Every time they think they've discovered everything there is to find on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, our dogs Jimmy and Joey come across something new. While helping a new arrival get settled, Jimmy and Joey, both ambassadors for the Rainbow Bridge Newcomers Club, learn that the Rainbow Bridge provides whatever a new pet wants or needs. Ask - or just think about it - and, poof! it appears! They learn, too, how every day can be a best-ever day. What an amazing place! - Todd and Stephanie Belcher

      Dear Stephanie & Todd,

      Joey and I just got home from the nightly story time 'round the fire hydrant, where dogs gather to chew on after-dinner sticks and listen as everyone tells the story of the greatest day of their lives: Forever Home Day. No matter how many times we hear the tales, they never get old. But tonight's story time took an unexpected turn, as two dogs decided to tell us about other best-ever days.


Otis, a tan-and-white Jack Russell/Bichon mix, started things off. We see him around a lot. He lives with his pal Lucy and likes to hang out at Jump!, the trampoline park where he can bounce around and grab treats dangling from ropes overhead. The little dude has a lot of energy. He had told us some stuff about his life on the other side of the bridge before. He was rescued by a nice man named Chad Tucker and for a long time it was just the two of them. Then Chad Tucker met a nice woman named Meredith and it was the three of them, which was great because that meant even more snuggles and pets. Otis learned how love can grow exponentially when his family expanded again. He quickly claimed his sister Carson Parry as his new best friend and was getting to know new sister Pearl Monroe when it became time for him to cross the Rainbow Bridge.

"My last weekend with my family was the best," he said. "We took a drive into the country, I even got to sit in Chad's lap, which he never let me do. We took a nap under a big tree and I played in a sprinkler with Carson Parry. Then she gave me a ride in her toy car. You know how I love to ride!" (When Otis isn't at the trampoline park, we often see him zipping through the neighborhood in a LegLyft, wind blowing through his ears and a big smile on his muzzle.)

      "The next day," he continued, "we took another drive, this time to the mountains, to picnic and play in a creek. I ate ice cream and everyone petted and kissed me. It was the most perfect day, but no matter what we did, it would have been perfect, just being with my family."

The chewy sticks must have splintered, fragments of wood hitting all us dogs in the face at the same time because our eyes filled with water as Otis finished his story. Everyone was quiet for a few minutes, gnawing away, remembering good times with our own families.

      Next up was Zeus, or Zeusy, as he told us to call him. Actually, he said his best friends and family call him Grandpa Zeusy, but on this side of the Rainbow Bridge he looks like a young pup.

      Zeusy is a relatively new arrival and we had a great time getting him settled into his house with his best pals, Kona and Kekoa, who had filled his bedroom with surprises. Zeusy is a fashionable gentleman,
so Kona and Kekoa had prepared quite the wardrobe for him: his dresser is filled with bandanas in every color and pattern; dozens of natty collars hang in his closet. Zeusy's pals also had blown up and framed a family photo taken just before he crossed the bridge. There he is, lying on a blanket in the grass, a big smile on his face, a sporty plaid tie around his neck. He's surrounded by his mom Sylvia Mayon, dad Andrew Mayon and human brother Ethan. The photo hangs above Zeusy's bed, where he sees it every night before he goes to sleep. (Otis has a similar family photo above his bed.)

      After showing Zeusy his house, Joey and I offered to give him a tour of the neighborhood, like we usually do. "Do you have a spa?" Zeusy asked us, as we trotted down the sidewalk. For the first time as an ambassador for the Rainbow Bridge Newcomers Club, I was stumped by a question. I'd never seen a doggy spa here and don't remember reading about it in our handbook.

Zeusy continued: "I looooove a good bath! I got one just before I arrived here. Couldn't you tell?" Of course, we could. Zeusy looked great, sunlight bouncing off his fluffy tan coat. He looked like a fuzzy bear. He went on, "A good bath is the best! The warm water, the soapy scritches and scratches, shaking all the droplets off. There's nothing better than getting pampered, putting on a fresh bandana and heading out for fun."

      "Er, I don't think we have a spa," I said. "You know most dogs don't like baths. Here, we just take a swim in the lake and come out clean." He looked disappointed, but then we turned a corner and right there, where I had never seen it ever before, was Fur Fluffers, a fancy salon packed with dogs relaxing in sudsy tubs. Joey and I looked at each other, confused.

"Oh, yay!" Zeusy said. "I'll make an appointment for next week!" And right next door was The Dapper Dog. Again, I'd never seen it before, but there it was, a store filled with fancy coats, collars and bandanas for the well-dressed gentledog. It must have been where Kona and Kekoa shopped for Zeusy's wardrobe. This side of the Rainbow Bridge is full of surprises, giving us everything we could ever want.

      Anyway, we hadn't seen Zeusy since the day we'd given him the tour so it was fun to run into him at story time. When it was his turn around the fire hydrant, he said, "My Forever Home Day was the best day ever but the day before I arrived here was the best day ever, too. Can a dog have two best-ever days?" he asked. "Oh, sure," we told him. "Every day here is a best day!"

Apparently, Zeusy, in addition to being a handsome guy and snappy dresser, also is quite social. So, on his last day, he made the rounds to visit his many friends. It was quite the tour. He went to All Pets Considered (his favorite pet store), Almost Home Boarding & Grooming (one of his homes away from home), Dog Days Greensboro (another one of his homes away from home) and Dirty Dogs Self Service Dog Wash & Grooming (his favorite spa).

      "It was so exciting, I got a little sleepy and had to go home and take a nap in the middle of it all," Zeusy said. We nodded in understanding: Any best-ever day is going to include a nap. "It's also the day we took that family photo that now hangs above my doggy bed," he said.

      Kona and Kekoa woofed. "We've got another surprise for you, Zeusy. You know that TV in our living room? It has channels that tune to all those places. You can watch what's happening with all your friends on the other side of the bridge anytime you want!"

Zeusy's tail whipped back and forth. "And," Kona and Kekoa barked in unison, "you can watch everything happening back at home, too!" "Mom Sylvia, dad Andrew and my brother Ethan?" he asked. "Yes! Yes!" Kona and Kekoa said. "My dog siblings Makena and Wrigley?" he asked. "Yes! Yes!" they said.

      Zeusy's eyes got wet again. "This is the most magical place," he said, as Kona walked over to lick his face, just like his pal Wrigley did every night for years.

      Looking around the circle, we could see tears in all the dogs' eyes. We really need to replace those splintering chewy sticks!

P.S. Zeusy's human mom, Sylvia Mayon, founded Break The Chain Kennel Kru, a great organization that works with underserved neighborhoods in Guilford County, North Carolina, to assist families with chained dogs so they may comply with local anti-tethering ordinances. The group provides families with no-cost, chain-link kennels, allowing them to unchain their pet in a safe, secure enclosure. Break The Chain Kennel Kru also educates and provides resources to families to help them properly care for their pets, and works with a local veterinarian to offer medical care for dogs in the program that need it the most. In the most critical cases, Break the Chain also assists families themselves.

* Donations to the group can be made via btckennelkru.org/how-to-donate.

* To learn more about sponsoring a kennel, visit btckennelkru.org/sponsor-a-kennel.

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