vitality and health and judging by the proud look on his face, he had seen everything.

Picking up his beloved tennis ball from the limestone wall, Rocky gave Brutus one more glance before trotting off and disappearing as quickly as he appeared.

Our wonderful pets never leave us, their habits and behaviours can live on in so many ways and more importantly, our memories.

Dedicated to dogs everywhere – especially those that defend their families against garbage trucks.

Rocky Farm

Rocky – forever watching from wherever he is

 

Samantha Rose Copyright © October 2018

Where Did You Go My Friend….

Rocky Farm

My Best Friend – Rocky

It was Friday evening on 7th September, Rocky and I were curled up on the sofa on one end, Brutus and Kev were on the other. I was ruffling Rocky’s neck and tickling his ears when I felt a lump that I had not noticed before, my first thought was a cyst and I had seen many of those in my career as a vet nurse when I lived in the UK. ‘What’s that on your neck?’ I asked him. Staring back at me with his beautiful brown eyes now so cloudy with age, he shrugged ‘You know, I am a lumpy old dog – comes with age’.

With just the minimal pressure I had applied to the lump, I felt warm blood trickle down my hands, feeling somewhat concerned, I cleaned it up and made a mental note to book the vet the next day to get it looked at.

The next day at the vet

‘That’s not a cyst, I don’t know what that is but it’s not a cyst and it needs to be removed’, the vet looked concerned as she told me and after a discussion, Rocky was booked in for the following Tuesday for surgery to get the lump removed and biopsied to see what it was. The vet asked me to check him that evening for any other lumps and bumps so that they could investigate those while he was asleep.

We were both off on annual leave that week so at least we could be at home to look after him, we had plans to go on holiday but had shelved them – thank goodness and that was a decision that was a blessing in disguise because I shudder to think what might have happened had we gone to our usual ‘middle of nowhere’ type of trip.

Either way, it was a strange moment and even stranger feeling that I can’t explain in my usual way as you will probably gather from reading this.

We were in the car park at the vets and I was about to get in the car. Rocky looked at the car and sighed, he looked exhausted as though life had just got too much all of a sudden, or perhaps it had been a while and maybe I hadn’t noticed it. Gently lifting him on to the back seat, I kissed his head, smoothed his erect triangular ears and buckled his safety belt to his collar.

Rocky and I have always enjoyed music in the car so I turned on my Usher CD and made a face at Rocky to warn him that I would probably start singing – badly. He gave a ‘Must you Mum?’ kind of look and we both laughed.

Reversing out of the car park, I was about to indicate right but at the last minute, indicated left and engaged to go.

‘Shall we take the long way home, by the coastal route?’ I asked Rocky. It added about 15 mins on to the journey but I knew he liked it, I liked it too – the ocean always looked so spectacular at that time of the morning, well at any time of the morning really.

‘Lovely day for it’, Rocky said as he pressed his snout on the window adding to the vast selection of ‘nose art’ that I simply could not be bothered to wash off.

‘Lovely day for what?’ I said, not taking my eyes off the road but tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to the music.

Rocky shrugged, ‘I love this stretch of coastline, my favourite beaches and everything. How lucky we are to live here. Do you remember when I was on South Beach as a pup and started barking at that German man’s dog for not giving me his ball and the German man told you to stop me from shouting?’

We both laughed at the memory, it was hilarious and I could still here that miserable bastard saying ‘Your dog is shouting, you must stop him now!’ in his German accent. Of course I didn’t help matters by laughing which made him go bright red with anger, we actually thought that he might explode.

Then after the German guy had gone, Rocky managed to herd up a few other dogs and cause a canine uprising on the beach where all the dogs had refused to go back to their owners, preferring to run into the ocean in an act of rebellion instead.

Happy days they were, naughty days but happy all the same.

‘My favourite beaches!’ Rocky repeated with a smile on his face as he wistfully stared at the beautiful ocean as we drove past.

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Rocky’s pained expression at me singing along to Usher

We arrived home about twenty minutes later and I opened the car door for him to get out. ‘Come on Rocky, Brutus is waiting for you and you know how he likes to hear about your car journeys’, I said to him.

He went to stand up in the car that he so easily got into an hour or so ago, he couldn’t get out.

Rocky looked at me all confused as though he wasn’t quite sure where he was. ‘Sorry Mum, if I could just have a few minutes that would be great’.

I could see Brutus’s anxious face pressed against the living room window, his tail which was initially wagging at high speed, slowly dwindled down to a swish. His brown forehead creased with concern at why his brother hadn’t jumped out of the car with the same enthusiasm that he had got in to it.

Initially I had thought he may have wrenched his hip as he has bad hips and so carefully lifted the senior kelpie out of the car where he just stood on the ground and looked at me. He wasn’t really there, it was like part of him had suddenly left me. I grabbed his tennis ball and threw it at him, he half bent down to pick it up and then looked back up at me and said ‘No thank you’ and stood there looking confused in an ‘Are we there yet dear?’ sort of way.

That was when it hit me, he had started to shut down and I shall explain more about that later.

I took him in to the living room where he managed to get himself on the sofa and settle down. He didn’t want his tea which was a first – ever, there was no vomiting, no drinking, no salivating, no diarrhoea, but no appetite either (he did have his breakfast that morning though).

Later that evening

We were all curled up on the sofa – me, Rocky, Brutus and Kevin, all snuggled up under a blanket. As the vet had shaved round the lump on his neck near his gland, I was able to get a good look at it and it looked nasty, it did not look innocent by any stretch of the imagination. It looked as though a hard piece of meat had erupted through his skin and I could see why the vet was concerned.

Now a few months back, Rocky presented with rapid respiration and fast heartbeat and as an ex veterinary nurse, I was quick to ask for Xrays and bloods – all were normal except for an ever so slightly enlarged liver and spleen (as reported by a radiographer), which was listed as unremarkable as that can happen in older animals having general anesthesia. His breathing settled down again and everything was fine – until now.

And it was now that Rocky’s belly looked swollen – not bloat swollen, but like it was ‘full of something’ swollen and it had only just happened on the journey home. He couldn’t really get comfortable. But in hindsight though and in recent months Rocky had started to adopt a strange position on the sofa where he would lie on his chest with his head propped up on the back of the chair, funny to look at but just another Rocky type quirk we put it down to – a bit like him barking at the stars at night for daring to shine in his garden.

‘Mum, what’s up with Rocky?’ Brutus asked me. He looked concerned and confused.

Rocky looked at me and I looked at him, his eyes were changing, it was like he was packing to leave his body, to leave me, to leave us.

Rocky’s eyes starting to glaze over

‘You’re leaving me aren’t you?’ I blurted out at him and then burst into noisy sobs as I clung on to his little body. In between my sobs, I could feel Brutus trying to lick my arms while saying ‘Mum, is Rocky going to wear tweed?’ (animals do tend to wear tweed when they cross over to Rainbow Bridge).

When my husband arrived home later that night, he was visibly shocked at the sight of our little kelpie dog who appeared to be shrinking in front of our eyes.

‘Tomorrow we book him in at the vets’, I said to my husband. ‘I shall sleep in the spare room with him tonight in case he needs me’, I added.

As for Rocky, he gave a tired smile and mouthed the words ‘Thank you’ to both of us.

That night my little ‘beetle dog’ (as I called him), snuggled up to me in the spare bedroom, he felt cold so I covered him with my duvet. As he slept and relaxed a little, I stroked him over his abdomen where to my horror, I could feel a firm lump and the surrounding area did not feel right either. No wonder this dog had been uncomfortable and no wonder he had tensed up on examination but one thing was certain, whatever had happened, had occurred quickly.

Sunday Morning – 9th September

It was my husbands birthday and we had planned to go out for breakfast and then take the boys out. Obviously that had been cancelled and we were now at the vets.

The waiting room was empty except for us and a small dog and his human. The little dog was doing rude gestures at Rocky and barking at various things that had upset him. Normally this would have been enough to set Rocky in to a full on aggression frenzy of rude words and insults, but today Rocky just ignored him which surprised both us and the vet.

I won’t go into the full conversation between us and the vet, it is too painful for me to talk about let alone even think about and go over. But I will tell you that when Rocky had his chest X-rays all those months ago, I made a comment saying to the vet that it wouldn’t surprise me if Rocky had cancer and there was something nasty going on.

Don’t ask me what made me think it, it was a feeling that I had and I have always been intuitive with my animals and those in my care when I worked as a veterinary nurse. Rocky’s gums were a bit pale but his bloods came back normal.

We even paid extra to have the X-rays reported on by a radiographer and as I mentioned earlier – they came back ‘unremarkable’ – normal, except for a slightly enlarged liver/spleen which can happen when old dogs have anaesthetics. Yet despite those normal findings, my gut instinct and the way in which Rocky was looking at me, told me that something was seriously wrong. We just couldn’t put our finger on it and believe me it wasn’t for the lack of trying and veterinary check ups/tests either.

The tumour on Rocky’s neck looked nasty, his belly was now firm and very sore and when the vet went to palpate it, my husband said his face showed tremendous pain and discomfort.

His eyes had started to glaze over – well they had actually started doing that the day before as the vet had noticed something wasn’t right but again, things had escalated overnight.

