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The Rainbow Bridge to Heaven

Normally, I write about my journey as a caregiver, but I also wear another hat, a title that I am very proud of, which is “Mum.” No, I do not have children. I have a dog and a cat. In the past, I have also had three other dogs and five bunny rabbits as fur babies who have now crossed the "Rainbow Bridge."

I will admit my bunnies were my babies, but at that time I did not consider myself “Mama.” This did not stop me from spoiling and loving them dearly and deeply. I would go shopping and if my grandfather was with me, he would laugh when he saw me purchase dandelion greens, kale, parsley bunches and spinach in winter because he knew they were for my bunnies. He said I spoiled them more than some kids are spoiled when I bought them yogurt drop treats at the pet store. The bunnies had moveable pens, so they could be out on the grass and a hutch, both made by my grandfather. They were outdoor pets, sheltered from wind and snow as much as possible in winter, and they always had a cover for shade so they would not get too hot in the summer, and so no bird or other animal could get them. I often brought them in the house with the warning that they better not have an accident! The first three I had were from my brothers’ rabbits. I got them young, and Jostern and Pepper Pot died and were buried. Sugar Meister, a white Albino bunny escaped, and I never saw or found him.

My heart was broken, until I had a dream that he was in a field, not far from the house. I saw him, followed him, and saw him hopping joyfully towards Pepper Pot, a black gentle bunny, and Jostern, brown and tan, all three eating from the lush greens, rolling and playing. This was my confirmation that Sugar Meister was indeed dead, playing in Heaven with my other two bunnies, the ones she knew so well. I will never forget theses three bunnies, as Jostern and his sister were born Easter Sunday from the oldest of my younger brother’s rabbit. Sugar was from my youngest twin brother’s Albino. Jostern often would be allowed free on the property and or would escape his pen and wait for me to return from university. Greeting me at my car, waiting for me to pick him up like a baby, pet his belly and his paws. I would put him down ask how his sisters were, and he’d run to their lawn cages (pen) and come hopping back. I have such fond memories. They were such loving gentle souls with soft cuddly fur, it was also my first experience of losing a pet. Let’s just say that I did not take their losses well, I cried and cried so badly that Ota said no more pets, because he couldn’t see me so upset. I get more, as a gift…and to take in as rescues so they would not become Hasenpfeffer! Sadly, they were killed by dogs who got loose, and I will not share that trauma and pain.

Dino was my first dog, a Doberman that I got when I was 30. He was just over 6 weeks old. I got him December 9th, 2000 and lost him August 20th, 2012. He was diagnosed with sudden death heartbeat at 7.5 years of age, a heart condition, discovered at just over 9.5, got arthritis with old age, and he died two months and three days before his 12th birthday of multicentric lymphoma. I still cry over losing him. He was put down with my uncle and dear friend and all the vet staff by his side. My uncle drove me to get my first knee replacement, with Dino, and then he took Dino to the vets, as he would not have lived until I made it back home. His blood oxygen count was too low, and as I received that information from my vet who was out of town, I had to make that difficult decision. I did not want him to die at home. I did not want anyone to have to pick up Dino and take him to be cremated. It is over 11 years since he went to Heaven, my family and I still talk about Dino, and I still cry…

Dino is the reason I call myself “mum.” He was my baby. When he cried, I got up at night to cuddle and comfort him. I took him everywhere I could: to work, the bank, the lawyers, the accountants, and my family members` houses. If you saw me, you probably saw Dino! Dino literally said “Mum:` when he wanted my attention. He loved my family, but I knew above all others I was his person. I walked, played and sang to him, he knew all my secrets, experienced all my joys and laughter and was my companion, and my shoulder I would cry on. I trained him in German, and he accepted my company from Germany. He, loved kids and most people, but if you hurt his mummy he would show his protective Doberman side!

My tattoo tribute to my deceased pets

Jake was my first rescue. He was not walked. Rather his previous owners would take him in the car to a field and let him run. Jake came to our family one month before his 4th birthday weighing 62 pounds, his healthy weight was 111 pounds, which he reached in a few months with me. He was a Great Pyrenees mix. He was intelligent, loving, and quiet, but loved he children. Children could crawl all over him, and if he heard a child cry, even a neighbour’s, he would find me, whine to get my attention and take me to the window. He was a brother to Dino for almost two years, a single dog for a year, and then became a brother to Moka.

