Remember when you were a puppy? You used to sit by the front door all day and wait for your mom to come home. Because this is what all dogs do.
One reason you did this was because whenever your loved ones would arrive and see you sitting patiently by the door, they’d be so full of emotion they’d blurt out, “Who’s a good boy?! Who’s a good boy?!” And inevitably food would follow.
The truth is, all you ever wanted to hear was that you were a good boy. This phrase made all the front-door waiting worth it. Although you don’t feel too “good” right now.
Right now you’re lying on your side and there is a tube attached to your paw, and the veterinary doctor is injecting something into your bloodstream. Your mom is holding you.
You are panting slowly. You’re trying to wag your tail to show everyone that you’re a good boy. But nothing is happening, your tail muscles are too weak. And you’re struggling to breathe. Your heart is slowing. The lights are dimming. And everyone is grim.
“Buddy,” says your mom. Because your name is all she can mouth through her tears. “Buddy.”
Somehow, within the innermost depths of your brain, you know what’s happening here. This is something big. Something frightening. Something final.
It takes a moment, but you eventually realize why the vet has a drip line attached to your veins. You understand why this room is getting so dark. This is your end.
You’ve been sick. Violently sick. You’ve been in the ER, the doctor said you have liver failure.
You are briefly sad about this. Mainly, because you are REALLY going to miss your mom. Oh, if you could only communicate to your mom in human language right now. If only there were a way, you know exactly what you’d tell her.
First off, you would thank her for being your mom. Because she is awesome. In fact, out of all the moms in this whole world, she is the mommiest.
Then you’d tell her how wonderful she smells, and how delicious her shoes were. You’ve tasted a lot of shoes in your life, hers were up there.
But then, if you could truly communicate, probably the main thing you’d tell her is what you’ve always wished you could tell her, which is: “I love you, Mom!”
In fact, that’s your primary feeling in this world. Love. Love for her. Love for everyone. Love is all you ever felt. This is the feeling that got you out of bed.
You see, humans have long believed that dogs weren’t that smart. But this is a myth. In many ways, they are wiser than humans.
Some humans could never feel as intensely as dogs can feel. Most humans could never be as loyal, diligent, steadfast, or selfless as a dog. And these canine virtues don’t come easy, they take real brains. A lot more brains than the human race has, apparently.
Don’t believe me? How about this? Throughout history, how many wars have dogs ever started? How many cars do dogs hijack? Do dogs ever embezzle millions of dollars and end up in prisons with tennis courts?
No. And that’s why you’re not scared to depart from this world. Because your doggy heart is true, and it knows about the beauty that awaits. All dogs know about The Far-Off Place.
Heaven is practically instinctual within all animals. It’s a given. It’s obvious. It is only humans, educated beyond their own intelligence, who doubt the existence of a hereafter. But a dog possesses awareness of the divine. If they didn’t, they could never treat life as they do. Like an adventure.
You can already feel your paws and tail getting numb. And your mother is really sobbing now. You don’t have long.
It occurs to you that you need to get a message through to your mom, and fast. You want to tell her something important. You want to bear your soul. But all you can do is lock eyes with her.
She stares back at you. And in this flickering moment of mutual acknowledgment, you hope she can read your mind.
More than anything you want her to know how much you enjoyed being her baby. And how much you love her, and how much joy she brought you. You also wish she’d quit blaming herself for your end. It’s nobody’s fault. This is merely part of being a dog. Nobody said it was going to be easy. You knew this going into it.
Soon, your eyes close. Slowly. And you can feel a final breath exit your lungs like a great gulf breeze. Your chest collapses. And you are gone. It only takes a moment.
You open your eyes.
You find yourself in a world of blinding light, greeted by giant abalone gates, swinging outward. Beyond these gates are pastures, hayfields, and zillions of dogs just like you. Every animal is running, chasing butterflies, tongues draping out, eyes like puppies, barking with joy. They are having the times of their lives.
What a marvelous place this is. It’s just like you thought it would be. You can’t wait to sniff every tree, lap from every creek, and roll in every meadow.
Even so. You don’t wander into eternal joy. Not yet. Which doesn’t surprise the ancient one who made you.
Instead, you sit beside the tall gate, at attention, completely still. You’re watching. Waiting. Your eyes don’t blink. Your tail isn’t wagging. And all the other dogs in heaven know exactly what you’re doing. And they know that you will sit in this spot for as long as it takes until your mom comes home.
Because as I said, this is what dogs do.