TO THE MOON AND BACK
By Tamra Anne Bolles
In memory of Summer Rain
When I was nine years old I was very sick, and near death, due to viral pneumonia. That experience triggered an autoimmune disorder that has been problematic for me in this life. Soon after I adopted my yellow lab, Summer, she became very ill, but I helped her through that, and consequently, because of that, we formed a bond like no other. She also suffered from chronic illness. I moved, she moved. She was literally, my shadow. I understood her struggles, and I was often able to anticipate complications, because of my own.
When her companion and my first dog died, a German shepherd named Baxter, Summer helped me through a time in my life when loss overwhelmed me. That first dog had literally saved my life when someone tried to hurt me. But he grew old and got very sick. The sadness that followed the loss was so deeply felt that I became very depressed. This shepherd had been my guardian in this life, and without him, I felt insecure. It was my yellow lab, Summer, who recognized I wasn’t rebounding from that loss, not the way I should have. She took the lead. In so many ways, every day, Summer forced me to move forward in my life. After all, he’d been her good friend, too, and she missed him, but her priority was me. At times the fact that she was so intensely attached to me had been a stumbling block in my life, as we literally would bump into each other. But, once I embraced that need, Summer became my service dog, and I gained momentum.
Imagine my surprise a little more than a year later, after my full recovery from the loss of my first beloved dog, when cancer struck again, this time taking Summer from me. She had become more than a pet, much more. On that day, June 8th, 2017, everyone who could, came together to wish her well on her journey. She had been a daily boarder at the veterinary clinic while I was at work, but instead of blending in, Summer bloomed in the winter of her life. She was a greeter in the mornings in the reception area. She befriended the sick and homeless animals at the clinic. She interacted with candidates during interviews for employment. Summer was patient with the puppies as she helped them to learn the appropriate way to socialize. She was even part of a calendar fundraising project. She was Miss July.
On that 8th of June, under blue skies, Summer played with me one last time, running beside me, though she wasn’t even able to walk by then, yet she found the strength to share that final moment with me in this life. She was so happy to see everyone who had gathered in her honor. She passed away gently as I held her tenderly in my arms. Many people told me I had given Summer a good life. I know that is true. However, what Summer gave me in return was hope, faith and love, the greatest of all of her gifts to me, was unconditional and unfaltering love.
Once again, I have suffered a loss, and I am very sad, heartbroken, but Summer would not want me to perseverate on what isn’t. Instead, she would want me to think of the friendship we shared and be happy in my life, keeping those memories close to me. It’s a pet’s perspective that teaches us to cherish the ones we love, and even when there’s loss, find hope in knowing that love is always with us, as it is meant to be part of our hearts, not for just a mere moment in time, but for always. I often said to Summer Rain, “I love you to the moon and back.” Sometimes, in the evenings on a particularly beautiful end to the day, I glance up towards the Heavens, and I smile at the starlit skies, knowing somewhere up there, my loved ones are smiling back.