The sun had peaked over the horizon an hour ago, and already had begun its steady climb into the crystal blue sky. The day was mild for mid – November. The tree’s shown with all their usual autumn hues, but this year, there seemed to be an abundance of yellow leaves, which seemed to glow like gold when the sun’s light touched them.
It all added up to an almost perfect day for introspection. I say almost perfect, but something was missing, and I couldn’t quite put my paw on what it was. An eerie quiet had settled over the house this morning, there were no cats romping around playfully, no Daddy wanting to go for a walk, and strangest of all, no Mommy wanting to cuddle. I wasn’t hurt or offended, rather, I was relieved to have some quiet time to myself. Sometimes a dog needs a moment or two to herself, if you know what I mean.
A gentle tapping sound emerged, followed by the splatting of little droplets of water on my brown fur. I stuck out my tongue so I could get a taste of the cold November rain, which in a twist of irony, was bitter. Fortunately, the shower lasted only a minute or so, but it was long enough to create a huge arching rainbow across the sky.
My eyes grew wide, and my ears perked up at the sight. Could it be? Was that the Rainbow bridge? My heart began to race, and my thoughts drew back to that morning five years ago.
“What’s taking so long?” the orange cat with the ever-growing belly grumbled.
The rest of us glanced over at him, unable to take issue with him because we were just as anxious as he to find out what was going on with Cosita. I had overheard Mommy and Daddy talking in bed last night about the black and tan terrier. Mommy was worried, there was no doubt about that, but Daddy was doing his best to ease her mind. He kept reminding her that it was probably just a urinary tract infection. It was hard to know what to think or feel. I mean it was a fact that Mommy is a worrier, and if there is nothing to worry about, she will devise a plan just so that she can be anxious and Daddy, well, he is forever trying to calm her down.
“Jeez, take a chill pill Rapi,” the thin grey tabby cat called over her shoulder from the windowsill.
“Be nice Bennie,” the young grey and white cat pleaded from atop the sofa back.
“Are you talking to me Bella?” Bennie answered with a menacing growl.
The younger cat didn’t answer, turning her head to look away instead. The tension in the apartment was getting thick. Between the anxiousness over Cosita and the looming confrontation between Bennie and the other cats, I thought I was going to have a break down. I was down to my last nerve when the door swung open and Cosita came trotting in.
“How are you feeling,” I asked.
“What happened,” Bella shouted over me.
“What did the doctor say,” Rapi blurted out, forcing his way to the front in hopes of getting his question answered first.
Instead of acknowledging our queries the terrier pushed through the crowd and climbed up into her usual spot in the corner of the sofa and curled up into a ball.
“Everything went muy bien. The doctora said I have cancer, that’s all. Now if you don’t mind, I have some sleep to catch up on.”
And that is how we found out. It was presented as matter of fact and nothing to be concerned about, but the rest of us understood just how grave the situation was. Cosita may have chosen to be brave and not cry, but the rest of us found our own place where we could let our sorrows pour out.
It had been a couple of weeks since Cosita had received her diagnosis and she had become a changed dog. All the playfulness that had embodied her spirit and personality had left. All the days began to run into each other until it seemed like one long unending day in which she would sleep, refuse to eat and have accidents in the house.
This dark shadow had crept over not just Cosita, but the whole family as well. The cats had stopped playing too, and Rapi and Bennie had begun to keep a vigil with the little terrier, one of them always at her side. We all knew that Cosita was afraid and suffering, but she wore a brave face, and built up a wall around her to keep her emotions inside.
One day, Mommy and Daddy came home from the store, and just like always we all raced to the door to greet them, including Cosita. I watched with a sickening feeling in my tummy as she gingerly climbed down from the sofa and willed her way across the living room to the door. We all stepped out of her way so that Mommy could get down on the floor and greet her with hugs and big kisses.
“I am so sorry to do this to you baby,” Mommy said, the words coming between sniffles. She opened a box and pulled out a diaper.
