Zippy’s description was so like Trudy’s experience, and so different to his own. He hadn’t been taken anywhere, or felt any little pricks of pain before falling asleep. He’d simply felt bad and faded gently away from back there.
“They call it putting you to sleep, or putting you down,” Zippy explained, knowing Hugo arrived another way. “You go to the vet with your human – though now I hear from some of the newer arrivals that sometimes you can stay at home and it happens there – and they give you medicine that helps you move from there to here.”
“Ahh, OK, so that’s how it worked for you and Trudy. I’d never thought about different ways of getting here before.”
“It was the same with Chester, who you met and a lot of the others you’ll meet from Kevin’s family. It’s a pretty common way for the dogs to make it here, except for the dogs in The Grove.”
“What’s The Grove?” Hugo hadn’t been here that long – probably – and he hadn’t heard of this place before.
“I think you need to have the full experience of it. I can’t give you the words to be fair to what happens. You’ll see it – trust me.” Changing the subject, Zippy wanted to know more from Hugo about his arrival. “So, what I explained didn’t happen to you, did it?”
“No. I didn’t go anywhere. No one said bye to me. I could still see but I was in pain. And so tired. I had been for a few days but Kevin wanted me to live so badly that I stayed there a little longer, as long as I could, for him. Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore. While Simon and Kevin were in the kitchen and I was on the sofa, I decided it was time. I didn’t know then what I was deciding. I was letting go of something but unsure of what it was. I drifted off as the sound of their voices grew softer. Then I was here.”
“Hmmm. I’ve met others who arrived like you did and wondered what it was like. Hard to picture saying to yourself ‘OK, time to go,” and you get to leave. Not that I minded being put to sleep – I was in pain and couldn’t see after all – I’ve simply wondered what the other way would be like.”
“Same here. I think they were going to make that decision soon because I heard Simon talking to Kevin about how bad it was.”
This conversation was getting to be too much for Hugo so, changing the subject, he lightened things up. “I’m so glad we left all that pain, your blindness, our suffering, behind. It’s hard to imagine you blind!”
At this, Zippy laughed, reflecting on the exhilaration he felt when he arrived and realized he could see such wonderful sights again. Those waves of grass, the crystal blue sky…
“It is for me too now. Other dogs who I knew after I became blind showed up from time to time. It was great to see what they looked like. So, to wrap up my little story, Trudy met me, showed me the ropes, introduced me around and so on. Like I’m doing with you. The first little while was hard. I felt Kevin’s grief. It was so intense. I knew he was crying back there and sad that I wasn’t there. I wanted to rush back there to lick his face and play with him again. I didn’t mind being here. It’s quite nice here. I minded that Kevin was hurting so very much. After a little while it eased up, and I was relieved.”
Hugo didn’t know how long “a little while” meant to Zippy. He was sure Kevin grieved a lot longer than a little while when he left. He still feels jabs of sadness when Kevin is having a particularly bad day without him. Sometimes it’s a prolonged, intense sort of melancholia. It lingers, weighing him down with sadness for Kevin, for this emptiness he can’t get past. Hugo pictured it easily. He’d seen it when he was back there – the funks that lasted for days. He was pretty sure that this was what Kevin was in now.
He thought about this, about how different he was to the Kevin who Zippy knows. Maybe he’d see what Zippy thought about it; he’d save that for another time. He’d heard a lot from Zippy, a lot to think about, and that was enough for now.
Zippy knew this too. “Whew! I’ve talked enough. You must be exhausted from listening to me. I certainly am sleepy. I wonder if that beanbag chair is still warm. I’m feeling like another nap.”
With that, Hugo watched the now-familiar fade as Zippy eased into a place he’d never seen, where a Kevin he would hardly recognize ran, laughed, chased Zippy, and curled up with him in the beanbag chair.