By Jeff Herwig
For Concert Band
The hardest part of owning a pet is having to say goodbye when the time comes... For many, our first dogs or cats end up becoming our first best friends in life. Our furry friends become members of our families, and losing them can be just as difficult to deal with as the loss of a loved one.
I was inspired to write this piece after reading about The Rainbow Bridge - the subject of several works of poetry that describe the paradise located "just this side of Heaven" where departed pets regain their health and wait to be reunited with their owners before crossing over the Rainbow Bridge together.
The Bridge tells the story of an owner saying goodbye to his four-legged best friend, what happens after the dog passes on, and the excitement and overwhelming joy experienced when the two are reunited. For the purposes of this story, I'll refer to the dog as Riley, named after a very special dog in my life.
The first 18 measures depict the owner's heartache that accompanies the decision to end his pet's suffering. After years of being a dedicated and loyal companion, Riley is now old and greying, has trouble getting around, and is plagued by a myriad of health issues. After making the decision that the time has come, the owner gives Riley one last hug, thinking of all the things the two of them have experienced together throughout the years. His memories and feelings culminate into a moment of extreme heartache, which is reached in measure 13.
Riley's suffering comes to an end at measure 19, his passing signaled by the sounding of the chimes. The oboe and bassoon lament soon after, representing the owner and family comforting each other as they surround their recently departed friend.
The chimes sound again at measure 31, but what follows is no longer somber or full of despair. Rather, the music that follows sounds refreshing and rejuvenated, later turning into sounds of triumph. This section represents Riley awakening just this side of Heaven," but now as his younger, healthier self. His aches and ailments are now an afterthought. He can run again, he can play again, he can eat without worry - he is whole again.
Measures 54-74 represent the many years that follow. The owner thinks about his departed friend often. While he has many fond memories of their time together, those memories ultimately lead to sorrow and wishing for the chance to play and run with his buddy one more time... After many years pass by, the owner's time on Earth comes to an end, and he passes on.
For years, Riley has done the same thing day after day: Running, playing, and eating along with the many other animals who reside with him in paradise. But one day, something is different... There is a scent in the air that he hasn't smelled in years. His ears perk up as he hears a voice that he has not heard since he passed on - a voice that he would never forget. At measure 75, Riley begins running towards the scent and voice that he so desperately longed for every day since he passed on.
Measure 89 - Riley comes to a dead stop as he spots his owner. Both of their hearts are beating uncontrollably as they run towards one another and embrace at measure 97. Riley jumps into his owner's arms and licks his face just as he did thousands of times on Earth. It is as if nothing has changed between the two.
At measure 105, they turn and cross the Rainbow Bridge together, just a boy and his dog...