Do Dogs Go to Heaven?
She lay quietly, listening for him to stir. He had always murmured in his sleep, but this time was different. She was scared.
He was old, as was she. She had almost no memory of anything or anyone except for him. Dim flashes, maybe, of the Lady and the Kids, bursts of smell and sight and sound. Happy flashes. She thumped her tail tentatively, with a remembered joy, and then was quiet again, listening.
His breathing was irregular. It reminded her of the old days when she came back from one of their walks, wheezing and out of breath. But that had been Happy Tired. This seemed Sick Tired. She whimpered once.
Neither of them had taken a walk in a long time. Her daily route was short. From the rug by his bed she limped with him to the front door so she could heed the call of nature in the morning. Then she made a slow circuit of the small yard, smelling roses, the signature of other dogs who had come near the chain-link fence, and occasionally the cooking smells of neighbors.
Then she returned to the door, once-golden muzzle lifted, dark eyes adoring, waiting to be let back in. She followed him to the kitchen for her blue porcelain water dish and the always delicious lamb and rice kibble she had eaten all her life.
He always stroked her back when he set her bowl down. His hand was slow now, old and knotted with arthritis. But she still loved the feel of his kind hand as she began to eat.
His breathing stopped. She lifted her head again, and strained to rise to her feet. Then he gasped and the rattling sound resumed. She whined again, and sank back.
Her own breathing was little better, but she knew only concern for the Man. She didn’t know her own arthritis was as bad as his, or that her old heart was as leaky as the hose bib in the back yard.
Again he gasped, gulping weakly for air, and again she whined and tried to rise. She heard him call out then, a name she recognized from long association with the man. Not his name or hers, but one he used a lot. He usually spoke it when he was happy and always when he was sad. She heard him whisper it over and over. And then silence again.
Suddenly the room flamed with light. Could she have known color, she would have seen it red and gold and shimmery, like a sunrise. A tall man stood by the bed, his hand stretched toward her friend. She barked twice, and mustered a growl, finally struggling to her feet.
Then he sat up, and smiled. He was awake, really awake. But he was also still lying there, not awake at all. She sniffed and cocked her head, hoping to solve the mystery.
He and the Big Man seemed to be friends after all. “Yes, I’m ready,” she heard him say.
Then he looked toward her, the look she had loved all her life. He spoke to the Big Man. “Wait. Can Gracie come, too?”
The Big Glowing One grinned, and then turned and looked at her. “Well, come on…” he said with a happy voice.
She bounded forward, eyes luminous with that same light, not just her tail, but her whole body wagging furiously.