Suddenly things had started to make sense, in recent weeks Rocky would go from trotting around to walking oh-so-slowly past the window, looking visibly uncomfortable and I had assumed it was his hips bothering him. His breath had started to smell foul – it wasn’t his teeth because they were excellent for a ten year old kelpie that had 4 monthly checks at the vet for his hip injections, his yearly boosters/health checks – we were on top of that stuff and always had been.

The vet had noticed that Rocky for the first time ever, had ignored a dog in the waiting room and shown no interest in it and more concerning, it was a dog that was barking and growling at him. Rocky usually has to be taken to a separate room when there are other dogs around, but on that day it was like that other dog did not exist, he simply did not see him.

How did we miss it? How did we not see his suffering? Perhaps we did but as the vet said, kelpies are excellent at hiding their illness/injuries until by the time they are showing signs and symptoms, they are at crisis point.

This was a different vet to the one we saw on Saturday but she quickly agreed that the growth on Rocky’s neck (by his lymph glands) had appeared quickly and seemingly at an alarming rate and on closer inspection, did not look harmless.

I will never as long as I live, forget Rocky’s tired expression as he sat in that consult room, how bad his eyes were, his face, his pain when his abdomen was palpated, but most of all, his face the day before when I threw his tennis ball to him and he had decided that enough was enough, no more ball, no more fluffy penguin, no more games – he was done.

My Rocky

My Rocky – ready to cross that bridge

I swore blind that I would be more observant with my pets after letting Gordon go on for longer than was fair to him, I swore and promised that it would never happen again. But my Rocky was so good at hiding stuff and I certainly recall asking my husband last week if we were being cruel with Rocky as lately even since his last vet visit, he seemed to be uncomfortable and his breathing was at times, becoming a struggle again and had started to not want to get off his bed to go out for a game in the garden.

‘Are you coming for a game of ball Rocky?’ I would say to him, he would just blink at me and remain where he was and I would make a joke about him preferring his bed to our company. Why did I not pick up on that?

My head could not grasp how well he could be one moment and then the next, barely be able to walk and look so unwell.

The hardest decision for us but the kindest for Rocky

After an in depth discussion with the vet, we made the heartbreaking decision to let him go. The tumour on his neck was most likely to be cancerous and I think that was just the tip of the iceberg to be truthful. The enlarged spleen/liver although reported as normal, the tender abdomen and the lumps that had been felt, his whole appearance, behaviour and eyes completing the bigger picture. The fact that he had stopped eating, no longer wanted his ball and no longer gave a stuff about a dog having a go at him in the waiting room.

The vet was honest enough and said they could go out to investigate and open him up, remove his tumours – test them, and if required or appropriate, give him chemo – we were insured and even if we were not, we were going to pull money from our house (we have done that before).

I made a point of asking the vet that if she thought it was the wrong decision, would she tell me, be honest with me because although I am an ex veterinary nurse, the boundaries often become blurred when it comes to letting go of your pets when the right time comes and the decision has to be the best one because it is not something you can take back.

The vet agreed that it was the kindest thing to do and she would not even contemplate it had she not believed in it. And looking at Rocky at that precise point, we decided to let him go with what dignity he had left rather than put him through surgery, scans and treatment to extend his life for what? And more to the point, for whose benefit?

Goodbye my beautiful, special darling dog – Rocky

Rocky was taken out the back to have his IV line put in, he willingly went off with the vet, he has known the staff for ten years, they know him well and vice versa. He is more than comfortable with them.

He walked back in albeit a little stiffly, you could see his abdomen was uncomfortable, his eyes were tired, the bald patch where his neck had been clipped to show the tumour from the day before.

My last kiss

Right to the end he comforted me

If you looked ever so carefully and had my kind of imagination, you could see Rocky wearing an old tweed suit, while clutching a tatty brown briefcase and a peaked tweed cap.

My heart was pounding in my chest, I wanted to vomit – dear God what was I doing? Should I put him through surgery, chemo, could I continue to turn a blind eye to his discomfort, how much more should I or could I put him through? I didn’t want him to leave but I knew he couldn’t stay.

The vet had the two syringes in her hand, these syringes contained ‘Rainbow Juice’ which is what I call the drug that sends our pets to Rainbow Bridge. Rocky sat on some comfy soft blankets on the floor and I sat beside him and my husband sat in front of him. This was so we could be the last people he saw, felt and heard.

‘So, this is it then, I must admit that I am looking forward to not feeling quite so rubbish’, Rocky gave a half smile to me. His kelpie spectacles were neatly perched on the end of his nose, his peaked cap and tweed suit looking quite dapper but smelling of mothballs.

‘I am so sorry Rocky, I am so very very sorry I didn’t realise how sick you were’, I cried into his fur, memorizing every single part of him. I had taken photos earlier but now I wanted more memories because in a second they would be all I had.

‘Yeah well, these things tend to creep up on us, tumours are a bugger like that’, Rocky shrugged and licked my face as I cried (see photo above).

‘I love you so much, I don’t know what I am going to do without you, how will I manage without you?’ I stared at him – oh my god, how the hell did I miss not realising how sick this dog was?

‘You are going to have to keep Kevin in line, he is a bully and he walks all over you!’ Rocky laughed. Actually there was no love lost between him and Kevin to be honest. Rocky had gone for Kev a few times and Kev had given as good as he got but that very morning we took Rocky to his final journey, Kevin sat close to Rocky and Rocky allowed him to.

Kev and Rocky

The way Kevin looked at Rocky that morning, he knew he was sick.

I felt his little body start to relax against mine – the ‘Rainbow Juice’ had started it’s journey into Rocky’s body and in turn, Rocky had started his journey over the bridge with the people that he loved the most right beside him – his human family.

‘Oh Mum, look at that – tennis balls and sheep! They are everywhere, can you see them? Oh my god, it’s Gordon, can I go to him? This is fantastic, I feel fantastic! Can you see it all?’ Rocky said sleepily, ‘Can’t you see it?’

But before I had the chance to answer, Rocky had left me and was running over the bridge to where Bowie the white greyhound and ‘Gatekeeper’ of the bridge was waiting to welcome him to a new life of where pain and illness do not exist and animals can have a life that only you and I can dream about.

The last thing I saw before it all disappeared, was my old cat Gordon gazing up at Rocky as they both trotted across the bridge to where a group of sheep were cheering at Rocky’s arrival.

R and B

Rocky and Gordon together again

I pleaded with him not to leave me – long after he went. I cradled his little body and broke down. I cried until I thought my heart would break and three weeks on as I write this, I am crying now.

‘Please don’t leave me Rocky, I love you so very much’ I sobbed, but he had gone and it was looking at his worn out and sick body lying on the blankets, that I knew my little old kelpie deserved better than biopsies and chemo/invasive surgery and bad hips.

I don’t know how long I remained on the floor holding my boy, but I do know it was for a while as I repeatedly said sorry to him. I don’t even remember getting up to leave either, but as I did, I glanced round and I swear to God I could imagine that old tweed suit crumpled up on the ground, with the peaked cap and kelpie spectacles on the floor next to the tatty briefcase.

Pippin Potter the Italian Greyhound’s house

Pippin Potter the Iggy – Brutus’s good friend had taken a telephone call. Bronte and her new sister Latte were having coffee in the garden while discussing puppies and stuff.

Suddenly Pippin’s phone rang, picking it up and dabbing his pointy snout, he replied ‘Pippin Potter here’.

Bronte looked up at her brother through the window and saw Pippin take a deep breath and compose himself.

‘I see, yes, we shall be right there’, Pippin said curtly and without saying a word, he and his Mum Denise quickly got into the car and drove off.

My House

We arrived home from the vet and I cannot even begin to explain to you how hard it was to drive back into my garden and see Rocky’s kennel and toys where we left them. The tennis ball that I threw to him the other night when he refused it was exactly where I left it, the garden looked so empty.

Brutus’s face pressed against the sliding door, he looked as anxious as when we had left him. His tail no longer wagging, his eyes frantically darted round to find his brother.

‘Mum, where is Rocky? Where is Rocky?’ Brutus barked loudly again and again.

Getting on to the sofa with Brutus, I clutched my big brown dog as I explained that Rocky had gone to Rainbow Bridge.

For some time afterwards, Brutus searched for Rocky, getting quite distressed when he saw Rocky’s collar and leash. My poor sensitive and gentle dog could not and would not settle and to this very day, he appears lost without Rocky.

Brutus toy

Brutus the day after Rocky died with his toy that our friend bought him.

Pippin Potter

Pippin is the head of the Iggy Club, he runs pretty much everything in it really and if you have followed my stories about the Italian greyhounds, you will know him very well.

Pippin arrived at my house with his Mum, I opened the door to let them in and Pippin took Brutus aside to talk to him.

‘I don’t think I know what to do without my brother?’ What do I do Pippin?’ Brutus said to his little friend. He tried so hard to be a brave dog but a life with Rocky was the only life he had ever known, he did not know how to ‘dog’ without him.

Placing a paw on Brutus’s head, Pippin then bent down and gently licked Brutus’s face, ‘You take charge of your garden and house, you put one paw in front of the other and you slowly but surely carry on. Your Mum needs you’. Pippin said firmly, ‘You’ve got this Brutus, you’ve got this’.

