When we have to say goodbye to our beloved pets at the end of their lives with us, it's hard to imagine a world without them. Our hearts ache after those goodbyes. But thanks to our own dogs Jimmy and Joey, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge several years ago, we know all the pets who have passed are happy and healthy, playing with friends, having adventures and taking plenty of long naps. We know because our sweet boys occasionally write letters, telling us about their new lives on the other side. In their latest post, we hear about their important new jobs - and a couple of new arrivals. - Todd and Stephanie Belcher

      Dear Stephanie & Todd,

We have some big news! Joey and I have gone back to work. After serving as volunteers with the Rainbow Bridge Newcomers Club, we've been promoted to ambassadors, a paid position. You know we loved our jobs as chief canine officers at Jimmydog Pet Portraits, and it feels great to work again.

      They gave us cool badges - tags for our collars that say "Newcomers Club Ambassador" - and we get a paycheck of extra bones every Friday. Of course, you can get bones around here anytime you want but these are delivered right to our house. We really like how they do deliveries here. The birds drop off letters and packages - and sometimes, when they are feeling festive, they leave a little "frosting" on them as they fly off. What great days those are! Mail and something smelly to roll in, too! It's so much better than how mail was delivered in our old lives. We hear that when it is their time to pass, those guys in the white trucks and brown trucks who used to menace us every day cross a very different bridge that takes them in a whole other direction. We'll never see them again!

But back to the Newcomers Club. It takes over after the Welcoming Committee greets new arrivals and after the Pack Placement Committee decides where everyone will live. Our job is to get everyone settled into their new houses, give tours of the whole place and answer any questions.


Soon after we got our badges, Joey's good buddy Clooney arrived. Joey tells me he and Clooney go way back - back to when Clooney was just a puppy and you found him wandering in the street all alone. Joey says you helped Clooney find his forever home (where he was given that great name!), but that he'd still visit your house often, so he had two families who loved him. Lucky boy!

      Swapping stories about how we found our forever homes is a big activity here. We gather 'round the fire hydrant at night, chewing on sticks and listening as everyone recounts what was always the greatest day of their lives: Forever Home Day. The cats mostly lie around, licking themselves and pretending not to listen. Occasionally, one will chime in with their story, but their stories always end with "...and that was those people's luckiest day ever." Cats!

      Anyway, Joey tells me that back on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, he and Clooney bonded over their mutual suspicion of human strangers and their love of watching baseball on TV with Todd.


The Pack
Because members of Clooney's former pack are already here, the Pack Placement Committee had an easy job, then we helped him settle into his house with his sister dog Arlo Jean and his sister cats Helen, Gertrude and Phyllis. But Joey insisted we make Clooney a guest room at our place, too, complete with his own twin-size, human-type bed, just like he used to have when he would visit your house. We even put a little dog biscuit on the pillow for him!

      Not long after Clooney arrived, we welcomed Blossom, a voluptuous bulldog who has all the dogs' tails wagging. She's also got a big family here - Bixby, Georgia, Handsome and Gnarly, all bulldogs like her.


Both Blossom and Clooney were really worried about the packs they'd left behind and were so relieved to discover that their houses here have TVs with special channels so they can watch everything their packs are doing whenever they want (channel 118 at Clooney's house and channel 2235 at Blossom's).

      After she got situated, Blossom gave us a list of stuff she wanted to see and do. No. 1 was going to a river. I was confused. Maybe she wanted to take a nap on its banks? I'd never seen a bulldog swim, just sunbathe.


Anyway, Clooney, who loves rivers, too, wanted to come along, so we all ran - every dog wants to run a lot after they arrive - to a nice big, wide stream. Clooney jumped in first, splashing around before finding a shallow spot where he could plop down, only his head and long, fluffy tail sticking out of the water. Blossom dove in right after him. I was barking, "Don't you need some floaties, Blossom?" but silly me, she's a great swimmer.

      And she taught us the best game: stone diving. Any dog can do it. You just swim down to the bottom and find a good rock and bring it back to the surface. You can play two ways: The dog with the most stones wins or the dog with the best stones wins.

Some nearby cats said they would help judge which rocks were best - and we took them up on it because cats are so good at judging. But then, when Joey shook a tiny bit of water on one of them, they got huffy and left. Cats! After that, we tried to pick the winning rocks ourselves but couldn't: Just like every dog is the best dog, every stone is the best stone!

After the swimming and stone diving, we took a long nap on the bank. Even if I was wrong about Blossom and swimming, I was right about her liking naps on the bank. But then she was ready to go again. Who knew bulldogs had so much energy? She was hungry, so I took her to the food court. We were there for a long, long time as she worked her way through Forbidden Edibles, Chew All You Want, Legs! Legs! Legs! and the other stands.

Clooney and Joey, not liking big crowds, headed off on their own, saying something about wanting to take a long walk to catch up. I found them later, curled up on our together sofa, watching baseball on TV. They couldn't have been happier.

      Really, that's true of all of us here. We know how much you miss us, and we miss you, too. But you are the reason we are here - happy and healthy, surrounded by friends. When you kissed us goodbye on our last day with you, your love for us lit the path to the Rainbow Bridge and this magical place beyond.

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