Rainbow Bridge

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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 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, water and sunshine and our friends are warm and comfortable.All the animals who had 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 of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing: they each miss someone very special, someone who was left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, he breaks from the group, flying over the green grass, faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally 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 those trusting eyes, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together…

*Author Unknown*



May 1971 – December 1988
Young Blaze
Every teenager needs a dog, and I had wanted a dog probably from the very first word that I spoke. Unfortunately illness in the family prevented us from having one until the summer of 1971 when I found this four week old litter of puppies. No one wanted the runt – so I took her home. Dad said I couldn’t keep her – but it was Friday June 28 and no one would pick her up over the weekend, or on Monday July 1st being Canada Day. By Tuesday she had Dad wrapped around that little paw of hers. Blaze was my constant companion, she rode in my bicycle carrier until she was old enough to run beside the bike, she went absolutely everywhere with me. She was just about the most intelligent dog I have ever met, with a true ability to think a problem through as well as being a loving and obedient friend. Had Blaze been a purebred she would have achieved U.D., she had all of the exercises down pat by two years old, although obedience was not really her “thing”, and although she did it well it was not with great pizzaz. We belonged to the drill team of the North York Obedience Club and performed in nursing homes and hospitals. Blaze was with me through marriage and the births of my son and daughter. She was their teething ring and walker, as well as their constant guardian. In fact the first time we left Michael with a babysitter we were called to come home because he was crying and she wouldn’t let the girl into his bedroom. She was such a part of my life for so long that it was totally unfathomable to me that she could ever become ill, but at 17-1/2 she succumbed to liver disease. My friend who had been with me for so much of my life, and given a teenager a reason to get involved in obedience and stay away from the wilder teenage pursuits finally decided that I was ready to tackle life on my own. Blaze, like all my friends who have gone to the bridge, now maintains a special place on my dresser where she will remain until we can all be returned to the earth together.

Blaze and Duchess
Young Blaze

August 1975 – June 1990
Young Blaze
I guess I can honestly say that if it weren’t for Duchess, there would be no Yasashiikuma Kennel today. Duchess was an Irish Wolfhound/Border Collie cross. Her sweet and gentle nature was all from her Irish Wolfhound dad, along with her wire coat. From her mother the Border Collie came the typical Black and White markings as well as an inexhaustible obedience drive, which was tempered by the I.W.’s willingness to please. Duchess was my best obedience dog as she was always looking to please and made constant eye contact with me long before the days of “motivational” training.

She was just a natural.

Duchess unfortunately developed cancer and although she bravely fought it, and maintained her sweet disposition throughout, it consumed her quickly and led me to send her home to the bridge at 14-1/2 years. However, her temperament was so outstanding that I knew that an Irish Wolfhound would always be a part of my life from that point on.

Superstar Acushla Alanna
February 14, 1989 – March 25, 1996
No matter how hard I try to think of others, the only memories of Alanna are ones that bring a smile or laugh, even through the tears of missing her.

Alanna at four months giving Penny the cookie I’d given her to prevent jealousy towards the newcomer, and coming back to get another for herself.

Alanna at five months “hunting” the curls of paper from the back of the peel-and-stick tiles I was laying in the basement, bouncing about and killing them, and then coming back for another.

Alanna in Sudbury, when Bill attempted to show us that she should be shown at a faster gait, grabbing his pant leg and shaking it causing Bill to perform a jerky version of the hokey-pokey.

Alanna in Barrie, refusing to budge from the shade of the tent during the heel free exercise, thereby ending her career as an obedience dog.

Her famous signals. The best known signal was that for “rub my ears”, a head butt to the midsection, pressing her forehead against you nose pointed straight down, much to the astonishment of those receiving it (especially men). Her other signals were “rub my belly”, a front paw wave over the head when on her side, and “rub my butt” – placing her rear end on your lap as you sat in a chair.

The “three-way twist” – sleeping on her back with her hind legs pointed in one direction, and her front legs and head in the totally opposite direction.

“Lanna Leaps” – bounding jumps followed by a leap into mid-air where she would perform a 360 turn ending with a bow to her playmate, usually performed in the dining room.

Alanna’s “Stupid ears” – crossing both ears over the top of her head to create a hat, a signal that warned those in the know, of impending “‘Lanna Leaps”.

Alanna’s seventh birthday party, her smiles and hugs to all the guests, and her attempt to steal a corner of the cake, before the candles had even been lit. She was so happy to be the total centre of attention and play with her gifts. How fortunate I am that I could give her that special day.

And even in death Alanna could not leave me with a sad memory. She never made me make the ultimate decision and live with the guilt of whether I had done all that was possible for her, instead she waited until I arrived at the clinic, and then passed quietly on, knowing I was there but sparing me the final anguish of ending her life.

I hope that you have found Bailey, and all of the loaves of bread you could ever want to steal. I miss you.