Brutus said nothing, Pippin said nothing but both dogs just sat there quietly while the tiny Italian greyhound frequently touched Brutus with his paw just to let him know he was there.

Pip and Brutus 1

I’ve got you buddy, I’ve got you

The kiss

This was taken a couple of hours after Rocky went, Pippin cleaned Brutus’s snout

‘Pippin?’ Brutus asked him a few minutes later.

‘Yes Brutus?’ Pippin replied.

‘How will I know how to protect my house without Rocky?’ Brutus sniffed and wiped his eyes.

Pippin looked at him thoughtfully before responding, ‘One day it will come to you and one day when that time is right, you will do it’.

Nothing more was said between the two boys but Pippin managed to send a group message to the Iggy club saying ‘Rainbow Bridge update – the Kelpie has landed’, while discreetly dabbing his eyes with his silk handkerchief.

Rockyfarmdog

The Kelpie has landed

So what now?

The house is different, Kevin seems to have taken over everything and I mean everything. He initially was unsettled, unhappy and more aggressive than normal but is getting better.

He and Brutus play fight more now, they chase each other round the house, Brutus has started to pounce like a cat which is a bit ridiculous and Kevin is back to humping his blankets with his toys in his mouth which is even more so.

Will we get a second dog? No, I don’t think we will. But I would be lying if I said that I miss having a kelpie because that is my favourite breed of dog ever. My health isn’t good enough for two dogs but if (and it’s a massive ‘if), we were to get another dog, we would look at a middle aged rescue kelpie in need of a loving home rather than a pup.

The harsh realities of pet bereavement

Losing Rocky has broken me and I don’t mind admitting it. Now I don’t give a stuff if someone thinks it is an over reaction or it is ‘just a dog’ because it is dogs that give us companionship, loyalty, service (as working dogs), and trust, and they expect nothing in return. So I make no excuses or apologies for the grief that I am showing for my kelpie because he was my dog, my mate and I was lucky to have had him in my life.

Thanks to…

Thank you to Spearwood Vets (once again), for their kindness, care and compassion that was shown to Rocky, my husband and myself on that day and thank you for the beautiful flowers as well.

Flowers

Flowers from our lovely vets

Paw print jpg. 2

Sent to us by our vets – a lasting memory

Samantha Rose © Copyright September 2018

All rights reserved.

Never too old for some magic

Kev1

Kevin – he has carved his own place into our home, hearts and legs/hands/feet

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

The Brutus Tree

Brutus asks Rocky to stand by The Brutus Tree

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Today Brutus and Rocky were in the garden by ‘The Brutus Tree’ – which is Brutus’s favourite tree, the one he likes to stand under and gaze at for hours on end, especially when it is a full moon.

It all happens under this tree, doggy meetings, trying to pull next doors cat out of it, chasing rats up the tree, catching rats, staring at the tree because invisible dogs might come out of it. You name it, it happens under The Brutus Tree. Rocky doesn’t quite get the magic of it all but does enjoy chatting over a dog beer with Brutus under the tree while putting the world to rights.

It was a beautiful sunny morning in the garden, there was that smell of freshly cut grass mixed with warm sun and fresh air that makes you think that Spring is on its way along with excitement, rabbits, smelly bones, fox shit and opportunities.

‘Do you know what day it is today Brutus?’ Rocky asked his brother.

Without even turning round, Brutus cocked his head to the side, ‘Why yes, it’s Mum’s day off of course’, he said happily and carried on staring at his tree.

Rocky rolled his eyes, ‘Have another think about it!’.

Brutus slowly turned to face Rocky, ‘Yes of course I know, I just don’t want to talk about it.’ then shrugging, Brutus walked to his water bowl where he could be heard slurping up his water in messy great big gulps while Rocky looked on trying to decide whether or not to play with his tennis ball or chase the invisible dogs that frequented our garden.

‘Rocky?’ Brutus asked the little kelpie.

‘Yes Brutus?’

‘Come and sit by the tree with me.’ Brutus said firmly.

‘Why?’ Rocky frowned, ‘You are obsessed with that tree!’

‘Special things happen under that tree, you mark my words.’ Brutus said knowingly.

Rocky got up and went to join his brother where they both sat upright and focused on the top of the tree.

‘Why are we doing this, what will happen?’ Rocky asked him.

‘You will have to trust me on this one….’ Brutus growled. And with that, Rocky had to do just that.

Inside the house

I was making myself a coffee while taking frequent glances at Kevin to see what he was up to. His solid fluffy ginger body was wrapped around Rockys blanket. His back legs bicycling furiously as they kicked, Kevin repeatedly muttered stuff such as ‘Bollocks’ and ‘Death to all humans’ as he fought and won a nasty battle with the red blanket on Rocky’s bed.

Basically everyone was going about their business, it was a typical Sunday morning with nothing unusual about it.

I walked into the spare room which is meant to be an office but kind of looks a bit messy as other stuff has migrated into it. You know what it’s like, put it out of sight and it’s out of mind and your spare room fast becomes a home for things that have no other home but still gets called ‘the office’.

I took in the sight of the room and its clutter and remembered how it used to be. The grey plastic bed on the floor, the litter tray, the food bowls, the toys but most importantly, Gordon.

This was Gordon’s room, or at least it used to be. He loved that room as well, where as Kevin just didn’t like to be in it which is why we moved him to the front room so he could see the parrots and the dogs. But Gordon really loved his room.

Room

Gordon’s room after he crossed over to Rainbow Bridge – oh so empty!

Photograph by Samantha Rose)

I felt a lump in my throat, it was exactly a year ago today that we sent our precious Gordon to Rainbow Bridge and I remember it clearly as though it were yesterday. Driving along to the vets while playing Lion King – Circle of Life in the car as we drove our 15 year old majestic ginger cat to complete his final journey from London to Perth.

You can read about that here.

I still miss him and while it sounds daft to some, the gap he left in our house was and still is enormous. Kevin has not replaced Gordon by any stretch, but he has carved out his own place – both in our house, in our hearts, on our leather sofa and on my legs/hands/arms (with his nails).

‘I miss you Gordon, I miss you so much it hurts,’ I said out loud to nobody in particular. Biting my lip to stop myself crying, I walked into the dining room to see what Kev was up to. Spotting him playing with the blinds and shredding the shit out of the dining room chair, I smiled and went back towards the kitchen.

‘Well he’s a handful isn’t he? In my day we had more respect’ A ginger voice piped up from out of nowhere. A familiar ginger well spoken English ginger voice and one that could simply not be mistaken.

‘I said in my day we had more respect!’ The voice repeated loudly.

I felt my heart racing, taking a deep breath I turned round – Kev was still playing, oblivious to everything, he had heard nothing. I could no longer hear him swearing (Kev has Tourettes and swears like a trooper as you can gather). Kev’s mouth was opening and closing, I could see him mouthing the word ‘Bollocks’ but no sound was coming out.

‘Your eyesight is failing you, we shall need to get you a Labrador to guide you,’ The ginger voice laughed.

I quickly looked into the dining room again and there sitting on the orange sofa that was once his, was Gordon looking young, fit and handsome with his ginger coat looking thick and plush.

Gordon June 18

Gordon – making a guest appearance in my imagination

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Gordon, no way! I thought only animals could see each other once they have crossed over, I must be dreaming!’ I babbled and then promptly burst into tears.

‘Yes, well you always have been a bit special. What is it with you talking to the parrots in the morning, such a traitor – you can’t trust those galahs you know!’ Gordon grinned at me and then looked at Kevin who did not appear to see myself or Gordon.

‘You have been through the wars haven’t you,’ Gordon said as he weaved himself in and out of my ankles, ‘I have been watching you.’

I wiped my eyes and sniffed, ‘It’s been a tough year and Kev is hard work.’

Gordon laughed, ‘I could eat that for breakfast!’ he nodded at Kevin who continued to fight with himself on the floor.

‘I am so sorry, so very very sorry!’ I blurted out, and I was as well. Sorry for keeping him longer than was good for him, sorry for not doing what was right for him sooner and just, well sorry for anything I may not have done right.

‘You did what was right in the end and life is pretty good now you know,’ Gordon replied. ‘In fact, it’s rather marvellous, besides – I couldn’t have done it without that final cuddle.’

me and Gordon

That final cuddle to send him on his way

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Sitting beside him on the orange sofa, I pleaded inside my head that Kevin would notice us – but he didn’t or couldn’t.

‘He can’t see me you know, his time for seeing me is done and it is also his time to become the cat of the house. He has no need to see me.

‘This is your turn and you are exceedingly lucky to have it,’ Gordon explained and snuggled into me and added, ‘Not all humans get that chance.’

He had the same delicious ‘cat smell’ that I remembered, he felt so plush and soft, yet solid in build. His purr was loud and comforting it and his health was as it used to be when he was young.

We sat for what seemed ages chatting about Rainbow Bridge, about Rocky and Brutus, about Kevin and our lives as they are now.

‘Well I had better go now, I have a mouse meeting at Rainbow Bridge shortly and I don’t want that tabby down the road getting the upper hand,’ Gordon stood up, shook his tail and had a good stretch.

Oh no, it was going to hurt all over again and I simply could not stand it. ‘Do you have to go, can’t you stay long enough for the dogs to see you? Please, I will do anything!’ I pleaded with him.

