My little buddy Cody, a beagle funny (a true dwarf), died at the age of twelve after spending five wonderful years with me. During the last years of his life, once a week he and I would make the long drive to the Small Animal Veterinary Hospital at Davis. Rather than see it as a chore … we made every trip a special time together. I would secure Cody in his doggie booster seat -- as otherwise he was too small to see out of the window – and off we’d go.
As we drove, Cody would intently watch the other cars; he seemed to take special interest in those with other doggies. And once we were out of range of his favorite classical station, I’d tune to one featuring country & western music and sing along. Just to make it fun, I’d change all the lyrics to be about Cody and our happy times together. He seemed to like that this was about him, as he would look at me and smile.
On our return journey, we always made a much anticipated detour for a stop at an old-fashioned drive-in, where a friendly lady would give Cody a cup of ice. That little fellow just loved ice.
At Davis, Cody became a very popular patient. After a while, all I had to do was tell the receptionist that I was calling about Animal No 33-55-89 (his actual patient number) and she would exclaim, “Cody!”
Of course, the Small Animal Hospital is a pretty big place, and our walk to see the doctor took us past many different departments. In sort order Cody was a celebrity. Each visit he was recognized by more and more of the staff and students … and everyone wanted to say hello. As a result, we’d often be a little late for our appointment. Once our doctor was waiting with arms folded … and saying “Cody, you are too popular for our regular schedule. I’m going to have to call you in even earlier next time.” At Cody’s last appointment, more than twenty doctors and students -- well beyond those assigned to treat him -- came to say hello.
Yes, Cody was an animal, but there was something magical about him. The bond he and I developed exceeds any I’ve ever known.
Now that Cody has gone, I like to think of him running and playing at Rainbow Ridge ... it’s a very comforting thought. At Rainbow Ridge he is completely healthy ... no longer cripple … and hasn’t a care in the world. He is happy and safe … with no loud noises to frighten him. He is in the company of other animals … and the kind people who come there to find long parted friends and cross Rainbow Bridge.
WHEN CODY & SCOTT REJOIN TO CROSS RAINBOW BRIDGE
Early one morning, I find myself hiking up a beautiful mountain pass. The air is clean and fresh with the lingering scent of a night rain. The sun's rays are streaming through the boughs of the forest canopy; the sky gradually brightening on its way to becoming a vivid blue. High in the branches are the sounds of a new day with birds a twitter in a near symphony of song; never before have I heard them sing so delightfully.
As I move along, there is a spring in my step and none of the usual stiffness of joint. I haven't felt this youthful in ages. I don't really know where I am, where I'm going, or even why I'm here, but everything is so pleasant that I'm completely content to be in the moment.
About me, the air is warming from the cool crispness of dawn ... it couldn't be the beginnings of a more beautiful early summer's day. Every now and again in my journey I step off to the side of the trail only to have my bare feet sink deeply into a carpet of soft grass fresh with dew. But the stop is only for a moment, something is drawing me onward.
Before long, the path emerges from the trees into a wide-open field. I can see in every directions … and all about me is the majesty of snowcapped peaks … mountains reaching for the sky.
Just ahead the path ascends a particularly green hillside. As I crest the ridge … the full glory of morning breaks across a great meadow ablaze with wildflowers of every color. Even the air shimmers as myriad pairs of butterfly wings dance from bloom to bloom while overhead, iridescent hummingbirds zig, zag and hover in a magical show of precision flight. And everywhere, everywhere I look there are animals … each and every one in the prime of its life … all together in the grandness of this beautiful meadow. The lion and the lamb are at peace.
At once, I know where I am. I know why I have made this journey. I realize that my time too has come ... and I am filled with joy. After all, this is the meadow … this is Rainbow Ridge!
“Cody must be here,” I shout with glee. But there are so many animals I begin to wonder … how will I ever find him? Then, as if by plan … I see him; he and a bunny are scampering across some gently rounded stones by the edge of a cool brook.
Suddenly he stops ... turns in my direction … cocks his little head … and looks hard into the distance ... right at me. At first he's not sure who I am ... after all, so many visitors have climbed the path to the meadow … and Cody has known none of them. But while they were strangers to Cody, they had not been strangers to all the animals. Each time at least one of the animals knew the visitor and then together they had departed … crossing the bridge at the far side of the meadow.
Then sometimes an animal arrived at Rainbow Ridge only to journey right away to the foot of the bridge; and here it would sit, wait patiently and watch. Now when that happened, not even the best of pranks could draw away that particular animal's attention. And always, before too long, the new arrival would jump to its feet in happy anticipation as someone crossed Rainbow Bridge from the far side. This visitor was always a friend who had gone before ... but who had not forgotten. Together again, they'd turn and across the bridge they'd go.
Once, Cody had journeyed to that far edge of the meadow … to the very foot of the bridge. He came to say good-bye to a friend … a friend joined by one who had come to find and be with him. But a little fellow such as Cody couldn’t even see the other side of the bridge. It certainly wasn’t a place for small beagle to go alone or even following behind a friend. So back to the meadow of Rainbow Ridge he turned.
As I stand in silence … barely believing my eyes … realizing that I am seeing my long parted friend … Cody continues to stare at me intently. I begin moving in his direction … faster and faster with each step … when suddenly there is joy of recognition all about him. At once he leaps from the rocks and begins running across the open field between us … his little legs moving so fast they are all a blur … his soft beagle ears billowing in the wind. I throw my arms open and he leaps into them as if flying on angels' wings. Doggie kisses rain upon me as I hug my dear friend close.
After the near endless barks and words of love … we begin to walk. Walking has always been our favorite pastime together. Without having any particular destination in mind, we find ourselves on that far side of the meadow at the foot of the bridge. Just for a moment we turn our heads toward the meadow where we are greeted by hundreds and hundreds of animals all looking in our direction. Every one of them is happy ... happy for us. They know why we are here ... they also know that their day will come.
I look down at Cody … and he is looking up. We both understand. This time it isn’t about another animal and a kind and loving stranger, this time we are the friends rejoined. This is Cody and Scott’s time. Without another word or a bark, we wave goodbye to the meadow and turn toward the bridge. Side by side, we take the first step in crossing Rainbow Bridge together.
A month after Cody died, alone I made one last trip to Davis. I went to say thank you to all the kind people who helped care for Cody. On my way home, I turned off at what had been our stop for ice-treats. But before I reached the drive-in window, I saw the friendly lady rushing to meet the car. Having understood our absence, she was crying.
A few months later, on a trip to Sacramento, again I detoured to say hello to the friendly lady. But this time, the old-fashioned drive-in was gone. At what had been our special stop, a construction crew was busy building a new fast-food restaurant. I went to a nearby shop – one that looked to have been there for a while -- to inquire about our friend. The person at the check-out “just worked there” and didn’t know, but a woman at the back called out, “Are you asking about Lily? Honey, she planned her retirement a while back … was just tired of working, I guess. Once that new place got their building permit, she up and closed. They tore the place down the next day.” I thanked the woman and turned to leave. Just as I reached the door she added, “Lilly got herself a little beagle dog. The two of them come around every now and then. I’ve never seen her happier.”