This place is special. It's so special it's almost painful. For thirteen years I had a truly wonderful companion, my beloved Toby. I got him when he was three years old and he was taken to the Stokenchurch Animal Rescue by a couple who decided they didn't want a dog and a baby. How foolish and cruel. Toby was the gentlest, kindest animal it would be possible to meet. I was with him for thirteen years and I never even saw him show his fangs.
I lost him four years ago, when he gave up his struggle against arthritis and the stroke that meant he was much less able than he'd been before.
My best friend Claire sent me this.
"Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...."
I'm afraid I can't tell you who wrote it - I don't know - I hope no-one is offended by its appearance here.
I don't believe in God at all but it's so comforting to feel as though my special friend and I will meet again one day.
If I allow myself to miss him, it's so powerful it can reduce me to tears in the street even now. I try to think of the happy times rather than his illness and death but even now, it's hard sometimes.
His ashes are scattered here, on Crantock beach in Cornwall, where we once shared the best of times, frolicking around in the surf. I visit him every time I go down and have a chat. I like to think he's thrilled to see Rosie and Archie getting my love now and that he won't be jealous or hurt. These footsteps actually belong to Rosie!
I still miss you my Toby, I await the day that it's your nose twitching and you run towards me with your perpetual smile and your mad enthusiasm. What wouldn't I give for one last hug? I can't wait 'till you cover me with kisses and we walk together over Rainbow Bridge.