Gordon yawned, his eyes focused on me while Kev still played and swore silently on his own and in his own world. As though an invisible yet unbreakable barrier separated us. I actually do not know who was in their own world, myself and Gordon or Kevin.

‘One last hug?’ I asked him.

‘Go on then!’ Gordon relented and allowed me to pick him up.

Gasping at his weight, he must have weighed over 7kgs, ‘I am in my prime don’t forget,’ Gordon laughed.

I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent, cradled his solid body, smoothed his fur and felt his purr as it rattled out of his throat.

(you will often find your cats/dogs will smell unique to you and have their own wonderful smell and if you don’t believe me, go and sniff them).

‘Goodbye my darling boy and thank you!’ I cried quietly into his fur.

‘No, thank YOU!’ Gordon whispered back.

My moment was rudely interrupted when a voice yelled, ‘What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? Have you got some kind of death wish?’ Kevin’s voice ripped through my ears like a child with a sinus problems (Kev sounds like a kid with bad adenoids when he meows).

What the heck? – Ouch that hurt!’ I opened my eyes just in time to feel Kev latch on to my arm and kick the shit out of it. I had been cuddling Kevin all along.

‘I do not DO cuddles – ever!’ Kev said looking absolutely furious. Then jumping out of my arms, he walked off taking his floofy arse with him and went into his litter tray.

‘No, I guess you don’t….’ I half laughed, half cried and wiped my eyes. Kev was in his litter tray muttering something about ‘shitting for Australia’.

‘Don’t know what you are looking so happy about, I’ve got turd in my pantaloons and you will have to brush it out!’ Kev hissed at me and took a swipe at my leg.

I walked over to the window and saw Rocky and Brutus under the Brutus Tree, still staring at it without moving or even blinking.

Outside in the garden

‘Are we done yet? Can we stop staring at the tree?’ Rocky said impatiently.

Brutus turned round and saw me looking at him through the patio door. I smiled at him, he looked so cute with his huge ears and big brown bum.

Brutus wagged his tail, ‘Yeah, I think we are done now!’

‘I still don’t get what is so special about that tree?’ Rocky shook his head.

‘It’s magic that’s all, it just makes things happen,’ Brutus replied as he admired his tree.

Later on

We were all curled up on the sofa – well we had given Kevin had a wide berth as he likes to attack feet but other than that, we were snuggled up about as much as you can with a ginger ‘kitten shark’.

‘Mum, can you believe that it’s a year today that Gordon left us,’ Rocky nudged me with his snout.

I smoothed Rocky’s ears down and told him that yes, I knew that and it is also coming up for a year that we bought Kevin home.

‘And don’t you forget it either! I could eat you all if I wanted to!’ Kev growled and then bit my foot hard (no really he did bite me and I have the scar to prove it).

‘Yeah and don’t we know it! I heard that you tried to eat the vet and the nurse yesterday when they tried to cut your nails!’ Brutus said to Kev before looking at Rocky and saying ‘He did you know and rumours have it, he tied them both up and cooked them for tea with nachos!’

Kev said nothing and looked somewhat smug curled up on his blanket with his beloved squeaky squirrel between his paws. He had found his place in our little family and he knew it.

‘Brutus?’ Kevin asked him.

‘Yes Kev,’ Brutus said hesitantly while trying to tuck his legs under him to stop Kev savaging them.

‘Can I ask you about that tree in the garden…..?’ Kevin replied.

Brutus looked at Kev with a surprisingly wise look for such a young dog, ‘It’s a magic tree Kevin and one day when you are old enough, I shall tell you all about it.’

And with that Kevin had to be content.

Magic – we all need a bit of it in our lives, it just helps the world go round.

 

The End

 

Samantha Rose Copyright © August 2018

The Day We Walked With Gordon

Gordon

Gordon

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Wednesday 23rd August 2017

‘Will you walk with me Mum? You promised?’ Gordon asked me as we both sat on the sofa. His beautiful green eyes now speckled with age, his once 7kg frame now barely touching 4kgs.

His eyes bore into mine, searching for my response – almost pleading for it.

I bit my lip and hesitated. He was right, I had always promised him that I would walk with him right by his side and I was not about to let him down now.

‘We will both walk with you, one of us either side and will be proud to do it Gordon’ I reassured him, ‘Even if you did put your teeth through my finger that time causing me to have tetanus’.

‘Yeah, about that…….’ Gordon laughed.

Suddenly Brutus came running into the living room with his gingerbread man in his mouth. ‘What are you talking about? Is it me? Everyone always talks about me because I am nice!’

‘Not everything is about you Brutus,’ Rocky snapped at him and went back to reading his newspaper – ‘The Kelpie Times’.

‘Well I heard you saying about walking with Gordon so thought I might be invited’ Brutus wagged his tail and cleared the table of its contents in the process.

Gordon stared at him ‘No Brutus’ he said firmly, ‘Just no’.

Saturday 26th August 2017

‘Mum! Mum! Why is Gordon wearing a tweed suit?’ Brutus yelled.

Rocky glanced up and saw Gordon standing there looking rather odd and if not out of place, wearing a tatty tweed suit – the type old people wear.

‘It is a day for tweed and I am dressed for that occasion’ Gordon replied as Brutus tried to clean his bum, ‘and one day my friend, you too will wear tweed’.

‘What occasion? I have never noticed that suit before either?’ Rocky looked puzzled and then after a few minutes, he realized what it was about and said nothing further.

Brutus stood there with his gingerbread man in his mouth, his tail had stopped wagging, ‘I don’t understand’ was all he said and then dropped gingerbread man on the floor and walked back to his bedroom looking confused muttering something about tweed suits, old men and mothballs.

A short while later

 ‘Where are you going? Can I come’ Brutus pleaded. ‘Are you are taking Gordon to the vet? You always take us when he goes, shall we get in the car now?’

‘Brutus, come and sit with me’ Rocky said firmly and patted the mattress on his bed to gesture for Brutus to sit down.

‘But we always make these trips as a family!’ Brutus started to bark and then realizing it wasn’t going to have any effect, he jumped on the bed beside Rocky.

‘I don’t understand’ Brutus repeated and nudged Rocky in the ribs for reassurance.

Gordon looked at Abdel and myself, he stared up at each of us ‘Will you walk with me now?’

‘Of course’ I replied and we took him to the car leaving Brutus with his face pressed up against the window wondering why he had been left behind. Rocky sat upright on his bed rigid like a bookend staring at us through the glass, as the car pulled out of the garage while Brutus repeatedly mouthed ‘I don’t understand’.

In the car

‘What are you doing?’ Abdel asked me as I grappled with my phone while trying to balance Gordon in his basket on my knee in the front seat.

‘Lion King – The Circle of Life’ I replied simply, ‘It reminds me of Gordon’. I turned the radio down and put Lion King on full blast on my phone.

‘Now that’s more like it’, Gordon laughed.

‘Do you remember when I got tickets to Lion King and held you above my head like Simba?’ I reminded him.

LionKing

Gordon – my very own Lion King

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Remember? How could I forget!’ Gordon replied. ‘I believe that this song was written for me’.

‘Yes Gordon, I believe it was’. I agreed and turned up the volume on my phone.

Feeling his ginger fur stick out through the wire squares in his cat basket, I smoothed him down and touched him, memorizing every single part of him.

‘How about the time in London when we had a guy round to measure up for blinds and he didn’t like animals. You jumped into his over sized laundry bag and all I saw was it shifting across the living room with you inside it.

‘I had to grab you and throw you across the living room before he saw you, and I managed it as well. He never did notice that you had damaged some of the stuff in his bag’. (This is actually true, it was in our flat in London)

Gordon laughed.

‘It’s not been a bad 15 years has it?’ Gordon looked up at Abdel and myself.

‘It’s been the best my friend, it’s been the best’. Abdel said quietly and carried on driving.

And in that journey to the vets we laughed, we talked, we played ‘Circle of Life’ as loud as we could while knowing that our very own Lion King was on the front seat of our car in his basket.

And so we walked….

‘Are we there yet?’ Gordon asked Abdel.

‘Nearly Gordon, nearly’ Abdel replied.

‘How will I know when I am there?’ Gordon looked at me.

‘Because you just will’ I patted his head.

‘Hold on a minute, I can see something, look at that over there – I can see towels hanging on the trees!’ Gordon shouted excitedly. His long slender ginger legs with pink toes like little beans, his nails gripped on to my jumper.

The finaltowel

The final towel – the night before Gordon left us, he didn’t eat it

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Gordon looked at Abdel and myself and then looked ahead of him. As if conflicted, he kept alternating his gaze between us, and what he could see in front of him.

As we got closer I could see a large white greyhound waiting at the gate. He wore a glamorous soft red martingale collar with a golden disk around his neck saying ‘Bowie’ on one side and ‘Gate Keeper’ on the other. Clutching a clipboard he was ticking names off and greeting various animals that were lined up to go in.

‘Hello there, you must be Gordon – I have heard all about you. You look very smart in your suit; it’s the perfect day for tweed! These must be your humans who I must say are jolly privileged to see this’, Bowie greeted him affectionately.

‘Will you come and make my bed?’ Gordon asked Abdel hopefully, ‘And put sardines in my bowl and smooth my head down?’

Abdel looked down at Gordon, not quite believing what he was seeing or what was happening. He rubbed Gordon’s ears and stroked his back over the tatty tweed suit.

