I was filled with anticipation and anxiety. Behind the smiles I faked for my husband and family was the stabbing pain of loss. There was a void in my life, a vacuum that felt so empty I never thought it could be filled. I felt shattered, like my skin was all that was holding my broken body together.
It had been a month since they cut the cancer from my breast. After a night of tears and goodbye’s, we helped our precious pug, Phoebe cross to the Rainbow Bridge the very next day. I still wanted to scream when I thought about it. NOOOO!! Why?!?! What had I done to deserve such punishment? I would be starting radiation treatments soon, I was laid off, and my dog died.
Was I crazy?! Clearly, I might not be in the right emotional space to be making life-altering decisions. Now was probably not the time to get a puppy. What if I can’t love this dog? What would Phoebe think? My head was spinning. My stomach was in knots.
We were going to pick up the puppy today. I really didn’t make the final decision to get her. Like with our Phoebe, it was Nate who stood firm and said, “We are doing this!” Had the decision been left to me, I would have wavered, and logic would have won out over love. And I loved Phoebe. Phoebe made my life beautiful, blessed. She completed our family. Maybe this puppy would do the same.
But I was already thinking exit strategy. If the puppy didn’t work out, I could find her a good home. She’s a Shi Tzu mix, and I know a lot of dog lovers. I was ambivalent at best about bringing this new puppy into our home “forever.”
For Nate, I mustered up enough feigned excitement to mask my growing concerns and mounting grief. Every fiber of me really wanted to yell, to throw a massive tantrum and say, “I don’t want a puppy!! I want my Phoebe!! This is wrong. This is NOT my life…” But it was.
I swallowed my feelings, and we jumped in the car. I hoped I could hold it together for the drive to the breeder’s house. We rode in silence. I could feel Nate’s helplessness. My dear, sweet husband wanted to make me happy again. This was something he couldn’t fix. He could only pray and love me.
Ten minutes into the drive, I noticed a magnificent rainbow. It stretched boldly across the crystal-clear sky. Each row of color deeply defined. In Hawaii, rainbows are not a rare sighting. But this one was more than dew drops mirroring the sun’s rays. This felt like a sign from God and the Rainbow Bridge.
I tried not to cry at the thought of Phoebe but soon my sunglasses were wet with tears and filled with fog from the heat of them. I fixed my gaze on that rainbow. I found my breath from it. I was not imagining its supernatural splendor. That rainbow never moved from the horizon and never faded. It just got grander and richer as we moved closer. It soon looked like the end of that rainbow was floating above the city of Kapolei, exactly where we were going.
We followed the rainbow to the breeder’s home where she handed the tiny puppy to me. Just like that—we were a threesome again. Her tiny body squirmed and wiggled in my arms. She felt so small compared to Phoebe. She seemed helpless, like I felt at that moment—confused and scared. She was going to start a new life, one she never even dreamed of, one she never asked for, sort of like me at that moment.
The puppy was timid. Phoebe howled and pug grumbled all the way home as she stood confidently on my lap. This puppy buried her head and face in my lap—no crying, no complaints.
It didn’t feel right. It felt like I was trying to complete a puzzle and the last piece came from a different box—its size, shape, color didn’t fit. What did I just do!? Then I saw it—a double rainbow. It was as clear as the rainbow that we followed to Kapolei. This time the rainbow was on the horizon leading back to our home.
The tears started again. They didn’t feel like the hot, painful tears I wept earlier. These were cool, healing tears. God must be with me for only He could put rainbows in the sky. I imagined Phoebe in the heavens. She was sitting at the throne saying, “My mommy needs me. Can you help her?” That was the type of dog she was. She always knew and got what she wanted and always loved me, loved us. Finally, I smiled, a real smile.
I was going to be okay. It was okay to share the love I still had in my heart with another dog. I would never forget my Phoebe; she was reminding me of that. That double rainbow in the sky meant that there was room in my heart, my life, for another. I will always remember that moment and feel so blessed for having experienced it. I will also never be convinced that it wasn’t Phoebe’s spirit that made that happen for me along with a little help from God, of course.
When I got home, I looked through the papers from the breeder. I gasped as I noticed the puppy’s birthdate—April 28, 2015. This was the day after I was laid off from my a 20-year career AND found out I had breast cancer. I lost my breath as the irony struck me. This puppy was born on the day my new chapter started. She came into this world on the exact date my world started to crumble. This little creature was meant for me.
Her name means “God’s gracious gift.” We lovingly call her “Gia.”