On my worst day, I found peace on a wing and a promise2:27 pm | April 29, 2013
Part 2 of 2
“I’ve always loved you without words,
So many things you’ve never heard,
I need a license for living; I’ve got my papers in heaven,
You cannot take what I cannot give.”
– Morten Harket, “I’m the One”
It was only a few minutes before 3 p.m. on May 2, 2012, and I wished the clock would stop ticking. But in that moment, when time refused to stand still and my heart was breaking, something mysterious, maybe magical, happened.
“You wanna go out, baby?” I asked, opening the French doors to the backyard to let Sadie hop into the bright south Louisiana sun for the very last time.
When Amy and I moved from Tennessee to Louisiana, Sadie may have been the happiest of all in our little family of three. Sadie no longer had to be led around on a leash. Our new house had a beautiful little courtyard in the back with curved brick walls and wrought-iron fencing. Sadie loved to romp and play there.
So many times, sitting in that courtyard, I watched Sadie marvel at the world going by – a bicyclist, a jogger, a cattle egret across the way looking for insects in the morning sun. Sadie would stick her head through the fence and wag her tail at passersby.
But on that day, right before the clock struck 3, I was the one taking it all in. I was trying desperately to imprint images to memory, and, maybe, just maybe, that’s why I took special notice of the little yellow butterfly hovering above Sadie. It danced up and down, fluttering directly above her head.|
How strange, I thought. We had no flowers in the courtyard, certainly nothing to attract butterflies. The only creatures our courtyard ever seemed to attract were frogs and wasps.
Yet there it was, a little yellow butterfly floating and flitting along, staying right with Sadie every step she made. But the clock ticked on, and it was almost 3 o’clock. It was time to leave the courtyard – and Sadie’s tiny new friend – behind.
Dr. Scott Broussard was scheduled to arrive with his “Waggin’ Train” mobile veterinary unit.
Back inside the house, though, 3 o’clock came and went. Maybe Dr. Broussard had an emergency, I thought, and he won’t make our appointment. I stared out the window for his “Waggin’ Train,” and, finally, Dr. Broussard’s white van pulled in front of the house.
I walked out onto the porch, and Dr. Broussard extended his hand. I tried to say, “Hello.” I tried to say, “Thank you for coming.” But I couldn’t. I could say only one thing.
“This is the worst day of my life,” I said as I pushed opened the door, and there was Sadie, wagging her tail and ready, as always, to welcome visitors to our home.
After her introduction, Sadie slipped quietly underneath my desk and sat down on her haunches. She hadn’t looked that small since she was a puppy some 12 years ago. She just sat and watched. Her heavy, labored breaths seemed to have disappeared, and she seemed just perfect, sitting properly, sweetly.
“She’s doing so good right now,” I told Dr. Broussard. “She was so sick yesterday, and now she seems so happy. Maybe we’re rushing this.”
I wanted Sadie to stay little, underneath my desk, and wag her tail when visitors came to the house. I wanted Dr. Broussard to go away.
But he confirmed what our veterinarian in Lafayette and the staff at the animal hospital in Baton Rouge had already said. Sadie was very sick, and it was only going to get worse and quickly. Her little tummy was turning purple. She was refusing food – even chicken and mashed potatoes and watermelon, her favorites. The pet hospital had told us to let Sadie have “whatever she wanted,” but Sadie wasn’t even up for being spoiled. The cancer had spread so quickly, so viciously, and, now as her body continued to battle, seizures were likely.
Across the room, Amy looked at me. “What should we do?” she asked.
I looked at Amy, and I looked at Sadie. And I looked back at Amy, and I nodded. We loved her too much to let her suffer. When the seizures came as the pain overwhelmed her little body, Sadie wouldn’t understand.
I didn’t want to take life from her, but I knew I couldn’t take what Sadie, torn apart inside from liver cancer, could no longer give.
Dr. Broussard told us it would be quick and that my sweet little dog would simply go to sleep.
I went to the bedroom and retrieved Sadie’s bed, where she always slept while we were away at work, and when I plopped it down in the living room, Sadie jumped in it.
It broke my heart. There in her safe spot, where she dozed away afternoons, would be where she would depart this life.
Dr. Broussard went outside and told us to spend a few more moments with Sadie. I stroked Sadie and kissed her head. Amy told her how much we’d always loved her.
“You’ve been,” Amy assured her, “the best dog ever.”
My head was spinning as Dr. Broussard returned, knelt down beside Sadie, and gently raised her leg and inserted the needle.
Sadie licked Amy’s hand and went to sleep.
We had arranged a pet mortuary to retrieve Sadie’s body to have her cremated and returned to us in a small wooden box. To make it as easy as possible, the mortuary staff had arrived shortly after Dr. Broussard. Staff members wrapped Sadie up in her little bed and took her away.
And there Amy and I stood in our open doorway and watched as the little silver pickup truck sent by the mortuary pulled down to the end of the cul-de-sac.
As the truck drove back past the house, Amy grabbed me with a force I had never felt in all the years I’ve known her.
“Make them bring her back!” she cried and fell into my arms.
But Sadie was gone. Our house was silent; our hearts broken. I took Amy by the hand and stepped outside. The sun was shining and a spring breeze was blowing. We crossed the street and headed over to the walking path that surrounded the neighborhood lake.
We hadn’t made it very far when directly in front of us fluttered a little yellow butterfly – it looked just like the one from the courtyard that had fluttered and flitted around Sadie. Was it? Up and up into the sky it went, and as it did, our eyes followed and there, in the same direction where that silver pickup truck was taking Sadie away, a rainbow had formed.
“It’s the Rainbow Bridge,” Amy said. “It’s Sadie’s Rainbow Bridge.”
Many people know about the Rainbow Bridge, and while no one knows who wrote the famous poem, the words are, nonetheless, comforting and full of hope:
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. … The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. … But the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. … You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.”
When I think of Sadie, I am often overcome with sadness still. It’s a heartache that never leaves me.
But sometimes I let myself believe in a little bit of magic, and I smile and think of a little yellow butterfly that led Sadie to Rainbow Bridge. I’ve never seen that little butterfly again, but I think I will when I touch the sky and cross the bridge on a happy reunion day.