Hairy’s Ultimate Adventure
By Lawrence W. Paz
Table of Contents
|2||The Park Entrance|
When Hairy participated in a Blessing of the Animals Ceremony we knew the day would come when we might have to say “Goodbye”. We just didn’t know it would come as soon as it did. It is our prayer, Dear God, that You will say “Hello”.
Our beloved Hairy is on his ultimate adventure.
Please welcome Hairy into his heavenly home, so he can run and play with his brothers and sisters.
Thank you for the gift Hairy was to us.
We are grateful for his presence in our home and sharing our lives.
We miss him dearly because of the joy and affection he gave us.
Bless Hairy and give him peace.
Please care for him until we all meet again in your heavenly kingdom. Amen
Inspired by: “Will I see my pet in heaven?” by Friar Jack Wintz and “Coming Home” by Jon Fitz
This story is dedicated to my loving wife, Mary Irvin (Mervyn). Hairy was her angel on earth, as well as in Rainbow Park.
After Hairy found our neighbors, Vic and Ruth Ritter, and they couldn’t keep him; we brought him home with us. Vic would still take Hairy on walks around the property. The weekend after we brought Hairy home, I went into the hospital for about 10 days. Hairy and Mervyn bonded.
Hairy and I were great friends, but he was Mervyn’s buddy. She always said he was her beautiful, sweet puppy (a 75 lb. puppy). He was her constant companion, always providing joy and affection to her. I’m sure he wondered why he couldn’t go into her quilting studio with her. Did I mention he was hairy? Not a good combination – hair and quilts.
Hairy was with us for 6 short years, before he contracted a fatal kidney disease which required us to send him to Rainbow Park, via Rainbow Bridge. During those six years Hairy endeared himself to us in so many ways. We continue to grieve his absence, but we know he is truly in a “better place.”
Most meaningful events during my lifetime took a team to accomplish, and writing this story is no exception. This leap into writing fiction has provided me with a number of learning opportunities. Most of my prior writings were non-fiction. Some may argue that my non-fiction bordered on fiction without dialogue. I’m grateful to my team members for helping make this transition:
- My writing partner and collaborator, Michael L. Piazza’s, (1) editing prowess and suggestions on the cover design, and his use of dialogue helped bring out the characters’ personalities throughout the story.
- My Writers Circle hosting partner in On Top of the World, Donald Wright, (2) gave me a number of forthright, and sometimes painful, suggestions that encouraged me to refocus the direction of the story.
- My editor, Kathleen Rothenberger, (2) added fine touches and clarity to the story.
- My friend and teaching colleague, Jerry Snyder, read the original manuscript and encouraged me to consider writing a children’s version -it’s on my “To Do” list.
- My son-in-law Tom Davies, an author in his own right, for the chapter illustrations.
- My awesome wife, Mervyn, and our beloved pets provided the inspiration to write a story that will bring hope and comfort to all pet lovers.
I’m deeply indebted to these team members for encouraging me to rekindle an avenue of interest that the editor of my High School Year Book ignited, when placing these words next to my class picture, “How strong an influence works in well placed words.”
(2) “Found Money” Amazon Books
(3) “Read With The Lights On: True Ghost Stories” Amazon Books
Writing a story about a lost pet is both therapeutic and melancholy.
I researched many publications on lost pets and found most of the adult versions were written in the first person.
I wanted my characters to come alive before your eyes and chose to write a fictional fantasy that I pray will have some basis in fact. We’ll see!
Illustration by Tom Davies
CHAPTER 1 – THE ARRIVAL
It was a dark sad day, even with the sun’s rays glistening through the rain drops. Hairy, Mom and Dad’s beloved Springer Spaniel, reached out through the magnificent glowing rays of colorful light toward Rainbow Bridge. Where is the Rainbow Bridge? It is where pets that pass on before us go to wait for us to come and rejoin them. It is the loving place you would expect to find at the end of a beautiful rainbow. Hairy drifted from his earthly life and floated weightlessly into the rainbow.
After just a few minutes, Hairy reached the end of the rainbow, landing onto the middle of the bridge. It had a strong brick foundation, accented by gold trusses that shone brightly through the vividly colored flowers flowing uninterrupted from one end of the bridge to the other. A slight mist rising from the water below blurred his vision. He was disoriented.
“Why am I in the middle of this bridge?” he said aloud, trying not to be afraid. “Where am I? The last thing I remember was falling asleep with Mom and Dad comforting me. They looked sad.”
“Wow!” Hairy said with sudden excitement, as the mist began to fade away, “I can see colors! What a beautiful world! Where can this be?”
At one end of the bridge, Hairy saw a beautiful park with a wide path, but the other end was guarded by a glorious diamond and ruby studded gate. He didn’t know where he was, but he was beginning to like it.
From out of nowhere, a large golden brown retriever bounded out of the park and came toward him. “Welcome, Hairy,” the retriever said, “my name is Hunter. I was a part of your earthly family, and preceded you to Rainbow Bridge. How are you feeling after your transition?”
Hairy looked around, still disoriented, “I feel somewhat better now that you are here,” Hairy said softly, remembering hearing about Hunter throughout his life. “But,” Hairy said, tears welling in his eyes, “I miss my Mom and Dad. Is that okay? Is that normal?”
“Yes,” Hunter said compassionately, placing his large paw over Hairy’s, “but know they are okay, and missing you just as much. Do not worry, Hairy,” Hunter said kindly, “this is your home until we all meet up again with Mom and Dad. When you get settled, you will love it here.”
Hunter turned, as two other creatures came walking up the bridge. “Let me introduce you to Miss Belle and Sage,” Hunter said, pointing to them.
Miss Belle, an average sized, sleek female black lab, pranced in the middle of the bridge, closely followed by Sage, a gray female cat with a wry grin, who was sashaying from one side of the bridge to the other.
“Hairy, here are two other family members,” Hunter said, politely introducing Miss Belle and Sage, “they have been in Rainbow Park waiting to rejoin Mom and Dad, too.”
Hairy, Miss Belle and Sage exchanged hellos.
“Glad you are here with us,” Miss Belle said kindly in her Southern accent. She turned to Hunter and said, apologetically, “Hobo is off playing somewhere. You can visit with that scoundrel once he gets back from his current trip to the wherever land he’s been to,” she said with a smile. “He’s such a wanderer,” she said demurely to Hairy, “but I guess that you already know that. He should be back soon.”
Hairy laughed, nodding his head in agreement with Miss Belle. “I’ll be glad to see that mutt again, I have missed him,” Hairy said with a big sigh.
Hunter, Belle and Sage smiled back at Hairy’s comment. They knew he knew Hobo well.
“Thank you for coming and giving me such a warm welcome,” Hairy said sincerely, “it’s nice to know that family can be back together like this. I didn’t know what to expect when I landed on the bridge, but it seems it is going to be good.”
“You betcha’,” Hunter said in his confident way, “we’ll do our best to introduce you to everything about life here. There’s so much to experience and enjoy.”
“You seem so strong,” Hairy said to Hunter, “I heard Mom and Dad speak of you often, and how they missed having you around the house. I can see why, now. You know, Hobo and I met on earth, just before he made his journey here,” Hairy said, smiling, “I’m really looking forward to catching up with that ‘scoundrel’ (acknowledging Miss Belle’s statement). He was known as a legendary explorer throughout his days at Lake Arrowhead. It seems he acts the same here!”
All four of the pets, at one time or another, lived with their human Mom and Dad in Lake Arrowhead, a private residential community in Georgia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. One by one, they came to Rainbow Bridge.
“Yes, sir, Hobo and I went through the woods surrounding the Lake Arrowhead golf course sniffing out golf balls for Dad,” Miss Belle chimed in, agreeing with Hairy. “Either Hobo or I would stand over a pile of leaves or branches, waiting for Dad to catch up and retrieve the ball from under the pile. It was great fun. Hobo and I still talk about those days, remembering the fun of it all.”
At that moment, Hobo, a reddish-brown dachshund-beagle mix, came bounding out of the early morning haze, onto the bridge. Hairy smiled at the sight of his old friend and family member. Hobo ran as fast as he could, quickly giving Hairy a welcoming smile and dog hug.
“It is great to see you again, partner!” Hobo said in his fun way. “I’m sorry you had to leave Mom and Dad so soon, but we’re all glad you have come to be with us.” Hobo smiled, putting his arm around Hairy, “You know, you were just a pup when we were together on earth. Sorry we didn’t have much time to get to know one another before I came here; I think we would have had a bunch of cool adventures together!” Hobo said with a laugh, “Since we can’t be on earth with Mom and Dad anymore, this is a wonderful place for us to wait until they come here to be with us again.”
“Yeah,” Hairy said, “looks like this is going to be fun. Miss Belle was just telling me how you and she went exploring for golf balls with Dad on earth. That must have been great! By the time I lived with them, they had closed the golf course to such activities. The few golf balls I found were in our yard. I proudly marched over and put them on the back deck. Mom or Dad put my new-found treasure in a container with other re-claimed golf balls. I bet you and Miss Belle found some of them.”
“Man,” Hobo said, shaking his head, “That’s too bad that you couldn’t wander through the woods and search out golf balls with Dad. I would have gone crazy!! We had a great time helping Dad, didn’t we, Miss Belle?”
“We sure did,” Belle said, with a smile, “I looked forward to our nearly daily walks. Plus, you were already crazy enough,” Belle said, winking at Hobo.
Sage, being the wise cat in the group, stood off to the side, taking this all in. Sage and Miss Belle were the first members of this Lake Arrowhead family. When Mom and Dad married, Dad brought Sage, and Mom brought Miss Belle into the family. Hobo soon followed, and then came Hunter.
“I notice this bridge leads in two different directions. Where does each go?” Hairy queried.
“To your left is Rainbow Park,” Hunter responded kindly, “this is where we’ll be going for now.” He turned and pointed to the other side of the bridge, “The gate on your right leads to Heaven. That’s where we all hope to go with our parents or some other human spirit when they arrive.”
