I loved going on walks when I was a mortal dog. I sniffed everything I could. I became excited when I picked up the scent of a strange animal. Occasionally, I went for a walk in the woods, before ticks became such a threat, and I thought I smelled everything there was to sniff in the world. I did not realize how naive I was until I arrived at the Bridge and met real dog explorers.
At the Bridge, dogs learn to explore. What held us back from such endeavors as mortal dogs, were collectively entitled “The Worst That Could Happen,” and often included being sent to the Bridge prematurely. When you arrive on the immortal side of the river, the worst that can happen as already occurred, it is very freeing.
I have enjoyed exploring the mountains since arriving at the Bridge. I began to think of myself as a real expert at high elevation sniffing. But then a friend joined me at the Bridge this week who taught me I knew nothing about living high above river level.
Maya lived in the Colorado mountains her entire life. She was strong from climbing up steep rises in pursuit of exotic smells. She has encountered moose, elk, lions, and bears. She has blazed her way through snow four times higher than her. She has done her business in the unimaginable cold. When I learned about her life, I learned what a flat landed squirrel sniffer I was.
While Maya and I lived very different lives, they were both filled with our parents’ love. While Mommy and I experienced a much more sedentary lifestyle, with no long hikes, beautiful nature, or extreme weather that Maya and Mama Kelly encountered, at the end of the day, when we were all safely inside sheltered from the elements inside we were equally adored.
Being a dog surrounded by nature changes the relationship between dogs and humans. Because they are experiencing the world together, they become partners, discovering new things, and protecting one another from the wild. It bonded Maya and Mama Kelly in a way I could never do with my parents.
I would have thought being an outdoor dog and an explorer would make Maya immune to the ordinary diseases that lay us low, but this was not the case, as Maya was diagnosed with, and ultimately passed to the Bridge from, lymphoma, quite an ordinary way for such a courageous companion to pass over. But, Maya took it in the same stride she did when she came nose to snout with a bear. With bravery and dignity.
There was a lot of rain before Maya passed over shed by the people who mourned her, the most coming from her heartbroken mom. Maya’s siblings, who preceded her to the Bridge, most of whom she only encountered in dream visits, were the first to greet her.
I swore my friend in as an angel and asked her where she chose to live. “Where I am comfortable,” she said. “In the mountains.”
I asked her if I could accompany her, and she agreed. We were having a pleasant conversation on the road up into the clouds when a lion jumped in front of us. I thought I would need a new body after this encounter, but Maya and the lion hugged like they were old friends. She introduced me to the feline, and I hoped she didn’t know all the bad things I had said about cats before I came to the Bridge. The lion joined us, and then we met a huge black bear. It was another of Maya’s mountain friends. He was a fine chap and let me ride on his shoulders. Finally, we met the biggest moose I had ever seen. Then we came to a clearing. We made a fire, roasted marshmallows, and talked until I fell asleep against the bear. In the morning, Maya led me back home and told me I could join her whenever I wanted. I plan to do so soon.
If you talk to Maya’s mom, tell her that her baby misses her with all her heart and that she is just a little further up the mountain, and always looking over her.