“Lie down and relax. You’re going to have to think hard about back there. Move your mind away from the sun, the grass, the breeze, everything that’s here. Get rid of all those things, so that where you are here feels blank. It’ll take a while. If an image of here comes back to you, it’s OK. Just let it go again. Take your time. When you feel the blankness, let me know.”
Hugo enjoyed the sun, the breeze, the grass. Since he arrived here, it didn’t occur to him that he could imagine it all away like he imagined into being his favorite spots of memory that he journeyed to, like the Blanco River.
The grass tickled and soothed him. He enjoyed that most so he focused on that first. The more he ignored it, the less he felt it, until it wasn’t there anymore. That was easy! Next, he felt the breeze. There were times where he didn’t want the breeze so that was easy to think away too.
The sun was harder. Oh, how he loved the sun. Back there he baked in it for hours. Yet, he wanted so badly to see Kaydon, so he focused. Imagined a cloud passing over the sun, then that cloud staying there as the sun grew lower in the sky. His body cooling off though not becoming cold. The cloud relented momentarily and he warmed up again, feeling the warming rays on his fur. Focus, Hugo, focus. Keeping his eyes shut tightly, he imagined the clouds increase as dusk approached, seeing behind his eyelids the orange-red glow of fading daylight against pink clouds, until all was dark. No sun. No breeze. Grass. Nothing.
He lay there still, to be sure he was ready. “OK, what’s next?”
Imagine your favorite place with Kaydon back there. Picture every detail of it.
This was easy. It was in the chair in the middle room of the house, in the same room where Kevin worked. In the morning in spring and fall, the sun hit that chair at just the right angle. He and Kaydon fought over who got the chair. In the end they always ended up sharing it. He would never have mentioned this to Kaydon back there but he loved that feeling. Kaydon snuggled up beside him, their breathing in rhythm, the sun warming them both, and Kevin working just a few feet away from them. His heart ached for the first time, to be back there with them, lying next to Kaydon, waking up every occasionally, to make sure Kevin was still there.
The longer he thought about it, the more he ached and yet the more real it felt. What if this didn’t work and he’d gone through all of this? How would Kaydon even know he was there if it did work?
It felt so real. He was there. Kaydon was snoozing beside him. The sun was shining on them and Kevin was at his desk. He hadn’t felt this sort of happiness, this pure joy, in so very long. And he didn’t realize how much he missed Kaydon until he was here next to him. His smell, the way he made little snorts in his sleep.
And then, Kaydon stirred, opened his eyes, and looked over at Hugo lying next to him.
“Hugo! Where have you been?!” an excited Kaydon jumped up from the chair and down onto the floor and shrieked (he had this bark his people called a shriek-bark, and this was it). “You closed your eyes on the sofa and Kevin and Simon were sad. Then they walked away with you after a while and I haven’t seen you since.”
Shock mixed in with surprise as Kaydon realized he was talking to Hugo. They’d never talked before. Barked, growled, yipped, snapped sure. But not actually talked.
“I must be dreaming. We don’t talk to each other.” Then something else occurred to him. “And I can’t jump anywhere anymore, up or down.”
“You are dreaming Kaydon. That’s the only way we can see each other for now.”
That explained why Kevin sat with his back to them, undisturbed, still working away at something or another on his laptop. This was only taking place in Kaydon’s dream.
“It makes sense actually. There are so many things I get to do in my dreams that don’t happen in real life. Or don’t happen anymore. I don’t jump up and down when the people come home. I stumble when I walk. I don’t chase cars up and down the fence along the alley anymore. My head tilts to one side.” He paused. “I’m not the way I was. I heard them say I have a brain tumor, whatever that is, and I’m afraid.”
Back there, or here, or wherever they are right now, they didn’t have emotions or at least didn’t have a way of sharing them. And in any event, he’d never known Kaydon to be afraid. Kaydon was always ready to take on the world. Hugo envied him for that – his confidence, his determination to protect his people at all cost, his sense of invincibility. Hugo wondered what it was like outside of his dreams, while also relieved that he didn’t see Kaydon that way.
