Our hearts broke for Esther the Wonder Pig and her family when they had to say goodbye to Shelby, their beloved dog and Esther's best friend. And then, just a few days later, they had another tragic loss as their dog Reuben followed Shelby across the Rainbow Bridge. Of course, our dear boys Jimmy and Joey were there to greet them, sending us reports quickly after each arrived to let us, Esther and her fans know that the dogs we'd all come to love through social media had arrived safely. Read on to see how Shelby and then Reuben were welcomed to their new lives. - Todd and Stephanie Belcher

      Dear Stephanie & Todd,

      It's been busy here as we prepared to greet a newcomer. We got word that a celebrity dog was crossing the Rainbow Bridge and we wanted to make everything just right for the new arrival.

To do that, we first had to learn more about her. Right before any animal crosses the Rainbow Bridge, one of the cats who works on the Welcoming Committee puts its paperwork together. (Did you know most cats can read and write? It's why they always want to sit on your laptop while you work. You thought it was for attention, but really they are checking your grammar and making sure you don't write something dumb in an email to your boss. And those "naps" they take in the pages of your book? They're critiquing your taste in novels.)

      Anyway, the paperwork gives us the newcomer's background-family history, likes, dislikes, hobbies-so we can get them settled in and make them feel welcome. We know the file is finished when the cat in charge scratches her signature into it, pushes all the pages onto the floor and walks away.


Esther & Shelby
Then a beagle with a big bark everyone can hear (so any beagle who's available at the time) announces all the important details to the rest of us. The beagle told us our new dog friend's name is Shelby and that she'd lived a good, long life (18 years!). She came to us from a loving pack that included not only two dads, but also dog friends named Reuben and Alice and cat friends named Finnegan and Delores. While we were listening, Joey and I thought we might know Shelby. Something about her sounded familiar.

      Then the beagle continued: Shelby's pack also included a turkey named Cornelius (unusual!) and her very best friend, a world-famous pig named Esther (very unusual!). They all lived together at a magical-sounding place called Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

      That was it! Joey and I hadn't met Shelby but we knew her. While watching episodes of Belcher TV, we had seen Todd paint two portraits of Esther and Shelby. (Remember? We've told you before that we have channel 740, where Joey and I can watch everything happening with our Belcher pack-Todd and Stephanie, the best people ever, and our terrier pal Freddie. To us, it's the most interesting thing on TV!)

Anyway, we ran over to the head of the Welcoming Committee, our old pal Zoey, a border collie who is very organized, and told her all about the paintings and suggested we should hang them in Shelby's new house to make her feel at home here. Of course, Zoey thought it was a perfect idea! While Joey and I worked on that project, other animals got together a welcome basket for Shelby with all her favorite things, including fuzzy tennis balls.

      We had heard that Shelby is an excellent mother to all kinds of animals, so the team of shepherds who help sort everyone out thought she'd be happy living in a house with a few dogs, cats and even a potbellied pig who missed out on good mothering in their first lives. We set her up with a nice memory foam mattress like the one she shared with Esther and her own channel 8074 where she can keep watch on her pack back in Canada. Then Joey and I hung Todd's paintings of her and Esther on her bedroom wall.

It took a lot of work to get everything ready for Shelby's arrival, but we were happy to do it. After all, she's a famous dog.

      But here's the thing: We do the same type of welcome for every animal who arrives, whether they have a world-famous pig sister with a million social media followers or they are a stray with no friends or family.

      Every animal deserves to be treated with tenderness and respect, given everything they need to feel safe and happy. Animals don't always get that in their first life-but we make sure they get it in on this side of the Rainbow Bridge. Here every animal is wanted. Every animal is well cared for. Every animal is loved.


Esther & Shelby
Shelby hasn't been here long, but we want Esther and her whole family to know she's doing great. While taking a tour of the place, she asked if we have an Enchanted Forest and we weren't sure what she meant. Then she explained: She and Esther had an Enchanted Forest where they would take long walks, talk about life and plant cupcake seeds. (In fact, Todd painted Shelby and Esther taking strolls in that very forest!)

      "We're sorry, Shelby," we told her. "We don't have an Enchanted Forest here."

"No problem," she said. "If some of you will help me, we can make one. I brought a few cupcake seeds along with me."

Note: Just days after we received the letter from our dogs Jimmy and Joey about Shelby, we got a follow-up note about Reuben. We are so proud of our boys and the work they are doing across the Rainbow Bridge.

     Dear Stephanie & Todd,

We wanted to give you a quick update. As you may have heard, we welcomed another arrival on this side of the Rainbow Bridge today when Reuben, Esther the Wonder Pig's dog brother, crossed over.

      We had been expecting him. After Esther's dog sister Shelby arrived last week, she let us all know that Reuben would be coming. Remember how we told you what a good mother Shelby was to all sorts of animals during her first life? Well, Shelby knew Reuben had cancer and that it would soon be his time to cross the bridge. But Shelby was worried about him coming by himself. She'd heard it was nice here, but she needed to check it out for herself to make sure someone who knew and loved him would be here to greet him and tell him everything would be OK.

It happens a lot that animals who loved each other in their first life come here one right after another. Remember Lucy and Gracie, the sweet (and kinda bossy) dogs who arrived at Christmastime within days of each other? (They're doing great here, by the way.)


Anyway, we've gotten Reuben settled into Shelby's house and they've been running and playing in the yard like young pups.

      We'll write more later but we've got to get to bed now. Tomorrow Shelby and Reuben are going to take us to meet their old friend, Bear, who lives in a nearby area with a lot of the larger animals like horses and sheep. Apparently, Bear is a very large pig (maybe even 1,000 pounds) and a sweetheart of a guy. They've missed their visits with him.

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