We walked Growlie Man, little Bingie Ding, to the Rainbow Bridge today. It was his time. Now, 5 hours later, he’s out under the cherry tree and I’m still here by the damn bridge, clinging to the handrails and watching the spot where he disappeared from sight.
General String Bean, so called for his scrappy body and demeanor in battle, was a foundling. We have no idea how old he was the day Meg and I saw him on the side of the road. He inspected every passing car with the intensity of a dog who knew there had been a mistake, that his owner hadn’t opened the car door and pushed him out on purpose.
We couldn’t leave him there. Neither, it turned out, could the lady who plucked him from the side if the road before we did.
“No, that’s not my dog,” said the man at the first house we took him to. “I told the lady who stopped here a half an hour ago the same thing,” he said.
As I drove toward home, he settled onto my lap, hooked his nose over my arm, and fell asleep. He chose and claimed his home in a matter of minutes.
That was sixteen years ago. Over the years he has made us laugh and he exasperated us. He had a very large little man complex. He once lit out after a passing snowplow, determined to destroy it. He was afraid of nothing.
Oh how I miss that little guy. Already. As we drove to the vet, for auld lang syne I suppose, he hooked his little nose over my arm and we traveled toward the bridge in silence.
It hasn’t been a day and I know what I shall miss most. It’s the sound of his little dancing feet, claws clicking on the hardwood floor, and his staccato snuffles under the door in the morning. It’s the way he insisted on burrowing into my blanket, fitting perfectly in the space between my legs on the loveseat.
And it’s the way he tried to live on for us, but failed. Even with his hind legs collapsed and his little feet knuckled under, he looked at us with his earnest, honest gaze. He tried, but it was more than he could muster this time.
So we did what we had to: we let him go. No, we did more. We pointed his nose toward the other side of the bridge and stepped out of his way.
So here I am. Not ready to leave the place where I last plunged my nose into his gray head, anointing his little body for burial with my tears.
I know that the pain I feel will give way to better days, new memories with other dogs. In time I’ll remember the good ones with Bean too.
For now though, I can’t think of those things. It’s all I can do to hold onto these cold, hard handrails on the Rainbow Bridge. And weep.