How I Stepped Onto the Rainbow Bridge But Changed My Mind

Color portrait of black and white dog with a mostly black head but grayish muzzle, white tufts above the dark brown eyes, and white hair on the inside of his pointed ears. The tip of the pink tongue and his lower left canine tooth is visible.Photograph © 2017 Mignon Naegeli

I can’t really recall why there are moments when I get so upset.
Rarely, I check my image in a mirror — actually … never.
About my missing tail, the scars on my eyelids, and my worried expression … I usually overhear those mentioned when my humans tell my life story to eagerly listening dog lovers.

Something about bicycles, car doors, mean children. Be it as it may; suspicion or assumption without really knowing the facts?
What did that old bird in the White House say years ago? “I don’t recall.”
People read into my being scared; especially when I duck behind my sister, growl in defense, or try to pull away on the leash from whatever triggered my ill feelings and memories from my early-life experiences.

It has been over fourteen years since my Female found me in midst of a bunch of  rescue dogs. I was the scruffiest of them all. I had already spent four weeks at the dog pound. “Turned in by owner,” a cheap handwritten note said. My space was needed for newcomers, so it was determined that my time was up. An assistant didn’t think my short stay on this planet was what the great Manitou had planned for me. She brought me to a nearby rescue group, founded by my beloved Foster Mother, a kind British woman who was fond of border collies and anything that looked somewhat like one. The big-hearted women decided that I should become one of the group. I was named Toby.

There was nobody who had the slightest interest in adopting me. I knew that my days as a member of the beautiful pure bred bunch was counted. Then one day suddenly this sad looking middle aged woman with a strange accent visited. I used all my charm and my puppy eyes begging for mercy when she looked at me surrounded by a bunch of handsome black and white canines with bushy tails.

This was the day when I found my soul mate and became Basquiat.

Live is good. Humans, sisters who adore me despite my occasional growls. Yet, it is the years that make living more burdensome.

Last week was one of those moments. I admit, crowds never have been my thing, although sticking out of the flock of border beauties like a sore thumb may have saved me. Some call it anxiety. It’s supposed to be an inherited trait one can seldom escape — ask my Female!

A few days ago on a rainy camping trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains

It was toward the end of this journey. The day started sunny and pleasant, my sister and I did our morning chores in the nearby yard. The Wolfman put them into a green doggie bag. Then we strolled leisurely sniffing along the camp path. The green bag went into the dumpster.

The Golden pack was expecting us in front of their brand new vehicle not much bigger than ours, but with much more space to stretch out to the fullest. I remembered the dogs and their humans well. Last year there were four of them: two humans, ever so gentle and dog loving, plus Willie and old Wyatt, their golden retrievers. Wyatt now was a little slower, his nose a little grayer, just like my snoot is getting whiter.

Now, they had a new member of the canine family. Nine month old exuberant Hank. He jumped up to my Female, who shrieked with joy. She bent down to pet the handsome one while I moved back growling. When she finally realized that huge puppies weren’t my favorite pasttime, we stepped back to a vacant campsite.

Not only did little Hank take our move for a new exciting play, he came running towards me like a whirlwind, full of happiness. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity of his kind of a joyful life’s moment; maybe there where some, but never so enthusiastic. In a nano second something happened to my aging body: My spindly legs gave way. I fell sideways to the ground. I could not move anymore. My intestines emptied. The Wolfman screamed, “I think he has a stroke,” grabbed his phone, and dialed Dr. Hilla. The “golden” male Human ran to the office asking for a dog ambulance. The Female talked gently soothing nothings into my ears. It was a mess.

As of a sudden, she was holding happy Hank on his leash, who jumped high in the air, trying to catch a yellow butterfly making the Female feel like Mary Poppins.

Three utility carts arrived from all directions. I was lifted onto a cart bed. The Wolfman sat shotgun. My sister awkwardly tried, unsuccessfully, to join us, then waddled sadly to the Female and the crowd that had gathered to witness the commotion. Dogs were switched to their owners. Poor old Wyatt was flat on his stomach looking at me in unity.

The mobile slowly took off towards our vehicle. I had recovered enough to get in a sitting position to observe the sad two and four legged friends we left behind. Finally, I climbed, with little help, into our La Ventura. The good doctor returned the call and suggested that I had a seizure and needed peace and quiet.

I may have growled my share, but I was never a fighting dog, not as I can remember. But since today, I decided to fight. Not for power or blood — just for a little more lifetime.

Cats supposedly have nine lives, man and his best friend are not so lucky as I have learned in the last years from my human’s struggle to stay healthy. In the past few days I have eaten every morsel of my food, including the lettuce pieces I used to delicately drop towards my big sister’s bowl.

I move as much as my hurting bones allow, following my humans and Annebäbi around. The sofa and bed cause a problem to jump onto, but there is always a little Basquiat help if I need to survive.

I often think of the old gentle golden named after the famous western hero. His eyes are still sharp, he too needs help climbing. But we both are aware that we can beat the colorful infamous bridge for another while.


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