Diane and Scout came into my life almost five years ago. They joined my dog-walking group, or rather we joined them. The dog group starts its walks every morning at about 5: 30 in a suburban nature preserve. We human members talk about everything under the sun, including politics, education, kids and sports. We have a great deal of fun, but there is a serious side. People can talk about their family problems, such as a sick parent or child. Sometimes we are saddened when one of our canine members falters from age or illness.
I have been doing this for many years. I love the give and take with these people. The dogs, each with his or her own quirks and sense of fun, enjoy the experience even more. We always have a great time; and after an hour or so, we all part company and set out on our days.
Almost five years ago, I, my son-in-law, two or three other people and our dogs were walking along and saw a woman and her dog cross a nearby field and then onto the path we were walking on. Since the woman was some distance ahead, we didn't get a chance to meet her. This went on for a number of days. One day as she entered the path, we almost collided, and that's when we got to know Diane and her dog. Diane's a librarian. Scout belonged to one of her daughters, but Diane had her "temporarily" because the daughter was away at college.
After that day, Diane and Scout never failed to show up. They were inseparable, and Scout was the most affectionate and good-natured animal you could imagine. So many times I would be standing, watching the sun come up or talking to one of the other dog walkers, and there would be Scout's nose in the palm of my hand looking up at me plaintively, and I would pat her and tell her what a good dog she was. Sometimes she would run in circles to show us how happy she was to be in our midst.
We learned that Diane's husband had died a number of years ago and that she lived alone in a house not too far away from where we walked. What really enchanted us was her laughter. She had a sense of humor about everything, and her laughter made our mornings most enjoyable. For the past couple of years, Diane has had to deal with her mother, who had been quite ill and just recently passed away. However, a couple of months ago, one of her daughters got married and we all went to the wedding.
More recently, Scout became quite ill and had to have major surgery to remove some malignant tumors. She survived the surgery, and came back to the dog group full of enthusiasm. But after a few weeks, it was easy to tell that she was still having problems. More tumors were found. She moved stiffly and found it difficult to climb a hill overlooking the park. Things deterioated very rapidly after that, and then one day Diane and Scout didn't come to walk with us. That went on for two or three more days, and then we knew.
I didn't know what to say to Diane. I wrote her a note telling her how much we missed her and Scout. I reminisced about what a great dog Scout was and how much she meant to all of us. I also told Diane how much we loved her and that we shared her grief.
Pets are so special. They give us companionship and love, and they make us better people. I know that one of the great joys of my life is to get home at night and be with my Alaskan malamute, Yodie. He is a great companion, and we always have a wonderful time together. When I'm traveling, I miss his good humor and his willingness to accept me as I am.
Along with the letter I sent to Diane, I enclosed a copy of "Rainbow Bridge," a short essay by an unknown author. Here it is:
"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. Here 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 to them, who had to be 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 quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him 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 the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together."
Love you, Scout