More than twenty years ago at the puppy making plant, located a month’s journey from Doggyspace Villiage, there was a momentary breakdown, causing one creation to receive more heartbeats than the others.
When this pup was born no one recognized that he came into the world with something extra. He seemed like a normal dog. When his momma selected him to live with her, she knew the sweet little pup would love her, but she had no way of knowing for how long. She named him Petey, unaware that before his heartbeats would expire 21 years hence his name would be known in thousands of households.
Petey joined the online site Doggyspace before I did. He was one of the pups, along with Hattie Mae and Tommy Tunes who taught us how to express the joy and frustrations that the simplicity of everyday dogs’ lives brings.
I confessed when I created my own online persona I looked to them and followed their paw prints in the sand to help establish my identity. I am certain I am not alone.
Petey had a couple of years on me, but no one could tell. I thought I held off the effects of aging, but Petey was truly forever young. He was not afraid to divulge his secret. It had nothing to do with extra heartbeats, at least according to him. It was the Mac and Cheese he devoured. It seemed counterintuitive but who was I to argue with success?
Petey was 15 when I accepted the position of judge at the fourth district of Rainbow Bridge. I expected my senior friend Petey, who lived a couple of exits up the highway from my parents, to be close behind. While dozens of our friends joined us, Petey kept going until he was old enough to drive, then old enough to vote, then closing in on old enough to drink.
On his twentieth birthday, Petey let us know he has not crossed over yet. He was very tired and slept most of the day, but his heart kept on beating.
But sadly, everything ends, and for Petey, the effects of a puppy making machine malfunction and copious amounts of mac and cheese stopped working. One morning last week mom found Petey in his bed. He had slipped over to the other side with no muss, fuss or big vet bill. He was a kind and caring gentleman until the end.
His mom has his ashes now. They are on a shelf next to the enhanced photo Tommy's dad Steve did for their old chum. People commented that Petey and his mom were lucky to have so much time together, which is true, some have half as many, but each year meant more of her heart that she gave to Petey, and the greater the hole in her chest when he departed. Her house is filled with the sound of empty paw steps, a deafening sound of silence. I know all those familiar with that awful sound will pray her journey down grief’s path will be brief.
I have seldom seen so many angels gathered for arrival as I did for Petey’s. There were hundreds of dogs fluttering around and waiting. We saw him slowly cross the Bridge. With each step, the pain left his body. He had amassed a lot of discomfort in 20 years, so it took longer than most for it to dissipate.
By the time Petey was at the top step, he felt the way he had 15 years prior. He was mobbed when he stepped on Hobo's Landing. I, like an umpire trying to make sure the winning run is safe, got caught up in the happy scrum and ended up at the bottom of a dog pile when I administered the oath to Petey.
Picnic tables appeared. Tommy climbed on top of one and announced there were mac and cheese for everyone. We all sat down and began licking up this rare treat. “It had been too long since I had a plate,” Petey said, his mouth covered with cheese. “It is perfect!”
Most angels, like their mortal counterparts, would do, took a nap after their feast. Petey stayed up with his closest friends and discussed how to ease his mom's pain.
“She gave me a lot of her heart; I hope she knows I gave her some of mine to her so I will always be with her.’
By that night Petey was in his mom's dreams knocking on the door of her consciousness hoping to be remembered. Because of the polar vortex, he has not found a willing winged creature to swap bodies with so he could visit her in a corporal form. But warmer days and angel visits are ahead for her.
When Petey does visit, I am sure it will be for days. If there is one thing he has, it's staying power.