“Rainbow Park is a cool place of transition, where we wait for our loved ones to join us,” Hobo said, “it’s full of really neat things to do!”
“Is that really the gate to Heaven?” Hairy asked, still a little unsure of the reality of things around him.
“Oh, my, yes!” Hobo said excitedly, “depending on our parents’ earthly beliefs, when they get here, they will be greeted by like-minded spirits who will escort them to a place within Heaven’s gates where they will be the most comfortable.”
“You see, Hairy,” Miss Belle said calmly, “Rainbow Park is a beautiful staging ground. When our Mom and Dad get here and meet us at Rainbow Bridge, we’ll have the opportunity to go into Heaven with them. Or, we can stay here and offer ourselves to someone else for adoption. The thing is,” she said with a smile, looking at the gates to Heaven, “we have the freedom to choose. Usually, the last earthly parent is the one that is selected, but some have chosen a prior parent, or even a new one. Some have actually made the trip to Heaven and then decided to come back here.”
“What can you tell me about Heaven?” Hairy asked, looking at the large, ornate gates.
“Not much to tell yet,” Hobo said, shrugging his shoulders. “Nobody’s really sure what we’ll find on the other side of that huge gate. For now,” he said, looking back at the other end of the bridge with his tail starting to wag, “we can spend every day enjoying the natural beauty God intended for us. No more just black and white, like on earth,” he said, smiling as he looked all around, “somehow, colors of the rainbow came with us when we landed on Rainbow Bridge, and color is everywhere!”
“Here is what we think we know,” Hunter interrupted, like a professor teaching his class. “Rainbow Park and Heaven mirror earth in many ways. After all, God created earth using the best parts of Heaven as a model. The fields, mountains, and rivers,” he said, pointing to the scenery around them, “they are comparable to the ones on earth.”
“When we go on our journey, you will be amazed at how one season just seems to merge with another. The seasons blend into one another No extreme heat or cold. There are no hurricanes, no blizzards, no tornadoes or cyclones, or any other destructive winds or storms.”
“And, Hairy,” Miss Belle said very slowly, “the beautiful thing is that hate, envy, or destructive feelings don’t exist here. There is a serene balance where all egos are filled with empathy and compassion.” Miss Belle looked at the large gates to Heaven and said softly, “Even those who have been to Heaven and back don’t talk about what they saw or experienced. No bragging, just…experience and acceptance.”
Sage, who had been quiet since Hairy had arrived, jumped from the railing on the bridge and softly landed right in front of Hairy. She pushed her back up against his front legs with her tail straight up, and slowly walked in front of him. “You see, Hairy” she said in a calm New Jersey twang, “here, we are who we are.” As she moved slowly around Hairy, she said in a wise tone, “We no longer have our passionate emotions that can drive or control us in the wrong ways. “Instead,” she said, as she effortlessly hopped onto the railing on the other side of Hairy, “we use our passion to love ourselves, to love our neighbor, and, of course, our God, without reservation.”
“The coolest thing is,” Hobo said, looking from Sage on the railing, then back to Hairy, “there is no sin here! None, nada,” he said, shaking his head. “We learned that the concept of sin comes from man’s desire to control others. Here,” he said, looking Hairy straight in the eyes, “everyone is truly responsible for themselves. No big deals. No need to control anybody…except ourselves.” Hobo looked at and pointed to each of the other family members on the bridge, then spoke sincerely, “We accept our differences and respect the rights of others. It doesn’t matter to me if nobody wants to wander around all day, and no one cares if I do. Just the way we are. Don’t get me wrong, we have our differences, but we resolve them in a peaceful way,” Hobo said, looking toward the large gate with reverence, “you see, Hairy, here we are all equal in God’s eyes.”
“One thing may take some getting used to,” Miss Belle added. “There is no measurement of time, no clocks or calendars to worry about. Pointing to the sky, she said, “we do experience periods of light and darkness, almost like daytime and nighttime. God provided periods of rest for us on earth. Here, we have the opportunity to rest and revitalize our spirits until the next period of light.”
Hairy was taking in everything that was being said, but he was still new, and had bunches of questions. He looked confused.
“So what’s that look about?” Hunter asked, looking at Hairy.
“Well,” Hairy said, trying to decide what to ask first, “I’ve got so many questions, not sure where to begin.
“Just start anywhere.” Hunter chuckled, remembering all the things he wondered about when he arrived, “We’ve got plenty of time, no rush here.”
“Well,” Hairy said, curling his lip, “Ah, well, how about angels? Do they really get their wings when the bell rings?”
“No,” Hunter smiled, “we haven’t seen any angels with wings, no bells ringing. The fact is, here earning your wings means that you have done a good deed in the eyes of the Lord. Look,” Hunter said kindly to his new friend, “why don’t we head for the park, and we’ll show you around and let you get used to things. After a short while I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable in your new home, and we can get to all of your questions as we go. That okay with you?”
“That sounds good to me,” Hairy said, feeling comfortable with his new friend.
Hunter led the group, as they turned and slowly walked toward the sign that shined brightly with the words “Welcome to Rainbow Park” in multiple languages. Hairy walked next to Hunter, feeling his strength. Sage glided expertly on the railing, careful to dart around the flowers along the rail. Miss Belle sashayed, in her southern style, while Hobo hopped along, refraining from breaking into a run.
As they walked, Hairy glanced back over his shoulder several times, still wondering about what was on the other side of the bridge, with the word “Heaven” displayed above the gate. He was having trouble adjusting to the two ends of the bridge, and unsure if they were going in the right direction.
Hairy, walking next to Hunter, looked toward him and asked in a perplexed tone, “Hunter, are you going to be able to tell me all that I need to know about Rainbow Park?”
Hobo rushed to catch up with the two, and spoke before Hunter could answer. “Well, my long lost friend,” he said in a light hearted tone, “how ‘bout we just show you what you need to know? As we wander around, each of us can share our experiences and what we have learned.”
“Yep,” Hairy said with a smile, “that’s the old Hobo that I remember. Just wander around and figure things out. That does sound like a wonderful idea. You know,” Hairy said to Hunter, “I’m beginning to feel a little more comfortable already. It’s great to be here with family.”
“Just like on earth,” Miss Belle said walking next to Hairy, “you will find that we all need love and meaningful activities here, so many things that can make our spiritual existence worthwhile. The wonderful thing is,” she said with great exuberance, “there are no limits, so we have any and all the resources we need in order to delve into experiences that were never available to us on earth. The possibilities are endless. We have all the time we need to explore all of those things that interest each one of us!”
Hunter continued to lead the pack, his jaw jutting out with a firm look. Hairy judged that Hunter was the accepted leader of the family, and he proudly walked next to his new leader. Hunter looked at Hairy out of the corner of his eye, and said with a smile, “When we get home tonight, remind me that we have a surprise for you.”
“Okay, I sure will!” Hairy said with a new bounce to his step, ready to take on all of the new adventures that he could. “Wow! Let’s get started. Are the rest of you coming along?”
“You bet we are!” Sage answered, still walking along the railing, “we wouldn’t miss one of Hobo’s guided tours, or should I say ‘misguided tours,’ for anything!”
“Yes, sir,” Miss Belle chimed in, “even though Hobo has taken each of us on some really great tours, he always seems to come up with something new for us to see and experience. Full steam ahead,” Miss Belle laughed.
“Well,” Sage said, hopping down from the railing right next to Hobo, “it is a relatively quiet day in the Park, a perfect day for a Hobo-inspired adventure. Let’s go have some fun and learn something new!” she said.
Illustration by Tom Davies
CHAPTER 2 – THE PARK ENTRANCE
Even though they run wild and free, all of the animals are tame in Rainbow Park. Areas within the park are carved out for different types of animals. As on earth, some live in a jungle, others live in the mountains, and still others live on the plains. However, each can roam wherever they choose.
Hairy looked around the park and saw squirrels and rabbits running and playing. Hairy loved to chase and hunt both squirrels and rabbits on earth. He could not help himself and was poised for the chase. Hunter read Hairy’s body language and quickly said, “Hairy, at Rainbow Park there is no survival of the fittest. No chase, no contests. We are all spiritual survivors and while the squirrels and rabbits are willing to race with you for the excitement of it, at the end of the chase everybody rubs noses and congratulates one another on a race well run. No victories, definitely no ‘kills’ to celebrate.”
At first Hairy was disappointed, and had to make himself relax. Then a wave of understanding came over him. “That’s great,” Hairy said with a twinkle in his eye, “because on earth I could never catch up with one to just say ‘hi.’ Every time the squirrel would run up a tree out of my reach, or the rabbit would scoot into its hole, way ahead of me. By the way,” Hairy asked, cocking his head slightly, thinking of his possible new freedoms, “can I climb trees here?”
The dogs laughed at Hairy’s question, but Sage gave him a funny look, trying to figure out why a dog would want to climb a tree. They all stood around allowing Hairy to take it all in, remembering the newness of the wonder and beauty of the park when they first arrived.
“This is so beautiful. It’s pleasing to see all nature’s colors,” he thought as the others looked on, “soon I will explore everything that I can.”
Hobo broke the silence. “There is so much for you to see and learn in Rainbow Park. As you remember, I was quite the explorer at Lake Arrowhead, staying out all day and some nights. I traveled nearly all of the 8,000 acres at one time or another. Boy, it has been great to continue my wandering ways here! No leashes or chains! Plus, we can roam where we choose, as long as we don’t mess with the rights of others. Total freedom to roam and explore!”
Hobo pointed to the hills and the flatlands full of trees, a beautiful landscape. “As time passes,” he said with a big grin, “we’ll take some trips to the different sections of the park. I’ve been here for five years and still haven’t seen it all. My short legs can travel just so far at one time,” he laughed. “I can tell you this, though; there is a wonderful reality of peace here. Since Mom and Dad’s last name means ‘peace’ in Spanish,” Hobo said sincerely, “I’ve found this the most satisfying part of being here. I’m so grateful our parents taught us to live in harmony with our surroundings and with each other, and here we really get to do that.”