My one nephew was just a small baby when Jake got a tumour and had to be put down, but even he still remembers my gentle giant. I dressed him up at Hallowe’en, and he won best costume every time. When the vet told me that Jake had a tumour, rather than hold on to him, have it rupture and cause him pain, I arranged to have him put to sleep. I took him to his favourite places, let him say goodbye to people and had my girlfriend take pictures of us. We were together, and I held him in my arms, whispering to come back to mummy as a puppy, so I could give him a loving home from the very beginning, I held him long after his last breath and heartbeat was no more.

Moka was my second rescue. Igot him one year after Dino passed away. Moka was 10 months old, and I was his fifth home. In going to meet Moka, I was not aware that he had so many previous homes, all I knew was I said “God, if this dog is meant for me, please give me a sign!” Well I saw Moka drink with his nose resting on the opposite side of the water dish from where he was standing, which was something I had only ever seen Dino do! That was my sign! I was shocked when I got him home and he immersed his whole snout into the water dish and drank, each and every time practically there after! Moka, bless his heart, was loving but hyper. He wanted to be close but actually didn’t know how to cuddle. I could lie on him, though, and he slept next to me until the night he died.

Moka was my most expensive baby; he had an autoimmune disease where his body would break down and attack his own liver. I say he was my problem child, but he was just as loved and cherished as Jake and Dino. The only real complaint I had about Moka was that he was always whiny and vocal in the car, especially far from home, once close to home he would settle down, my most silent car ride was taking him to the vets to be cremated.

Moka was also my only dog when he died, he had a tuxedo cat brother, and we both mourned Moka. Oreo was lost and no longer had a big Doberman to beat up and play with. Bless his heart, Moka the dog who loved chasing squirrels, never went after the rabbits who came and made nests in my back yard. Neither did he chase Oreo. Oreo was 5 months old when we got him from the Toronto Cat rescue, and within 30-45 minutes they were friends, Oreo would jump onto my bed at night, sleep on the pillow next to mine, and Moka would lie beside me. Oreo could jump on Moka, walk on Moka, and Moka allowed it … probably because Oreo would play with his dry kibble and playfully toss it to Moka.

Oreo mourned Moka, as Moka mourned Jake, and Jake mourned Dino. They all had different characters, quirks, and to some they are just animals, but if you are with animals, you see them as loving souls who accept people without judgement. They thrive with love and affection, they are used to routines and patterns, they adapt into our lives, and when things change you can see that they are affected. When Moka died at home, Oreo went to him once, and then stayed away from him and me. I know my cat, I saw he acted different.

To those that have never had a fur-bodied loving soul, they are just an animal. Some people believe animals belong outside or in a barn. And yes, there are varying opinions as to whether they are family members, pets, animals, children, etc... But to me they are my babies, they are loved just as equally as any other family member, except they live with me. My house is their home, their comforts and needs are my first responsibility. I am honoured to be their mum, and believe that Disney was correct that “All Dogs go to Heaven.”

Perhaps we wax poetic when we use the term “Rainbow Bridge” to show the depth of our grief. Perhaps we use the term so that people are not offended that we value our pets as dearly and equally as we mourn our human loved ones. Perhaps the term “Rainbow Bridge” (the route to cross over to the other side) is a symbolic reflection of the beauty they bring into our lives. Maybe it was termed to be universal to all no matter our spiritual or religious beliefs.

For me, rainbows are magical, and a beautiful gift from God, just like all the animals that come into our lives and become our family. I mourn my babies like I do other family members who are deceased, but I know not everyone understands.

There are many who get understand, though, which is in part why HHA holds Pet Lovers Death Cafés. The next one will be held virtually on November 8th at 7:00PM. You can register to attend here.

After writing memories, I did look into how the term “Rainbow Bridge” came to be. If you are interested, you can find out more information below:

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