I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bridge.

There’s a beautiful story making the rounds online about Duke Roberts’ last day on earth. Duke was a beautiful, three-legged, cheeseburger-loving black lab who had to be put down because of a large tumour growing inside him. Duke’s owners tenderly documented his last day as they took him swimming, to the park and had goodbye visits with all his favourite people. If you haven’t read it (and you feel like sobbing), grab some tissues and look it up.

Duke on his last day

Duke on his last day

Duke’s story hit me hard, not just because he we had a similar experience three years ago, but because we recently said goodbye to two feline family members and I wish I’d thought to document and honour them in this way.

Before I get to recent events, here’s a bit about our late lab, Buster – aka B, B Dog and Sir Fartsalot. Like Duke, Buster was also a rescue, which is ironic because that’s what he loved to do most when you were swimming. We let Buster go when he was 14, after discovering a large mass on his spine. The vets predicted he would never walk again and most troubling (to Buster) was that he would need to be fitted with a catheter and have his stool manually removed for the rest of his life. When he heard that I swear he looked up with his big brown eyes and said “Guys, I’m good.” On Buster’s last night, we ordered him a meat-lover’s pizza, hand fed him cat food and slept beside him on the dog bed.


Our boy

Like most black labs, Buster loved to eat, run, eat, lick, eat and snuggle. He LIVED for the cottage where he spent his days chewing sticks, chasing ducks and “rescuing” swimmers. He never made it to PEI but I know he would have loved it so we christened our ocean-front “Buster’s Beach” and every summer we go there to strip down and lick our privates. (Just kidding, we have a champagne toast and lick our privates inside.)

A friend comes to pay his respects

Beach sign courtesy of Jim Millard

Like all certifiably crazy dog-lovers, we always assign our pets thoughts and feelings:

“Look at Buster, he’s like ‘No way I’m eating that shitty kibble. I want what they’re having’.”

“Check Buster out. He’s sad because it’s raining and he can’t go swimming.”

“Buster is NOT happy about the olives on that pizza. Could you please pick them off for him?”

Always with a Scottish accent.

When we adopted Buster at age 9, we were told he “loves cats” which we later understood meant he loves to chase and ideally eat them, like ALF. But they soon found a way to coexist and eventually formed an interspecies alliance (now legal in Ontario and 20 States!) against puppy Scout.

Technically, the cats belonged to me. Lucy (short for Lucifer) and Avery were mine before I met Daren (who still rues the day he didn’t pretend he was allergic). The cats (aka “the girls”, “fish breath” and “God Dammit!!!”) turned 14 and 15 this year and they were as much a part of our growing family as the dogs and binge drinking.

Ready to pounce

Ready to pounce

Lucy and Avery were put down last Monday and it’s taken me a week to be able to write about them without blowing snot bubbles all over my keyboard. With multiple health issues coming to a head, we made the difficult decision a month ago but it took a few weeks to summon the courage to actually go through with it.

Anyone who’s ever euthanized a pet knows it’s one of the Worst. Things. Ever. Relieving pain and making “the right decision” amounts to nothing but a crock of shit when you’re waiting for the vet to enter the exam room. And when you have to do it twice in one sitting you can expect to spend the rest of the day lying in a dark room clutching catnip mice and babbling to yourself. Trust me.

Approach with caution

Lucy. Approach with caution

My cats weren’t like the adorable yet hapless Cirque-trained acrobats you see in homemade videos. They were stone cold nasty and about as cuddly as a box of weasels. Trying to pet them was like playing Russian roulet, but with a worse potential outcome. Adopting bobcats would have been safer. Even our vet had to use gardening gloves and two assistants to handle Lucy at routine visits. If our family wasn’t singlehandedly financing her niece’s Ivy League education I’m she would have fired us as clients.

When we went on vacation and had the gall to leave them with capable in-home caregivers, they used their liquid vowels to voice their displeasure forcing us to spend thousands of dollars in replacement mattresses, furniture, clothes, hockey equipment and autographed memorabilia. The last two went over real well. And the liquid bowels? They turned up at other times too, like the night before our wedding when about a dozen family members were looking for a place to sleep.

Avery sleeping soundly

Avery sleeping soundly, dreaming of bloodshed.

They hated most people, especially children. It took them years to warm up to Daren (no connection to the previous comment, I’m sure). And because cats love change, the parade of dogs and multiple house moves – not to mention the general pointlessness of life – made them a tad surly. They were like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes: no one was safe.

It was the kind of relationship (ie. abusive), where I took whatever they dished out and kept coming back for more. It was like the colonoscopy you know you must have but can’t quite bring yourself to accept with open ….. arms. To quote the Bandaid Christmas song, it was a world of dread and fear.

But it wasn’t all bad. Before the double D’s (Daren and dogs), they were the ones I came home to and the ones whose fur I sobbed in when my Dad died. They might have used their claws to say “no thank you” when I suggested we sit together, but they also kept me company in the bathtub and slept on my head.

But as the house filled up and life got busier I spent less and less time with them. Three dogs and two kids take up so much physical and emotional space that I had very little left for Lucy and Avery.

There’s a lovely verse that many people find comforting when grieving their pets. It’s called “The Rainbow Bridge” and it’s named after the place we’re supposed to meet our animals before we  cross into heaven together. So I imagine them there now, with Buster, healthy and happy, throwing out sarcastic one-liners like the two old guys on the muppets. Waiting for me.

Me and Lucy.

Me and Lucy.



5 thoughts on “I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bridge.

  1. Jen,
    On vacation this week and catching up on some twitter/blogs and was very much enjoying your twitter posts this morning. It is evident to me that you are a very thoughtful, smart and humorous writer.

    Did you ever consider publishing these stories?

    • Thanks Mike! Wow, I really appreciate that feedback, I would love to but am not sure where to start. If you have any ideas send ’em my way!

      • Publishing is one sector which I haven’t spent a lot of time. A former pal of mine once walked in to a TO publishing house with a concept for a book and they paid him a tidy sum to develop it over 12 months. He never did develop because the concept was bogus – turned out HE was a much better salesman than a business writer.

        It seems to me there are at least two approaches:

        1. National – Take the stories blogged so far and present the concept to a larger publishing house. Pitch the captivating theme and target market – is a lite fair about cottage life? Or is it medium about the challenges and triumph of being an adoptive mom? Or does it have a heavier feel about health & life struggles. Or any combination or variation in between. Convince them that you have a book in you and new material emerging in your every day. The Objective is to walk away with a years salary to do nothing but write.

        2. Local – spend a period of time writing and compiling the stories the. Look to get it printed locally – it may have more legs to start in a smaller community like PEI – especially if the cottage theme is prominent in your stories. The great thing about PEI is the local TV and radio are starving for “local content”. They would love a piece where a seasonal resident wrote about life on their island. Social media and grass roots will play a heavily on this path as well.

        Just some thoughts for you to consider – you probably have contacts that know the industry better than I do.


        Sent from my iPhone


      • Um, can I just say how awesome you are? Thanks for the feedback and ideas. I really appreciate it. I’ll keep you posted.

      • Hey! Ruth and I are sitting around tonight drinking wine-in-a-box. If you, Daren and the girls aren’t doing anything please stop by – complimentary golf cart cart pick available by request.

        Cheers Mike

        Sent from my iPhone


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