“Cosita! I have another mission for you.”
The black and tan terrier turned towards the feminine voice and flashed a smile of recognition. It wasn’t often that the woman came to visit, but when she did, there was always a request. Cosita knew what was going to be asked of her, it was always the same thing.
“I would be happy to do it ma’am,” the dog replied, chest puffed out and eager to please.
“I knew you would be,” the woman said, reaching down to stroke the top of the terrier’s head.
“You are such a perfect little angel!”
With her request accepted, the woman leaned over and kissed the dog on the tip of her nose, then strode towards the door, her posture perfect and her stride as though she were floating on air. The old dog followed the woman with her eyes as she crossed the room, then transformed into a beautiful cardinal who flew out the door, vanishing into a curtain of golden sunlight.
Retrieving her collar from the hook on the wall and sliding it over her head, Cosita bounded out the door and into the light of day. Her little home was on the outskirts of a tiny village whose streets were paved with cobblestones. At the end of the sidewalk, the dog turned right onto the lane and followed it out of town.
Soon she was trotting along the narrow stone walkway through a meadow filled with wildflowers. The sun shone down from its home in the rich blue sky overhead. The day was warm. Not too hot, and not chilly at all, as always, it was just right.
In the near distance, a tall structure began to emerge from the horizon. Drawing closer, the canine could make out the tall supports of the suspension bridge. She wasn’t alone in admiring it. All around her the loveliest serenade came from the trees where birds of every kind had gathered to weave their voices together in haunting and beautiful harmonies. A kaleidoscope of butterflies had been seduced by the melody, and so came to gather to flit and dance about the wide-open spaces in joyous surrender.
At last, the dog came to a standstill at the place where the cobblestones met the oak planks of the bridge’s deck. It was here that she chose to stop. Perhaps chose is not the best word, because the awesomeness of the sight always held her in check when she came to this place.
A thick mist rose from the cascading river below to merge and intertwine with the steel cables on the span. The sun cut through at just the right angle to light the cables up in all the colors in creation, giving the structure its name.
“The Rainbow Bridge,” the dog gasped in delight.
Cosita cast one last look over her shoulder at the overpass and marveled at its magical appearance for the last time before stepping off and into a thick cloud of vapor.
Emerging on the other side, the terrier was immediately filled with a sense of longing for home. The black and tan Jack Russell, sighed deeply, then looked around at this new world shrouded in darkness and protected by a layer of impenetrable dark clouds. It was a vast empty space, save for a solitary point of light at its center.
Knowing what was necessary to complete her quest, the dog sucked in a deep breath of air and began to jog towards the light. Drawing closer, the glowing ball began to grow closer and take form until at last, she found herself gazing at a young man seated in a wooden chair, his eyes intently focused on a streetlamp. A double helix of light blazed around the antique-looking fixture as though it were doing an intricate waltz.
The canine stood in silence for a moment, taking in the familiar face. The young man’s head was clean-shaven, and he wore a thick beard. He held his glasses in one hand and his head was tilted upwards. Though he sat in silence with his crystal blue eyes fixed upon the streetlamp, his gaze was in a faraway place. The dog hated to interrupt him, but alas, that was a necessary thing if she was to accomplish her mission.
Wasting not another moment, the terrier slowly strolled around the gentleman and approached calmly.
“Hello, how are you this evening,” the dog ventured to ask.
“I am fine, thank you for asking, and yourself?”
Like his sight, his voice too was far off, in another world. Having been here before, as well as having experienced being in the man’s position, Cosita knew what was going on inside of the young gentleman’s mind.
“If I may be so bold, may I ask what your name is?”
The dog’s query had been enough to break the spell. The young fellow’s eyes met the terriers. His head slowly cocked to the right.
“Allen,” he answered, his face beginning its transition from peaceful wonder to complete bewilderment.
The dog’s mouth dropped open, and her eyes grew wide. At the sound of that name, thousands of memories rushed to greet her.
“Uncle Allen? It’s me, Cosita!”
The gentleman squinted, then leaned forward to get a better look at the dog. His facial features eased, and a look of recognition grew on his face. His lips began to curl into a smile, thin and uneasy at first, then wide and joyous.
“You can talk,” he said, his voice a little unsteady.
“Yes. Yes, nothing is impossible here!” She answered with a chuckle.
“But you can talk, and … “
“and you can understand me. I know,” the Jack Russell said, finishing Uncle Allen’s sentence for him.
“We are all able to communicate and understand each other easily in this place,” the dog explained.
That was the statement that brought Uncle Allen to the present moment. He sat forward and craned his neck over one shoulder, then the other, so that he could better examine his surroundings, which were no doubt much different from the last place he remembered being in.
“Where am I?”
His voice trembled and his eyes gave away the fear that was beginning to creep into him and gnaw away at his insides. Cosita remembered this part all so well from when she came to this world for the first time.
“You are in a special place on the very verge of the Rainbow Bridge,” Cosita stated without a second thought on the matter.
“I don’t get it?”
“It is in the middle of where you were and where you are going,” the dog answered.
He was silent, letting the canine’s words roll around inside his head. His expression said that he was turning them over and over trying to make sense of them and struggling to do so.
“You mean … I am no longer alive. I am going to be here alone. Forever?”
The words tumbled from his lips with so much sorrow and finality. Cosita let him sit with the thought for a few more minutes before answering.
“You are not alone. I am here.”
“Sorry,” he said, jutting his head forward and scrunching up his face.
“This is not forever. This is just a place where you can kind of prepare for what’s next,”
“There’s more,” he asked, nervousness making an appearance in the tone of his voice.
The Jack Russell wished there was a way for her to download all the information that Uncle Allen needed from her brain into his so he could understand, but then, that would take away the purpose of this place.
It was at that moment that the clouds began to part, and sunlight filtered in revealing the splendor of the arches and glowing cables.
“What is that?”
The tone in his voice had shifted revealing a calmness that had begun to settle around him.
“That is the Rainbow Bridge, we cross that and go into The Meadow,” Cosita explained as they walked towards it together.
“So … that is where we will live forever?”
“Forever? I don’t know about forever; I have only been here for five years myself!”
They came to an abrupt stop. Uncle Allen swung his head in Cosita’s direction. They locked eyes and fell silent for a moment or two until at last, Uncle Allen burst out into laughter.
“You are too funny Cosita!”
“Are you ready Uncle Allen,” the dog asked, her face covered from cheek to cheek with a wide grin.
Together, they set foot upon the bridge where the mist rose and engulfed them.
“Mission complete,” the dog said proudly, her gaze intently focused on the other side of the window where Uncle Allen sat on a park bench talking and laughing with his grandparents. All the tension and worry that he had been carrying had fallen away.
“Thank you, Ma’am. But what about all those people he left behind,” the Jack Russell asked.
The woman reached out and scratched the dog on his cheek, then smiled compassionately at her.
“They will be sad for a season, but they will heal. Your Uncle Allen will be alive and exist in both places but in different ways.”
“But, for how long …” the dog started to protest, then stopped when the woman gently held her hand up, gesturing for Cosita to hold her thought.
“That will be a mission for another day,” she said, then smiled warmly, before transitioning back into a cardinal and flying away. The feathered creature was about to pass through the door then suddenly stopped and turned to face the Jack Russell.
“Everything and everyone is finite Cosita … except for one thing.”
The dog cocked her head and gazed at the bird with an expression of confusion on her sweet face.
“Love, Cosita … Love never dies!”
The bird turned and soared off into the perfect blue sky, leaving the pooch to gaze out the window and smile at the sight of love in action.
Dedicated to our son, Nicholas, who passed away this week.