I knew this day was coming. As I have written before all dogs have only so many heartbeats, and they are never enough. I knew Max’s song was ending soon. His brother’s arrival two weeks before was a terrible shock but Max….well, he was expected.
And now he was coming. When I got to the top of the stairway leading from the Bridge his brother Tupper was already there. He silently nodded at me. He was being a good angel, observing proper protocol, but I promptly broke it, gave him a hug, and licked a tear from beneath his eye.
Max waited to be sworn in, which I did quickly, and then he had Tupper hugged.
“How is Mommy?” Tupper asked. Max just sadly shook his head. They hugged again and there were more tears than even my curved tongue could clean. They let go of one another and Max asked what was expected of him next. There were wings to be fitted, a cloud to be found, the reams of unnecessary paper work to be filled out, but that could wait. I motioned them over to a tree so we could sit and talk.
“You’re passing was so hard on Mom,” Max said. “I don’t know if she will survive my passing.”
“She will,” I assured them. “I have sworn in thousands of dogs who have left heartbroken Moms behind, and all those Moms have recovered, including my own.”
“But the two of us so close together,” Tupper said shaking his yellow head.
“It wasn’t fair,” Max agreed. We sat in silence for a minute then Max asked “Why do you think they do it?”
“Do what?” I asked Max.
“Let us dogs live with them. When we pass over we cause them so much misery.”
I thought this over. “But when we live with them we bring them such joy.”
“But is it enough joy to make up for how much hurt we cause when we go?” Tupper asked.
I thought about this some more. “I think we are like the dutch boy with his finger in the dyke,” I said.
“The who with his what in a where?: Tupper asked.
“There is a story about the dutch boy who saw a hole in the dyke. The dyke was filled with water. If the hole wasn’t fixed the town would flood. So he put his finger in the dyke stopping the flood. Us dogs, we are the finger, and the water, that’s all the pain and suffering in the world, and our Moms are the town, and when we are gone all that pain and suffering overwhelms them.”
The brothers thought this over. “Or like in the Catcher in the Rye. You know how Holden wanted to catch the kids before they fell off the ledge. We are like that with our Moms,” Max said.
Max was surprisingly well read.
“We live too short a life,” Tupper said.
“Or humans live too long” I said. “They live about 24 more years than they did 100 years ago, that’s like three more lost dogs.”
“That’s a lot of suffering,” Max said
We heard the sound of a dog clearing his throat and looked over to see Raider standing there.
“Jesus Christ!” I said, stunned. Then realized my mistake and said “No, no Jesus Christ, not paging Jesus Christ. Cancelling the page.”
We ran over to Raider who told us that his human form could no longer sustain him on the mortal side of life and his mother helped him to cross the Bridge. After being sworn in he joined our conversation.
“I don’t think my Mom would change having my in her life for anything,” Raider said. “I know how much she loved me and I felt terrible when I left her. We were both sobbing. Plus your Moms were lucky, they had other dogs, my Mom is all alone.”
We sadly thought about this. There is nothing worse than being a dogless Mom. I suggested we go down to the River of Life. When we got there Raider caught his Mom in a wave and he pawed at her, then lay down on the grass and let out a soft whimper.
I sighed. “I went to see this play,” I said. “It was by some guy named Shakespeare. He is writing plays for dogs now. He says they are much easier to work with than humans. In the play he said it is better to have love and lost a dog than to never have loved a dog before. I think he’s right.”
“So what can we do to help our Moms?” Raider asked.
“We can’t fix their broken hearts,” I, the most experienced said. “I don’t know if you were alive on September 11, 2001 but bad men knocked down two big buildings in New York. Those big buildings, like our Mom’s heart, could never be replaced, but they built a great big strong building where it once was. When your Mom is ready, you will help her find a new dog. It won’t help replace the destroyed building that is your Mom’s heart, but the new dog will help her build a new strong building there. People admire the new building, but never forget the old.”
They all nodded. “I hope that day comes soon for my Mom,” Raider said. “I hate her being alone.”
I gave him a pat on his head. “She will. She is a wonderful dog Mom. One of the best. And there are so many dogs out there who need a good home. When she’s ready you will connect them, and they will start to rebuild their new tower of love. Then some day she will join you here but until then there are millions of things to do here, so many things you can’t even imagine, and you will love all of them.”
“Why are there so many things?” Max asked.
“To keep us from thinking about how much we miss our [parents.” All three dogs nodded, then Tupper took Max with him to show him their new cloud and meet some old friends. Radar, who I befriended the first day I joined Doggyspace, stayed near me. Even though he was a New York dog he was a big Red Sox fan and he asked me, since we were angels, if we could fix them.
“I think so,” I said to him as we walked into the perpetually setting sun.
“How about the Raiders?” he inquired about the team he was named for.
“We’re Angels,” I told him, “not miracle workers.”
And together we slowly left the grass and walked in the air towards the sun.