It was a brilliant, cloudless, sunny day at the Meeting Place in Collarworld, the afterlife waystation for pets to wait for their reunion with their masters. And as new arrivals crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to enter Collarworld, many of the resident pets waited to act as escorts, who would bring the new pets to different Collarworld realms.
“So this is a big day for you,” Vincent the tabbycat said to Messer the Newfoundland. “You will take several animals to a new realm. They’ll be confused and unsure of where they are… and it’ll be your job to make them feel safe and wanted.”
“I can do that,” barked Messer. “I’m a very friendly dog. You know that.”
“I know,” purred Vincent. “But this is different. When pets cross over into our realm, they’re scared. They’ve lost their masters. They don’t know when they’ll ever see them again. I remember one cat who tried to run back across the Rainbow Bridge to return to the Living World. She couldn’t do it. Once you’re here … you can’t go back. And it’s hard for some pets to grasp that.”
“So where am I taking these new pets?” Messer asked.
“I don’t know,” mewed the tabbycat. “But you’ll find out.”
One by one, new animals arrived at the Meeting Place. Cats. Dogs. Horses. Mice. Lizards. All forms of domesticate.
And one by one, each animal received a blessing and a hug from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all animals. “Friends of Collarworld,” he said, “Welcome these new arrivals and make them feel welcome. They are now your brothers and sisters in this world, until the joyful day when they are reunited with their masters in a future time.”
Barks and mews and neighs of applause.
“We have some animals that must travel a long journey to a new realm. Do we have any volunteers to act as an escort of calmness?”
“That’s your cue,” Vincent purred.
“I can do this. MESSER TO THE RESCUE – ”
“Not so loud, big boy. Just go up to St. Francis of Assisi.”
Messer bounded up the path, and sat in front of the patron saint.
“Ah, Saint John’s Maritime Messer Jubilee. Good to see you,” St. Francis said, patting Messer on the shoulder. “Can you take these three animals to the Shore of the Cedars? They will join Jackson the Golden Retriever to help cleanse the pains and heal the wounds.”
“I can do that, my lord,” barked Messer.
With that, St. Francis motioned to the arrivals. Three animals stepped forward. “You will join my friend Messer on a journey to a beautiful beach. It is called the Shore of the Cedars, and it is the realm that you will call home until the day you are reunited with your masters.”
A black cat, with a white patch of neck fur, walked up to Messer and kissed him on the forehead. “Hello. My name is Perkins. It’s good to meet you.”
“Hi Perkins,” barked Messer. “We’re going on a great journey today.”
A white bulldog stepped forward. “Hey there,” he barked. “My name is Jollyboy, glad to meet you.”
Messer nuzzled the bulldog. “You’re a good little dog. We’re going to have a great journey together.”
The final animal, a grey furry chincilla named Bounce, skittered over to Messer. “Yo coppy, what’s up,” he squeaked. “Ready to race, ready to meet you, mate.”
“Are you ready to go?” Messer asked.
“Oi,” the chinchilla yipped. “Let’s do this.”
“Then come with me,” Messer said. “Let’s just walk at a peaceful pace.”
And with that, Messer escorted the three animals on a new journey.
“Where are you taking us?” Jollyboy the bulldog asked.
“We’re going to a holy place called the Shore of the Cedars,” Messer barked. “It’s a very holy place, and I believe that if you’re going there, you’ve done something special in the Living World – you’ve achieved some sort of healing.”
“I don’t know about that,” Perkins the cat mewed. “We’re just pets. We serve our masters. That’s what we do.”
“So tell me more about yourselves,” Messer said, as the four animals walked along a dirt path. “The Shore of the Cedars is a long journey, perhaps we can pass the time with stories.”
Bounce the chinchilla spoke first. “I was cared for by a great bloke, he loved music all the time. All the time. Good stuff, too. When he heard this stuff, it made him feel so good. And i danced along to the music, so he called me Bounce. Every time I knew he had a down day, I would snuggle up to him and make him smile.”
“You must miss him very much,” Messer barked.
“He’s an amazing guy, mate,” chirped Bounce. “And he has a lot of great friends. I made them smile, too. I mean, who can’t love a chinchilla?”
