Monday, September 21, 2009

The Rainbow Bridge

When I volunteered to write for the BRAT Blog, I had a long list of quirky things I wanted to talk about – My desires to open a demolition company run exclusively by Basenjis. Bashir eating my mattress. My dog looking like a bag lady in her hand-knitted cat. Light-hearted, my style as a blogger tends to leave people smiling.

Yet today, I look at my 18 year old basenji, Mr. Calvin. And he is all I want to talk about.

Seven years ago, a bonded pair came into BRAT’s care. Calvin and Rosalyn were over 10 years old, so they were considered difficult to place. My husband and I drove to Cape Cod to meet these two, and instantly knew they would be ours, and good friends for our Bashir. We realized that because they were already over 10 years old, they would not be with us for that long. But were prepared.

Or so we thought.

Momma Roz, our Alpha-female, passed over to the Rainbow Bridge two years ago. She was suffering from old age, with lost vision and bladder control. When she finally passed, we were heartbroken. Mr. Calvin, in particular, was visibly distraught. For months he wandered around the house, looking for his life-long friend. They had lived together for more than 15 years! They made it through a shelter and a rescue together, and for the first time, they were apart. But at least we were grateful that Calvin, now 16 years old, still had a basenji companion in our then six year old Bashir.

Two years later, we realize that Mr. Calvin is now at the end of his long life. I try to console myself. He is, at 18 years old, really 126 in dog years! Yet between his loss of vision, hearing, and bladder control, we wonder about his quality of life. Sometimes I am not sure he knows who I am, or where he is. He gets lost in the house, and stuck under the furniture. Sometimes he tried to crawl into the baby’s toys or car carrier.

It breaks my heart every time I see him like that. There are days when he does nothing but sleep, and we wonder if he will wake up in the morning. Then there are days when he somehow musters up the energy to climb the stairs to our bedroom.

Every day I wonder if it’s ok to let him just be the old dog that he is. We all get old, and that’s just a part of life. I take care of him as best I can. And then there are the days when it gets so hard on all of us that I wonder if I should help him cross over to the Rainbow Bridge. We all know that poem that reminds up that there is a place – a Rainbow Bridge - where our pets that have already gone on wait patiently for us. They wait to be reunited with us. I wonder when Mr. Calvin’s journey will be, and if I should help bring him there.

The Rainbow Bridge looms largely in my mind and my heart. At my wits end, I ask advice from BRAT volunteers and supporters. They fill my e-mail box with stories, advice and support. I am grateful for all their help and their open hearts. There are so many, I can’t even thank them all. But that’s what they are there for, as I will be for them when their furbabies’ time comes.

I know that Rosalyn is waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge. But I know she’s probably waiting for Mr. Calvin too. And somehow, that’s a little reassuring, to know that they will be together, soon.


  1. I understand how painful this is since I went through the same process a year ago with my 19-year-old cat. Horrific as that process was, it also opened the door to bring basenjis in my life.

    You and Calvin will know when the time is right. My only advice from my experience is to seek out a house call vet if one is available. It is worth any extra expense. It made the farewell to my cat (who was terrified of going to the vet) so much easier. When he was given the injection, he we on his favorite spot on the couch with me, purring loudly as if thanking me for ending the pain until he became silent.

  2. You should check out the movie version of the Rainbow Bridge... it's nice.

  3. Wow! Calvin and Roz! I had the honor of them in my home, from early 1998 until an illness in the family forced me to move, and I had to give them up all those years ago. I'm glad they found a good home for their final years. Bless you!