Abdel.1

He promised he would ‘walk’ with him to Rainbow Bridge – and walk with him he did

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Sorry Gordon, your humans can’t go beyond this point, it’s not their time’ the greyhound said gently to Gordon who looked panic stricken at the thought of not being with us.

‘But they need me, and I need them’ Gordon protested, his long nails defiantly gripped my arms.

Bowie smiled, ‘I know my friend but they and you, are going to be just fine, I promise’.

‘Well I guess this is it then, you said you would walk with me and I guess you did’, Gordon said after a few minutes.

‘What do I do now?’ Gordon asked Bowie the greyhound.

‘There are some towels hanging on the washing line and they have your name on them’ Bowie encouraged him.

‘Maybe tomorrow, I am a bit sore today and tired, I am so very tired’ Gordon yawned.

‘Try it, you never know it might be OK’ Bowie nudged him with his long white snout.

Gordon nervously walked ahead and was surprised that his joints didn’t hurt him. There were several brightly coloured towels all clipped on a washing line and blowing in the breeze as though they were enticing Gordon to get closer and shred them.

Cats were scattered around on chairs, trees or just chasing butterflies. Some were playing with dogs, some were eating and some were having a catnip party and were off their faces on catnip while playing a game of poker.

I stepped forward to get a better look at him but Bowie blocked my way. ‘No further for you my friend, this is our world now and your place is with your boys at home. We have got this covered’, Bowie winked at me and wagged his tail.

‘Oh and Samantha?’ Bowie asked, ‘Don’t you tell the other humans what you have seen today, they will get jealous and we can’t have that now can we!’

Abdel and I took one last look at Gordon who started running towards the towels, he then looked back at us as if to get permission to chew them. The next minute he pulled a towel off the line and was bicycling furiously with his hind legs kicking the fabric, while shouting ‘bollocks’ and his tweed old-man-suit had been replaced by a luxurious silky ginger coat that tends to be worn by the young, fit and healthy cats.

I looked round at Abdel and then back towards Bowie and in that split second of looking away, Bowie was gone as was Gordon.

Back to reality

Abdel and I kept our promise to walk with him to Rainbow Bridge and that is exactly what we did.

Gordon had a cannula placed in his arm and then he was handed back to us all cuddled up in his blue blanket. I sat in a chair and he sat on my lap while my husband stroked his head and the vet crouched down to my level and told Gordon just how loved he was.

He went quickly, so very quickly – I knew he would, he was so frail and the moment he was removed from his basket it was like his illness and years had caught up with him. Gordon looked exhausted, he looked sick and had been holding it together in the home but once at the vets, there was no further need to do that because he was ready to go.

Once out of his basket it was like someone had turned the lights on and we could clearly see how tired and sick he was. It was no longer about our selfish needs to keep him, it was about his need to go on the final journey of sleep that he so rightly deserved.

me and Gordon

Goodbye my darling cat

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

His huge personality left with his little heartbeat, leaving behind his old body on the vet’s table. I cried that embarrassing sobbing that you can’t control that vets and nurses have seen so many times before.

Since when did he get so tiny, so thin and so frail? How did such a big cat with a huge personality get so small? I held him in my arms, we both did – he felt so small but still warm like he was asleep. Where did he go, where did you go Gordon, did we do the right thing? Why does it hurt so much and why do we feel so guilty?

Our hearts were breaking as we cradled our little cat of 15 years who we had brought over to Perth from the Motherland over 9 years ago. The cat that had seen us through the toughest times, the death of my Mum, some serious health problems, a few house moves, moving to Australia and when my husband was nearly killed in a car accident. Gordon was the one constant in our lives and whatever happened, he was there at home ready to bite us and shred the towels and say ‘bollox’ whenever we told him off.

Baby Gordon

Gordon aged 9 weeks old

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Gordon doing his time at Byford Quarantine in 2008

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Gordon and Brutus

A very special bond between Gordon and Brutus

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Empty Basket

We walked out clutching our empty white wire basket that we have had for years, in fact it belonged to our old cats Bruno and Juniper and I walked out of the vets with it empty when they crossed to Rainbow Bridge as well.

It was a painful drive back home; I kept the basket on my knee as though Gordon were still in it. He always travelled in the front and it didn’t seem right to put the basket in the back. I remember thinking that the basket would probably never get used again because no way could I ever face getting another cat – ever.

Rocky and Brutus

‘I still don’t understand?’ Brutus said to Rocky.

‘Brutus, when an animal goes to Rainbow Bridge it is customary for them to wear a tatty tweed suit and once they pass over, they regain their beautiful coat again along with their health’ Rocky explained.

‘Tweed suit? But Gordon was wearing a tweed suit this morning’ Brutus gasped, his eyes looking around the room for his brother.

dogs1

Photo taken the day after Gordon died – the quietest they had ever been

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Gordon! Gordon! Stop hiding, it’s not funny any more, come on Gordon, where are you?’ Brutus was frantic as he ran into Gordon’s bedroom to check for his brother.

Gordon’s grey plastic bed with his brown fluffy blanket and his stuffed reindeer in it remained untouched with all his other toys lying around plus a bowl of cat chow and a bowl of water from that morning. Although the room was full of Gordon’s stuff, it was empty of Gordon. I had to clean that room when we got back which was hard.

empty room

The empty room, too clean, too tidy and not right

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘He’s gone Rocky, he’s gone!’ Brutus cried and when the realization hit him, he kept howling even the calming influence of Rocky couldn’t console him.

Back home

Once we were back home I took the basket in to Gordon’s room and placed it on the floor and started crying again. There was a Gordon sized gap that had been left in our home and I knew that the animal dynamics were going to change because of it. I didn’t know how they would change, just that they would.

I suddenly felt a wet nose on my face as both of my boys came into Gordon’s room. They pressed themselves up against me and both tried to wash my face.

‘Don’t cry Mum, I don’t like it when you cry’ Brutus kept swallowing which he always does when he is nervous. Rocky rested his head on my knee, he said nothing but kept pressing his head into me and licking whatever bit of me he could reach.

My house was quieter, the dogs were out of sorts and I could now leave the bathroom door open without my towels getting chewed. Did I like it? No I didn’t, nice towels are overrated and nice towels are shit.

I missed my little cat, I couldn’t bring myself to throw his stuff away or even give it away; I just couldn’t do it. I bagged it up and put it in the spare room.

We had Gordon privately cremated – something I never thought that I would do or would even consider. For some reason I changed my mind and I am glad that I did because we get comfort in knowing that Gordon is still with us in his own way (he is on the bookcase).

In my stories Gordon swears a bit (as many of you that follow my animal stories will know), his favourite word in my stories is ‘Bollox’ – and that is how he spells it as well. So it seemed only fitting that we would have that engraved on the brass plaque on his box.

The vets also took some paw prints for us which is a nice keepsake as well and when keepsakes are all you have left, they suddenly become very important.

LionKing2

Gordon’s ashes – and that is just what he would say as well

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Pawprints

The vets took a paw print for us and gave us this lovely card with a handwritten message

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Pet Bereavement

I have been through this before many years ago but was hoping that at 50 years old, I would be older and wiser and how wrong I was, how very wrong.

I had also underestimated how hard this would be on Brutus as it hit him so hard that his grief was tangible. Just after Gordon died Brutus started to curl up outside his bedroom while holding his fluffy turkey in his mouth. He had started to vocalize and howl the loneliest howl I have ever heard a dog make, it was heartbreaking to witness.

You will have noticed that I have taken photographs of anything out of the ordinary in terms of my pets behaviour. You may not see what I see in the photos but it was there and I promise you that.

dogs2

Brutus curled up outside Gordon’s room

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Rocky is a sensitive little kelpie dog and that night we lost Gordon, he lay in the spare room with me while I made myself ill from crying. His slim black paws gripping round my arm and he had pressed his solid little black body up close to me, so close that I could feel his heartbeat. That is unusual for Rocky, as he normally likes to lie by my feet, but that night he patiently let me cry into his fur until I fell asleep.

I woke up at 5am and Rocky was sitting by the door to go out and he went straight to his bed and went to catch up on his own sleep. Animals are so special and I often think that some humans don’t deserve such loyalty and love that we get from our pets.

Getting used to things

When your animal grows older with you, you have your routine and you just ‘get’ each other. Your cat knows what you do and vice versa but once the cat (or dog) has left you, the gap is enormous and getting used to not having to care for that pet, hear or see it around is hard – very hard.

It was the longest week of our lives dealing with our own grief and by now Rocky, who had been sensitive to our own feelings, was now starting to exhibit distress from Gordon not being there.

It took several trips into Gordon’s room to get Rocky to settle and realize that Gordon wasn’t coming home. Brutus has taken even longer and still checks for Gordon to this day.

Brutus had a habit of stealing Gordon’s toys, in particular his fluffy reindeer. He always pinched it and would suckle on it and walk around with it proudly presenting the toy to whoever was around. The day Gordon died, Brutus stole this reindeer and brought it to my husband.

‘Don’t let him have that, we can give it to the new kitten’, my husband blurted out, looking protectively over Gordon’s beloved reindeer.

‘What new kitten?’ I asked him, he shrugged and walked away without saying anything further. New kitten? I don’t bloody well think so.