“Me too,” interjected Hairy. “As you know, I was wandering around Lake Arrowhead, when our parents took me into their home. I’m grateful you and Harpo readily accepted me into the family.”
“How is Harpo doing anyway? Has that crazy wire-haired Jack Russell spoken yet?” asked Hobo, with a twinkle in his eye.
“He’s doing just fine for a sixteen-year-old,” Hairy replied carefully. “Our recent move from Lake Arrowhead to a new place in Florida seems to have rejuvenated him,” Hairy said, fondly remembering Harpo. “We had great fun there. We got onto the golf cart and rode to the Dog Park each day, and walked around the park with Mom and Dad. Like here, we met other dogs and had a good ol’ time sniffing and playing. I even chased a squirrel or two up a tree. Funny thing,” Hairy said with a grin, “Harpo didn’t say much while we were together. I guess Mom and Dad aptly named him, like the famous Harpo Marx. Every now and then, he would utter a faint bark,” Hairy said, slightly shaking his head, “but we mostly communicated just by licking each other’s tongues to signal everything was okay, and under control.”
“I’m already starting to miss sharing waffles and pancakes on weekends with Harpo,” Hairy said, a sad frown coming over his face. “The minute Dad took out the box of Bisquick, we would be there waiting for our special weekend treat. Sometimes Dad would fool us, and we’d have French Toast,” a smile starting to return to Hairy’s face. “We’d just sit there at the end of the kitchen counter until Mom and Dad finished eating theirs, eagerly waiting for our turn. Those were really fun days.”
Sage seemed to pop up from nowhere, as cats often do, and took a long stretch. “Why don’t we sit for a while,” she purred, “and then we can tell Hairy something about each of us, that he didn’t know before? Hairy, I bet you don’t know the stories of how each of us came to have our mutual parents.”
“No, not really,” Hairy answered, a little startled from Sage’s magic appearance, “I may have heard our parents talking about you at times, but you know how that is on earth, unless they are talking directly to you, human conversation can be garbled. Since this is the first time I’ve seen you, the stories might make some sense, but I really don’t remember much of anything about those conversations.”
“Since I was the first one to grace our lovely family,” Miss Belle said, polished and pleasant, “why don’t I start us off?” Miss Belle was friendly, sociable, and, like Hairy, totally devoted to Mom.
“I came to our wonderful family many years before the rest of you,” Miss Belle began. “Mom lived in Columbus, Georgia back then. She was a single Mom of two teen-age girls, and while she loved her children dearly, they were old enough to have their own activities. They were away from home a lot with school and friends, and Mom needed companionship to give some flair to her life.”
“So,” Miss Belle continued, walking out in front of the pack and addressing them like a school teacher, “a dear friend of Mom’s, a lovely lady named Anne Watt, had a black lab named Aunt Jemima, whom she called ‘A.J.’ for short. A.J. had the litter of puppies that brought me into this world,” Miss Belle said, almost matter of factly, “most of which were sold at a good price. But I was different. I was smaller than the others,” she said sadly, “plus, I had a small scar over my left eye, making me not suitable for selling.” Miss Belle paused for a moment, in obvious reflection. The others had not heard this part of her story. “Anne and her Dad decided that they could just give me to Mom,” she said, her spirit lighting up. “They knew she needed someone to be good company, and someone to care for. She did so lovingly, and we were very happy. I was a constant and loving companion for her, during good and bad times. We were a great team and shared so much together.”
“When Mom brought me home,” Miss Belle said with a deep smile, “she named me ‘A.J.’s Miss Belle,’ the name you all know me by. The girls loved me as well, and they were splendid in helping Mom care for me. Then one day, Mom and I moved to a home in Marietta Georgia. That’s when Bob Barker joined our family.”
Sage appeared again from nowhere, and said to Miss Belle, “Tell Hairy about Bob Barker. There is a good chance that Hairy will get to meet him this evening.” Miss Belle looked at Sage and nodded her gratitude for the suggestion.
“When I was a few years old, and Mom’s daughters were older and went away to school,” Miss Belle continued, “Mom looked for another Lab. She went to a breeder, and when she got there she noticed a puppy trying his best to get her attention. He acted really cute, so she would pick him. He was the biggest one in his litter,” Miss Belle said, pantomiming Bob Barker’s size. “As you would expect, she loved him right away, and brought him home with her. “Miss Belle smiled a big smile as she continued, “He was a magnificent black Lab with a huge head and shoulders on a massive body. He looked intimidating,” she said, shaking her paw slightly, with a gleam in her eye, “but I knew from the start that he had the heart of a big ol’ teddy bear. He treated everyone graciously – a true southern gentleman.”
“Mom named him Bob Barker, I believe after the television game host with the same name” Miss Belle said, looking at Hairy, “but everybody just called him Bob, that is, until he came here. Calling us by our full names seems to be the custom here.” Miss Belle walked over next to Hairy and spoke right to him, “Bob Barker and I played in a really big backyard. Mom took the two of us for long walks around the neighborhood every day. We had the most fun.” Miss Belle became sad again and said softly, “When he was about five years old, Bob got really sick. He spent several days in the hospital, and went through lots of tests. The doctor never found what was wrong with him. After a while, Mom and the Doctor decided to relieve him of his suffering.” Miss Belle said, fighting back her tears remembering that time, “He came here to wait for the rest us to join him.”
“Then, Mom and I moved into a condo in Marietta,” Miss Belle said, happiness returning to her face. “That’s where I met Sage and Dad. After we moved in, I found out that it was the first time Sage had lived with a dog. I was a bit jealous of the attention Mom and Dad gave one another until I realized that their devotion and love of one another extended to Sage and me.”
“Yes, that’s when you and I met,” Sage said, striking a sleek pose. “You are so right; until that day I hadn’t lived with a dog. I was a bit jealous that Dad was sharing his attention with Mom and you. Not knowing what to expect I was quite fearful of what may be coming.”
“Well,” Miss Belle said, “of course, you were a bit wary at first. Even though I lived with cats previously, I was somewhat cautious, too, but tried my best to be sociable. Then,” Miss Belle said, gently placing her paw on Sage’s shoulder, “we became fast friends and companions, didn’t we?”
“Yes, we did,” Sage replied, lightly licking Miss Belle’s paw, “I appreciated your understanding my fear in the beginning, then helping me to know that you were my friend, not my foe – from then until now. We were all becoming a family. Please continue.”
“After a year, all of us moved to Lake Arrowhead. Mom and I were together for fourteen wonderful years. Then,” Miss Bells said with a pause, “God brought me here to Rainbow Park. At first I was disoriented, like you, Hairy, but then I was reunited with A.J. and Bob Barker. And as things go, one day when Anne’s parents came to Heaven, A.J. went with them. A mysterious, but wondrous cycle! “
“Thank you, Miss Belle,” Sage said with a light purr. “Need I ask, Hobo, are you ready to show Hairy around the park?”
“You betcha!” Hobo said excitedly, “but as I said before, I haven’t seen it all yet. I know of some really neat places we can visit today before it gets dark,” Hobo said, pointing off in the distance. “We’ll be able to visit other areas another time. Hairy, where we are going may remind you of some of your favorite places on earth. Sage, do you think you can keep up with us?”
“Of course!” Sage said with a laugh, “My legs may be shorter than yours, but they aren’t that much shorter. Lead the way!”
“OK, let’s get started,” Hobo said proudly, ready to guide the group on an exciting venture, Hairy’s first adventure in Rainbow Park.
With almost military precision they all got up from their sitting positions and began to follow Hobo through the park. Hairy was close by Hobo. Sage was in the rear of the pack, with her miniature satellite music player hung around her neck, so they could listen to tunes as they walked along the trails. Hairy noticed that the official emblems of all the earthly nations were on display throughout the park. The brilliant array of colors reminded him that this is truly a place for all animals from all around the world.
Illustration by Tom Davies
CHAPTER 3 – THE FOREST
As the pack of four dogs and one cat set out on their trek, there wasn’t much conversation as they meandered down a scenic trail lined with tiny vibrant wildflowers. The trail was smooth and felt very soft under their feet. On both sides of the trail, there were forest green marshes mixed with a variety of shrubs and thickets of timber, providing an ideal setting for small animals. From a short distance away, Hairy caught a glimpse of a flowing stream. The stream’s subdued gurgling was soothing to Hairy’s ears.
All the creatures in Rainbow Park get their nourishment from the wide variety of abundant vegetation that grows there. There is no need to prey on other creatures. All of the birds, reptiles, frogs, turtles, snakes, and the like, live peaceably together in serenity of the park. The river banks are crowded with small creatures. Schools of fish swim aimlessly upstream, fighting the rushing currents. A host of insects, including bees and mosquitoes, were zipping around trying to avoid the spider’s webs on the edge of the path. The sound of croaking frogs made for a calming serenade to them.
Sage, quickly appearing next to Hairy, broke the silence of the pack as she said, “Hairy, check out the bird sanctuary to your right. I love to come here, and have great fun chasing the birds all around.”
“Well,” Hairy stammered, remembering Hunter’s correction about chasing the other creatures for sport, “what happens when you catch one?”
“No worry, there,” Sage said with a sly grin, “I haven’t caught one yet. Not sure I really want to. It’s definitely good healthy exercise for me and the birds. I mean them no harm. When I get close to one of them,” Sage said intensely, “just about to make my snag, then WHAM! The bird kicks in its afterburners and escapes my grasping paws, no matter how quick I am,” she said shaking her head. “You’ll notice I have developed undersized claws here,” Sage said, holding out a paw for Hairy to inspect, “I don’t need them to defend myself, so they don’t grow like they did at home.”
As the group wandered, a variety of larger bushes full of plump berries began to line the trail on both sides. The winding stream of white water ran close to the trail and was splashing against the rocks just beyond the bushes. Occasionally, Hairy spotted a deer and wolf slipping through the tall grass, moving fast and carefree.
“What do they call that tall wavy grass? Hairy asked. “We had something very similar in our backyard in Florida.”
