I heard the tell-tale “thump, thump, thump” and went downstairs to find our oldest black lab sprawled out at the bottom of the carpeted steps. I helped him up, and with assistance he made it upstairs to his favorite daytime napping spot. Kruger was diagnosed with lymphoma a couple of weeks ago. He is on prednisone to help control the swelling, but the cancer continues to work its evil, and his body wastes away a little more with each day. He still has a smile and tail wag for us, so we know it is not quite his time to cross the Rainbow Bridge, although we know that time is coming soon.
Kruger has only been part of our family for 15 months. He was estimated to be 11 years old when we adopted him from our local humane society. We swore with two large black labs already occupying the household, that bringing the number of dogs to three, particularly when the third was another large lab, was too many. But, sometimes our four-legged friends have a way of worming themselves into our hearts and we find a way to make room for them in our homes.
He was so sad after two different potential adopters returned him to the humane society less than 24 hours after bringing him home. Reportedly, he was not housebroken. Despite suggestions by the adoption counselor that they give it a little time, letting him learn the ins and outs of his new home and routine, he was returned, and his time at the shelter approached four months. After the second return, poor Kruger slipped into a funk, showing no interest in people who stopped by his kennel to say hello, and he lost interest in eating, as well. The former happy-go-lucky lab who never met a tennis ball he didn’t like was in danger of letting depression overcome his will for living.
We took him in, and in less than two weeks, after only a handful of housebreaking accidents later as he figured out the new routine, this gentle, old lab settled into the last home he would have. He could be a stubborn old cuss, and we learned that arthritic body could really move when he wanted it to — like when I thought he was going to trot up to greet my son but instead bolted past the car, across busy streets, and through residential yards to reach the shores of Lake Superior, where a thin layer of ice had just formed, reaching out 50 feet or so toward that icy, open water.
I should have kicked off my shoes that had a slight heel instead of trying to jog after him, but honestly, how could that old guy run so quickly and be so nimble? He weaved in and out of spots where I had to slow to follow, and then managed to negotiate the icy rocks on the shore that caused me to slip and slide, screaming out in panic and watching a scene seem to unfold in slow motion as he walked out onto that icy film covering the unforgiving winter lake waters.
Common sense thankfully got the better of me, and I remained on the shore rather than going out after him. I have read too many tragic stories of pet owners going after their pets in dangerous situations, with the pet often emerging unscathed while the family member or multiple members lose their lives attempting to save it. I cautioned my son to take the same course of action and he ran back to the house to get my husband. When my husband reached the lake shore, I yelled at him to call the fire department. Kruger was causing the ice to creak and groan as he walked further out. I helplessly watched our newest family member begin to break through the ice as he approached Lake Superior’s open water.
Thankfully, he must have had some fear enter his thought process, as he slowly made his way back to shore, just as the fire department arrived with their safety gear for ice and water saves. Apologies and profuse thanks relayed, we leashed old Kruger and remained fanatical about doing so for months. He learned over time that our home was his home, and there was no need to run in fear of not having a home again.
During his short time with us, Kruger has galloped (using the term loosely given the arthritic hips involved) through the snow with our other older lab, gone swimming at the cabin (his elderly, muscle-wasted hind end required a life jacket to keep him safely afloat and minimize the risk of inhaling water while paddling around), played tug-of-war and chased after tennis balls (even in recent days), and enjoyed snuggling on the floor with us while watching a movie. In return, Kruger gave us the unconditional, trusting love that reminds us why we repeatedly make room in our hearts and homes for our four-legged companions . . . even when saying good-bye is so painful.
The Legend of Rainbow Bridge
From the book, “The Legend of Rainbow Bridge” by William N. Britton
Reprinted with Permission
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When a pet dies who has been especially close to a person here on earth, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are beautiful meadows and grassy hills there for all our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is always plenty of their favorite food to eat, plenty of fresh spring water for them to drink, and every day is filled with sunshine so our little friends are warm and comfortable.
All the pets that had been ill or old are now restored to health and youth.
Those that had been hurt or maimed are now whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days gone by.
The pets we loved are happy and content except for one small thing.
Each one misses someone very special who was left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one of them suddenly stops and looks off into the distant hills.
It is as if they heard a whistle or were given a signal of some kind.
Their eyes are bright and intent. Their body begins to quiver.
All at once they break away from the group, flying like a deer over the grass, their little legs carrying them faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you hug and cling to them in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
Happy kisses rain upon your face.
Your hands once again caress the beloved head.
You look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet so long gone from your life, but never gone from your heart.
Then with your beloved pet by your side, you will cross the Rainbow Bridge together.
Your Sacred Circle is now complete again.
(Reprinted with permission of the author. Published 1994. Copyright © William N. Britton. http://www.legendofrainbowbridge.com)
Kruger, we will be here for you until you are ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Then, when it is time, we will do our best to help you cross without pain and with as much love as you can carry until we meet again.