The small, brown body of Paco, our friend from Italy, was lifted by Enzo’s escalator to the mountaintop overlooking Rainbow Bridge. Most dogs arrive at the Bridge standing proudly, all their strength and power being returned to them the further they rise. But not our Italian friend sweet Paco.
I have never known a dog who fought so hard, who gave every ounce of his strength, to stay with his mom. Our friend Willie, who had battled cancer for years before crossing the River of Life, came to be known as the dog who said no. I thought that I would call Paco the dog who said no, but I would cleverly use the Italian word for no. I was disappointed to learn the Italian word for no is no.
And Paco said no a lot. His heart was failing, he needed several shots a day. He had numerous attacks when he could not breathe. His mom gave him oxygen until the crisis passed. She would never give up on Paco and Paco would never give up on her. His mom left work to be with him in case he had an attack. Day after day we prayed that Paco would be granted one more day and each day Paco managed to survive.
When Paco’s mom dismissed her final class from school for the year, she counted on having a last summer with Paco. When she got home that day Paco was lying next to his food with no desire to eat. His mom did everything she could to find that spark in Paco which had rallied him so many time before. But the spark was gone. Paco had no more nos left. He was ready to pass over.
We got him to the mountain top. He could barely stand. Leo helped me ease him down to the cool grass. Slowly, Paco began to recover: All the illness left his body, and his youth was restored. He stood up, surprised he could breathe easier, and he had no more pain. “I need to get back to my mom,” he said.
I told him he didn’t have wings yet, and he wasn’t ready to fly into the sun, but our friend insisted.
“I was very sick before I came here but I did not want to leave Momma. She was doing everything for me: She was keeping us together, no matter how hard it was. I was so happy to be with her, even when I couldn’t breathe or eat. I knew she would save me. But the doctor told her she was selfish keeping me alive. Now she thinks she made me suffer for her needs, which is the furthest idea from the truth. She thinks I hate her, and I love her so much. I must go back. I must!”
Leo and I exchanged a look. I nodded. Leo told Paco to get on his back. He would fly Paco to Italy to see his mom. Hopefully, Paco’s mom would sense his presence and stop blaming herself. Leo was sacrificing time with his mom, but Leo is our Lionheart and he would do anything for a friend.
They flew away together and did not return for two days. I was very concerned. Italy is a big place, and Leo was not familiar with Italy. Late on the third day they returned.
Paco told me his mom was a little better. He was planning on spending all his time with her. Leo asked him to sit down.
“Remember what your Mom said?” Leo asked. “She said it helps her to think of you at the Bridge running and playing.”
“But I don’t feel like running and playing,” Paco said softly.
I put a paw on his shoulder. “Do you want your Mom to sit and cry about you every day or do you want her to be happy again?”
“Of course, I want her to be happy,” Paco said.
“And she wants you to be happy and playing. It is going to be hard, for her, and for you, but your mom wants you to enjoy yourself, so you need to play.”
Paco agreed. We ran with him, but after a few steps he stopped and lay down. I needed help.
I contacted Sheriff of Fun Benjamin. He began to give Paco lessons in fun and he is picking it up quickly. Just a few minutes ago Paco passed me barking and nipping at Smoochy’s heals. Later he went swimming with Willie.
Paco’s mom, you wonderful lady, who devoted your life to Paco, know your boy is happy and know he visits you often. He is working very hard on having fun, and he wants you to work very hard on being happy.
We know it is a harder road for you, and people don’t have sheriffs of fun, although they should, Paco is praying that you will be happy again someday and all we angels are praying as well.
Now I am going to join Paco in playing. It is time for fun.