“It’s called Wandering Grass,” replied Hobo, catching up with Hairy. “This grass has long and erect wiry stems that ramble around the rocks. It’s a really neat environment for creatures like rabbits and squirrels and all the other rodents. Turtles and lizards and other reptiles love the Wandering Grass environment, so the fields are filled with them. It’s a good home for all of those animals.”
Hunter walked to the front of the pack and stood still, causing the others to come to a stop. In a stern voice he said, “Hobo, how come you never took us here before? I don’t remember any of this…nothing looks familiar.”
“It’s really simple,” Hobo said apologetically, “unlike Hairy, none of you were reptile hunters on earth. Hairy loved to go search for any lizard or snake he sensed, and then chase them away from the house. I thought he would like to see them here, in the park.”
“You got it, Hobo!” Hairy said with mild excitement, “you know how Mom hated snakes. I always ran ahead of her and cleared out the court yard of lizards, and an occasional snake, so that she could come and go to her quilting studio without being bothered.”
“Was she pleased you did that for her?” Miss Belle asked, from the back of the pack.
“Not really,” Hairy said, smiling, “but being her protector was not only my duty, it was one of my favorite pastimes.” Hairy strained his eyes, searching the area at the edge of the path. He knew there had to be lizards and snakes scurrying through the green and brown ground cover under the trees, and he was ready for the chase.
Hobo, sensing Hairy’s anticipation, stood in front of him to block his view, and said in a friendly tone, “When you look around, Hairy, you’ll see all kinds of reptiles. They rarely leave their home base.” Placing his paw on Hairy’s shoulder, he added “I really suggest that you don’t get hostile with any of them. They are quick to let you know that is not good behavior, and will try to scare the daylights out of you. But, because they love fun and games, too, they will gladly play hide and seek with you…just no attacks or biting. Catch my drift?”
“Yeah, Hobo,” Hairy said, calming himself from the urge to chase, “guess it will take some time for my natural instincts to pass.”
Just at that moment, a lizard came slithering up to Hairy, and tapped him on his paw. Hairy jumped, getting into his chase stance, front legs stretched out, hind legs high, tail pointing straight up.
“Do you remember me?” the lizard asked, not moved by Hairy’s stance.
“I don’t believe I do,” Hairy replied, relaxing his stance slightly, “should I know you?” He strained his eyes to try to remember the lizard standing in front of him, who was not afraid, or showing any fear at all.
The lizard looked up into Hairy’s eyes and calmly said, “Well, I thought I had found a wonderful new home, between the chair cushions on the courtyard where I, or should I say, we lived in Florida. When you sensed me, you became relentless in your search for me – using your nose to turn over each cushion in turn. I always stayed one cushion ahead of you. But one morning,” the lizard shook his head, “just when I thought I had my escape routine down, you grabbed me by my tail…” the lizard paused, took a breath, “then all I saw was darkness, until I arrived here.”
“Oh, my gosh!” Hairy said in a sad tone, “I’m so sorry. That was just my nature, I didn’t even think about…”
“You don’t need to be sorry,” the lizard said, pointing all around, “one thing is for sure. I’m definitely in a better place.” The lizard turned and began to scamper away, “See ya around,” he said over his shoulder, as he neared the grass on the edge of the path.
Hairy had to concentrate very hard to control every muscle in his body to keep from chasing the lizard. As his urge subsided, he was proud that he was able to hold back. “Maybe someday soon,” Hairy said, realizing he had just made real progress, “I’ll be able to chase and play in that tall wavy grass and just have fun!”
Miss Belle placed her paw on Hairy’s, and said sweetly, “I’ll come with you sometime, Hairy, and we can play and chase them together. Hunter,” she said smiling at him, “I bet you’d like to join us, and really enjoy a game of hide and seek with the reptile community, yourself.”
“You bet I would,” Hunter said with a big smile. “Thanks for the invitation. I’d love to come along with you.”
Sage skipped up to the front of the pack and engaged in a full stretch, then cocked her head toward them and purred “Let’s rest awhile.” She said with a slight yawn, “I could use a break from this wandering.”
“Sounds good to me,” Miss Belle said with a sigh, looking at Sage, “this would be a great time for you to tell us your story. I’m sure Hairy would love to hear about the mixed family we had before he came around.”
Miss Belle laid down with her head slightly angled, so she could let the breeze flow through her fur. Hunter walked up beside her, and sat tall near the edge of the path. “Sounds good to me,” Hunter said with mild authority, “This is a good time for a break. We would love to hear your story, Sage,” Hunter said kindly.
“No way,” Hobo barked, bouncing slightly on his front legs, “there is no time for resting. We have a lot to see! Come on,” he said motioning to the pack with his head, “let’s get going, there is a big world out there to see!”
“Now, Hobo,” Miss Belle said, like a mother to her puppy, “it will all be there when we get back to it. Take a load off and rest a while with us.”
Hobo looked at them and realized they weren’t going anywhere for a while. “Okay,” Hobo said reluctantly, “but it would be more fun to explore, than to listen to stories.”
Hairy took a cue from the others and laid down, like Miss Belle, facing Sage so he could hear her talk. Hobo settled a bit, but still was not ready to sit. They all turned their attention to Sage as she turned off the music, licked her paws, and purred for a few moments, preparing for her presentation.
Sage was a wise (hence her name) medium-sized cat, with light and dark streaks of gray fur and a white face. During her time on earth, she had been a bit skittish and withdrawn, and would never have ventured to address a group, especially a group of dogs many times her size. But today, in her life in the park, she displays an air of confidence and speaks with poise and gentle authority.
“My brother, Leo, and I were living in an animal shelter in New Jersey. Clean, but pretty crowded and noisy. Then one day in 1986, Dad appeared and adopted us,” Sage said with ease. “Leo is an orange tom cat with some white fur under his chin and on his paws” she said lovingly, “and he struts like a tiger. Although he looked strong and fierce, he was actually pretty docile. He was named ‘Leo’ from Dad’s astrological sign, a perfect fit for him – a lion of the universe.”
“Since Dad was traveling most of the time back then,” Sage said, looking at Hairy, “Leo didn’t get to know him as well as I eventually did. And since Leo came here before we lived with our Mom, he really doesn’t know her at all. When the time comes,” Sage said with a slight pause, “I guess he’ll have to decide who he wants to live with in Heaven. He could go with Dad and Mom,” Sage explained, “or he can decide to go with his original earth Mother. Hopefully,” Sage said with a smile, “we’ll still be able to see, and hang out with him, either way. Being an optimist, I believe that even if he and I live with different parents in Heaven, we’ll be able to hang out a lot together and have a bunch of fun.”
“How come Leo didn’t know Mom that well?” Hairy asked politely, not sure of what may have happened.
Sage explained, “After a while, Dad took a new job in Georgia. Dad took me with him, but Leo stayed in New Jersey with his Mother. Dad’s consulting assignment was supposed to last about 6 months, so he rented a pet-friendly apartment in Georgia so I could stay with him.”
Sage stopped her story and looked out into the woods for a moment, like she was remembering something unpleasant.
“What’s the matter, Sage?” Miss Belle asked sweetly.
“I was alone a lot there. Dad was working long hours and I didn’t have Leo to keep me company. Most of the time it was good, but one day,” Sage said, wincing, “Dad was vacuuming the living room in the apartment. Like most cats, I hate the sound of things like vacuum cleaners. So, when he moved it around the room, I ran and hid under his bed, so I could escape to what I thought was a safer place,” she said frowning.
“Then Dad came into the bedroom with that loud vacuum, and not knowing I was there, he pushed the pipe under the bed. That was it for me!” Sage said very excited, “I ran as fast as I could, and jumped to the window sill to get away! But,” she said almost in pain, “I did not mean to, but I bounced up against the window screen so hard that I knocked it out!”
Sage became quiet again, looking back into the woods.
“What happened next?” Hobo asked, nervously.
“Well,” Sage continued, looking at Hobo, “thank goodness the window was open, so I didn’t crash into the glass and get cut. I didn’t realize we were on the second floor, and found myself sailing out the window and screaming, as I fell towards the ground,” she said waiving her paws around.
“Well,” she said a bit calmer, “as cats do, I landed feet first on the grass below, but I was still scared and screaming. The window screen landed only a few inches from me. Still in a panic,” she said intensely, “I ran and ran to get away from the screen on the ground, and the horrible vacuum noise. Since I was never outside the apartment before, I didn’t know where to go, or how to get back inside. I looked for a place to hide until the horrible noise stopped.”
“I found a bush to hide under,” Sage continued, “and the noise finally ended. I became worried that I might not find my way back to the apartment, so I just stayed very still, afraid to run or move.”
“Then what happened?” Hairy asked, glued to every word of Sage’s story.
“Thankfully,” Sage said with a big sigh, “Dad and some of our neighbors started looking for me. It didn’t take too long; and they found me under a bush, curled up tight trying to protect myself.” A gentle smile came over Sage’s face as she said, “Dad gently picked me up, and held me in his arms and petted me, trying to calm me. I was so scared that I was still trembling when he brought me back into the apartment. From then on, he always made sure I was safely in the bathroom before he started vacuuming.”
“Yes,” Miss Belle said lovingly, “that’s the way Dad was, always looking out for us.”
“Yeah,” Hunter agreed, “he was always that way.”
“Yeah,” Sage continued, “those were some different days. Later Dad was offered a permanent position with that company in Georgia, so his wife and Leo moved down from New Jersey. Dad and I left the apartment, and we all moved into a house just outside of Atlanta.”
“But, if you moved in with Leo’s Mother,” Hairy asked, a little confused, “how did you end up with our Dad and my Mom?”
“Well, Hairy,” Sage replied, shaking her head, “I’m not sure I know the whole story. You’ll have to ask Dad when comes to be with us. But, I can tell you what I know,” she said, looking at Hairy, “shortly after moving into the house in Georgia, one day I realized it was just Dad and me again. Dad’s wife left to live somewhere else, and took Leo with her.
