Welcome to another short story! See the author's notes for more details, and enjoy!
I popped my eyes open, and glanced around wildly.
This place wasn't where I went to sleep! I was still lying down, but on what?
Rapidly, I scrambled to my paws and sniffed the air.
Perhaps there was something familiar here...
Not a trace.
Where was I?
And how in the world did I get here?
Maybe studying the surroundings would help...
The first thing I noticed was that I could just float away. It was like I was one of those oval, stringed objects that they tied to my owner's rolling paws sometimes. I remember those days had singing, dancing, and lots of human food…
Wait, where was my owner?
And why wasn't I floating away? I'd always had trouble walking, so why would I suddenly feel like I could float?
I couldn't answer any of my questions, so I figured I might as well continue looking.
Across from me stretched the most awkward ramp I'd ever seen. It didn't slope down or up, like the ones my owner and I used. Instead, it kept a straight path, shining with brilliant colors. Red, blue, purple, green, and yellow flowed like water, somehow never running into each other. What type of human made a ramp like that? So strange, and yet so colorful…
Colorful. I shouldn't know the meaning of that word. I had never been able to see color before. Why would I be able to now?
I threw my head down, frantically hoping to get some answers.
Instead, I only got more questions.
My paws weren't on a floor, or grass, or even a rug.
They weren't on anything.
I was just… standing in the air?
Was I flying?
No, dogs couldn't fly; I didn't have wings.
Yet, somehow I wasn't falling…
A faraway sound reached my ears. I cocked my head, trying to get a better listen. Immediately, my tail started wagging so furiously I thought it might fall off.
Those were the sounds of paw-steps! There were other dogs here! Maybe someone else was confused, and I wouldn't be alone! Or maybe one of them had directions, and could tell me where I was! I bounced on my hind legs, whimpering more than I did when I begged for table scraps.
But as the paw-steps drew closer, my whimpering was replaced by a steady stream. What sort of dog was this?
I could tell from her scent that she was female. Her pale fur was mixed with black, and she fixed me with a chilling gaze from her piercing brown eyes. Each step the female dog made seemed to barely touch the ground, and her powerful muscles effortlessly responded to her movement. My stream grew larger, but not because she was beautiful to look at.
What kept me drooling were the white, feathered, wings on her back.
Why did she have wings on her back?
She was a dog, not a bird, wasn't she?
As I glanced upward, I saw something that made even less sense.
The female dog had something on her head. It looked like a gray muzzle, but it couldn't have been, because she could still open her mouth. Besides, why would owners put muzzles on dogs' heads? And why were there feathers on the muzzle? Did that mean she couldn't fly with the ones on her wings?
Before I could ask her anything, the female dog stood next to me. Instantly, my stream stopped, and massive shivers took its place. What was she going to do to me?
The female dog's voice projected across the area. "Welcome."
Welcome to where?
Before could ask the question, the female dog spoke again.
"This place is called Heaven, and the road you see before you is the Rainbow Bridge."
I fought to keep my balance. Was what she said true?
I had heard legends about Heaven and the Rainbow Bridge. Supposedly, dogs just closed their eyes and left on a journey. They walked into the sky, leaving their owners and friends behind.
Left on a journey. Leaving my owner and friends behind… Walking into the sky. So that was why…
No. This couldn't be. That would mean… I was completely alone… No owner, no friends, no family…. Nothing…
The female dog's voice distracted me from my thoughts.
"As soon as you cross this bridge, you will have everything you'll ever want. It is my duty to escort you across. Now come, and take your first steps into paradise."
She turned, and I knew I was meant to follow her.
Yet, my paws were frozen to the spot, as if they turned to ice. How could the place beyond that bridge be paradise? Sure, I could have all the toys, food, and fun I wanted, but how could I enjoy myself without my owner? How could paradise have everything and nothing?
The female dog had turned to face me, and her voice rang out again.
"Why do you hesitate?"
I was aware that I was still shaking, and hoped my voice wouldn't do the same. It betrayed me as I spoke, and my tail drooped as I realized how pathetic I must've sounded.
"You said… I could have anything I wanted… But what I want… is my owner… Where is… she?"
