There’s this bridge where a select group of us hope to find ourselves.
When we cross this span, we have left this world and moved into the great beyond.
Where we are reunited with the pets who loved us and whom many of us loved more than life itself.
It is the Rainbow Bridge.
And it is where Molly lives now, awaiting her humans Melissa and Blake.
Saying goodbye to Molly
The second most difficult day of a dog lover’s life is the day she finds out her sweet baby is ill.
Then there’s saying goodbye.
Melissa and Blake were given a month to six weeks to say goodbye to Molly after the vet diagnosed her with terminal cancer.
Molly’s humans chose not to put her through invasive treatments and chemo, knowing it would prolong her life only a little.
With no guarantee of even that happening.
They decided instead to let her go, but filling her final days with love and celebrations.
Hit rewind to Molly’s gotcha day
Melissa grew up around dogs. Her parents fostered and adopted numerous pets throughout her childhood.
“We had a real menagerie,” she says. “I LOVED all our pets growing up but we had a lot of dogs with a lot of issues. It hampered my parents a lot in traveling and even doing things for work. I always thought pets put a little hiccup in people’s plans.”
Melissa grew up and got married to Blake, another dog lover, and together, they decided to take the chance.
On Tax Day 2012—”of course, we remember it was Tax Day!”—they decided to take a look at the local Humane Society shelter near Phoenix.
They were just looking.
“You know what ‘just look’ means when you’re ‘just looking’ at dogs,” Melissa says. “Of course we came home with a dog!”
It wasn’t a difficult choice
This would be Blake’s first dog.
So, Melissa let him have the decision on which dog they would choose, even though Melissa had her heart set on a little German shepherd puppy.
“When Blake saw Molly,” Melissa explains, “he scooped her up and took her to the little room where you can interact privately with the dog. It was love at first sight.
“Today, it’s crazy to think she wasn’t my first choice. She’s been the best and we ended up finding out she was 20 percent German shepherd. So, I had my GSD all along!”
Becoming a family
Molly was a rescue dog.
Yes, there’s no denying that.
Her first humans abandoned and dumped her at a shelter from which she needed to be rescued.
But she was the one who changed two young lives.
For every dog lover out there, whether rescue human or human with a dog from a reputable breeder, we all know our dogs save us.
They teach us. They guide us along this weird journey called life.
Molly’s story is no different.
“Oh, she’s taught us patience,” Melissa says, nodding. “We adopted Molly when we were in our mid-20s and we were living the ‘early career life’ of ‘work hard, play hard.’ Blake and I had been together for a few years, but we still lived pretty independent lives and we still very much wanted to go off and do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.”
With Molly, that came to a quick stop.
“When you have a pet, you have to plan and take her into consideration.”
Another very easy decision
That was OK.
Molly’s presence in their home turned them into a family.
Two relatively independent paths merged into one with the help of four paws and a leash.
“She’s a dog, not a baby, so it can sound weird to some people,” Melissa says. “We had to plan our days and vacations around Molly. We had to know who was coming home from work at what time to walk her, who had to work late, where could we go on vacation, and how would Molly be taken care of.”
The first time they tried to go on vacation without her, Melissa and Blake left Molly at a boarding kennel.
“We both cried when we drove off,” Melissa explains. “That’s when we knew she was part of our family.”
Moving forward, 99.9 percent of their vacations revolved around Molly.
So many great adventures
Molly took a 1,500-mile road trip in a crummy truck.
She went on several “dicey” camping trips.
She stayed in numerous dog-friendly AirBnBs.
She moved a few times around Phoenix and then ultimately to Spokane, where Melissa and Blake could enjoy a more relaxed, outdoorsy lifestyle (one they chronicle on their @everydayspokane Instagram page and blog).
She was a fearless adventure dog, always ready to jump in the car and head out.
“I’ve never had a dog who was such a trooper about anything you wanted to do, whether we wanted to hike a mount on the Fourth of July to get a better view of the fireworks, or camp in the desert with coyotes howling nearby,” says Melissa.
On both occasions, she expressed her disdain for the moment and then curled up and went to sleep.
Molly crosses the Rainbow Bridge
Melissa and Blake know there will be another dog in their lives.
The question is when, not if.
Once you’ve loved a dog, you almost have a responsibility to her and to your heart to love another.
Right now, they’re taking some time to breathe.
They said their goodbyes to Molly just last Friday. The tumor grew large enough to hamper her breathing, so Melissa and Blake made that ultimate choice of compassion to let her cross the Rainbow Bridge.
They chose to spend her final days spoiling her, including a special portrait session with me.
“For a while, we did the ‘hamburger treatment,’ which we read about online,” Melissa says. “But because we never really gave her fast food before, it kind of messed up her stomach. She loved McDonald’s chicken tenders , so she got a lot of those.”
Their lives are too short
She was allowed on the furniture.
She never was before but, Melissa says, “who cares at this point?”
Every day held a car ride to the park.
They stayed as long as Molly would allow.
“We always had ‘schedules’ with her and we were pretty strict with the furniture and the food,” Melissa says. “In the end, she seemed to be the on sticking to the rules. She was super weirded out by being encouraged to jump on the furniture with us.”
And then the epiphany struck.
“We’ve realized our next dog is going to be a lot more spoiled, because life with pets is too short to be strict,” she says. “Besides, our furniture will never be that good. We want to have pets and we want to have our pets next to us. So who cares about the furniture?”
When Melissa agreed to marry Blake, she gave him two hard and fast rules:
- There will be pets. Always. Pets. Plural.
- She wasn’t staying in Phoenix.
“He’s now hooked on dogs and Spokane,” she says, laughing.
Plans around the “when” for adding a new dog to the family are up in the air. There’s a move within Spokane on the horizon and a few other variables to consider.
There could always be that one dog, though.
“If there’s someone giving away boxer/GSD puppies, I can’t guarantee we won’t go ‘just look,’ ” Melissa says. “We know boxers and German shepherds have higher incidences of cancer, but we would do anything to have a dog like Molly again.
“Even if it meant we only have seven and a half years with her.”
All around the circle
And that, my friends, was this week’s edition of the Project 52 blog circle of professional pet photographers around the world.
Molly’s crossing of the Rainbow Bridge was a sadly perfect fit for this week’s theme, Bridges. Trust me when I tell you it was as difficult for me to write as I know it was for you to read.
If you could, please leave a comment below, sending light and love to Melissa and Blake. I, for one, want them to know their pain will never fully go away but there’s comfort in knowing Molly walks with them in their hearts every minute of every day.
Now I hope the next blogger has something light and cheery for you. Go check out Jo Lyons Photography, the down-to-earth dog loving photographer for cherished dogs of Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle and the Great Lakes Region of NSW Australia.
Travel around the circle by clicking the link at the end of each blog and, when you get back home, check out my other stories about rescue dogs around Spokane, Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Please remember I will move mountains to adjust my schedule for a terminally ill dog. Just reach out before it’s too late.