Months and months ago, I wrote a series of posts on Baen's Bar in which I postulated that the reason for the fantastic success of the 1632 series was that Eric Flint had wisely created the title so that it would always show up at the head of book lists. I was roundly and severely ignored.
Not, it would appear, by that sixth iteration author, a. abbie aardmore. Brilliant strategy! However, the title page contains a 'hint,' and by that, I mean dead giveaway, since the copyright is in the name of Rebecca Meluch.
In retrospect, I should have read this book in the northwest corner of my yard. The trees provide shade and privacy. I have company out there. Under a tree, her collar hanging from a branch, sleeps Darlin Ann, my sweet little tabby cat, who was with me from my first apartment as a civilian in 1976, to this, likely the last house I will ever own. And, in a row, are three little mounds, covered in white stone. Jumper Bill, the precious beagle/redbone mix, who delighted us with his enthusiasm; Napoleon Robert (Poley, or Nappy Bob), my mother's companion in her latter years, who came to us for his hospice, days, when my mother had to move into the assisted living community; and Minerva June, the cuddle-loving black lab/ Rottweiler mix who sang, and greeted me every day with joy when I came home from work, and loved to go for a ride in the truck, and hated to go take a bath in the tub, but complied, and who got to spend her last years as a companion to Presley, the basset puppy my son and daughter in law adopted at birth.
“Tales From The Rainbow Bridge” is a gift to all of us who have loved our animals. Rebecca gives a sweet name to the relationship: “heart-holders.”
The story is told from the perspective of Zach, who loves his human Mireille. Zach is with Mirelle, on a pile of old blankets on the floor of the vet's office, and he's old, and sick, and tired; but he is with Mireille, and that's what matters. But he wishes Mireille would stop crying. The vet comes in and does something; it doesn't bother Zack, he doesn't feel anything anymore. And then he's floating, and he looks down, and sees Mireille crying and holding onto this old, lumpy sack of fur that looks a bit like him. Something is pulling him up and away, and he realizes he feels just fine, nothing hurts, and he's strong, and he calls for Mireille to take him home, because he feels good now, but he keeps getting pulled toward the brightness, and he can't get any traction, and he keeps calling for Mireille; and then he is lying on soft, sweet grass; the tunnel he came through closes, and no amount of digging will re-open it, and finally Zack is able to listen.
Warm noses and furry sides surround me. Voices assure me, “You’re okay. You’re okay.”And that's the way it is. Zach still struggles to get back, but in the interim, he accepts a role as the greeter dog. He explains to new arrivals what has happened to them; how everything they want is here, and it's okay to dig in the gardens. The last piece clicks into place when Aggie's heart-holder shows up. Aggie, the big red bloodhound, flies over the field, and jumps into the arms of her woman and knocks her down. They roll on the ground together, laughing, Aggie singing in between licking her heart-holder's face. And then the sky begins to glow, and a rainbow bridge forms. And Zach realizes where he is. Mireille had read the poem to him on that last trip to the vet.
“I know I’m okay! My Mireille needs me!”
“She will be okay, too. In time,” a soft-eyed golden retriever tells me. “I’m Shelby.”
“Shelby, get me home!” “
This is the way it’s meant to happen,” a big, placid bullmastiff tells me. “When we go first, we come here to wait for our heart holders.”
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,(author unknown)
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.
Rebecca's book takes the poem, and fills it out with stories of dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses, and even people. In this waiting are, nothing is denied to the animals. They hold couch destroying contests, and it's okay. And one day, shoes rain from the sky, and, marvel of marvels, the shoes belong to the heart-holders. So Zach has something with Mireille's smell, and the other dogs have their own heart-holder's smell. Each of the little vignettes illustrates that It. Really. Does. Work. There is no tear that is not wiped away. All the songs are songs of joy.
Since Minnie crossed over, I've been dog-less. Instead, I've got a fat black Manx named SugarBelly who sits on me. She prefers to sit on my left hand while I'm typing, but if I shake her off enough times, she will condescend to go lie down on my legs. Rarely, she will go off in a snit and hang out with my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. Mostly, though, she's Papa Pat's cat. She and I are getting closer to being the same age. I'm a good bit ahead of her, but she's moving faster. I suppose she will cross over first. That's a sad thing, until I remember the Rainbow Bridge.