“I will always find comfort in knowing I gave you a home. And you’ve given me sunshine and happiness I’d never known. And I know you are weary, it’s time — it’s time now to rest. Time now to go where you’ll be restored to your very best. So, make your way to the sunset. And fly to the rainbow’s end. One fine day, I know I’ll see you again. So go, go run free! To where the grass is always green. Beyond the rainbow bridge, where the skies are blue. Go, go run free! Beyond time and space, together we’ll be. Beyond the rainbow bridge I will be with you.” Lyrics excerpted from “Beyond The Rainbow Bridge” by Trina Belamide, circa 2020.
Fourteen-plus years ago the last thing on my mind was getting a dog. Single parent, struggling to make ends meet, future final spouse had just moved in. We didn’t need a dog, didn’t have room for a dog, couldn’t afford a dog, I didn’t want a dog… we got a dog.
He’s not barking anymore. His trademark from day one… to bark. Deep, loud and never ending at any and everybody. Whether the first or the thousandth time you crossed his path he barked. But it seems he’s all barked out.
Recalling the cajoling of Lil’ Red (pre-spouse mode) to just see. A rescue puppy that had been beaten, abused and thrown from a moving vehicle. Fine, let’s take a look at this… what is that? Corgi/Shepard mix, big head, long tail, and thick body on top of itty-bitty legs. Like someone took a full-sized German Shepard and chopped it off at the knees. I wasn’t so sure… Red had already loaded him into the car.
The arthritis has gotten much worse. And yet he still insists on following Red and the boy down the hill to the goat pens. Protector first, pain later, though the trip back up seems to take more persuasion each time.
My daughter dubbed him Bazooka (after the weapon, not the gum) and when she departed the name remained. Nothing feels quite as stupid as standing in the backyard calling “Bazoookaaaa” at supper time. But the name fit, because he destroyed everything.
Daily departure begins stepping over 80 pounds of unmoving mutt. The doormat has become his refuge and aside from rolling for a belly-rub he doesn’t move too much. It doesn’t seem comfortable but it’s where he wants to be. So, we’re mindful of long ears and tail with a tummy scratch in our comings and goings.
The yard has potholes — maybe he thought I was mowing too fast. Countless plants have been dug up or slept-on to death. A hundred dollars’ worth of solar lights have been devoured. And he’s taken up working for UPS. Carefully inspecting any packages delivered with his teeth, or retrieving the neighbors’ packages …pieces of them anyway.
Seizures are more frequent now. Disorientation combats loyalty. Two heart-attacks which Red pounded out of him. I’ll spare you the horrors of the early stages of organ failure in an animal that just won’t give up. Stubborn always and till the end… that’s our Bazooka.
He was never really “our dog”. More like a friend who comes for a visit and never leaves. We couldn’t keep a collar on him. He wouldn’t come when you called and usually ran the other way. He only knew one trick — playing dead. And regretfully I had to ask him to perform one last time.
One of the hardest phone calls you’ll ever make. A negative diagnosis, followed by 3 injections filled with sorrow and sympathy. His pain comes to an end as ours begins.
A man, looking like a silent-era movie star, dressed in a ruffled black suit and fedora walks down the road. Pausing, looking down the hill to a patch of interred earth. Placing fingers to lips a high-pitched whistle emits. A grey shadow shaped like a short German Shepard rises and happily barks its way up the hill to him. At the crest the shadow pauses. Looking back to where its heart lies. “It’s okay Zooks,” the dark man says. “They’ll be along soon enough. Now we’ve a bridge to get you across.” A long tail wags in agreement as they turn and fade into memory.
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