someone posted on facebook a Rainbow Bridge story about an old, neglected dog that did not regain his youthful glory and was not allowed to cross the Bridge because he didn't have a human who loved him. so he languishes in a field set apart from the other animals until a shining, wonderful rescuer came traipsing across the horizon in a golden haze to take the decrepit old beast across out of the goodness of his/her heart. well, i thought that was utter crap - so i did my own version. opinions and constructive criticism welcome: ---------------------------------------------------------------- His entire body ached so. Lying on the cold, damp concrete floor, his dry nose pressed into the corner of brick walls in an attempt to escape the relentless cacophony and overwhelming stink of dozens of frightened, frantic dogs, he shook uncontrollably as pain wracked his body. Every so often, the metal door would open and someone would come in and rush through something – put down food, take away the food he couldn't eat, clean up his mess. They were kind people but they were always in a hurry, always in a rush. Nobody took a few minutes to just settle down and be with him. Nobody. The pain grew worse until he couldn't prevent the agonized keening from escaping his clenched teeth. Suddenly, with a last burst of bright white agony, it all stopped and he was blissfully free. He lay there, confused, afraid to move in case it started again. Gradually, he realized something else: the clamour of frightened animals trapped behind walls of stone and steel was gone, replaced by the distant sound of happy play. The stench of sickness, fright, and death was now the scent of trees; flowers; lush, green grass; and sparkling clean water. Cautiously, he raised his head, amazed to discover it was no longer stiff and spasming but was as smooth and supple as when he was young. The walls were gone. He was laying on a path, the dirt warm and soothing underneath. He leapt to his feet, confused but not frightened for his nose told him there was nothing here to fear, and looked around to see what he had smelled: majestic, soaring trees; expansive patches of glorious flowers, tended to by droning hordes of honey bees; and, far off, a mighty structure, glowing and beckoning. The path led directly toward it and he concluded logically that he should walk along the path. As he progressed down the path, he noticed his joints were no longer locked and scarred. His tail, restored to a glorious plume, rose from its customary tuck to bob and sway gently with the movement of his newly limber hips. His fur had reappeared, glossy and lush, and his skin no longer looked and felt like dried, cracked leather. His cold, wet nose quivered delicately as it sent a flood of information to his brain, which processed it nimbly, and his eyes could see forever. He stopped... There were humans ahead! He cringed, backed away, and paced agitatedly from side to side, licking nervously with his head low, his ears flat, and his tail curled up tight under his stomach. The dirt of the path absorbed the urine that escaped his control. The humans remained still, looking down dully at the ground. They knelt on either side of the path, far enough back that they could not reach out and touch him. They didn't move. Their entire attitude was one of despair. After a very long time, the dog worked up the nerve to cautiously slink along the path between them, nervously rolling his white-rimmed eyes in either direction. They didn't move, didn't speak, but the despair on their faces grew as he passed them by and their shoulders slumped a little lower. He continued on the path and encountered more humans, all the same way – dirty, ragged, and forlorn – until he reached an expansive meadow where all manner of animals romped and played. Nobody was afraid. Nobody was ill. All were at the height of health and vigour, no matter their age. Gleefully, he raced to join them in playing tag, King of the Mountain, touch-me-not, and wrestling, careful not to trample mothers nursing their young. He played with dogs, with cats, even with birds and bunnies. There was no fear between species for all were provided for and all were safe. He was playing with a tiny golden retriever puppy when suddenly, all the animals stopped and looked toward the path. A human was walking down the path and the old dog cringed until his belly was flat on the ground. None of the other animals were afraid, however, and suddenly the puppy he was playing with let out an ear-piercing yap and began racing across the turf to the human, who dropped to his knees and scooped the puppy up with a cry of joy. “Bowser!!!! You're here!!!!” and as tears and kisses rained down on the puppy's head, the old man grew young and strong again. The puppy wiggled sharply and the man set him down gently. Together, they walked to the mighty structure. There was a shimmer as they stepped onto it and, just like that, they vanished. The other animals watched until they disappeared, then resumed their play. This happened again and again, some humans being greeted by a single animal, some by more, all to disappear on the bridge until the dog could contain his curiosity no longer: he had to see what was on the other side! Slowly, cautiously, he walked up to the bridge – but could not set foot on it. No matter how he tried, it was always a step ahead of him. Dispirited, he turned away to see a large red dog regarding him with old, wise eyes in his young face. “You can't cross over if you have no human,” the dog said. “The Bridge runs on love. If you have no love, it is inaccessible.” “I never had a human,” the old dog replied. “I was the last of my litter and one day I was put in a box and when I got out, I was in a strange place without my mother, without anybody. I tried to find my mother but I was lost. I asked for help, but nobody would help me – they threw things at me, kicked me, and shouted at me. Why should I love them, if they didn't love me?” And he turned away. Time passed and then the desire to cross the Bridge grew in him again. He had to know what was on the other side! He was sure it was something amazing, if animals were so willing to leave this lovely place.