Never say never

It was on the Friday after we had said goodbye to Gordon and a colleague at work and myself had been looking on a pet rescue site, just looking of course.

‘My house is so empty without a cat’, I said to my colleague. We had always had a cat in our 26 years of marriage and have never once been without one.

‘That’s cute’, I pointed out at this tiny 7 week old rescue ginger tuxedo kitten from a pet rescue website. My colleague agreed and we continued to look at cats but I kept going back to this little kitten.

Later that night I showed my husband a picture of this kitten and to my surprise, he told me to email the cat rescue place to see if he was still available. Not expecting to hear anything back, I sent the email and didn’t think any more of it.

The words ‘We will never have another cat’ were fading fast in our heads, the ‘Gordon’ sized gap in the house was enormous and it wasn’t just a Gordon sized gap, it was a cat-sized gap as well.

The next morning Abdel and I had gone out for lunch when I decided to check my email. To my surprise the kitten was still available, asking my husband what he wanted to do, I left the decision to him but something inside told me that this was meant to happen.

‘Let’s go now and view him’, Abdel said with a flicker of excitement in his eyes. And after speaking to the rescue lady, it was organized that we could drive to her house to view the kitten and to see if we would be suitable as owners.

Seven weeks old and full of attitude

The first thing we saw when we were taken into the kitten room were several kittens but one in particular stood out and that was the unmistakable orange semi long haired tuxedo kitten that we had seen on the pet rescue site.

This tiny little chunky boy marched across the floor totally ‘owning’ it while shouting to his siblings, ‘Move out of the way you bastards, this family has my name on it’. Then walking up to my husband, he gazed up at him and said ‘Pick me up then!’

And in that split second, we knew our decision had been made and it was certainly not the ‘Never again’ type of decision either.

‘The name is Kuma, pleased to meet you’, the kitten said to me when it was my turn to hold him.

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Kuma – now known as ‘Kevin’

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Hello Kuma, how would you like to be called Kevin?’ I asked the furious bundle of ginger who was trying to gnaw on my knuckles.

‘That’s fine, but my middle name is Bastard’, Kevin replied.

‘What do you think?’ The rescue lady asked me.

Abdel and I looked at each other and then looked at Kevin, ‘We will take him’. Then opening his wallet, my husband handed over the cash and we completed our adoption papers.

‘Catch ya later losers, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!’ Kevin yelled to his siblings and his Mum, who did a phone gesture with her paws saying ‘Call me!’

Fast Forward to now

Rocky has accepted the new baby and is also terrified of him, he won’t give Kevin eye contact but sits protectively outside the cat room when he hears Kevin crying. I have warned him that by being scared of him that Kevin will exploit that and launch a takeover of his bed and his food bowl. Rocky said he knows who is going to wear the trousers in this house and those trousers will be ginger so resistance is futile.

Brutus is on a very slow introduction as Kevin still looks like lunch/prey but each day Brutus gets to sniff Kevins bum while Kevin is in my arms and gets rewarded with food as we are working on a positive association with the kitten.

We always give Brutus choices and when Kevin is in my arms, there is usually chicken or some treats on the work counter in the kitchen that Brutus can have as a reward for choosing food over being over excited and too focused with the kitten.

Kevin got an ear clean from Brutus the other day which was cute but Kevin is far too small to be left alone with Brutus as Brutus is so big and clumsy, we are just being cautious.

Brutus still has to check Kevin’s room for Gordon and sniff the litter tray and we are slowly getting there but it will be a long while before Kevin is allowed to play in the same room as Brutus. We are lucky that we do have a cat room with lots of toys and we are so glad that we kept Gordon’s stuff.

Kevin’s cat basket belonged to our first cat Bruno, we bought that basket in 1994. The cat bowls are about 20 years old, we just pass them down from cat to cat and in its own bizarre way, we pass down the stories as well.

Kevin

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The day Kevin came to us – note Gordon’s fluffy reindeer

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

At the time of writing this (19th Sept 2017) Kevin is 9 weeks old, he is a sweet little kitten who has started to shin up our legs and use our torso as a cat scratch pole.

He is in to absolutely everything, chewing, trashing his crate in his room if he isn’t fed on time or fed enough. He will tip his entire bowl of food over if you upset him and dabs his paw in his water bowl and flicks it.

Yesterday I could hear the sounds of his bedroom being trashed and tiny paws skidding along the floor and a ginger voice shouting ‘Yeah, bollocks to everything!’ and ‘Gingers have rights too’.

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Gingers rock! – according to Kev

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

A large bowl of meat and biscuit had been consumed, there were toys everywhere and Kevin was trying to convince me that every time I leave him alone in his room, a large ginger Tom cat appears and teaches him what to say and what naughty stuff to get up to.

The conversation went something like this – ‘Don’t be silly Kevin, I can’t see any ginger cat, you must be imagining it’ I tried to reason with him and told him that it is quite common for baby cats to pretend to see things.

‘But Mum, I am not I swear, there really is a ginger cat that appears on the clothes drier each time you leave me alone. It was him that taught me to chew the blinds and said you would like it’. Kevin protested.

Sighing, I shut the door – I had no time for this, I am finalising my book before it gets sent to the typesetters in two weeks. Large ginger cats in the spare bedroom – whatever next?

‘Told you she wouldn’t believe me!’ Kevin muttered after I had left, ‘Why doesn’t she believe me?’

A large orange tabby cat sat on the clothes drier, his coat luxurious and plush, his eyes a beautiful green colour, his puffy mouth that was begging to be kissed.

The ginger cat looked at Kevin who at 9 weeks old was tiny compared to him. ‘Don’t worry lad, she will soon believe you. Now, are you ready for tonight’s lesson – because I am going to teach you how to chew some towels’.

‘Towels? Really? That sounds fun!’ Kevin grinned, ‘By the way, what is your name?’

‘You can call me Gordon’ The ginger cat replied simply, ‘Now – about those towels…..’

Kevin and Gordon

Gordon lives on in the naughtiness of Kevin

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Thank you

Thank you to the veterinary staff at Spearwood Veterinary Hospital, Perth Australia for looking after Gordon for the past nine years since we arrived in Australia, he could not have been better looked after.

Losing a pet is hard enough but how their final journey ends in the vet surgery and how it is dealt with can leave a lasting impression on the owners – either good or bad.

To be given the time to chat, to cry, to say goodbye and have the vets and nursing staff show such genuine compassion and emotion, is not a skill, it is a gift because you simply cannot make that up, it has to come from the heart.

Dr George Jackson – you have an amazing and incredible team working for you. Your staff made that awful day for us so much more bearable.

And while we said ‘never again’ to another cat, you had better get yourselves prepared for Kevin and before you say anything, yes he is a bit tubby because if I don’t feed him when he wants, he trashes his bedroom and shreds my ankles.

These ginger cats can be so demanding you know.

Samantha

If you need help

Pet bereavement and grief is real and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It is never ‘just a cat/dog/pet’, it is YOUR pet so don’t let anyone tell you what to love or how much to love it either.

We have can’t believe how much losing Gordon has affected us, both my husband and I are still picking up the pieces and having intense moments of missing our cat and it is almost 3.5 weeks on.

All I can say is you have to acknowledge your feelings and ignore anyone that tries to dismiss what you are going through. Please be kind to yourself if you are going through this and if you do find yourself struggling to cope, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Help for Pet Bereavement

Never again or how soon is too soon?

I can’t believe that a week after losing my precious Gordon that we have another kitten. I was adamant that no cat would come into my home and take Gordon’s place and that I could not put myself through that ever again.

Then I had a word with myself and made myself face up to a few things. Firstly, when you lose a pet and you get another one, you are not replacing them in any shape or form. Each animal that you bring to your house is not replacing your old pet, it is creating a new space, new memories, it is a new personality that is going to make you laugh, cry, spend money on toys and treats – it is going to be different. No guilt needed, just giving another pet a chance of a loving home.

I realise that we as pet owners don’t want to put ourselves through that pain again, my goodness the thought of it still scares me, the pain that I am still going through and choosing to do it all again with another animal? I must have rocks in my head.

But on the other side of the coin, wouldn’t life be harsh if we only limited ourselves to loving only one animal and never allowing ourselves to have another? I don’t regret any of my animals that I have owned in the past, they have all given me love and memories to treasure and for that I am grateful.

Anyway, that is my update and I guess writing it all down and documenting the whole thing is more for my benefit really. I always express myself through my writing and this is no different.

If you are interested then you can check out this five minute micro doc about how we got Gordon to Australia.

Gordon’s Story – Get Gordon Down Under

 

Samantha Rose (c) Copyright September 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk with me to the bridge (and by your side I’ll be)

Any pet owner that has had to have their animal euthanized can testify as to how difficult that decision was to make, but to stay by their beloved pets side while this is being done can prove to be too much for many people.

Some owners choose to leave their animal with the vet and some owners choose to stay with their pets when the time has come for them to be put to sleep.  There is no right or wrong decision, everyone has their own way of dealing with their own emotions and what one person can cope with, another can’t.

My first cat Bruno was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while undergoing surgery to see why he was vomiting.  There was no option but to have him put to sleep and as I was a veterinary nurse at the time, I got to see him on the operating table to say goodbye before the vet sent him on his way to Rainbow Bridge.

