The stars twinkled in the night sky. It was a warm evening in Collarworld, the afterlife waystation for pets who wait until they are reunited with their masters.
In the sprawling meadow, a king orange tabbycat named Vincent sleepily stretched his body out in a full-length yawn.
A few feet away… a whisper. “Vincent?”
The tabbycat rolled over slowly.
One eye open.
“Vincent, are you awake?”
Second eye open. “What’s wrong, Messer? You can’t sleep?”
Messer, a Newfoundland dog who entered Collarworld months ago, nodded his big head. “I can’t sleep.”
“It’s okay,” Vincent replied. “Sometimes I have trouble sleeping, too. What’s bothering you?”
“I was thinking,” the Newfoundland barked softly. “Today is the day my master and I first met.”
Vincent purred. “You must have great memories of him.”
“I do,” Messer replied. “I wish I could see him. I wish I could go back to the living world and be with him again. Just once. Just for a minute.”
“You know that’s not possible. Once we arrive in Collarworld, we wait here until they join us.”
“I know. But it seems like such a long time. It’s been months. I miss him.”
Vincent rolled onto his back. His eyes focused on the stars in the sky. “I understand,” the tabbycat mewed. “I miss my master and my human family too.”
“How long has it been for you?” Messer asked.
“Years. Many years. Decades, I think.”
“How do you handle it?” the Newfoundland barked.
“It’s not easy,” Vincent replied. “There were times when I wanted to go back. Like you. I wanted to run back across that Rainbow Bridge and see my master one more time. I wanted to fall asleep in his lap while he watched television one more time. I wanted to eat tunafish that he bought for me one more time.”
“And I remembered. For every good memory I have of my master, I remind myself that I gave him good memories, too. That when he petted me, it was as if all his troubles faded away. That when I slept on his lap, it provided him with comfort as well. That for every good memory I have of him… I hope I left him with as many good memories.”
“I hope I did that with my master, too.”
Vincent stretched out a paw and dragged it slowly against the grass. “The best way I can keep thinking about my master is if I imagine that any time there’s a cool breeze in the air, or a warm summer’s day, or a beam of sunshine in the wintertime, that it reminds him of us.”
“Wow. I hope my master thinks the same of me. I really miss him, Vincent.”
“You and your master must have been very close.”
“He trained me well,” Messer barked. “In fact, we went to dog shows all the time – did I ever tell you my full dog show name?”
“Saint John’s Maritime Messer Jubilee or something like that,” Vincent sleepily purred.
“Yes,” the shaggy dog barked. “I was best of breed twice at the national dog show. And I also competed in agility dog contests with my master.”
“How did you do?”
“My best was fourth place. Three border collies beat me. I can’t compete against border collies, they’re too smart and agile.”
“Well,” Vincent said, “you do know about the Agility Games, don’t you?”
“Yes. Every year, dogs from all around Collarworld compete in the Agility Games. You run an obstacle course, and the dog with the fastest time and the fewest faults wins a blue champion’s jewel on their collar.”
“Yes. And I think you’d do well in that competition if you wanted to.”
“I could show everybody how well my master trained me. Thanks, Vincent. When are the Agility Games?”
“I don’t know… maybe a week or two from now. They’re held at the Sawdust Oval, I can find out the proper date in the morning. But right now, before I do that, Messer, I need you to do one thing for me.”
“What’s that, Vincent?”
The tabbycat closed his eyes and rested his head on the cool grass. “Let me get a few more hours of sleep, old buddy… I think better when I’ve had a good night’s rest…”