"I regret to inform you that your owner is not here. She has not reached Heaven yet, and will not do so for a very long time. Until your owner ascends, you may wait for her across the Rainbow Bridge. When the time comes, you may meet her there, and the two of you can spend the rest of your days in Heaven together."
Again, my body trembled.
My desires were never so clear, yet I could not put them into words.
What would the female dog think of my wants?
Would they be rejected?
Would I be stuck here forever?
There was only one way to find out.
I raised my eyes to meet hers, the tone in my voice unwavering and smooth.
"I can't do it. I can't cross."
I expected the female dog to be impressed by my bravery, but I was only met by a deadpan response.
"You have no choice. It is either paradise or nothing at all."
What did she mean I have no choice? Surely there must be some way…
Unfortunately, all my courage had drained out of me, and I could only manage desperate whines.
"Please! There must be a way to go back! Tell me how!"
"There is no way to go back to who you were. This world has no physical connection between the one you left."
"I'll give everything up! I'll go back to being old and sick! I'll sacrifice 100 dogs! Anything to be with my owner again!"
Somehow, that had an effect on the female dog. She shut her eyes and bowed her head so low that if there was ground to stand on, she would've hit it. After a long silence passed between us, she spoke.
"There is one way, and there's no guarantee it will work. Even if it you do succeed in coming back, there's a chance your owner may never recognize you."
My courage made its triumphant return as I spoke the words in my heart.
"I don't care about any of that! As long as I am with my owner, then I will know true paradise!"
"Very well. Then I tell how you might return."
The young, brown haired, blue-eyed, woman sat fidgeting at her computer, listening to her new Shin Tzu puppy playing with the multicolored blanket. It was the same one that her old dog had passed away on a few months ago. She knew she should love her new puppy, but he always made her do a double take.
The puppy looked exactly the same as her old dog, from the specific markings on his black and white fur to his intense brown eyes. Not only that, but he acted the same too. Every manner matched his predecessor, whether it was following her wheels around or foraging in the garbage.
There was no way two dogs could be exactly the same… Unless…
No, that was impossible. Even if it did happen, there was no explanation as to how…
The old dog's name rang from the young woman's throat.
The puppy's head shot up, his eyes gleaming as he scampered towards her.
So, it was true...
The image of the young woman's puppy blurred.
What could she say, after what he had done…
The young woman could think of three words, and they struggled to escape from her lips. Finally, she fought back her tears, and her message left her throat.
"Welcome back, Chewy."
-So the short story is quite a bit of background behind it. The original concept came around because at the time I had an older dog that was pretty sick. He looked exactly like the dog in the story. However, at the same time, I had also gotten a puppy. That will be looked and acted almost exactly the same as my old dog. So the joke was that he got reincarnated even before he died. Shortly after this story was written, my old dog did pass away.
-The concept of the Rainbow Bridge comes from a book of the same name. In this story, it is stated when pets die they go to a special part of Heaven where they cross a bridge made of rainbows. There, they have everything they ever want, except for the love and companionship of their owners. When the owners also pass away, the pets greet them from the rainbow bridge, and the two ascend to the rest of heaven together.
-Someone rejecting the Rainbow Bridge is never stated in the original story. However, people rejecting the afterlife for various reasons is seen in many others. My dog was very loyal to me in life, participating in almost every event I did, so I could easily see him rejecting the afterlife if it meant not seeing me again.
-The other dog mentioned in the story is a bit of a mix of mythology. The armor the female dog wears is actually based on Valkyries. Valkyries were warriors that took those who believed in Norse mythologies of the afterlife, known as Valhalla. I picked the concept of Valkyries because Bifrost, the road leading from the mortal world to Valhalla was sometimes also represented as a rainbow bridge. The rest of the female dog is based off of a German Shepherd, because their dogs often represented with occupations involving battle (e.g. police dogs, military).
-Some of the terminology Chewy uses here is to make the tone appear more canine. The mention of wheels comes from the fact that I walk using a walker. One of the things my old dog, liked to do was follow the wheels around everywhere. So the language used here is a reference to that.