I could not face staying with him as it was done, I don’t know why but I just couldn’t and that is something I never quite forgave myself for.  I know that he was asleep and knew nothing about it and yes, I know that I did the right thing – and the kindest thing, but it still to this day haunts me that I wasn’t there until the end.

For months afterwards I was haunted with images and nightmares that my precious Bruno was not really dead even though the rational side of my brain knew he was.

My second cat Juniper was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct just less than two years after we lost Bruno, she was also undergoing an exploratory operation to see why she was vomiting and once again we were cruelly hit with the cancer diagnosis.

‘Would you like to stay with her while I do it?’ The vet asked me.

There was no question about it, of course I had to stay with her.

Juniper was lying on a knitted multi colored blanket, still fast asleep from her anesthetic and her IV drip taped onto her leg.  I took in her soft and gentle face, pink nose leathers and stunning tortoiseshell markings, I felt the cool pink pads of her paws with the feathering in between the pads and memorized every inch of her while inside my heart was breaking at the thought of what I was going to witness.

Would she know I was there, would she know if I wasn’t?  Half of me wanted to run out of the surgery so that I couldn’t see the vet purposely ending my cats life.  But the other half was still hanging on to the pain of walking away from Bruno nearly two years before.

Why did I want to run away – self preservation for me? Why did I want to stay – to put right about how bad I felt for leaving Bruno or was it because it was the right thing for Juniper?  Who knows, possibly all of those reasons I guess.

I kissed her and hugged her as the vet injected into her IV drip and within a few minutes I could feel her tiny heart slow down until it stopped and that my friends, was my first ever time of what I term ‘walking my pet to the bridge’.

I recall crying so hard that I could barely breathe but I also remember feeling an immense sense of relief because it meant that cancer could no longer rob my tiny little cat of her health and cause her any more pain and suffering.

That was my first experience, the second was with my elderly whippet Rema who was in renal failure and although she looked healthy, she really wasn’t and on the day she went ‘to the Bridge’, she turned down a beef sausage and that was totally unheard of.  She looked into my eyes and silently screamed ‘I have had enough’.

I held her in my arms as the vet put her to sleep and once again I took in her scent, her fur, her grey muzzle and cloudy opaque eyes and then broke my heart as her larger than life character left her body at the same time that her heart stopped beating, leaving nothing more than a frail grizzled and skinny whippet lying on the table.

Was that really my dog?  She looked so tiny, I was sure she had been bigger than that or was that just her character?

Did Rema care that I was there?  I like to think she did.  She didn’t fight it, she relaxed in my arms and gazed up at me – and you can bet your sweet life she knew I was there and I like to think that she knew I had walked her to ‘the Bridge’.

Once again my heart was broken, the pain inside was tangible – why the hell was I putting myself through this again with Rema when it hurt so much with Juniper?  Now that begged a question.

I did it because I felt I had to, I did it because I regretted not doing it with Bruno, I did it because it was the final journey and I did it because I knew if I collapsed alone at home my pets would probably rather sit and die with me than escape to look for food elsewhere for their survival.

Now I am not judging anyone that feels unable to be with their pet on their final journey, it is a totally personal decision that only you as a pet owner can make.

I am purely describing it as someone that has not been there and also as someone that has been there.

For any pet owner, it is a painful and emotional thing to go through. Whatever you decide to do, I can guarantee that it will either hurt like hell to walk away and leave your pet with the vet, or it will hurt like hell to hold them as they die in your arms.

The right to say goodbye is denied to so many pet owners when their animal suffers a traumatic death and for me personally, if my pet has to go to Rainbow Bridge, then I will walk by their side to the gates.

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My precious little cat Juniper

The End

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright September 2015

Rainbow Bridge – (a nice place for any pet to go)

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Rainbow Bridge – it’s wherever you imagine it to be

Today I want to discuss a place called Rainbow Bridge and most pet lovers/owners will know what I mean by that.

It is a place that our pets go to when they die and I know this because my pets have told me.  Whether or not you choose to believe in this is entirely up to you, after all we are all entitled to believe in what we like.

But I know one thing, when we as pet owners are forced to make the difficult decision of having our pets put to sleep, we know of several things;

1. We know that we are ending their pain and suffering

2. We know that we are doing this because we love them and although a hard and painful decision, we know it is for their best

3. And if we are taking steps to end their suffering then surely they are going to a better place?

Rainbow Bridge – you can see it and believe in it if you choose to.

This story is told by my animals and for those of you that follow this blog, will know that I make my animals talk and have social lives, I am a bit of a ‘Dr Doolittle’ if you like.  My stories are aimed at adults and often have adult content.

It is aimed at any pet owner who may be struggling to make the decision to send their pet on its final journey and I hope in some way, that it can make it easier to imagine and  realise that although owning a pet is incredibly painful when we have to say goodbye, it is also a privilege that can enrich our lives and teach us well, leaving us with wonderful memories to treasure.

1185291_609323642489019_183838132_nGordon patiently explains about Rainbow Bridge to Brutus

One day (last year) Brutus and Gordon were lying next to each other on the sofa chatting about life – they often did this and at that time, Brutus was much younger then and would positively drink any knowledge that the elderly ginger cat gave to him.

‘Gordon, what is Rainbow Bridge? I heard some dogs in the park talk about it one day, they were all really nice about it but said their owners were upset, what is it?’ Brutus asked Gordon who stared at the young pup intently.

‘What is Rainbow Bridge? – Well let me tell you but I warn you now, there is no quick or easy explanation’ Gordon replied, then wriggled around a bit and settled down so that he could see Brutus and talk to him.

‘Rainbow Bridge is a place that we animals go to when our time with our owners and our life on this earth is done, basically it is when our beating hearts can no longer beat’. Gordon started to say.

‘But where is it, is it in the park, can we walk there?’ Brutus asked Gordon who was now washing his anus in a quick interlude.

‘Oh we can’t get to it until we are sent there and our owners certainly can’t but we animals all know about it and what happens and if you close your eyes and imagine a place where no animal is hungry, no animal has pain, no animal has arthritis or any illness and there are toys and tennis balls and water and mud to play in, all the food we could want and every animal is happy, you get the idea’. Gordon replied.

Brutus looked confused, he had pretty much everything he loved including his Tony Abbott doll and he could never imagine being hungry, well actually he could because he got pretty hungry at meal times but he guessed that was different.

‘No-one should ever be afraid of going to Rainbow Bridge, it is just a lovely place for any pet to go to’ Gordon said firmly.

‘Do you know anyone that has gone there?’ Brutus asked Gordon.

Gordon went quiet for a few minutes, it was still difficult for him to talk about but as Brutus was asking the question, it meant that he was ready to hear the answer.

‘Firstly there was Juniper’ Gordon started to say and then said ‘Let me tell you about Juniper – that was when we lived in London’.

Brutus sat glued to his seat while Gordon explained about the little torti long haired cat called Juniper, whom he loved and cherished, washed and groomed, chased, bashed and just loved her – actually may I just add that I loved her and still to this day miss her and never quite got over her having to go to Rainbow Bridge before I considered her ready but that is another story.

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My beautiful tortoiseshell cat – Juniper

‘Juniper developed stomach problems one day and collapsed – it all happened very quickly and I remember Mum coming back from town and finding her lying on the carpet with her tummy swollen.

‘I knew something was wrong’ Gordon carried on speaking and Brutus carried on listening.

‘I remember asking her where she was going and she said to me in her quite torti voice ‘It is time for me to go to Rainbow Bridge’ and that was when I learned about Rainbow Bridge for myself and what it meant’.

ImageJuniper explains to Gordon about Rainbow Bridge

‘Of course I didn’t want her to go, I loved her and lived for her and even forgave her for sicking up a furball on my bed, she was a chatty cat who would talk to everyone and noone and it was only when the vet examined her and reckoned she was brain damaged that we realised why she was so special and would run around the house with dried turd stuck to her bum’. Gordon told Brutus.

‘What was wrong with her, couldn’t the vet help her?’ Brutus asked confused. He would have liked Juniper, he was sure of that.

‘Well I remember Mum having a look on her face, she was working as a veterinary nurse at the time and knew something was wrong, she picked up Juniper and placed her in the white basket that we still have to this day and got her in a taxi to rush her to the vet and that was the last I saw of her’.

‘Two days later, Mum was called to the vet as they had observed Juniper and had decided to open her up in an operation and Mum had to go and see Juniper before they did it’

‘Now I wasn’t there but Mum said she remembered seeing Junipers tortoiseshell coat through the frosty glass as the vet took her from the basket and Mum went in to give her a cuddle, I think they talked about ‘stuff’ but I don’t know what as Mum never told me’. Gordon said quietly – he was finding it a bit hard to remember this but could not admit it to Brutus.

‘All I know is that Mum came home with an empty basket and told me that Juniper had died of cancer that had and Mum had held her in her arms while she was sent to Rainbow Bridge.

‘The only thing she knew and all that any animal knows is when they leave this life and go on to the next, they do get to see a bit of their owners so that they can keep an eye on things until they know they are alright and this can often take a while’.

‘But how do you know what they see at Rainbow Bridge if you are still here?’ Brutus asked.