Then,” Sage said, looking back at the pack, “Dad met your Mom when our house was being sold. I heard them talking a lot, and it didn’t take long for them to realize they were meant to be together.” Sage looked at Miss Belle and purred, “It came time to move again. But this time, Dad and I moved in with your Mom and Miss Belle.”
“As I said before,” Miss Belle said kindly, “how well I remember those days.”
“Well,” Sage continued, “as you heard from Miss Belle, eventually we all moved to Lake Arrowhead, and later, Hobo and Hunter joined us. It was great there,” Sage said, with a big smile, “I had my own glass-enclosed room where I could get away by myself – no dogs allowed! My food was on one side of the room, and my litter box on the other. My own little palace!”
“But, I thought Miss Belle said that you and she became good friends,” Hairy said, “how did that happen if you had your own room, ah, little palace?”
“Well, Hairy,” Sage laughed, “Dad would often pick me up, and carry me to his recliner with him, and set me down on the arm of the chair. It was quite a treat to be there with him. But then,” Sage said, smiling at Miss Belle, “before I knew it, Miss Belle would jump up there with us. At first, it annoyed me that Dad would let her do that,” Sage smiled, “then I figured out that Dad did that so I could get used to being in the family with Miss Belle.”
“Well, it worked well, didn’t it?” Miss Belle said, lovingly.
“Yes, it sure did,” Sage replied, nodding her head, “we’d all settle down and watch television together on Dad’s lap. We watched a lot of sports each night. As you remember, Mom and Dad were avid Braves baseball fans over the summer and Georgia football fans over the fall and winter. And, Hobo,” Sage said, looking at him, “once you joined the family, you may recall, I even let you come into my room every now and then, without accosting you.”
Hobo said sarcastically, “Every now and then was right, Sage! You were pretty possessive of your room. We could stay only as long as you let us.”
Giving Hobo a sweet smirk, Sage resumed her story. “When I was seventeen years old, I began feeling pretty sick. If you remember, Mom and Dad went on vacation, and Janie was caring for us. Knowing things weren’t right,” Sage said sadly, “I went off by myself, and began preparing for my journey here. Janie looked for me,” she said, looking at the ground, “but couldn’t find me. It was time to go. When Mom and Dad returned, they looked all over for me, as well. I could see that Mom and Dad were concerned. I tried in every way I knew how, to let them know I was here and feeling much better… “
Right in the middle of Sage’s sentence, two lions and a tiger emerged from the tall grass, startling the members of the pack…except for Hobo.
One of the lions waved his huge paw, greeting them. He turned to Hobo and asked, “Hey, Hobo, who are your friends? You’ve always come here by yourself.”
“Well,” Hobo said, pointing to Hairy, “he just completed his trip to Rainbow Bridge. Other members of the family and I are welcoming him. They thought it would be good for me to give him a tour of some of the cool areas in the park, so we came here.” Hobo looked from Hairy to the lions, “Hairy liked to roam around on earth, like me, so you’ll probably see him around here from time to time.”
“Great!” said the tiger, invitingly. “We’ll be glad to show you around our den, when you come back this way. You’ll enjoy exploring our tunnels and caves. We love having visitors,” the tiger said with a twinkle in her eye, “just like we look out for Hobo, we’ll make sure you don’t get lost.”
“Thank you so much for the invitation,” Hairy said, wagging his tail. “That sounds exciting. I will surely be back to explore this beautiful place.”
“Thank you for interrupting my story!” Sage said, somewhat irritated, “I guess we will see you guys some other time. May I continue?” Sage asked Hunter.
“It was a wonderful story, Sage,” Hunter replied, “but I think we are all rested now. Let’s continue our journey; you can finish your tale another time.”
“Okay,” Sage agreed, “after the interruption, I’ve lost my train of thought, anyway. Besides, I got to the part of coming here. That’s the important part.”
“Okay, gang,” Hobo said, authoritatively, “let’s get going!”
Hobo started down the trail again, with Hunter right behind him, and Miss Belle and Hairy following. Trailing behind them, Sage turned the music back on.
After a while, Hairy saw some of the tallest and largest trees he’d ever seen. The Redwood tree trunks and branches were enormous, and green moss covered one side of the trunks. The densely treed forest provided an endless supply of fruits and berries, including figs, bananas, coconuts, and other fine fruits and nuts.
Suddenly, Hairy spotted some apes and monkeys playing in the trees. He was amazed at their antics, and the fun they were having, swinging in the giant redwoods and tall oak trees.
Hairy looked up, and saw butterflies and birds flying just a few feet above his head. He was reminded of one of Mom’s favorite pastimes – watching the birds and butterflies fly by, and land where she could get a closer look at them. She would flip through her book, searching to discover their identity.
“Mom would love to see these butterflies with their glowing wings, fluttering from blossom to blossom,” Hairy said, with a big smile. “Wow!” he added, “look at those blossoms – the flowers almost jump out at us!”
“Yes, aren’t they lovely,” Miss Belle said, smiling with Hairy, “Mom would love this area, the flowers and butterflies – her kind of place!”
Hairy moved even closer to Hobo, to be right up there in front with him. Hairy was enjoying listening to Sage’s music player, and thought how appropriate it was for her to be playing the instrumental version of Into the Woods.
Suddenly, they came to a clearing and Hobo got their attention, pointing to an emerald green meadow ahead. It was sprinkled with ferns, and dotted with rows and rows of rich grains and herbs that seemed to jump out at them. As they came closer to it, Hairy could see huts made of rocks, limbs, and grass, scattered throughout the meadow.
Hobo, seeing the expression on Hairy’s face said, “Many of those huts are occupied by foxes, coyotes, and wolves who are trying to find shelter from the heat, and an occasional rainfall. He continued, pointing into the distance, “Others prefer to find shelter among those rocks and trees.”
The smooth, wide path faded away and became rocky and narrow. The group had to walk along in single file, between huge rocks bordering both sides of the passageway.
After climbing the hill for a while, they came to a bridge made of logs and ropes, spanning a river. Following Hobo’s lead, they carefully walked single-file, one behind the other, looking down into the open air below them.
Hobo stopped walking right in the middle of the bridge and pointed to the right, showing them the twin waterfalls cascading from a ledge high above, splashing on the flat rocks below. After enjoying this special view, Hobo led them to the other side of the bridge. They were amazed, entering an expansive space, as far as their eyes could see.
“That’s the end of our journey through the forest, for now,” Hobo said. “There is much more to see in this area, but we’ll save that for another day. Now, we will wander a while through the mountainous area of the park. Knowing you like I do, Hairy, I think you will really like this part of the journey, pretty cool and stimulating!” Hobo said, with a big grin.
Nodding his head enthusiastically, Hairy answered, “I’m sure I will, Hobo! I am ready to go wherever you lead.”
“Well,” Hunter said, assuming his obvious pack authority again, “we can proceed, but slowly and carefully.”
“You got it!” Hobo replied, “Y’all are going to love this land.”
They all acknowledged Hobo, and stood ready to follow him on another leg of their journey.
Illustration by Tom Davies
Chapter 4 -The Mountains
Once they made it across the bridge, the pack started walking up a steep, winding, black and brown path into a valley accented by majestic mountain ranges, with their randomly spaced colorful peaks. In the high elevation rocks, the evergreen trees stood out against large patches of pure white snow. It was a massive area with grassy plains intermingled with a desert of glowing tan sand, reflecting the delightful colors of the rainbow. Enormous boulders can be seen for miles, and autumn-like leaves hung from the oak trees. As Hairy looked more closely, he could see splashes of yellow and brown mixed with the vivid red and orange-tinted brown leaves. The spectacular view brought back memories of autumn in Georgia.
Hairy was out of breath when they stopped, and he puffed, “Wow! That was quite a climb! Coming from the flat land of Florida, I’m not used to these hills and mountains.”
“Whew,” Sage said, out of breath herself, “why don’t we rest a while? My paws can use a little TLC,” she said, vigorously licking the bottoms of her paws.
“Maybe a short break will do us good,” Hunter interjected, “where are we, Hobo? This land is sure different.”
“This is where the larger animals like elephants, moose, antelope, bears, and eagles make their home,” Hobo said, pointing out over the expanse before them, “isn’t the view magnificent? Just look at it all.”
Suddenly, a huge American eagle slowly swooped down, dipping his wing close to them. The eagle circled around and gently landed just a few feet away. All but Hobo were amazed. In the air, birds seem so small, but this eagle was as large as they were. It blinked its eyes, looked straight at Hairy and said, in a deep voice, “Hi, Hairy.” Welcome to Rainbow Park.”
Hairy was stunned. “Have we met?” Hairy asked, his voice quivering.
“If you remember,” the eagle said with a bit of pride, “I was the inspiration for your Dad’s book SOAR Without Limits.”
“Oh, yes,” Hairy said, suddenly remembering the huge bird, “I do remember you, now. Your picture hangs on Dad’s office wall. I spent hours in there lying at his feet while he wrote, sometimes on them.”
“Did your Dad ever finish the book?” the eagle asked. “I always thought it had a good message, and should be written.”
“He was still working on it when I left him,” Hairy said with a smile, “but I know he will finish it one day.”
“I always wondered why Dad chose me as the symbol for SOAR. Eagles are symbols of freedom and power. I know competition was strong,” the eagle said, with a faint smile, “especially between me and Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Eventually,” he said intensely,” I realized it was my influence and encouragement that helped Jonathan find his wings and fly free. Dad always favored powerful people who used their influence, rather than their power.”
Spreading his mighty wings, the eagle stood in a magnificent pose. “Your Dad always said ‘Power implies the use of force over someone else’s will, while Influence encourages someone to become free to find their own way, to make their own decisions, and practice the skills we inherited from our God.’ I always attempted to influence Jonathan by example, encouraging him to be greater than he thought he could be.”
Hairy listened intently, with his head turned up and to the right, showing great respect to the specter of the mighty creature before him.