Yasashiikuma Bit O’Baileys
March 1, 1991 – April 5, 1992
I can remember as clearly as if it were yesterday the night of your birth. Alanna’s temperature had dipped the night before, and she had been restless since about 2 a.m. At about 8 a.m. I called Susan to say I believed the litter was on its way, and she arrived within the hour. (I thought she was going to kill me when the vet examined you Mom and said it would be at least another 12 hours!)

At about 9 p.m. her water broke and she began to seriously strain. It was almost another 2 hours  before your head was visible, but the sac had broken and she was still unable to get you out. You squeaked and squeaked and Susan warned me that we would probably lose you, but you beat the odds and made it out, and were content and nursed until the arrival of your brother Brutus almost two hours later.

It’s funny that I don’t remember anything remarkable about you for the first few weeks. You took to the bottle well, (but not as quickly as Blue), and at Pablum (but not as fast as Seamrog) and then Formula One (but not as quickly as Seamus). You weren’t the biggest, the prettiest, or the one with the most personality at that time, just one of the hoard, but you were obviously just waiting for the right time to shine your light.

At five weeks, we took our first close look at the litter, making observations for future reference. While you made it to the final cut, you still didn’t have quite the class of your brothers Caleb, Danny and Brutus.

At eight weeks the first round of puppies left for their new homes, why one chose you is beyond me, unless like us they were too blind to see what was under their noses. Perhaps it might have been better for you if they had.

At three months you began to go to the Sanction Matches, but always ended up placing behind your brother Caleb. Clunky and unco-ordinated were the labels put on you, only our friend Sue seemed to see your promise – she said to keep an eye on you.

You began to make sure we did notice you – there was no way to ignore you. Robbie and Kim were staying with us at that point. I’d call from work to see how you guys were doing and I’d get comments like “Bailey led a jail break today – he opened the gate and let everyone out into the big yard” or “Bailey was on top of the dog house today trying to show the others how if they could just take that one b-i-g step they could make it over the fence” or “Bailey decided he wanted out of the crate today and hit the door and broke off the lock.” It was always Bailey this or Bailey that, but you sure made sure that we noticed you.

It was September before we finally noticed you in the show ring. At a Sanction Match in Hamilton you took the breed over six of your litter mates and then went on to take a group 2nd, finally outshining your brother Caleb’s record of Group 3rd’s. On to the Specialty later that month, and we were bursting with pride at the comments about you from the judge Zena Thorne- Andrews. A week later you took your first points and a puppy group in your first all-breed show. I know I looked like an idiot with my shiny eyes but you have achieved a milestone that I had not been able to reach before. In your entire short show career of only 8 shows, you took one BOB, 3 WD (for a total of 6 points), and 2 RWD as well as Junior Puppy Dog at the Specialty. What would you have done if you’d had a chance to grow up?

You at last became the only puppy left at home and your personality blossomed with the individual attention. You loved to cuddle and play and did the greatest impression of a starving stray at the end of dinner. Everyone who came to the house couldn’t help but love the Golden Bear, if they were at all hesitant you put that monstrous head of yours into their lap and stared up at them until they couldn’t resist you. Even the cats would end up with a bath from you when you would finally corner them in one of the bedrooms. And when we caught you doing something naughty, like stealing food, you would run to the back door to be let out (hiding your booty in your mouth) and pretend to be innocent. When punished you would always be back in minutes pressing your head under my arm to lick my face and ask to be forgiven.

My friend Charlie says you should never give a dog a name it can’t live up to. When I was filling out the registration papers I realized I could not call you Ebony Star which I had chosen because you stayed black for the first four weeks and was at odds to come up with a suitable name. Paul was going downstairs and said, “Would you like a drink?: and I answered “Yes, I’ll have a bit of Bailey’s” and so you were named. And true to Charlie’s prediction, you did enjoy it, or rum, or cognac or tea, or anything else we were stupid enough to leave within your reach.

As for the Yasashiikuma, you truly were the Gentle Bear. From the time Penny’s puppies were born you would spend long periods of time sitting outside the whelping box watching them. When their eyes opened and they recognized their oversize cousin, they would all run to you to lick your face. And when they were old enough to come out of the whelping box and run around the kitchen, you loved to lie on the floor and let them crawl all over you It must have hurt sometimes to have five sets of teeth sunk into your tail trying to pull you across the kitchen, or hanging off of your ears or beard, but you never lost patience with them, and never moved until we had put them all safely back into the whelping box.

I always figured the puppy that I kept was the one that I would never have to worry about. It would always be safe with me and I would never have to worry about it getting lost, or stolen or hit by a car. Falling through ice and drowning never even crossed my mind as a possibility. If love could have saved you, Bailey, you would still be here with me. I let you down when you needed me the most and I will never forgive myself for those moments of neglect. IF I could do it all over again, I’d give up all of those show awards, to only have you by my side again and to do all the things that I regret now not having spent more time with you doing because of work commitments – like walks in the woods, and playing in the yard.

