“I aspire to be the person my dog thinks I am”
Even as parents we fall short in the eyes of our children … but never our pets.
Tito loved me from the start, without me having to pursue it. I didn’t have to convince him of my worth, smile when I was sad, or wear make up when I was sick. I simple was … and was loved.
Looking back, there are moments of selfishness and neglect. My heart boils over with regret trying to pick every last wound, trying to relive the pain I most likely inflicted. An equal exchange … pain for pain.
But even in my worst moments of abuse and anger, my dog would wait patiently for a change in my tone of voice, ready to forgive or be forgiven.
In truth, there was never much to forgive Tito for.
He didn’t destroy things the way some dogs do. He didn’t rip up carpets or eat my shoes. He didn’t have any trouble potty training, or behaving. He was kind and obedient, beautiful and brilliant. He learned quickly, and was eager to try … so long as there was peanut butter involved.
His only downfall … was that he loved us too much. He just wanted to be by our side.
. . .
Sunday was eerily sunny , contrary to weather predictions. Tito and I fell asleep the night before in a mound of laundry I was attempting to tackle. We three, Tito, Nino, and myself, had early morning Sunday errands. Tito didn’t resist, rather he waited patiently for us in the truck while we milled about wal-mart and fred meyer.
We laughed on our way into the city, and made jokes about how Tito wouldn’t stick his head out of the back window. He loved to look through the windshield and see where we were going; be a part of the conversation.
When we pulled along the side of the highway to search the median for our lost rim from the week before, the open window was the furthest thing from our minds.
Nino and I split up “you search north, I’ll look south.”
I jogged the length of the grassy median with my eyes to the ground. Finally I gave up. When I turned to jog northbound, I saw my son grabbing something from the highway and pulling back with cat like reflexes. It occurred to me to chastise him, until I saw him with Tito in his arms. I immediately thought the dog got out, and Nino had to carry him to corral him to the truck. It was until I ran closer that I saw my son’s face. My heart sank, and I screamed.
Eager to be with us ... he had jumped from the truck.
Gently Nino laid our beloved friend in the grassy median, no one stopped to help us, not even the person who hit him. Traffic didn’t even slow. My son held his head in his hands and sobbed, while I wept uncontrollably. I laid across my dog like a motherly blanket and cried … there was a heartbeat.
“Go open the truck, he’s still alive!”
I scooped my best friend into my arms and told my son to get in the truck. I handed him our dog and sped into town.
The length of the drive seemed like eternity. With hazard lights flashing, I raced at dangerous speeds. For the first time since my father died, Nino and I prayed together and asked God to save our Dog.
“Stay with us” we pled “you’re a good boy Tito”
When we arrived to the Pet emergency room I came to a screeching halt in front of the entrance. Nino handed Tito to me, and held open the doors.
“Please save our dog!”
There was nothing they could do. I fell into my son, who has always been strong enough to hold me, and wailed with grief.
Covered in blood and tears and dirt we sat, defeated, in a private room. From the lobby sounds of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” drifted into the room. I remember feeling angry at it all, even the music.
After they cleaned Tito and brought his lifeless body to us, we pet him one last time and said our goodbyes.
. . .
Later that afternoon, wearing the wreckage of our wounds … and Tito’s … we silently shared one another’s company with nothing but the sound of mindless tv to drown out our din.
Neither of us felt the need to change or shower or even wipe away a tear; we were adorned in our defeat and content to simply sit in it.
My son chose to leave me that day, a dismay I can never place blame in.
My life is a tapestry of tragedies; doomed by the frequent fallacy of undeserved disaster. The New Orleans of mothers … the hurricane of my life makes levies break. He takes sanctuary in the "fema" of his father .
. . .
Diligent in his hero work, Matthew forgets his pain at my peril. He soothes my wounds and does what he can to lighten the mood. Food and a movie … plenty of embraces. On the way to our home by the lake, I take in the suspended kaleidoscope of color … and wonder … if Tito was somewhere over the rainbow.
. . .
The past few days I have agonized over the minutia, digging through the detritus, looking for a place to lay blame. I tediously unfold the butterfly effect of the week seeking a solitary incident that caused the collision. My vision is blurred with what if’s. Finally … a gift.
I come across the legend of The Rainbow Bridge.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except one thing- they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one stops and suddenly looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent, his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face. Your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then together, you and your special pet cross THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
And maybe it’s a lofty notion.
and maybe things Don’t happen for a reason, and we are all just leaves … fallen to earth, drifting on the breeze.
And maybe my heart is so heavy that it would let me / believe that even my empty / heart can be filled …
but then again…
maybe it will.
and maybe songs about rainbows accompanied by / beautiful colors in an empty sky /and legends of meadows where your beloved pets lie … are more than coincidence.
but in death we all question our existence. We know that we are not what happens to us, but rather how we respond.
Believing Tito is waiting for me beyond the Rainbow Bridge may be far-fetched, but Tito never thought any distance was too far to fetch, and though it sounds silly … I can only respond by trying to be as good as he was
And perhaps… one day…
as good as he believed me to be.