“I’m going to guess that Buster is one of Kevin’s mother’s past pets,” Hugo offered up.
“Sort of, but you’re getting the idea. Buster was the family pet. Kevin’s mother loved him like none of the other family did, though they all did love him. Buster knew this to be true, and loved her more in return, though he loved all of them as well. So that’s why he’s waiting for her. Of course, we play with other dogs too but we spend most of our time with family or close-friend connections, or other dogs we played a lot with back there, who are also here waiting.”
“What are we waiting for?” Hugo finally asked. “You’ve mentioned that a couple of times now, and so did Chester.”
“We’re waiting for our person,” Zippy replied, a little surprised that Hugo hadn’t figured that out. “Chester said we have a sense for who’s important to our person in some way. That sense is connected to this wait, this anticipation of being with them again.”
“Because their lives are longer, and we’re a piece of it, theirs continue after we leave,” he went on. “But they don’t live forever. At some point, you’ll sense something is changing. You’ll think about them more, or get a random whiff of them, or swear you heard their voice. When it starts to happen, it means they’re getting ready to join you here.”
Hugo still missed Kevin a lot, so this notion of a reunion made his ageless heart skip a beat. But if Zippy was still here, and Kevin clearly wasn’t, how did he know that this was how it worked?
“I know what you’re thinking, and not because we read minds here.” Zippy threw that last bit in, pleased with his little afterlife joke.
“I’ve seen it happen. I know a lot of dogs here and one by one, each of them experiences it. The feeling grows stronger. Their voice, their smell, memories of them. There’s a point where you might be hanging out talking, or chewing on rawhides together. They get distracted, looking at some random point beyond you. Then you know. Even without turning around, you know they’re looking at their person again.”
Hugo’s heart ached for Kevin, so the possibility of this happening lifted his spirits. It was a lovely image, their happy reunion. This thought gently floated around for who knows how long as it mingled with memories of Kevin. Eventually it sailed away on a warm breeze, and Hugo found himself looking over at Zippy, who by now was lying in the long grass chewing on a rawhide he’d decided he wanted.
“How long does it usually take?” Hugo wanted to know.
“You’re still thinking of time like you did back there. Totally normal. It starts to become more of a memory of how you used to think, how you used to measure things. It’ll be the same with Kevin. It won’t feel like waiting. You’ll just be hanging out and then one day you’ll see him. I promise.”
“Ahhh, right,” thought Hugo. “We’re both waiting for him!” But that realization raised more questions.
“So we’re both waiting for him, right?” Hugo needed reassurance.
“That’s right,” replied Zippy. He thought it best not to overcomplicate the answer. There will be time for the rest of it when Hugo was ready.
“Then what happens when he gets here? What if we’re not together when we see him? Wait, it has something to do with what you said before, about sensing him before he gets here.”
“Now you’re catching on!” exclaimed Zippy, glad he hadn’t overloaded him with more info in his answer. “It obviously hasn’t happened to me but I’ve seen it with enough of the others to know that as our sense of his arrival gets stronger, we start to want to be with our person’s others more. The instinct to hang out more grows as his arrival approaches, so that when he gets here, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we’re together.”
Hugo thought it a bit odd that he was worried about where Zippy would be. He’d look back and realize it, though right now it didn’t occur to him that a bond had already started to grow between the two of them. In any event, he was happy to know that he and Zippy were going to be together when Kevin arrived.