As most children do, Nicole begged her parents for a puppy. It was all she ever thought about and the only thing she truly wanted for Christmas. It was December, 1997. This would be their first Christmas in the new house. Nicole was full of excitement and found it difficult to fall asleep Christmas Eve. She knew she had to though because she didn’t want Santa to skip her house. When morning finally broke she rushed to the Christmas tree to see her presents. Her parents knew the one thing she was anxiously looking for but they made her wait until all her other presents had been opened. As Nicole opened the last present under the tree you could see the disappointment in her eyes. She hadn’t gotten the puppy she wanted so badly. Then with great enthusiasm her parents announced they had one last surprise for her. A smile erupted on her face as the cutest puppy in the world wobbled into the room wearing a little red bow! Nicole screamed with excitement and scooped up the puppy and held her tight in her arms. Her parents looked at each other with obvious satisfaction at their daughter’s joy. It was a Christmas Nicole would never forget.

[tribulant_slideshow gallery_id=”5″]

The Cocker Spaniel puppy, which they named Auggie, was the runt of the litter so she was small in stature but overflowing with personality. As adorable as she was, they still found her training quite challenging in regards to where Auggie chose to go to the bathroom. But they never gave up and she finally learned the proper place to go.

Nicole was elated to have a playmate and their adventures never ended. Auggie graciously learned to sit in the baby swings at the playground with no complaints. The two were inseparable. The bond between them was even more obvious when Nicole would come down with a cold. Auggie would lay with her in the bed never leaving her side. Nicole reciprocated particularly when it rained. Auggie would shake in fear until Nicole wrapped her arms around her making her feel safe and secure.

The bond between them proved to be invaluable when Nicole suffered the loss of her grandfather, Pop-Pop. It was Pop-Pop who taught Auggie her very first trick when she was a puppy. When Nicole’s sadness brought tears her loving dog would gently lick the tears off her cheek. It was Auggie’s way of letting her owner know that everything would be alright.

A few years later Nicole’s parents decided on getting an additional puppy for the family. They were drawn to a Golden Retriever they named Ginger who Nicole’s younger brother Bryan claimed as his own. At first Auggie seemed a little outdone that another animal shared her home, after all she was the queen in this house. Awkward at first Auggie eventually accepted Ginger and they got along famously. They played together, ate together and slept together. It

was obvious they enhanced each other’s lives.

As time passed, Auggie began showing the wear and tear of old age. It was increasingly harder for her to climb the stairs and she developed a nasty cough that never seemed to go away. A trip to the vet resulted in a diagnosis of congenital heart failure caused by a heart murmur. Her conditional got progressively worse. Then on top of all her health issues she suffered from a bad ear infection. Nicole and her mother became excellent caregivers, treating her ears, bandaging and taking care of all her needs. Ginger even pitched in with a good licking to make sure Auggie was okay.

Bad news seemed to be contagious when they discovered Ginger also had a heart murmur and epilepsy. The family had their hands full tending to both of their dogs. Both would require medicine for the rest of their lives. It was physically and emotionally hard on everyone to see the two friends they loved so much continue to endure such problems.

One particular day while cleaning Auggie’s ears Nicole and her mother noticed an unusual bump. Another trip to the vet and again it was bad news… a tumor. To hear the word “tumor” is frightening in itself but add that to all the problems Auggie already had, they were heartbroken. The vet assured them she wasn’t in any pain and the tumor was not cancerous but should be removed. Unfortunately her other conditions prevented that from happening.

With surgery not an option all they could do was continue to care for her. By this time Auggie was sixteen years old. Her tumor grew until it erupted and blood was everywhere. The bandages didn’t help. Two weeks later on April 11, 2014 Nicole came home from her overnight shift at work and realized the situation was much worse. Alone in the house, with the exception of her dad who was asleep, she knew something had to be done. After calling the vet she rushed Auggie to see him. She was very upset and scared, desperately texting her mother for help. Dr. Bob spent a long time in the room examining Auggie before Nicole was allowed in the room. Nervous and afraid of what he would tell her, she nearly collapsed in relief as her dad walked in. Apparently her mother felt it best to send reinforcement. Moments later Dr. Bob informed her the time had come to make a decision on Auggie’s behalf. Considerately he gave them time alone. Tears rushed freely as she hugged her dad tight. She repeated what Dr. Bob had just said about Auggie being a fighter. He was surprised she had survived this long after the tumor erupted.

Nicole couldn’t take any more and hurried out the room and into the parking lot. She was sick to her stomach and had a pain in her chest she had never felt before. She could literally feel her heart breaking. In the meantime her dad contacted her mother and her brother, both of which were at work. They rushed to the vet’s as soon as possible.

As Nicole’s dad walked out to the parking lot to check on her, tears started welling up in his

eyes as he saw the obvious pain his daughter was in. A battle raged in her heart as she refused to even think of letting Auggie go, but she knew her dad was right when he told her it would be best to stop the suffering Auggie was now going through. This wasn’t a bad dream she would wake up from, it was a hard reality.

Moments later both Nicole’s brother and mother showed up and as a family they went back into the room with Auggie. One by one they gently hugged her and said their final goodbyes. Nicole’s dad and brother left the room so she and her mother could be alone with Auggie. As she hugged and told her loyal friend how much she loved her Nicole could see in her eyes it was time. She leaned in closer and whispered, “Say hello to Pop-Pop and Nana.” With their farewells said they despondently left the vet. Nicole went home drained not only from her emotional trauma but also lack of sleep the night before. She could not muster up the willpower to even leave her room for several days and had no appetite for a week.

Nicole decided to have her faithful friend cremated. When Auggie’s ashes arrived Nicole cleared a space and reverently placed them on her shelf. That night she cried herself to sleep and had a very vivid dream. Auggie was in the car with her, looking as beautiful as she did when she was in her prime. Nicole was so happy to see her. Auggie looked happy and at peace, just waiting for the time she would see her master again. The following morning Nicole awoke with peace and happiness in her heart. She had a renewed faith that she would see her dear friend Auggie again.

A month later while Nicole sat watching TV she glanced over at Auggie’s picture and saw a rainbow! Immediately the poem she had read titled “The Rainbow Bridge” came to mind. She ran to get her mom so she could see it but it was gone when they returned. Nicole realized the message was for her alone. For her the message was clear. Auggie would be waiting for her on the other side at the Rainbow Bridge. Nicole continues placing flowers next to her ashes every month and knows in her heart they will be together again.

Submitted by Nicole Reiss