The eagle lowered his wings back to their normal position and blinked a couple of times. “Let’s hope he finishes the book before he comes to see us,” he spoke with genuine praise, “that book will be a great gift to pass on to others. It needs to be written, and of course, it needs to be read.”
The eagle looked out over the land and said to the pack, “You’d better move on. There is a lot to see here. It will take you a lot longer to view it all on foot. I, on the other hand,” he said, looking at his wings, “can take it all in with a few passes, flying a couple of miles up in the heavenly atmosphere. A sight that I cannot describe,” he said, looking at Hobo, “that is why I offered to take Hobo on a flying tour, but he didn’t take me up on it. I am sure,” the eagle said to the others, “that he thought he might slip from my grasp at such a height and plummet to the ground. I tried to assure him that even if that happened. I could catch him on the way down. He still said no, but the offer is still open,” he said, with a wink at Hobo. “Well, it was nice meeting all of you. Come back and see us sometime. I’ll find you.”
The eagle spread his wings to their full expanse and lightly jumped off of the hill. The pack was startled at first, and then as the breeze filled the eagle’s wings and it began to soar with ease, they all smiled. He dipped his wing to them, as he quickly climbed higher.
“Wow!” Hairy said, completely amazed. “That was great! I hope I see that eagle again sometime!”
“It was rather stunning,” Miss Belle said, with her paw over her heart, “truly, a magnificent creature!”
“Quite impressive,” Hunter added. “The eagle is right, though,” he said, exerting his leadership role, “we’d better get a move on, if we are going to get back before dark. It is quite a long trek back home.”
“The cool thing is,” Hobo said, knowingly, “we’ll be taking a much faster path back home than the one that got us here.” Glancing at Sage, he said, “Since we’ve taken time to rest a few times, I altered our route. We’ve been traveling in a circle and are making good time. We will be home in plenty time to rest before dark.”
As they continued their journey, they came upon a place the larger animals had formed for themselves, that was comparable to their surroundings on earth. Clear blue watering holes were strategically placed along the way.
Hairy noticed groups of mountain lions, cougars, and zebras romping about together. A number of hippos and elephants were playing in the muddy waterways that extended for miles in different directions.
Hairy climbed out on a rock ledge to get a better view of the valley below, with its stair-like winding waterway streaming toward the colony of massive peaks. Channels of shallow water ran alongside a sharp irregular ridge that erosion had carved from the bedrock and compacted sand. Hairy scanned one magnificent peak after another. He could see an impressive cave of blue marble on the horizon.
“Since we are making decent time,” proposed Sage, turning the music off again, “why don’t we relax for a few moments, while Hobo and Hunter share their stories with us? Hobo, why don’t you go first?”
Hobo was a frisky, carefree, independent spirit, who didn’t let his small stature and short legs stop him from his worldly explorations. He hasn’t changed since landing on Rainbow Bridge. He was quick to take Sage up on her request.
“It was the winter of 1993,” Hobo said, walking out in front of the group, “I had been wandering alone for a long time in the land around Lake Arrowhead, looking for a place to live, and stay. I ended up at the Security Guard station at the lake’s entrance. I was tired and hungry,” he said, with deep reflection. “Once in the station, the guards welcomed me and gave me some food and water, then let me enjoy the inside for a while. Since they were so nice, I kept going back there.” he said with a smile. “Sometimes during the day, but mostly at night after my day of wandering, I’d sneak quietly into the station.
This nice lady who saw me there, brought me a blanket to keep me warm and comfy when I slept on the security building floor. She even brought me some tasty food to chow down on. It was great, so I stayed there for about a week.”
“Then one day, I heard one of the guards telling someone on the phone that they were only able to keep me there for one more day,” Hobo said, shaking his head slightly. “I was unsure what was going to happen next. But, the next day,” he said with a smile, “that nice lady came by with a man, and picked me up and put me in their car. One of them said, ‘OK, Hobo, let’s see what condition you are in.’ I knew I would be fine,” Hobo said confidently, “I was on my way to the veterinarian for a checkup, and had a new name! They called me Hobo, and I’ve lived up to my name ever since.”
“Everything was turning out okay,” Hobo said with a sigh, “I was back in the car, and headed to my new home. By the way,” he paused, “I don’t think I ever told you the story of my unfortunate visit to the city kennel.”
“No, Hobo, I don’t think you have,” responded Hairy with great interest.
“Mom and Dad took a vacation for four weeks, traveling the United States, and left Sage, Hunter, and me, back home. A pleasant lady named Janie came by each day, and fed and walked us. Every once in a while, Hunter and I would get on each other’s nerves,” Hobo said, looking at Hunter, who nodded his head in agreement. “About a week before our parents were due home, Janie was walking us around the property, when Hunter and I had a disagreement. We got into a scuffle. I slipped out of my collar and ran away, too fast for Janie to catch up with me.”
“Boy,” Hobo said looking concerned, “that was the start to an interesting week. One day, as I was roaming around as I usually did, a kind person gave me some food, and put a new collar on me. They were nice,” he said, looking at the ground, “but I stayed with them for only a day or two, and then wandered off again.”
“Somehow,” Hobo continued, “in my wandering, I ended up outside of Lake Arrowhead and found myself at the edge of a public road. Not sure of where to go, I just ambled along for a while.” He continued, excitedly, “as I was standing there minding my own business, this man in a uniform drove up, and got out of his truck. There was some writing on the side of the truck, but I couldn’t read, then. Being the friendly dog that I am, I walked up to him, like I did the guards, expecting to be petted and hopefully, get a treat. Well,” he said, shaking his head, “this guy wasn’t interested in being friendly. He grabbed me and shoved me into a cage in the back of the truck!” Hobo said, with a strained look on his face.
“You should never have run away from me” Hunter said sharply, “you knew I wasn’t going to hurt you. I was just trying to get you to look at things my way…”
“That’s not the way I saw it,” Hobo shot back at him.
“That doesn’t matter much now anyway, what’s done is done,” Hobo said, returning to his story. “When I was shoved into the cage, there were a couple of other dogs who were already in their cages. They were sad and tired looking. The driver made some more stops,” Hobo said calmly, “and he picked up a few more dogs. As we rode in the back of the truck for a few more hours, we all looked at each other through the wire cages. We couldn’t figure out why we were there.”
Looking off into the woods, Hobo continued. “Then, we pulled up to the back of this strange looking building with a loading dock and a large door. The man moved our cages from the truck, and placed us on the dock next to a lady who was busy writing things down. My collar didn’t have any identifying tags on it,” Hobo said shaking his head, “so there was no way for the lady to know who I was, or anything about me. After she wrote down some things,” Hobo said, pantomiming being dragged along, “I was pulled into the building and put in a large cage. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. All I could think about,” Hobo said, stressed out, “what was going on? Why was I here!? Where the heck are my parents?”
“Oh, no, Hobo,” Hairy said sadly, “I never knew all of this happened to you. It must have been horrible!”
“It was,” Hobo replied to his friend, “thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. I found out later, that Janie had called all over the neighborhood trying to locate me. The security guards, whom I managed to avoid, were on the lookout for me. My parents came home the day I was picked up, but they had no way of knowing where I was. Janie was beside herself,” Hobo said sadly, “and she blamed herself for what happened, but it was me, and my wandering, that caused all of this.”
“Dad called all around the neighborhood trying to locate me,” Hobo continued with a smile, “then he called the animal shelter, and asked them if a dog like me had been picked up near Lake Arrowhead. They told him there was a dog like that there, but that he would have to come by the shelter and see for himself, if I was the one he was trying to find. Being Dad, he went there right away.”
“Boy,” Hobo said, looking at the others, “what a day. I was lying in that strange cage, feeling lonely and looking pitiful, trying to remember how I got myself into this mess, when I heard that familiar voice say ‘are you ready to go home, my little lost friend?’ There, outside my cage, was Dad!” Hobo said jubilantly. “When I saw him, I jumped up and wagged my tail as hard as I could, and tried to lick him through the cage. Next thing I knew,” Hobo said with tears in his eyes, “Dad removed my collar and gently placed my real one around my neck. He hooked up the leash and we were ready to go!”
“As we walked down to where the lady was sitting,” Hobo said proudly, “Dad was holding the leash tight, telling me everything was going to be okay. After he gave the nice lady some money for their trouble, we walked out of the building and headed to our car. It felt wonderful to be in our familiar car headed back to Lake Arrowhead. Even though I still liked to wander a lot, I never ran away again,” Hobo said, looking into Hairy’s eyes.
“You were very lucky that Dad found you when he did,” Hairy said compassionately, “I can only imagine what might have happened to you, there.”
“Yeah,” Hobo said, smiling at Hairy, “chances are, I would have made my trip here a lot sooner than I did. I think I’m done now,” Hobo said, looking at Sage.
“Well,” Sage said with a slight grin, breaking the seriousness of the moment, “as usual, our beloved Hobo took us on another unexpected journey.” Everyone chuckled and nodded in agreement.
“So,” Sage said looking at Hunter, “you’re the last one. Feel like giving it a go, or do you want to wait ‘til later?”
Hunter stood silently, looking at each one of the other family members. His square head sat boldly on a medium frame covered with light brown fur. He was always congenial, cerebral, and slow to anger. He was always independent in his own way. If he had been a wolf he would have been known as an alpha, the leader of the pack.
Hunter smiled sarcastically and said, “Well, for sure, my story is shorter than Hobo’s. Probably because I was so thankful for finding parents who loved and took care of me, I never ran away,” he said, looking at Hobo. “Anyway,” he turned to Hairy, “I was the fourth member of the family. When I arrived, Miss Belle had already made her way to Rainbow Bridge. It was the mid-nineties and my previous owners had to give me away. They moved into a rented no-pet home and could not bring me with them.”
Hunter tightened up a bit, and then said sternly, “So, they had to leave me with her father. He never did have much to do with me, just fed me and kept me chained outside. I did have a little house I could go into to get out of the weather, but no exercise. I would walk aimlessly in an area restricted by my chain. After a short while,” he said looking at Hairy, “since I had worn all the grass away, the ground became very muddy when it rained. I was getting dirtier and dirtier out there,” he said with a grimace. “I was terrified when lightning filled the sky and rain poured down.