Messer nodded. “Jollyboy,” he barked, “what was your life in the living world?”
“I came from a long line of bulldogs,” Jollyboy said, wagging his tail in tempo. “I was a strong companion, and I was blessed to have a wonderful master to take care of.”
“So tell me about your master,” Messer said.
“My master came back from a great war. There were nights where he cried at night… he kept talking about a fire that attacked him in war, a fire that killed his brothers at arms and left him alive. He kept asking about why he was spared while his brothers were not. He kept saying, ‘I should be dead and they should be alive. I should be dead and they should be alive.'”
“How terrible,” Messer barked.
“I would hear his cries. And one night I licked his face and let him know that I would always be there for him. Every day. He would never be alone as long as I was with him. And I stayed with him every day. I walked with him, I slept in his lap, I let him know that he was loved. And one day… one day I had to go. In my last moments, with the last ounce of strength in my body, I licked his face one last time, to let him know I would see him again.”
“You will,” said Messer. “I’m waiting for my master, too.”
“I miss my mistress,” mewed Perkins. “I traveled with her all the time, she would move from home to home and I would move with her. And every time I kissed her on her forehead, just to let her know that she made me as happy as I hoped I made her.”
“You must miss her,” said Messer.
“I do,” purred Perkins. “I wish I had one more day with her. But every moment I spent with her, that’s every moment I will treasure.”
“Me too,” barked Jollyboy.
“Oi, true, mate,” squeaked Bounce.
“You provided your masters with unconditional love and comfort,” yipped Messer. “And you’ll do that once again.”
Upon the quartet’s arrival at the Shore of the Cedars, they were greeted by Jackson, a golden retriever who helped animals cleanse their sins and troubles in the healing waters.
“Hello, friend Messer,” barked Jackson. “You brought some friends with you.”
“Yes, Lord Jackson,” replied the Newfoundland. “I bring to you Jollyboy, Perkins and Bounce. I was told their new home is the Shore of the Cedars.”
“Yes it is. I’m glad to welcome all of you here. You are all pets of grace and wisdom, and you healed those who cared for you. Please, make the Shore of the Cedars your home.”
“It looks great,” mewed Perkins. “Can I swim in the water?”
“Of course,” said Jackson. “You’re actually going to train with me as healers for the tortured souls who come to Collarworld.”
“I’m in,” barked Jollyboy.
“Me too,” said Bounce.
“Thank you for welcoming us here, Lord Jackson,” said Perkins.
“Well, my job is done,” barked Messer. “I have to get back to the meadow, Vincent’s going to be nervous with me gone for so long.”
“Messer, stay for a second,” the golden retriever implored.
“I don’t understand.”
“You were sent here not just as an escort to the others. You are a very supportive and empathetic animal. You brought comfort and warmth to your master. And there is so much more you can do here in Collarworld. Come join us and be part of the community here.”
“Would you?” barked Jollyboy.
“We’d love it if you could,” purred Perkins.
“Up Messer!” cheered Bounce.
“Are you sure?” the Newfoundland barked.
“Everybody in Collarworld knows that you have one of the biggest hearts of any pet here. You don’t just shout ‘Messer to the Rescue’ just to hear yourself bark. Come join us and take the next step. Be a healer at the Shore of the Cedars.”
Messer thought. “I can join you, and it sounds like a great thing… but I need to know something before I say yes.”
“What would you like to know?”
“Will someone take care of my friend Vincent? He’s taught me so much and he’s been my best friend here in Collarworld… but I think there’s some times where I think he could use a friend himself.”
Don’t worry,” Jackson replied, his tail wagging. “You will still be able to support Vincent … and every other animal in this realm.”
“Then there’s just one thing I need to do,” Messer said.
And in an instant, he raced towards the glistening waters.
One big leap. “MESSER TO THE RESCUE!!!”
And with a huge splash, the Newfoundland dove into the water, splashing and swimming. And within moments, the bulldog, the black cat and the chinchilla also strode into the waters, their souls glistening and tingling as their bodies were blessed by the warm shorewaters.