(It is 50 years in the future. Judge Foley is sitting in a rocking chair. She .has a shawl on her lap and is slowly rocking back and forth. She isn’t any older, but she is meeting with young pups fresh to the Bridge, and she finds she gets more respect when she appears older. She has told the young pups she will tell them a story and they jump up and down excitedly. She picks one scruffy little pup out of the pile and asks him what story he wants to hear. He says he wants to hear about the Willie the Dog Who Said No Foley smiles, rocks back a little more, picks up a small pipe, blows some bubbles, and begins.)
Back in the day, before my Mommy and Daddy got here, and all my pup brothers and sisters, there was a dog who lived down by the Jersey Shore. His name is Willie. Now you all know, you have all been through it, that the Lord only give us so many heartbeats, then he sends an angel down for us to tell us we have to go. Some of us, like me, are able to work a deal and get something extra from the angels, but Willie, well Willie was the only dog who ever looked the grim angel in the face when his time came and said “No thank you, I’m not going.”
First, because Willie’s song was ending, the angels sent cancer that took hold in his leg. It was treatable for awhile. Some pups have cancer and get cured. They live for years. And others can only manage the cancer until the angels come down and tell the pup it’s their time. That’s the kind Willie had.
Willie, his Mom, and their family, fought this cancer with everything they had, spent thousands of kibbles, said a million prayers, wrapped and rewrapped the legs endlessly, made countless vet trips, and still one day the angels went down to Willie and told him it was his time to go to the Bridge.
“No thank you,” Willie said.
The angels looked at one another. This was unprecedented. A dog had never said no before. “You really have to go now Willie, there is no choice, the boss said it was time, so you have to come.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t right now,” Willie said then to snuggle with his Mom.
The angels went back to the Bridge and they told the bosses that Willie said no.
“Said no?” a boss asked. “He can’t say no.”
“Apparently he can,” one of the Angels said.
“Well we can’t have this,” the boss said. “The entire system will collapse if dogs say no. We are going to have to keep making him sicker until he is begging to come here.”
And they did. They gave him huge tumors on his leg that had to be cut off and then got infected. They wouldn’t let him walk, or swim. They made him lose his appetite and make his tummy sick. They made the vet look sadly at his Mom and give a grim prognosis.
They sent the angels back down to Willie and said “Now are you ready to go to the Bridge.”
“No, not yet,” Willie said. “Thank you for making such an effort, but I’m good.”
The bosses were furious. “It is about time that Willie learns we means business,” they said. So they sent a hurricane.
It ripped apart the Jersey Shore, ruined Willie’s neighbors’ houses, cut off his electricity for more than a week, flooded his beach house, caused millions of dollars of damage, trapped his family in his home, and afterwards, when Willie had seen the might the bosses could wield, they sent the angels back, to once again ask if he was finally ready.
“No,” Willie said. “I’m good here. You folks sure went to a lot of trouble to convince me otherwise. You caused a lot of trouble for people around here just to get me to join you but I’m not going.”
The bosses were not happy at all when the angels returned without Willie. So every few weeks they threw more at him, kept sending the angels, and Willie, very politely, kept telling them no.
When I got to the Bridge and was made a Judge one of the first duties they assigned me was to tell Willie he had to go to the Bridge. I floated down to him at his Beach House.
“Hi Foley,” he said.
“Hi Willie, you know why I’m here, the Angels say that you have to go to the Bridge now.”
Willie smiled at me, tapped me on the paw, smiled his big smile, and told me no. I told him that they were serious about him going to the Bridge and I couldn’t control what they would do. He then stood on his back legs and began singing very pretty:
And I am telling you
I'm not going
She’s the best Mom I'll ever know
There's no way I can ever go
No, no, there's no way
No, no, no, no way I'm living without her
I'm not living without her
I don't wanna be free
And you, and you
You're gonna leave , oh ooh mm mm
You're gonna leave me
Well that was unexpected. And very beautiful. And persuasive. So I went back to the bosses with an idea. “So what do you think of this? We let Willie stay. Just Willie. One dog. Let him live until he’s 50. Then, after his Mom comes to this side, he will follow like a good boy.”
But they said no. And then they hit him with all sorts of cancers, just every organ, and he still said tried to say no, but he knew his existence was too painful. He talked it over with his Mom and they agreed that he would pass over to the Bridge, and he finally did.
And when he did every single dog, every angel, every boss from every District was there to cheer him as he climbed the stairs as I awaited to swear him in. The ovation went on for the longest time for the toughest, bravest, sweetest, dog we had ever known.
For the dog who said no.