Today, our Blossom crossed the rainbow bridge.
It is a remarkable thing to truly love a dog and to be loved by one in return. How many people can you say love you unselfishly? Asking for nothing in return for all they give other than your faithful companionship. How many people greet you with full bodied enthusiasm simply at your arrival, how many humans relish just the experience of sitting beside you? The stories that cause our family to howl will laughter like when she shit on Jacob (both times) or the toilet brush games of fetch or the time she peed in the AC vents would not resonate with you as they do with us. They are our precious memories of life filled with hilarity and wonder, and to condense all she was into a single post would be impossible. But as she was the matriarch of our family and the valiant protector of our brood, I’d like to memorialize all she meant to us and share a brief glimpse of her story.
A white Labrador puppy was born the runt of the litter. In May 2010, after a woman in Minnesota failed to pick her up from the breeder in Little Rock, my dad brought her home to the little white trailer house on the edge of town where we had taken up residence. She was tiny, timid and quiet. That was until the first weekend she spent with my brothers. They broke her out of her shell, and life has never quite been the same. After that first weekend, she realized we were her pack, and as the troop leader we were under her protection. From that moment on, she filled our lives with energy and love.
She was the glue that pieced our family back together again. For each of us she was something different. She freed Dad from the familiar plane of loneliness that sets in following a divorce, she was the smiling face that greeted him at the door each day. For Fonda, she was the faithful companion who never left her side, communicating support and love with just the pitter patter of her feet. For Joel, she was the non-judgmental source of hope and love in the years when it was hard to find an ally. For Jake, she was his protector, guardian and best friend when Joel and I left home. For me, she was the physical embodiment of home in a time in my life when I had lost mine. She was for us all a fresh start. She didn’t care that our living room furniture was mostly a deep freezer. She didn’t care what we came from or where we were going, whether we were rich or poor or what stories colored our history. Her only concern was whether or not we were going to throw the toilet brush down the hall for her to chase and if you were going to share your dinner. She loved us without exception and without fail every day of her life.
In her life she taught us a lot about living. She greeted each day with 100% enthusiasm, she was always fully engulfed and present in the moment. She lived loud, always full of joy and she never balked at an adventure. She greeted everyone she met as if you were her very favorite person, with the bellowing thunder of her hurdling toward you and the sticky slobber of a warm kiss and a cold wet nose. She reveled in life’s simple pleasures: a shared snack, a good poop, a good scratch behind the ears and pancakes on Sunday mornings. She was just as happy with a new rawhide as she was with an old dish towel to tear up. She never once complained, she embraced each journey she went on fearless with bright eyed wonder. She aged gracefully through all her life’s phases maturing from the vibrant puppy to a wise protector of her elder years. In this last season of her life, she taught us about facing adversity with grace and enthusiasm, and that even for a little while you are still young if you believe you are.
She loved a good bath and was terrified of thunderstorms. She loved Italian food and peach cobbler, but if you weren’t looking when you were shelling beans she would sneak one of them too. She loved breakfast on the weekends. She’d bite your hand off if you were just sharing dinner, but she would delicately share a Popsicle if you’d let her. She loved an outdoor adventure whether it was scaling a mountain or swimming a river or chasing ducks or turkeys. She swam hundreds of miles in my grandmother’s pool, and is one of few dogs I know that loved to go down a pool slide. She packed fifty years of memories into her ten years and two days with our family. That’s the cruel irony of loving a dog, you almost never out live them. The joy she brought to our life through her idiosyncrasies were innumerable, even though her days with us were too few.
Taking shelter from a thunderstorm. She always hid in the bathtub.
In many ways I wonder about the timing of life. Through a series of misfortunate events, she came into our life when we needed her most. She was the ball of energy that brought our family back to life. As importantly, she was the dog of Jacob’s boyhood. A constant in a sea of change for him as Joel and I transitioned away from home. Jacob’s last day of high school was Friday, the same day as Blossom’s kidneys began to fail. She had raised her man cub to adulthood. Her mission on earth in many ways was done. She gave us back our family. She made her boy into a man. She could go home in peace.
She could shred a squeaky toy. It was one of her favorite things. In her younger years, she chased live frogs, but became to distinguished for that in her later years.
Yesterday we celebrated her life with her. Her eyesight was failing, but we played in the yard. She ate most of a pizza, some ravioli, a rotisserie chicken and some brisket sandwiches. She ate in competition with Maggie, who proved to be a worthy adversary. We spent the whole evening rubbing bellies and scratching her ears. She climbed into my parent’s bed and slept between them contentedly. She was full of life and she was surrounded by love until the very end.
For man or beast, I do not believe there is a more touching tribute than to cross to the other side in a room surrounded by the people you love. She let us know that it was time, her eyesight completely gone and kidneys failing, and as her best earthly companions we honored her request. She went peacefully, as if she was falling asleep, in the arms of Fonda, Joel and Jake. She knew she was loved down to her very last breath, and when she went there was peace. We brought her home wrapped in her favorite jacket of dad’s that she used to chew on, and we buried her under an old shade tree in the yard. We surrendered her to eternity, and tears transitioned to laughter as we told our favorite stories of her ten years with us. Even in our grief, she helped us come to terms with losing her through the memories of all the joy she gave us.
I don’t pretend to know much about the afterlife. I won’t debate scholars on the validity of heaven or hell, but I know that all the dogs we love along the way will be waiting for us with cold, wet noses on the other side. I know that wherever we go when our name is called Blossom true to form will be bouncing behind the gates of eternity ready to welcome us on for our next adventure.