I was never petted, and I was very lonely. A few people came by to visit me with the thought of taking me home with them, but in my dirty condition, they would just turn and walk away.” Trying to keep his strong composure, Hunter looked away from the group as tears filled his eyes.
“My beautiful sweet, Hunter,” Miss Belle said, graciously, “you must have been very uncomfortable and embarrassed, chained out there all the time. I can only imagine how you must have felt!”
Regaining his composure and looking at Miss Belle, Hunter said softly, “It wasn’t a lot of fun being restricted that way. But then,” he said with a smile returning to his face, “after being chained up out there for what seemed like forever, one day a man and woman came to see me. They looked lovingly at me, and said to each other, ‘this shouldn’t happen to any animal, look at that chain, it could restrain an elephant. I bet he would be a different dog if he were kept indoors.’”
“That was music to my ears!” Hunter said excitedly, “Oh, how I wanted to yell to them that inside is my favorite place! I kept real still, as the lady asked the man, ‘what do you think we should do?’ He took a moment,” Hunter said with a gleam in his eye, “then the man replied, ‘let’s take him home with us, and see what happens.’”
“I was so excited,” Hunter said with a big sigh,” they put me in the back of a station wagon and we drove away. I didn’t know where we were going, but it had to be better than where I was,” Hunter said confidently. “After a while, we turned into the gate at Lake Arrowhead. As we drove along, I felt like I was in a kingdom. Boy, I was a happy dog!”
“Looking out of the car window on my way onto their property, I noticed a chain-link enclosure. I wondered whether that was going to be my new home. No chain, but confinement nevertheless.”
“When we got out of the car,” Hunter continued, “they chained me outside, and my stomach churned. I thought, ‘here we go again.’ But, was I wrong,” Hunter said with a huge grin, “soon they were by my side with a hose, a pail, and some sweet smelling soap! They gave me a bath, the first in a very long time. That made me feel so much better,” Hunter said, with a wrinkle in his brow, “but I was still chained. What is happening?”
“After a few minutes,” he continued, “I wondered if I was just destined to be an outside dog. I wanted so badly for them to just give me a chance, and see that I once was a great inside dog, and could easily be one, again.”
“Just then,” Hunter said, pointing at Hobo, “they brought this short guy out to meet me. He walked all around me, sniffing and growling a little. Then, I realized that he approved! Because, once I was dry, they brought me inside!” The others looked at Hobo and smiled, as he sat very proud.
“What a miracle,” Hunter said in a grateful tone, “I didn’t have to stay inside the chain-linked area, or be confined in anyway. Once they took my chain off, I never saw it again! It felt great when they called me Hunter,” he said with a smile, “that was the name my original owner gave me. When it is time,” he said with a gleam, “I’ll have no difficulty selecting who I want to be with in Heaven.”
“Any more to add?” Sage asked kindly, looking toward the fading light, “these stories have taken a bit longer that I had thought they would.”
“No,” Hunter said, nodding his head, “that’s about enough for now.”
“Well,” Sage said to Hobo, “I guess we should get going again. Remember, Hunter has a surprise for Hairy once we get home.”
“Yep,” Hunter agreed, “better move along.”
“No big deal,” Hobo replied; tail wagging, “we’re in good shape. Just another view or two and we’ll be home in plenty of time before dark.”
As they continued on their trek through the mountains, they came upon a glorious winter scene. The snow was a brilliant pure white, and the ice glistened in the early stages of a setting sun. The penguins with their royal tuxes were prancing about, looking for their mates. A faint outline of white polar bears could be seen in the distance, their bodies blending in with the snow. Hairy made a mental note to return here someday.
“It’s cold here – reminds me of winters in New Jersey,” said Sage.
They all felt the cold, and began to shiver from the cool crisp air.
As they continued on, they left the colder climate, venturing into a warmer and beautiful circular open space.
Hobo explained, “Normally, when a new arrival comes to Rainbow Park they come here first for an orientation meet and greet. No animals take up permanent residence in this common area. In the future, you’ll be able to come here and meet others, as they arrive. We call this the ‘circle of love.’ Hairy, I hope you have enjoyed your personal meet and greet today.”
Hairy gave Hobo a small hug, and said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed today. Thank you for giving up your day to usher me around. I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities to experience other parts of the park,” Hairy said, enthusiastically, “as well as revisit some of the wonderful places we were today.”
Completing their tour, they entered what would now be Hairy’s new home. In the distance, Hairy could hear waves crashing on an ocean shore. As he looked up, he saw an eagle and seagull flying side by side high in the sky. Hairy wondered whether that was the eagle he met earlier today, flying with Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Hairy began to realize that life in Rainbow Park was wonderful. He was very happy to be there, and share it with all of his family members, and friends he was yet to meet.
Illustration by Tom Davies
Chapter 5 – Friendship Loop
As they all made it back from their trek, they entered an exceptional area for dogs and cats within Rainbow Park. It was aptly named “Friendship Loop”.
A rambling curved rock wall enclosed the loop, with a grand stream flowing along the wall. Visiting ducks and geese glided effortlessly on the smooth water. Flags of all the nations on earth encircled the top of the wall. The low flowering bushes, and variety of trees, added to the pristine beauty of the area. Drinking sources and quiet resting places were strategically located throughout the Loop.
The climate reminded Hairy of a very comfortable spring in Florida. The palm trees were swaying gently with the breeze. The fertile ground, with its blades of lush green grass, looked soft and inviting. This grass, unlike the wandering grass, was so comfortable that many of the dogs and cats preferred to lie on it, rather than their beds.
The playground in the center of the loop was equipped with arches, runs, and hurdles. There were steps, slides, and castles, for both dogs and cats to enjoy. The cats could scratch on posts especially designed for them. They saw dogs and cats tossing balls and Frisbees to one another.
“Every so often, we play a game of Frisbee toss,” Hunter said. “We play four or six to a side. Sometimes we align ourselves by size, but most of the time we mix it up a bit.”
“There’s competition here?” Hairy inquired “I thought you said…”
“I didn’t say we didn’t have competition,” Hunter interjected, “I said no unhealthy challenges for survival. We definitely have competition, but it is healthy, friendly competition to stimulate our spirit. In fact, I’m one of the Frisbee team captains. If you would like to join us, I think you would enjoy being a part of my team.”
“I’m willing to give it a try,” Hairy said, still a little unsure of himself. “I ran after tennis balls in the dog park, but rarely played with a Frisbee. Not sure I am very good at it.”
“I’m sure, after some practice, you’ll do just fine,” Hunter said, encouragingly. “Miss Belle’s brother, Bob Barker, and I will practice with you, and help you become skillful at it. Bob is actually one of our best players.”
The perimeter of the loop was lined with small huts, similar to the ones Hairy saw on the tour. When the weather turned chilly, and the rain fell, they served as shelters for the animals.
The trees are always in bloom. One dogwood tree, standing near the hut marked “HAIRY,” stood out from the rest. The tree reminded him of the Memorial Dogwood Tree that stood at Hairy’s residence in Lake Arrowhead. It was placed there in memory of family and friends who made the trip to Heaven.
Hairy noticed that this Dogwood tree is called the Reunion Dogwood Tree. Miss Belle told him that each time a member of the pet family comes to Rainbow Bridge, the tree grows a new branch, and the limb explodes with glorious dogwood petals in honor of the new arrival. Hairy was awed by the beauty of his very own limb that had sprouted since his arrival. It blended in beautifully with the other family branches.
Looking around at his new home, he was surprised that he felt comfortable in these strange surroundings. Hairy was tired, but at the same time, energized after his trip to Rainbow Bridge and today’s wondrous adventure. He noticed that his earthly pains had left him, since he had arrived. He became thankful for Mom’s and Dad’s hard decision to relieve him of his pain and send him on to Rainbow Bridge. They would be happy to know how wonderful it was for him here.
Miss Belle, in her gracious soft tone, said to Hairy, “While I’ve been here, I have met a number of our Mom’s earthly companions. She has always had a fur baby in her life. When she was a little girl, there was Pluto – a little wire-haired terrier. One day, Mom fell into a neighbor’s fish pond while watching the fish swim back and forth. Pluto ran home and barked at Mom’s mother, until she followed him to the fish pond and pulled Mom out. Even though Dad never knew Pluto, he was grateful for Pluto’s heroism. That’s what we do as pets – we take care of our people because they take care of us.
“Later, mom had a Pekingese named Smokey, and a red Dachshund named Princess Kristina von Olnick (Tina, for short). George, a playful black Dachshund,” Belle continued, as though she were reading names from a list, “and Tina Two, another red Dachshund, also lived with Mom. I’ve met them here, and they are all waiting for Mom to get here so they can be with her. Judge Roy Bean was her first black Lab,” Miss Belle continued, “and then there was a beautiful tortoise shell kitten that came to her house and begged for food every day. Mom took her in and named her Gypsy. Mom’s daughter, Lisa, and Gypsy became great friends.
Then,” Miss Belle said with a sigh, “David came next. David was rescued by Mom’s daughter Cindy from a shopping center parking lot. They thought he was a gray kitten, but after giving him a bath, they discovered he was beautifully pure white. Because they were such friends,” Miss Belle said with a smile, “Cindy took him to college with her. He must have been very smart. Not long after that, I arrived,” she said proudly, “and that was the beginning of our current family.”
“In addition to ones Miss Belle spoke about, there are other family members you will want to meet,” Hunter said, with a grin. “Of course, there are Bob Barker and Leo, who were already mentioned during our adventure today. Then there is Lightning,” he added, “a cool black Collie, and Ginger, a brown German Shepherd, both are here waiting for Dad’s sons. Someday, you’ll probably meet Spotty, a black and white mixed breed dog, and Mittens, a light gray cat who left Rainbow Park to go with Dad’s parents. And, oh yes, Zeus,” Hunter said quickly, “a black service dog, who was trained by Dad’s sister.”
