Another human, who has been a living angel for dogs, entered eternity this week and has been rewarded with the grandest dog rescuer’s mansion ever seen at the Bridge.
Paula Malatesta was the first dog rescuer I encountered when I delved into Doggyspace eleven years ago. She had more dogs than anyone I met: Khan, Puppy, the Dude, Duke, Brandon, and many more. They each were treasured her in their way.
But, for every dog who lived with her, there were dozens more who she rescued, starting with Bronco, who was the first dog she saved. Bronco was so thankful he inspired Paula to devote her life to rescues with the same ferocity that dogs dedicated their lives to humans.
The best example of how devoted Paula was to her rescues is my dear friend Wishbone. He came to the Malatesta pack, scared and distrusting humans. Wishbone was an escape artist, and it didn’t take him long to bolt through the door and disappear.
Paula searched for Wishbone, but he was very good at avoiding capture. She went to church on the following Sunday and prayed for him. When she came out of the chapel, she saw Wishbone at the bottom of a hill. She ran towards him, lost her balance, and rolled down the slope. Wishbone had never seen a human so devoted to him. He didn’t run. He realized this woman would never hurt him and only protect him.
To Paula, dogs came first, even before her health. Her family had begged her to cut back on the rescuing because of her failing health, but she refused. Her family intervened and had the dogs brought to a shelter. When the workers approached, sensing danger, Wishbone ran. Paula tracked him down and then found him the perfect home with our friend Annie in New Hampshire. That was the beauty of Paula; as much as she loved Wishbone, she put him first and gave him a home where he thrived.
We heard less from Paula in recent years. Her health failed to the point that she could no longer rescue. She stopped posting on social media, and everyone missed her humor, infectious spirit, and her love of animals. This week her beautiful heart beat it’s last.
Two years ago, Wishbone went to the Bridge, having lived a blessed life full of love. He had two moms who loved him with all their hearts, twice as many as the rest of us. He was at the lead of hundreds of dogs who were waiting for Paula when she crossed the human Bridge. There were people, too, standing amongst the dogs to greet the person they loved. They watched as she stopped at the foot of the Bridge. The sun was high in the sky, but she had no shadow.
Paula had been losing bits of herself for years. To her family, it seemed like those parts were gone forever, but they had preceded her to the Bridge and stayed in the Shadowlands waiting for her. While Paula stood at the foot of the stairs, her shadow approached and reattached itself to her making her whole again.
Paula, in a body no longer ravaged with pain and suffering, walked up the steps and had a beautiful reunion with her humans and dogs. There was no sadness or regret. Paula could live the life she had as a younger woman before the mortal world took so much from her.
She is in her mansion with rooms for all her dogs, and other pups who never had families on the mortal side, and now get to live with someone who loves them. There is a wing for the dogs she rescued, and who are waiting for their adopted parents to arrive. When I visited Wishbone yesterday, he was happily curled up in the sun, more at rest than I had ever seen him at the Bridge.
I last saw Paula sitting in a chair on her lawn, surrounded by dogs, and getting countless puppy kisses. I know that this was exactly how she thought heaven would be.