Toto wagged his tail and looked at his mom with bright eyes as she said goodbye and went to work. When she was gone, he collapsed on the floor. “It gets harder every day,” he said to his brother Max.
He was referring to arthritis that made it almost impossible for him to move. But, he would not let his mom know how much pain he was in, saying that she had enough to concern herself with. She needn’t be worried about him.
“She’s already concerned about you,” Max told him. “She knows something is wrong. You can’t hide your pain forever.”
But that was exactly what Toto planned to do. We dogs are excellent at hiding our pain until it becomes too overwhelming to conceal. Toto was close to that point, but he always had a smile and tail wag for mom until it came.
But our parents are often wiser than we give them credit for being. Toto’s mom watched him closely, often out of the corner of her eye, where secrets are revealed. She saw her beloved boy struggling. When his pain was obvious as she directly looked at him, she knew it was time for a vet visit.
Upon learning of the appointment, Toto told Max he would be back, confident of his ability to fool the vet. Not wanting to contradict his brother, Max told Toto he would save some kibble for him. He knew Toto could not see himself. If he did, he would know it was his final trip.
When a parent helps their dog cross the Bridge, they can often feel light-headed, weak knees, and nauseated. They attribute that to their grief. Actually, it is from the wave of pain and illness that are removed from the dogs’ bodies when they pass and hit the parents unexpectedly.
It affected Toto’s mom immensely because she had given the pup her heart and could not retrieve it before passing. When Toto got to the Bridge, he realized it was still beating in his chest. He felt terrible about taking it but knew the heart would get him through some long lonely nights.
He was greeted by all the pets his mom had lost in her life, led by sister Abbie. They laughed at reuniting, then cried over his passing but soon were laughing again. Like rain on a humid day, sadness doesn’t last long at the Bridge, and when it dissolves, there is no trace it existed.
Toto also met the feral animals that lived on the mortal side without food, shelter, or love until his mom helped them. To them, she is the real Angel.
While Toto knows he left his mom with a shattered heart, he has a family: led by Max, who has sworn to make her heart stronger than ever. After Abbie passed, the pack did so under Toto’s tutelage and, having taught them everything he knows; he is confident his surviving siblings can do it again.
Life is measured through heartbeats and durability. Toto passed because his body had been broken beyond repair, but his heart, filled with love, will never stop, especially as it is beating right along with his mom’s.