One of the joys of Collarworld – the afterlife waystation where pets wait until they are reunited with their masters – is the Morning Reception at the Meeting Place. On the mornings when blue sunbeams gleam in the sky, the animals gather at the Meeting Place, as St. Francis of Assisi – the patron saint of all animals in Collarworld – welcomes the new arrivals.
“Such a beautiful day,” said Cha-Cha the boxer. “I’m glad that the new arrivals have such wonderful sunshine when they come here.”
“It’s such a great day,” replied Vincent the tabbycat, as he and Cha-Cha arrived at The Meeting Place. “Many of these animals are scared and fearful of the arrival, it’s up to us to reassure them that they have arrived in a place of love and tranquility.”
Cha-Cha looked behind her. Walking up the path toward the meeting place was the stately drafthorse Cassius Marcellus, the lord and keeper of Indigo Acres, a Collarworld realm for farm animals. “Good morning to both of you,” the drafthorse neighed.
“Good morning, friend Cassius Marcellus,” mewed Vincent. “Isn’t this a great morning?”
“Nice and crisp,” Cassius Marcellus neighed. “This will be a day to enjoy.”
“How are things at Indigo Acres?” barked Cha-Cha.
“Some of our plough animals have finished tilling the soil, while the dairy cows are grazing on the fresh grass. Nice and peaceful. As always.”
“That’s good,” the boxer replied.
“Is something troubling you?” Cassius Marcellus asked Cha-Cha.
“Why do you ask?”
“I sensed something in your voice.”
“Are all animals required to come to the Meeting Place?”
“Required?” the horse laughed. “Why, it’s not required, but it’s a gift of friendship. I know some animals have other duties in Collarworld that keep them away from the Morning Reception for a time, but they try to attend other receptions when they can.”
“I just asked,” Cha-Cha said, looking down at a pebble on the ground. “I never see Bismarck here.”
“It’s hard for Lord Bismarck to come to these events,” said Vincent. “He suffered great pains in the Living World, and although he has tried to heal himself in Collarworld, he continues to stay in exile in the Silver Forest rather than allow himself to lapse into anger.”
“I know that,” barked the boxer. “But he’s repented for so long. He needs to be around those he can trust.”
The tabbycat smiled. “If I didn’t know any better,” he said, “and I think I do, I think you’re doing a great job in helping Bismarck along with that.”
“Maybe I am.”
“That’s the talk all around Collarworld,” neighed Cassius Marcellus. “You’ve been visiting him and spending time with him. Jackson the Golden Retriever over at the Shore of the Cedars told me that Bismarck visited the healing waters, and told him about how you’ve been a friend and calming voice.”
“Maybe I have. I just wish he wouldn’t be afraid to join the rest of us and greet the new arrivals.”
“That could happen someday,” Vincent mewed. “But it would take something very special for that to happen.”
A few steps later, the drafthorse, tabbycat and boxer all arrived at The Meeting Place. They were joined by other pets in Collarworld – dogs and cats, birds and horses, a peaceful menagerie.
“Friends of Collarworld, I greet you all,” said St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all Collarworld pets.
Barks. Mews. Chrips. Neighs. Brays. A cacophany of praise.
In the distance… animals walked along a brightly-colored bridge on their way to the Meeting Place. “Welcome to you,” St. Francis of Assisi called. “Welcome to Collarworld. You are welcome here for as long as you wish. We will make you feel comfortable and welcome, until that joyous day when you and your master are reunited in this world.”
Several dogs walked into the Meeting Place. St. Francis of Assisi blessed them, rubbed their fur, and then waved to the crowd. Within minutes, the new arrivals were joined by Collarworld residents, and guided to their new homes in the realm.
Next up were some cats – black cats, calicos, manx cats, all sorts of breeds and colors. One by one, the patron saint blessed them, cuddled them, and paired them up with other Collarworld cats to travel to new homes.
One more animal along the rainbow walkway. “Come along, blessed one,” called St. Francis of Assisi.
Vincent, Cha-Cha and Cassius Marcellus watched the animal as it arrived to the Meeting Place. A noble, mighty, elderly goat. One long, powerful horn stretched from the goat’s head. A nub where a second horn should have been.
“Come, blessed one,” the patron saint beckoned.
The goat walked toward the patron saint, bowing towards the holy man. Saint Francis of Assisi placed his hands upon the goat’s sides. “I bless you in the name of our most heavenly father. Welcome to Collarworld. What is your name?”
“I am … I am called Chile,” the goat brayed, the words stumbling uncomfortably out of his mouth.
“Welcome, friend Chile. You are in a safe place now.”
“Where is my … where is my flock? Where is my master?”
“You will see them someday. But for now, welcome to our peaceful kingdom.”
“Hello, friend goat,” Vincent purred. “I am Vincent, a tabbycat from a green meadow just over the horizon. It’s nice to meet you.”
Chile the goat looked toward the tabbycat. “Are you friendly? You won’t scratch me, will you?”
“Hardly. These claws are for climbing trees … and confidentially, I don’t climb very high.”
“Welcome, friend goat,” Cha-Cha the boxer barked. “I am Cha-Cha, I came from the Living World a short time ago. Being here might seem confusing at first, but you will love being here. It is a peaceful world, and a joyous one as well.”
“Thank you,” the goat replied. “I am still somewhat … this is new. Very new.”
“What happened to your horn?”
“I had two very long horns, and I was the sire of my farm. I am from a very rare breed of goat, and farmers like my master helped keep my breed alive and safe. One day, my grandson was playing with me on the farm, and he knocked off one of my horns. It was at that moment that I knew he was ready to be the sire, and I could relax, knowing that my bloodline is safe and will prosper.”
“How noble,” Cha-Cha barked.
“Where do I go now?” Chile asked.
“You can go with my friend, Lord Cassius Marcellus,” mewed Vincent. “He is the lord of Indigo Acres, one of the most beautiful farms in all of Collarworld. There are horses, cows, sheep, llamas, all manner of farm animal there.”
“Yes, young one,” the drafthorse added. “You are welcome to stay with us at Indigo Acres for as long as you wish.”
“Thank you,” Chile the goat replied. “I would like that very much.”
“Do you want St. Francis of Assisi to repair your horn before we go to Indigo Acres?” Cassius Marcellus asked. “He can touch your horn and heal it to its full length.”
“I don’t think so,” Chile replied. “I don’t consider this a broken horn. I consider this a badge of honor, an indication that my children will keep my bloodline alive for generations to come. And that they are strong – just like me.”
“Fair enough,” the drafthorse brayed. “Come walk with me. We have a llama at Indigo Acres named Stella, I think you and she would have some wonderful stories to share.”
The drafthorse and the goat then left the Meeting Place, walking the long journey to the agrarian paradise.
“What a noble animal,” Cha-Cha beamed.
“Yes,” Vincent said. “Noble and proud. As he should be.”
“Vincent … do you mind if I go for a walk this afternoon?”
The tabbycat smiled. “I’m suspecting you might be heading to the Silver Forest to visit Lord Bismarck, aren’t you?”
Cha-Cha wagged her tail. “I might be. I think Lord Bismarck needs to understand that he too is a noble and proud animal.”
“Well, if he does need to know this,” Vincent replied… “You’re certainly the best one to tell him that.”