Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die...
- Mary Frye
Bobby was the first “luxury” I allowed myself the day after I got a job here in the UK. I had to wait nine long months before I was allowed to work, being a citizen of the United States married to an Englishman. Those nine months, I was getting to know my new country and husband, but there was always something missing. I missed Lady, the dog I left behind in Florida, and would not feel complete again until I had a furry canine companion to share my love with.
Bobby had been in the RSPCA shelter for over four months, overlooked time and time again because he suffered from kennel stress and was jumping up and down like a wild dog when anyone walked by. I was one of them who just kept going, as I was subconsciously looking for a dog that would remind me of Lady. I found just such a dog, named Holly – a sweet Border Collie puppy. My husband steered me over to Bobby's pen and said “Why don't we just take him out into the paddock and see what he is like outside the kennel.” I reluctantly agreed.
Bobby was brought out to us, and wagged his propeller tail, found a ball and brought it to me, dropped it at my feet, and looked up at my face. I was hooked! We picked Bobby up the following Monday, 10th June 1996 – one of the happiest days of my life. We walked the couple of miles home, as we did not have a car at the time, and Bobby was already well trained on the leash. He must have had a loving previous family, because he was very well behaved and happy.
He was somewhere between 2 and 4 years old and was a Lab/Border Collie cross. He came into our home and immediately integrated with our cats, who were all quite young and simply showed him who was boss (not him!) and that was it.
Bobby would NOT bark. Not at anything, for any reason. We think he may have been trained not to bark. But we felt that was unnatural, so we read several behaviourists advice and TAUGHT him to bark! That was one of the most bizarre things I have ever had to do. The area we lived in at that time was not very nice, and we wanted him to make his presence known when needed. He learned in about two hours. From then on, he barked at appropriate times, but when he was just real excited and happy he put his muzzle in the air and let out this lovely “Roo roo roo!” bark...always three “roo's” - I loved it! He would do it when he had a ball in his mouth and wanted to play.
Bobby helped us with our rescue kitties. We had a 3 week old kitten with one bad eye that we rescued from a lot behind where I worked. During the time we were hand rearing Nelson, after several weeks Bobby started gently pushing him toward the small box of litter we had put out for him. It was really sweet – he had seen us trying to encourage Nelson to use it, and I believe he was mimicking us. Bobby was a very intelligent boy – too smart sometimes!
He went through a lot with us; moved house 5 times, I went from working part-time to full-time, which I didn't want to do because of him, but he was fine once we installed a doggie door. He never really wanted to go on walks early in his life – all he wanted was to play ball. So every morning we would go to the park one door down from our house and let him play catch until he was all worn out. He loved it! We bought our first house because it had two grassy parks right next door and a secure fenced back yard.
When he was in his middle years, he was diagnosed with arthritis in his legs and spine. The first vet we had took very good care of him, and his pain was well managed. We did have to play less ball and go for more gentle walks, but he adjusted to the change in routine brilliantly. All he wanted to do was to please us. I loved him like he was my own child. We were constant companions. He helped me through the deaths of my Mother and Father in early 2005. Had I not had him to come home to, I don't know if I could have coped.
When we lived in a lovely (cold) converted barn, Bobby started to get more and more stiff and sore in his joints. We had to start taking shorter walks, which he did not like, but we went more often. I knew then that some day I would have to find the strength to send him on his way to the Rainbow Bridge when he let me know it was time. Then we found out the owner needed to sell the barn, and we could not afford it, so we finally found the perfect house a bit further away. It has a lovely garden, lawn and bushes, fully fenced back yard and was perfect for both Bobby and our cats.
Bobby lived here about 9 months, most of which he was happy, but quite tired and a bit confused. He used to bark at shadows outside at night; the vet said he was suffering from canine dementia.
I lived every last moment of Bobby's to the fullest, never knowing when his last day would be. My vet did not have a clue as to how much pain Bobby was in at the end. I took him to the vet three times the week prior to his crossing, because I knew he was in pain.
On Easter Sunday, we had to let our precious Bobby be put to rest. Then he began to be very restless and find it difficult to get comfortable lying down. He was still eager to go for many walkies, but only wagged his usually-in-constant-motion tail when we would see another dog-buddy out walking (or when we threw him a ball or balloon). I asked for help to give me the wisdom to know when it was time for him to be given that final long rest, and each day Bobby would do something that said "not today." At 6:30 Easter morning, he jumped up on the bed (which has been difficult for him for a while now) and licked my face, as he often did if he wanted his breakfast (if I was able to sleep in). There was something different in his eyes. He wasn't smiling his big tongue-sticking-out doggy smile as usual. I figured he was just stiff and sore, and waiting for his arthritis medicine and breakfast. He took his tablet in cream cheese as always. I gave him some all meat dog food, and put the coffee on. He just looked at me and walked away. He has had a few days where he wasn't eating until after we walked, so I didn't worry. I figured we would go out for an early walk, as the weather was nice and he seemed eager to move about.
We went up our usual path, and he did his business in record time...then looked at me and looked back toward home, so that is where we went. Not our usual long walk. When we got home, he just followed me around the house, not interested in his food - not even after I added some sardines, which he loved. That is when I got really worried. He kept trying to lie down, and immediately raised himself back up with obvious pain and effort. His spinal vertebrae were fused from his arthritis, and I believe he just could not bend his back enough to get comfortable. We got him lying down on his side with his back against the sofa, which was the only way he seemed comfortable, but he couldn't get into that position by himself any longer, and it was now obviously painful for him even when we helped to get him in that position. We spent the morning rubbing and talking to Bobby (he was pretty deaf, but could still hear somewhat), and after a few hours of this he made it clear that he could not take the pain any longer.
I called the emergency vet, as it was Easter Sunday, and they said to bring him in, that they might be able to give him some stronger medication to help his pain. When the vets examined him, they said that his spine was now totally fused and his back leg muscles were wasting quickly because he could not bend his back. I asked what they could do for him; they could give him some opiate type painkiller to make him more comfortable, but that would only work for a short while and that he would probably do nothing but sleep. I think if we had done this it would have been selfish, and for our own benefit. I asked them if it was time for him to be put to sleep, and of course, they said that had to be our decision. When asked what they would do if it were their beloved companion, it was made clear that they would both put him out of his misery as it was the kindest thing to do. My husband and I just looked at each other and nodded, signed the paperwork, and I went to lie on the floor with Bobby to hug him and kiss him and tell him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him. While I was with him there on the floor getting my last, lovely Bobby-kisses, my husband took a photo of us without my knowledge. I am glad he did. It's title is "Last Kisses."
Then the vet was back with the injection, and administered it with me holding sweet Bobby's head and hand. He was always such a good boy with shots and blood tests and the like, as he was now, and soon he just let out a sigh and was gone. I did not want to let go of him. But I did, and when they asked if we wanted some time alone with him we said no. Bobby's essence was gone to the Rainbow Bridge, and it was only his cute furry black and white body lying there looking peaceful at last. He left us at 2:34 p.m. on Easter Sunday.
Just before Bobby had been gone six months, he finally came to me in a dream. It was just a scene of him, paws up on an old farm fence, big tongue-hanging-out smile with his propeller tail going round in a constant wag.
He just stood there at this fence and looked at me. But when I awoke from this dream, I could feel that my grief and sadness for him was finally passing out of the depressed stage and on into acceptance. I really never thought that could happen, but it has.
I will still miss his sweet furry body, his cute wiggly white eyebrows, and all his endearing mannerisms. But I can now accept that I need to cherish these memories, not grieve any longer.
Waiting at the Bridge...