“My goodness!” Hairy exclaimed, with his eyes wide open, “That all sounds so wonderful. Boy, I never expected there were so many family members here! I look forward to meeting and getting to know them. Sounds like Mom and Dad are going to have a houseful when they arrive in Heaven.”
“Yes, my dear,” Miss Belle said, “a very large and lovely extended family. Hairy, you will grow to love each and every one of them, over your time here.”
Sage appeared from nowhere once again, and interjected, “Well, Hairy it looks like it’s time for you to share your earthly story with us. We probably know most of it, since we’ve been following you for a while, but we would like to hear it in your own words.” This time she turned the music down, not off.
Hairy was always a loving dog. He never met a stranger he didn’t like, as long as they were a friend of Mom’s. Like Miss Belle, he provided love and comfort, especially when Dad was away at work for weeks at a time. He was a great companion to his little brother, Harpo, and looked after him constantly.
“Okay!” Hairy said with a smile to start his story, “as I mentioned earlier, I was wandering around the golf course in Lake Arrowhead. Since I had no real home, I tagged along with this nice man and lady for a few days, when I would see them take their daily walk around the neighborhood. They took me home, fed me, and let me sleep in their garage for a couple of nights. I overheard them talking one night. I really couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I did pick up the words ‘dog pound’. I was a little concerned.”
“Though I was worried,” Hairy continued, “the next morning, Mom and Dad showed up in the garage. Mom looked me over and said, ‘he’s a lot bigger than I expected. Look at that hair and those paws.’ Dad agreed. They talked for a minute, and then Dad knelt down beside me and put a leash on me. ‘Come on, Hairy,’ he said giving me my new name, ‘time for you to have a home’ and walked me across the street to their house.”
“The following week, Dad had to go to the hospital for a week,” Hairy said, sadly, “that is when Mom and I bonded. She is such a wise and gentle lady. She even let me sleep in the bed with her. Even though I really loved Dad, and had a great time playing with him, Mom was my true earthly partner.”
“As you all know,” Hairy said, looking at Hobo, “when I got to Mom’s and Dad’s house, Hobo was there with Harpo. Right away I could tell that Hobo was very sick, and I tried to comfort him and help him enjoy his last days. After a short while, Hobo went away. I wasn’t sure where he went until I arrived here, today,” he smiled, placing his paw on Hobo’s shoulder. “I am so glad to see you again, especially to see you having such a great time wandering about.”
“All you guys were gone,” Hairy continued, “so the house was left to Harpo and me. Harpo was a very unassuming wire-haired terrier with his bobbed tail not quite wagging. We got along just fine. We would cuddle, share a water bowl, and occasionally escape together.”
“Every once in a while,” Hairy said, changing his tone back to a fun one, “Harpo and I would dig under the fence and escape from our back yard, or sneak out the front door when visitors came. We didn’t wander very far, not like Hobo used to, but we explored some of the nearby neighbors’ yards, seeing what we could see. We always came back when we heard Dad’s shrill whistle calling us back home.”
“One day,” Hairy said sternly, “someone opened the front door and came into the house before Mom could open it for them. Something wasn’t right; Mom or Dad always opened the door for quests. I growled and firmly let them know I was there with Mom. Dad said that was the first time he had seen me be less than friendly with anybody, but I really loved Mom and wanted to protect her.”
Hobo interrupted with a big smile, “Oh, yea! That whistle! I could hear it a mile away, but if I was on a mission I didn’t pay much attention to it – especially when I went to my girlfriend’s house!”
“Then,” Hairy continued, “as most of you know, we moved from Lake Arrowhead about a year ago, to a retirement community in Florida. Mom and Dad were concerned that Harpo and I might have some difficulty adjusting to our new home, especially Harpo since he had lived in the Lake Arrowhead house for fifteen years. As long as we were with them, we didn’t much care where we lived, so we adjusted pretty quickly.”
“But we did lose our fenced backyard,” Hairy said, shaking his head, “not much freedom to roam. But, Mom and Dad took us to the Dog Park every day in their new golf cart, so that we could get our exercise. We would drive by the location where our new house was being built, so we could get used to it. It worked,” Hairy said with a smile, “when we moved into the new house we adapted right away, and had a great time.”
“When our parents’ friends came by to play cards, I’d get under the card table and lie on someone’s feet. Not much room under there for me.”
Hairy sat sadly for a moment, staring off into the distance. The others knew something was wrong.
“Hairy, my dear,” Miss Belle asked softly, “what is the matter, you seem so sad.”
“Well,” Hairy said looking at Miss Belle, “after a few months I got a kidney infection. It was so painful and I hurt all the time. Doctor Ed said that I wouldn’t be able to live pain free. Mom and Dad did the only thing they could,” Hairy said, looking at the ground, eyes filling with tears, “they told the vet to let me go, and sent me to be with you guys.”
Everyone was quiet, allowing Hairy to experience a moment of grief. It had not been that long since he was there with Mom and Dad, and he was still missing them very much.
“The last thing I remember, before landing on Rainbow Bridge,” Hairy said with a sniffle of sadness, “was Mom and Dad stroking me gently, saying how much they loved me. They were troubled, but seemed a little relieved when the doctor inserted the needle into my leg. Soon, I went to dreamland…and floated down onto Rainbow Bridge. You pretty much know the rest,” Hairy said, with a deep sigh. “I’m still unsure about what kind of connection we have with those we left on earth.” Hairy looked around, hoping someone would answer him.
Miss Belle volunteered to pick up the conversation, “We only connect with our loved ones on earth if they need us. It is not for us to impose our will on them,” she said lovingly. “We can comfort them in their times of grief, and enjoy their times of joy. If they choose, we can help them think through an issue, but we cannot give them answers. We are here, and they are there. It is up to them to persevere through their trials and be at peace with their own conclusions. Not much else we can do.”
Hunter, with excitement in his voice, broke the sad train of thought, and said to Hairy, “I’m sure Hobo will want to show you so many of the other sights and sounds throughout the park in the coming days. For now, come with me, Hairy. Let me show you one more thing before we end today’s adventure. Why don’t the rest of you come along, as well?”
They followed Hunter for a moment, and with a big grin on his face, he pointed off to one side of the grassy area. As Hairy looked, he saw bushes full of a wonderful variety of cat and dog treats. Some Hairy recognized from earth, but there were some new ones he had not seen before. He became excited to sample each and every one.
Hairy realized that Hunter had taken on the persona that Dad had on earth, the head of the family. Dad had a knack for making you feel good, no matter what was happening. Hairy had gone from a very sad moment missing Mom and Dad, to Hunter showing him the wonderful bushes full of treats.
“Wow! This so great!” Hairy said, giving Hunter a big hug. “I bet this must be the surprise you talked about earlier today.”
“Yes, it is,” Hunter said, still smiling as Hairy hugged him.
They all enjoyed a treat or two, toasting their life in Rainbow Park. After eating the tasty morsels, they all stood looking past the rainbow into the vastness of space in the direction of earth. The setting sun on the distant horizon, with its backdrop of variegated pink, yellow, and blue with vivid red streaks flowing randomly through the sky, signified the end of day.
They all agreed that they would be waiting on Rainbow Bridge when Harpo and their loving parents came to join them. They talked of how they all could go through the Heavenly Gates on to another great adventure, one that Hobo could never dream up. On that journey, they would all be together again…forever.
Hairy looked up into the navy blue sky, as day settled into darkness, and noticed a circle of bright twinkling stars. The one in the center was just a bit brighter than the others. Would Dad be watching the same star? Meanwhile, on earth, Mom and Dad stared into the star-studded sky remembering each of them in turn, listening to Neil Diamond singing “Lonely Looking Sky”, while Harpo strolled around the yard.
Hairy felt at home with his brothers and sisters, but a bit lonely, as he realized he would have to wait a bit longer to trot off to Rainbow Bridge, to catch up with those still on earth.
For now, he would get some rest. Off in the distance, he could hear Sage playing Neil Diamond’s “Dear Father,” followed by “Lonely Looking Sky”. A faint smile crossed his lips. He was comfortable and content, and looking forward to continuing his ultimate adventure through Rainbow Park. As Miss Belle said, he would enjoy life from light to dark, and not worry about time or a calendar.
He felt loved and fully at peace.
Larry is an author, business consultant, educator, and personal coach. He facilitates a Writers Circle in Ocala, Florida His published works include fiction and non-fiction: Whistler’s Dilemma, My Time, My Life, My Work —A memoir, Hairy’s Ultimate Adventure-A fictional fantasy, and The Internal Auditor as a Business Consultant. Larry earned BS and MS degrees in Business Administration. Visit his website Soar Without Limits.
By Neil Diamond
On a painted sky
Where the clouds are hung
For the poet’s eye
You may find him
If you may find him
On a distant shore
By the wings of dreams
Through an open door
You may know him
If you may
As a page that aches for a word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
And the one God will make for your day
As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the sun
God will make for your way
And we dance
To a whispered voice
Overheard by the soul,
Undertook by the heart
And you may know it
If you may know it
While the sand
Would become the stone
Which begat the spark
Turned to living bone
As a page that aches for a word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
While the one God will make for your day
As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the one God will make for your way
By Neil Diamond
We dream, we dream
While we may
Who are we to need
We need we need
While we wait
While we wait
We dream, we dream
While we may, while we may
Who are we to need
We need, we need
While we wait
While we wait
By Neil Diamond
Lonely looking sky, lonely sky
Lonely looking sky
And bein’ lonely
Makes you wonder why
Makes you wonder why
Lonely looking sky
Lonely looking sky
Lonely looking sky
Lonely looking night, lonely night,
Lonely looking night
And bein’ lonely
Never made it right
Never made it right
Lonely looking night
Lonely looking night
Lonely looking night
Sleep, we sleep
For we may dream
While we may
Dream we dream
For we may wake
One more day, one more day
Glory looking day
Glory day, Glory looking day
And all its glory
Told a simple way
Behold it if you may
Glory looking day
Glory looking day
On lonely looking sky