‘It is something that at some point in our lives, we just get told – just like I am telling you, I have told Rocky and Juniper told me and Junipers brother before me – Bruno the cat, told Juniper. It is a fact of life that comes to us all and a fine piece of knowledge to know’ Gordon said.

(Gordon held his leg high in the air as he washed his anus until he was ready to talk again)

‘Juniper had felt sick and had hidden it for so long that Mum and Dad didn’t have a clue and Juniper knew that when Mum came to the vet to see her before her operation, that it would be the last time she would see her and that is why they had their moment alone together.

‘Juniper felt a bit scared, she didn’t want to leave Mum and she clearly remembers Mum holding her and crying and that made it hard for Juniper to leave. But her body was no longer working and no longer ‘fit her enormous personality’ and really was not good for her anymore and Rainbow Bridge would make her young and fit again, although she was only eight years old, she could have a new lease of life where she would never age and never feel pain again’. Said Gordon.

‘Then what happened?’ Brutus asked.

‘Juniper suddenly saw herself on the vet table with Mum holding her, she looked down for a bit and then looked up and saw a group of cats asking her to go to them. The temptation was too much and as Juniper slowly started to walk to the cats above her, with each step, the pain got less until she reached the cats and there was no pain at all.

‘She didn’t know what to do but she knew she couldn’t go back down to Mum. She could see Mum holding a small torti cat and crying but it no longer felt like it was her – Juniper. She could also see beyond the group of cats, was a large field with all kinds of birds and butterflies and all things that cats like to chase and it looked like such a nice place, she really wanted to go in there.

‘Juniper followed the group of cats and went through the gate and was met with lots of other cats but the thing that surprised her the most, was she met with her brother who had died 18 months prior – Bruno the large black cat. In fact just after Bruno was sent to Rainbow Bridge, Mum was so upset that she went out and rescued me and I came into her life at 9 weeks old.

‘Juniper kept looking back to Mum, not knowing what to do but she knew Mum would be OK, she just knew it because Mum had already done the kindest thing and the only thing she could do and that was send her to Rainbow Bridge and anyone with that kind of strength to do what is right by their pet even though it hurts them as owners, is always going to be OK in life.

‘What happened then?’ Brutus asked Gordon.

‘Well, Juniper saw Bruno and ran up to him – he looked marvellous, so healthy and no sign of the illness that he had when he lived with Mum and Dad. Apparently Bruno greeted Juniper with an affectionate head butt and said ‘Hi Juniper, welcome to Rainbow Bridge’.

‘Juniper walked a bit hesitantly at first and then after a few minutes, was chasing bits of ribbon and butterflies and anything that could float higher than she could in the wind. Ten minutes later, it were as though she had been there forever’.

‘Did you miss her Gordon?’ Brutus asked his brother.

Gordon went quiet for a few minutes and then replied ‘Yes lad, and I still do’.

‘How come you know what happens there when you haven’t been?’ Brutus asked Gordon.

‘We animals are privileged and it is our duty to pass this knowledge on to the younger ones so when it happens to us, you are prepared and in turn, once you gain this knowledge, at some point you will experience it with one of us or yourself. We are lucky to know what we know and to see what we see’. Gordon told Brutus.

‘Have you seen anyone else go to Rainbow Bridge?’ Brutus asked Gordon.

‘Rema, Rema the whippet – I loved her so much, she was the first dog that I fell in love with and one I will never forget’ Gordon replied sounding a bit upset.

‘Rema was a beautiful blue whippet who won dog shows as she was so pretty and Mum even used to race her. I remember when Mum worked in the vets in London, she would take Rema to work because in England, dogs are allowed on buses, tubes and trains and even in some taxis’ Gordon said matter-of-factly.

ImageRema (the commuter) and me (the vet nurse), waiting for our train

He was very proud of the fact that he came from a country that allowed that and had even been on a few buses himself and trains when he had his de-sexing done at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden when his Mum worked there as a veterinary nurse.

ImageRema at a lure coursing event in Devon

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Gordon and Rema discuss Rainbow Bridge

‘So what happened with Rema?’ Brutus asked. He would have liked Rema and would have enjoyed racing with her.

‘Rema got to 12 years old and had developed kidney problems and was also incontinent and would pee herself all the time – you think shitting yourself is bad!, her back legs were very weak and kept giving way and one day Mum had decided that Rema should go to Rainbow Bridge. She had all sores in her mouth from her bad kidneys and her appetite had gone, old age had literally stolen her from herself.

‘Mum’s old friend who is a vet and used to be Mum’s boss and was the one person that Rema loved and would allow him to do anything to her because quite simply, she trusted him.

‘Mums friend examined Rema and said the kindest thing to do was to send her to Rainbow Bridge. Mum had been thinking about it for a while but needed to know it was the right time because Brutus, there is always a right time to go to Rainbow Bridge, it is just a matter of realising it.

‘Mum held Rema as she went over the Bridge and although Rema was sad hearing Mum cry and having to leave her body behind, when she saw Juniper and Bruno at the gate to Rainbow Bridge, she started to trot and the closer she got, she realised that for the first time in ages, she wanted to eat, she wanted to run and she wasn’t wetting herself as she did it.

‘There were dog toys everywhere, there were rabbits to chase (but not hurt), there were blocks of cheese for her to have (Rema loved stealing cheese) and Rema was so happy to see Bruno and Juniper, that she started barking her head off’.

Brutus was taking this all in, it was so much to take in and he would have questions to ask later no doubt; lots of questions.

‘Gordon, what happened then? Was Mum OK, how can she be OK when she has seen three pets go to Rainbow Bridge?’ Brutus asked sounding more than upset, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go to this place where his Mum and Dad were not allowed, he wasn’t sure at all.

Gordon stared at him and touched Brutus’s face to comfort him and replied ‘Mum was just fine, she hugged Rema and said ‘Thank you for being my dog’ so she told me anyway and she said afterwards that knowing Rema wasn’t suffering any more and was at ‘The Bridge’ made it a bit easier. But I will admit to hearing her crying each night for some time and she refused to get rid of Rema’s toys for ages. In fact, she still has her collar which Rocky wore when he was a puppy’

‘Does getting another pet mean you don’t love the one you sent to Rainbow Bridge?’ Brutus asked Gordon, he was confused now.

‘Oh no’ Gordon shook his head vigorously and added ‘Our humans have unlimited space in their lives if they love their pets. We all leave our mark in whatever we have chewed, dug, or destroyed and also in the memories which can never be erased and when a new pet comes into our humans lives needing a loving home, it is never ever a replacement, it just merely takes up a new place to leave his/her own impression on and add to the memory bank of pet ownership.

‘After all, you are hearing about my own memories of Juniper and Rema and in turn, you will have your memories of myself and Rocky but it doesnt mean that there is no room in your life to build up new ones’ Gordon reassured Brutus.

‘Does Rocky know all of this?’ Brutus asked Gordon.

Gordon nodded and said ‘Yes, I had exactly the same chat with Rocky when he was about your age’

ImageGordon chats to Rocky about Rainbow Bridge

‘Is he scared to go there?’ Brutus asked Gordon.

Gordon smiled and touched Brutus’s face again and replied ‘No lad, he isn’t scared – there is nothing to be scared of. We all have a purpose here and that is to teach our owners to love things for their heart and soul, to be loyal, to be nice and be the best we can be; and once our job is done, it then becomes OUR time to live our own lives at Rainbow Bridge’.

(sounds of Rocky coming in from the garden)

‘What are you two up to?’ Rocky grinned at the two boys.

‘Rainbow Bridge – we are having that discussion’ Gordon said to the little black kelpie who was taking a drink.

Rocky glanced up at Brutus, trying to gauge how he was feeling, it was confusing for a young dog when he has ‘that’ discussion.

‘Ah, Rainbow Bridge – now that is a nice place for any pet to go, don’t be afraid lad – we all go there eventually, it’s just at different times that’s all’. Rocky said confidently.

(Later that night – all the animals were in their respective beds)

ImageBrutus ponders on his thoughts about Rainbow Bridge

Brutus couldn’t sleep, it was all too much for him – he was worried about this Rainbow Bridge place and couldn’t understand how Gordon and Rocky were so calm about it all; would he ever accept it?

*Fast forward to this week – March 2014*

Vader the boxer (Brutus’s best friend) and Brutus were in the fenced off courts where we live and were just standing about chatting about stuff. Suddenly and out of the blue Brutus remembered the Rainbow Bridge conversation that he had with Rocky and Gordon last year.

ImageBrutus and Vader the boxer discuss Rainbow Bridge

‘Vader, what do you know about Rainbow Bridge?’ Brutus asked his best friend.

Vader rearranged his enormous over-sized tongue so that he could answer back.

Staring at Brutus for a few seconds, Vader replied ‘Rainbow Bridge? Now that is a nice place for any pet to go to’

Brutus smiled and nodded, he suddenly felt quite comforted about it all and felt very grown up indeed. Looking at Vader, Brutus replied firmly ‘Yep, that is what Gordon and Rocky say too’.

And that was that – all that was said was what needed to be said – Rainbow Bridge – a nice place for any pet to go to.

According to our pets of course.

The End…..

*This entry is dedicated to Bruno, Juniper and Rema – all the pets that I have had the privilege to own and to send over to Rainbow Bridge.*

Samantha Rose (c) Copyright March 2014