Cosita took one look at the plastic thing and let her head drop. I blinked away the tears to watch Mommy put it on my friend. The terriers body slumped in defeat and for the first time since the whole ordeal began, she howled and began to weep unconsolably.
Mommy held Cosita in her lap and sang to her for the rest of the day, with Rapi curled up on one side of her and me on the other.
“I hate cancer,” I grumbled quietly.
It had been a month since the diagnosis, and I awoke to a leaden grey sky, which described my feeling exactly. My insides had become a giant bowl of oatmeal, thick and sludgy. Seeing my dearest friend suffer day after day was wearing away at me. I didn’t want to get up and giving in to the general morose I rested my head on Daddy’s pillow and closed my eyes.
It started as a faint noise. It was the sound of a dog growling. It wasn’t a mean growl. It was more of a … wait … cat’s laughing? No, it wasn’t mean at all, it was the sound of playtime. I took a deep breath and smiled. It was like music to my ears. I could hear Cosita and Rapi laughing and running around the house.
I wanted so much for this to be real, but I knew it wasn’t. This was one of those lucid dreams, you know, the kind where you know you were dreaming. I didn’t really care though, I just wanted to enjoy it for a few minutes, to relish those days again.
Kerfluff, the bed shook with the shockwave from a large body landing on it. I was intimately familiar with the feeling. It was Rapi.
“Not now,” I grumbled to the orange cat.
Kerfluff. A second wave rolled across the mattress. Now this was confusing. I slowly opened my eyes to find Cosita staring down at me.
“Let’s go kid!” she teased playfully and began to nip at my ears.
Just like old times we were rolling around frolicking on the bed. The sounds of laughter cut through the long stagnant air. Our house had come alive again.
We wrestled then played ball in the living room, all the while roaring with laughter and joy until the day drew late. Sitting side by side on the divan we gazed out over the city to watch the sun sink below the skyline.
“I’m so tired,” Cosita said, her weary eyes searching mine, as if looking for something in the depths of my soul.
“We did play pretty hard today,” I said, a huge smile spread across my face.
Cosita hopped down and trotted over to her spot on the sofa, with me in tow. I could see the illness beginning to creep over her again.
“You know something kid, you are braver than you think,” the terrier said with a wink.
I couldn’t help but laugh. I was even afraid of my own reflection in the mirror.
“No seriously. Did you know the cat’s look up to you?”
“No, they don’t. They are just afraid of me because I am a big dog.”
Cosita laughed at my self-assessment and shook her head.
“No, it’s not that you’re a big dog. It’s that you have a kind soul,” she said.
I looked away. Compliments aren’t my thing. They tend to make me feel strange inside and I don’t know how to respond to them.
“When I am gone, they are gong to rely on that kind soul to get them through their grief.”
I gulped and fought back the tears. I didn’t want to have this conversation.
“Be brave Cindee. Live with your heart. I will always be with you, watching over you from the Rainbow Bridge. You are my best friend. I love you!”
My heart shattered into millions of pieces.
“I love you too Cosita,” the words cracked from my trembling lips.
“Be brave,” she mumbled as she dozed off.
The next morning, she was gone. Five years have passed, and I still feel the ache in my heart from that morning. A part of my heart fractured beyond repair. I remember Cosita’s last words to me.
I try to live up to them, and now that I am older, I think I am starting to understand.
Three hundred sixty-four days of the year we look back on the days of Cosita with fond memories, but one day is set aside for mourning.
Every year, when that cold November day comes, and when it arrives, Daddy will say, what a dark day. Mommy will silently nod her head, and close herself off in the bathroom.
As for me, I will climb up on the sofa next to Daddy and put my paw in his hand, and allow my eyes to close and listen to his words fill the air.
The ancient prayer falls from his lips and mingles with the sound of Mommy’s sobs and agonizing sighs to form a dirge.
In my mind’s eye I can see the little black and tan terrier running through the meadows with exuberance and unquenchable energy.
She stops at the edge of a rainbow bridge and waits. I know with certainty in my heart, that when the day comes for me to cross that bridge, I will be greeted with wild, unadulterated passion. Why? Simply because, that is Cosita’s way!