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When your dog is nearly 17 and has a host of old-age ailments, you know time is limited - that every additional day you have with them is a gift. Yet no matter how well you try to prepare yourself for the day that you must help them cross the Rainbow Bridge, you are never ready. We said goodbye to our sweet Freddie girl, Jimmydog's retired chief canine officer, on Sept. 23. Our house is empty and our hearts are broken. It does help, though, to know that Freddie has been reunited with her best friend Joey and is getting to know Jimmy, our first dog and the namesake of our company. Jimmy is a good boy and he quickly got a letter into the Rainbow Bridge post to let us know Freddie arrived safely. - Todd and Stephanie Belcher
Dear Stephanie & Todd,
Joey and I know how sad you are that Freddie has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. As you did with us, you gave her the best life a dog could ever want, full of long walks, car rides, treats, adventures and, most important of all, love. And, when it was time, you helped her transition to her next life, here with us.
When Freddie arrived here, she looked beautiful, like she'd just been to the salon, her fur thick and curly, her eyes bright. As soon as he glimpsed her, Joey ran onto the bridge to meet Freddie. (That's a big violation of Rainbow Bridge rules but no one will tattle. He was so excited that he couldn't help himself.) Joey escorted Freddie the rest of the way across, where she was greeted by our good friends Arlo Jean and Clooney. There was much running in circles, giving chase and good-natured clashing as everyone reconnected. The Welcoming Committee of labs and goldens gave Freddie her Welcome Basket, which included a festive red collar and a full night's supply of freshly packed treat bones. From there, she had a quick meeting with the Pack Placement Committee - a formality for her at this point because everyone knew she would live with Joey and me.
Then we headed for home. Joey couldn't wait to show Freddie her room. He knows how much she enjoys a good nap and he'd picked out several comfy beds, testing them in advance to make sure they would meet her demanding needs. She walked from bed to bed, turning a few circles and lying down in each. "This one is just right! No, wait. This one is just right. And this one is just right," she said. Turns out, thanks to Joey, every single one of her beds is just right. Freddie dropped the bones from her Welcome Basket into one of her many new toy boxes, promising to share them with Joey and me later that night, and then we continued the house tour, showing her the kitchen. Here again, Joey had gone all out. He had stocked the cupboards with all her favorite treats and foods, but knowing the Freddie has a discerning - and continually evolving - palate, he got only a few containers of each kind.
"It's like a tasting menu from that show Top Chef or Below Deck that we used to watch with Stephanie," Joey explained to her. They'd go shopping together in a few weeks when she was sure to be in the mood for something new.
"Are you hungry now? Thirsty? Can I get you anything?" Joey asked.
"I am a little thirsty," she said. Joey pulled a chilled bowl from the refrigerator, filled it with ice cubes and poured in bottle of 2016 Horizons Park Little Stream he'd set aside for the occasion. Freddie lapped it up. "Oh, delicious! Exactly as I remember."
As we've told you in past letters, Joey and I tune into TV channel 740 every day to check on you. In the past few weeks, we'd seen that it would soon be time for Freddie to join us. That meant we had lots of work to do! We know you've shared our letters with her so, unlike many other Rainbow Bridge new arrivals, she would be aware of the magical things awaiting her here. Joey and I wanted to give her something super special - something she'd never expect.
Freddie & Joey
"Hey, Freddie. Do you want to go check out the neighborhood?" I asked.
"Sure!" she woofed. "I'm always up for an outing!"
The three of us trotted down the street toward the neighborhood center, deciding we'd have dinner later at the food court.
"Are we going to the Flowers & Floaties Botanical Gardens?" Freddie asked. "No," we told her.
"Are we going to the Don't Fence Me In Dog Park and Recreation Area?" she wondered. "No," we said.
"The beach? The water park?" she asked. "No and no," we answered.
"It's someplace new," Joey said, bouncing up and down with excitement. We turned the corner and there it was: A big sign for The Freddie Belcher Follow Your Nose and Feel the Wind Trail System. A red ribbon stretched across the entrance, announcing its grand opening.
Freddie tilted her head, looking at us, perplexed. "We had it designed for you!" Joey woofed. "And you're going to be the first dog to ever explore it. Go on!"
We didn't have to tell her twice. She charged through the ribbon, which caught on her neck, so it streamed behind her like a holiday scarf. Joey and I ran to catch up. The new park is a series of trails - some carved through the woods; others meandering through open meadows. We trotted down a narrow, tree-lined path, the scents of moles and voles tickling our noses. Freddie gave one a scare by sticking her muzzle into its hiding hole before running farther down the trail. After about a mile, she was greeted with the next big surprise: a Leg Lyft, top down and ready to go.
Freddie gave us that confused look again.
"Get in!" we woofed. No more hesitation, she jumped into the driver's seat (all Leg Lyfts are actually driverless), Joey called "shotgun" and I hopped into the back. Off we went, wind in our faces, the red ribbon still streaming behind Freddie, who could not have been happier. After an exhilarating ride, the Leg Lyft came to a stop and we trotted down the next trail, this one gently rolling and sandy, like beach dunes. Freddie chased after the crabs whenever one crossed her path and flushed seagulls from behind tall grasses.
And so it went for hours: We'd explore a trail, come to its end, jump in a Leg Lyft for a ride and then hit another trail. The Freddie Belcher Follow Your Nose and Feel the Wind Trail System combines dogs' two favorite things into one exciting adventure park and it was all inspired by Freddie.
After exploring the entire system, we circled back to the start, where dozens of dogs had lined up to discover it for themselves. Arlo Jean, Clooney and their pal Madge were among the first in line but we recognized lots of other dogs from the neighborhood - Panama, Tango, Blossom, Bixby, Gnarly, Georgia, Handsome, Max, Gertrude, Kendra, Isabelle, Lily, Tucker, Hugo, Sidney and so many other dear friends.
"Have fun!" Freddie shouted, strutting past the other dogs like an A-list celebrity at a movie premier.
We stopped by the food court on our way home, grabbing a large takeout sampler platter from The Crow & Cluck. After our early dinner and a long nap, the three of us met up in the living room. Joey turned the TV on, flipping to channel 740 to check on you. We watched for only a few minutes before it became obvious what we had to do. I took out my phone and sent an email to the Rainbow Bridge Newcomers Club, telling them Joey and I need to take a brief leave of absence from our jobs as ambassadors. Meanwhile, Joey and Freddie huddled over their shared iPaw and began to search.
There are too many homeless dogs and here we were watching the best people ever living in the best home ever, without a dog, for the first time in decades.
Freddie & Joey
So, we're devoting ourselves to finding the right dog - or dogs - to create the next Belcher pack. It's our way of giving back to you for all that you gave the three of us. You'll be able to tell when we've found the right one: They'll come with our new Official Jimmy-Joey-Freddie Seal of Approval - a red ribbon tied in a bow around their neck.