Death and the Dog
I was crying when Death appeared. It was very embarrassing; he’s never seen me cry before. I always try to maintain a professional composure, even though there is much tragedy and sadness in the work He does.
“THE WOMAN I JUST VISITED WAS ALSO IN TEARS,” He said, trying to make me feel better. “THOUGH OF COURSE IT WAS THE END OF HER MORTAL LIFE. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO BE SAD ABOUT?”
“It’s my dog,” I said, “Marmaduke. He’s very old now and hasn’t got long. I left him in his basket this morning, so weak he can hardly move. The vet says it’s just a matter of days, at most.”
Death could tell that I was about to ask Him a favour.
“I CANNOT EXTEND HIS LIFE. YOU KNOW THAT.”
“I know. I was rather hoping you would, you know, do the deed.”
“BUT THERE IS NO DEED TO DO. HUMANS BELIEVE IN THE AFTERLIFE, WHICH GIVES HUMAN SOULS SOMEWHERE TO GO. DOGS HAVE NO CONCEPT OF THE ETERNITY,WHEN A DOG DIES, IT DIES.”
“I know, but Marmaduke would have an afterlife. He’d have us, he’s one of the family. He just needs you to, you know, give him a push in the right direction.”
“WHAT YOU ARE ASKING IS AGAINST THE ETERNAL CODE. I AM EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN FROM INTERFERING IN THE DEATH OF DOGS.”
“I know, I know, and I wouldn’t ask. But he’s such a special dog, and I want to tell my son he’ll be there in heaven. These things matter.”
Death’s skeletal face was expressionless.
“YOU WOULD HAVE TO COMPLETE A FORM.”
“I’m happy to do that.”
I took a Request to Do Something I Really Shouldn’t form from the desk drawer. For the Reason for Breach of Eternal Code I put ‘he’s my doggie’.
“I WILL SEE WHAT I CAN DO,” SAID DEATH, “BUT IF HE HAS NO ETERNAL LIFELINE I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ASSIST HIM ANYWAY.”
I was with Marmaduke the night as he died, lying beside him in his basket on the kitchen floor, his heartbeat slowly fading has he gradually lost the strength to keep the heart pumping.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Death appear. Of course, I’m used to seeing him, and have trained my eye to see round that particular corner. My son Johnny, who was sobbing beside me at the time, never saw a thing.
“It’s time now,” I said to Johnny, “let’s say a final goodbye.”
I was pleased to see that Death was carrying the Staff of Mortal Doom, which e usually reserves only for great statesmen, religious leaders and, very occasionally, even the death of gods.
“Goodbye Marmaduke,” Johnny spluttered tearfully.
“Goodbye,” I whispered.
As I spoke I could see the thin blue life-line linking Marmaduke’s soul to the mortal world. Death raised his staff and brought it down with a whoosh, snapping the line and releasing Marmaduke’s soul.
“SEE YOU NORMAL TIME TOMORROW,” Death said.
I nodded. Amidst tears of grief there were a few stray tears of joy, for I knew that thanks to Death we would now see Marmaduke again, the only doggie soul in heaven.