I miss you B.B. Bear. I hope that you did not suffer greatly as a result of my stupidity, and  that you were taken home because God really did need a special friend, and there was truly no one as special as you. You were only thirteen months and the thought of losing you had never crossed my mind, so I never had the chance to say goodbye, or to see you mature, or even to find out what colour you would finally be when that funny stripe down your back grew in., I can only hope that somehow you know how I feel and that sometime we will be together again.

Sadly missed, but never forgotten.

Ch. Yasashiikuma Caleb Justice, CGC, TDI
March 2, 1991 – October 26, 1998

The Lover, Ca-love, the Big Man, and the Miracle Dog.   All of  them special nicknames for a dog who spent most of his life giving unto others, as a Service Dog  his joy in life was to bring a smile to  the faces of the patients  he visited three times a week during his Therapy Dog rounds.

Caleb came back to us at 6 months of age, the victim of a messy divorce.  I believed his temperament was  shattered, he was  no longer the bold, confident puppy we had placed, but stood off to  the side,  his  head down, looking as if he wanted to join  in  the group scruffles, but not feeling  that
he was good enough  to take part.  Thankfully  his early raising stood  him in good stead, because  slowly the  sunny personality began to emerge again, and confidence returned, returning OUR Caleb back into the fold.   However,  I vowed he would never leave us  again.

Caleb finished his championship at the Capital Area Sighthound Specialty weekend at a year and a half. However, something in the time he had been away from us caused  him to hate being confined or cornered by other dogs, so his  show career was brief.

Caleb also loved the  puppies.  He took responsibility for  teaching  them  to be “Noble” wolfhounds.

I wish that I had taken a picture when I had  the chance of Caleb lying in his “Regal” position, one foreleg tucked  under,  surveying his domain, with  7 little clones on each side of him in the same position.  It was quite the sight to behold.

Caleb’s mission in life  however was Therapy Work.  Through  him I saw many miracles, one  entitled The Miracle, which I  have written on the Poetry and Stories  page.  He visited  two chronic care floors in York County Hospital and two nursing  homes each week and was loved by all the residents and staff.  On his own he perfected the “Therapy Nudge” where  he could push  his  muzzle  under a non-responsive patients hand and flip it to  the top of his  head.  He withstood ear pulling, rough petting, trod on toes and still joyfully ran to the front door to  go for his visits  when I picked up his TDI harness.

Caleb tried to leave me for the first time at 5 years.  He knocked  the cushions off a couch I had for the dogs, and put  his leg through the springs, damaging his back. He couldn’t walk, and nearly bled to death internally from the steroids given to combat the swelling.  My vets told me  he was on his way “out”, and that  all they could suggest was a  blood

transfusion to try and save  him from Caleb the Poodle. When I arrived at the clinic,  he was sitting up, wagging his tail, and on the road to recovery.  However, every day from that  point became borrowed time and  very precious.  He frequently would have both  hind legs swell up and spike high fevers for days, and gradually recover.

Over the next couple of years he  began to  slip further and  further down hill.  The periods between the fevers became shorter, the fevers more persistent.  In the summer of 98  he had a bad session, which came on quickly and where needed to be carried into the clinic.  He laid flat out like

a dead dog, my vet suggested all we had left to try were the streroids to which he had adversely reacted earlier.  At 9 a.m. there was no change, at 10:30 no change, and noon still no change.  At 12:30 while talking  to my vet she said “Well, there is still no change and he’s…. (pause) …getting up and walking out the back door!!!!”  The Miracle Dog had pulled  through  one more time.

But these episodes were taking their toll. He lost most of his vision,  and was unable to totally empty his bladder, requiring me to catheterize him several times a day.   He was so patient with me as I learned this procedure, and never became irritable, even though no one could have  blamed  him.

I am thankful we had a long glorious warm fall, as I knew that when winter came I would need  to seriously look at whether I would be able to continue to look after his medical needs. At  the end of October  he took another turn  for the worse, and again returned to the  vet’s office.  Since work was sending me on a weeks training during  which he was to be boarded

there, I decided he would remain Saturday anyway even though he  was
again  showing improvement.

Caleb, like his mother Alanna, chose to take the decision out of my hands.  The vets had him out at 11 p.m. Sunday night, when they went to take  him out Monday morning he was curled in his sleeping position, nose   under  the tail, never to wake  again.  I got the news of his passing while  at the Leadership Centre.    I excused myself  from classes to go and sit by the fountain and grieve, and to decide whether to leave the  centre.  Again  I felt the guilt that I hadn’t been there to say goodbye….but Caleb performed his final  miracle.

Suddenly as I looked at the fountain a beautiful rainbow appeared, hung there for a few moments, and  then disappeared again.  I moved around  to see if I could make it reappear…but there wasn’t enough sun for a rainbow.  Then I understood.  I hadn’t been able to go to Caleb to say goodbye, so Caleb came to me.  Only a Miracle Dog could have made a Rainbow appear, on a day where the sun was hidden behind clouds.  Thank you Big Buddy for all you taught me about patience, love and understanding over our time together.

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