Ode to Rainbow… My Special Valentines Dog

by Sarah Amador

Now we will feel no rain
for each of us will be shelter for the other.
Now we will feel no cold
for each of us will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness
for each of us will be companion to the other.
There is only one life before us
and our seasons will be long and good.
                     — Adapted from the Apache

Rainbow on Molokai

My mother spoke this prayer during my wedding ceremony, seven years ago. In reading it today, and thinking of Valentine’s Day around the corner, I think it applies to many relationships in our lives—spouses, best friends. And canines too.

  All dogs are special, but some become true companions. Living in Sonoma County (home of a surplus of dog-friendly wineries, hotels, restaurants, parks, kayak outfitters and beaches), we know how much the love of a dog can enrich our lives.
  It’s been about a year since my dog Rainbow died. He was a big white Samoyed German Shepherd. I knew from the moment I met him that he was one of a kind. During the 11 years he was with us, Rainbow would sometimes look at me for long periods of time, searchingly. And not just to look at what morsel was in my hand. But thoughtfully. If I was sad, he would walk over to me on his fluffy polar bear paws, and look me square in the eye. If a tear ever dropped, he’d lick it off my face. Then he’d keep licking, until a smile began to form in the corner of my lips and I pushed him away. Sometimes, at the end of a hard day, I’d bury my face in his furry neck. He didn’t mind. He’d stay still as long as I needed him to. Then he’d circle three times and settle himself right up against me, in a giant ball.
  Sometimes he’d stand next to me, leaning into me for a long, long time. That’s how dogs hug, I’m told. It felt like a hug, warm and cuddly.
  Five years ago, we moved from Hawaii back to Sonoma County, with our two huskies in tow. Hawaii offered Rainbow treasures like hanging out in caves and dog paddling under waterfalls, but Sonoma County was good to him too. He smelled redwoods for the first time. He loved swimming in the Russian River, his big white paws expanded like a polar bear. We even took him canoeing, which he wasn’t so fond of, since there wasn’t enough space for him to circle before settling down. He waded in the surf of Sonoma County’s beaches. It was great fun running with him through the frothy waves sliding up the sand. From our deck, he observed  animals he had never seen before—blue jays, ospreys, squirrels, bald eagles. He protected us against raccoons and once, a mountain lion.

Pono

One of my favorite dog-friendly outings was (and still is) to get up early and go to the Russian River estuary. You can get an excellent cup of coffee from Cafe Aquatica, and perch on the round wooden platform, gazing out on the glassy morning waters with your dog by your side. A time or two, I’ve seen sunrise and it is worthy of magazine covers. If you’re hungry, there’s plenty of organic home-made goods. (I recommend all the quiches, the albacore salad and the salmon melt.) Often, the cafe will have live music. There’s nothing like hearing flamenco Spanish guitar while breathing in the tranquility of the estuary, watching mists move across the water, all the while with your dog curled up by your feet.
If your dog likes the water, he can go with you on a kayak ride (you can rent a kayak from WaterTreks EcoTours) into the estuary and around Penny Island.
Or drive over the river and around the hill to Blind Beach, south of Goat Rock. On that beach, you can view Arch Rock (the backdrop for scenes from the movie Goonies) while taking your dog for a run. Other top ventures with your canine: Monte Rio beach at sunset time to view the birds (think Osprey, Starling, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron) or Armstrong Woods at all times. There are so many other treasures in Sonoma County, too many to name.
It seems much longer than a year since we’ve lost Rainbow. Today we will release some of his ashes. Today I’ll take my dogs to the forest, to walk the trails that Rainbow once walked. Today I’ll bring our dog Pono and our new dog, Luna, to revisit the special places of Sonoma County. Maybe the sun will slant through the trees like it did when we walked here last. Maybe a memory will come so clear I can touch almost it, like when Rainbow would charge the hill and my son would chase after him.

The Pack

Think about this—if non-verbal communication makes up more than 90% of our communication (as studies show), what kinds of conversations are we having with our dogs? What does having companionship with them teach us about others? Are we more patient, kind, peaceful, playful? Healthy and happy? Research shows that cuddling with our dogs give us a boost of the hormone oxytocin, known for reducing blood pressure and levels of stress-inducing cortisolBut now research shows this is a reciprocal relationship, because dogs get a boost of oxytocin when they cuddle with us too.
So many of us have stories about our dogs, especially those companions that no longer grace our lives. If you have a story, and wish to share, we’d love to hear it.