“That’s why I’m here Kaydon. I left because I died, ‘crossed over, is what we say over there. That last breath I took helped me on my way. I’m there now, and was given this chance to come talk with you. I don’t know how long it lasts so I want you to know that there’s nothing to be afraid of. It may be soon, or it may not be but either way, Kevin and Simon are going to send you off to me with the same love that I felt when I left. And when you cross over, I’m going to be right there waiting for you. I’ll know when you’re getting ready, and I’ll be ready too.”
Hugo knew Kaydon would wake not remembering this conversation but with sense of relief and calm. That was the only thing that was important to him.
“But where are you, how will I get there, and how will I know when it’s going to happen. I don’t want to leave here. I miss you but I love it here.”
“You will know when it’s coming,” Hugo reassured him. “And you won’t be afraid. You’ll be ready. You’ll be relieved. And when you get to the other side, you’ll see me and you’ll jump and chase cars and bark at strangers in the alley and slap me on the backside. All the things you did before, you’ll do them again at the exact point in time you did them best.” This last bit he knew he’d heard from Zippy, and now that he’d experienced it himself, he was confident in sharing it with Kaydon. As he said the words, as Kevin continued working, as they were somewhere deep in Kaydon’s sleep, Hugo poured out his emotions onto Kaydon, flooding him with relief, comfort, knowing there is a plan for hope, and a future. He didn’t understand how this worked but a sort of spiritual transfer was happening.
As it did, Kaydon felt it, and a raging sense of calm overcame him as he absorbed the flood pouring from Hugo.
“Wow, Hugo. I don’t know what happened. I feel better. At ease, relaxed, not worried. I believe you but will it last? Or will I wake up with all this again and you were just a quick memory.”
“I don’t really know.” Hugo didn’t think this was a lie. He knew how it had worked for him but he hadn’t thought to ask Zippy if everyone had the same experience. He just had to trust that if Zippy thought it worth the effort for him to visit Kaydon like this, then it was for a good reason. “But I suspect it’ll stay with you until we see each other again.”
“And I’m guessing that won’t be until I cross over, as you put it.”
“That’s right Kaydon. I won’t see you again until Kevin and Simon send you on your way. They’ll be with you, loving you and holding you close. I promise you they will be the last people you see before you close your eyes.”
“And if I’ll be doing all the things I did before, then you’re doing them already aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I am, and it’s wonderful. When you wake up, you may not remember a lot of what we talked about. You may not remember we talked at all for a while. But you’ll remember that you’ll be whole again when you cross over. Work hard to keep that memory. And when it’s time, the next thing you know, we’ll be playing together again. Tug with the frisbee, remember that?! Play fighting when we chased the same car down the alley. All of that and sunning, and jumping. Completely whole.”
Something was changing. His words were growing faint and it was growing more difficult to see Kaydon.
“I think this dream is nearly over, Kaydon. I miss you and will be waiting for you as soon as you cross over. Don’t get in a hurry – you’ll know when the time comes. I only want you to wake up and not be afraid anymore.”
“Oh, I’m not. I still don’t want to leave but knowing I’ll see you again, that Kevin and Simon will be with me when it’s time to send me to you, makes me feel a lot better. I don’t know how you came to me Hugo but thank you. I’m glad you did. I’ve missed you, and I’m happy that I’ll see you again.” Kaydon couldn’t resist jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of seeing Hugo again after this extraordinary visit. He had so many questions that his appearance raised but he was fading away, feeling full-on sleep enveloping him.
“Love on Kevin and Simon for me as long as you can. I’ll see you, Kaydon.”
“I’ll see you Hugo. I love you.”
“I love you too, you silly dog.”
And with that, the room, Kevin working, the sun, the chair, and Kaydon all faded away. And Hugo fell asleep, sleeping more deeply with each intake of breath as he made his way back across, away from Kaydon and back to where he would join him one day.