We were alive again, this time forever. All our problems were over and nothing but happiness lay ahead. But some bonds still held us captive, bonds of love and friendship we once had with our beloved pets, in this instance, our dogs and cats.
We were gathered at Reunion Meadow as we had been instructed, for an event we did not yet fully understand. All we knew is that it would be a time of great happiness.
The animals were waiting for us as we walked up a gentle slope to a field that seemed to go on forever, left and right, to the distant horizon.
“There must be millions of dogs and cats!” someone exclaimed. “Billions,” said a guide. “From thousands of years. Some of them were the last of their breed when they died. But they are all here now, and so are their owners.”
We had formed a long line on one side of Reunion Meadow, and about a hundred yards away, were our pets. They were lined up too, facing us, and nervous with anticipation. They were of every type and color and every mixture imaginable. We could see them clearly across the grassy expanse, our new vision as sharp and clear as if, in our former lives, we had been using binoculars.
A little boy extended his arm and cried out in his excitement, “Look Mommy, it’s Spike!”
“Spike was our English Bull,” his mother explained. “He was so wonderful with the kids. He would spend entire days with them under our big catalpa tree, watching them play in the sand box. He even got into their wagon and let them pull him around, sometimes with one of their hats on his head. He didn’t care, as long as he was with them he was happy. He died when our trailer burned. We were only gone a few hours. When we returned they were putting yellow tape across the driveway to keep people out. Everything was destroyed. All we found of Spike was the metal parts of his collar and his name tag. But there he is across the meadow, as strong and alert as ever.”
A little girl turned to her father, “Brownie is here and he’s all new!” She had seen his broken body after he had tried to bite the tires of a delivery truck, no doubt thinking he was defending his family from a monster animal, as his ancestors had done for thousands of years.
But that was all past now and we were ready to see our pets again, and this time it was for keeps.
A guide had lifted his arm as a signal to the animals across the way. They understood, somehow, that their run to us was about to begin. The larger dogs were poised with tense dignity, while the little dogs could not restrain themselves. A toy poodle, standing on his hind legs, pawed the air with his front feet together as if he was praying. Tiny dogs were spinning in their excitement, like windup toys.
The guide swung his arm down. The race was on! There were bounding Great Danes, Irish setters loping along like trotting horses, and little dogs whose steps were so rapid you could hardly see them move.
Then, in mid-field, the big dogs stopped and looked back. “What’s wrong” someone asked, “Why are they stopping?” The guide explained, “They’re waiting for the little dogs to catch up. They don’t know yet that they can fly.”
Last of all, a baby Chihuahua stopped and was looking back too. “That’s ok, Honey,” his owner called, “You don’t need to wait. There’s no one slower than you."
Suddenly, they were upon us, a tide of happiness, bowling us over in their exuberance . They yelped in their excitement, and licked us as they had in days gone by.
No one remembered how long this high point of the reunion lasted. It could have been minutes or hours. Time was different here. The first excitement subsided, replaced by a glowing joy.
“But what about the cats?” someone asked. “Where are they?” Our guide pointed to them, across the field. They were all still there. They had been behind the dogs all along. But none of them moved, except to lick themselves or change their lounging postures.
A mother cat, nursing five kittens, lifted her head for a moment to look at us, then lay back down, shutting her eyes in contentment. A kitten was biting another kitten’s tail. None of them moved towards us. We sensed their eyes watching us, but the excitement of the dogs had been replaced by the cool curiosity we had come to know over the years.
“When do they come to us?” a child asked. The guide smiled, “They never will. You have to go to them. That is one thing that has not changed.”