There wasn’t much going on. Hugo and Zippy had taken a walk where they ran into Sparky and Buster. Sparky was Kevin’s mother’s dog when she was little and had been here longer than any of the other dogs in Kevin’s family. She knew exactly what she was going to do when she saw his mother again – jump up and give her lots of kisses on her face, like she loved to do back there.
Sparky’s memory of a little girl growing into a young woman was different to Buster’s, who knew a young mother of four working to make ends meet. Zippy knew a slightly older lady, and Hugo remembered a laughing grandmother who loved to tell stories and feed him scraps from the table. “My grand-dog,” she called him. He loved that name and loved her almost as much as he loved Kevin and Simon.
As they finished their walk, they found a particularly tall, thick patch of grass to lie in. They had sort of settled into a routine by now. Imaginating their favorite things from back there. Taking walks and checking in on the other pets waiting for their person. Napping when they wanted. And lying in the grass talking.
“Do you miss anything from back there?” Hugo asked Zippy.
“Well, Kevin of course,” Zippy chuckled as Hugo nodded in agreement. “Let me think. I don’t know if ‘miss’ is the right word, though I suppose I remember the realness of things and wish it was the same here. Conjuring up a memory and making it as real as we can is comforting and fun. Helps us stay connected and keep the memories fresh in our minds. And yet it’s not the real thing, is it?”
Hugo liked how Zippy summarized what he was thinking. “That’s exactly it. I imagine playing tug with Kevin or Kaydon but they’re not really here. I have the feeling of lying by Simon while he takes a nap but it’s not him. It’s the feeling of him. I can picture the Blanco River and chasing sticks but it’s how I imagine it every time. There are no surprises. It’s not bad. Not bad at all. And most of the time I don’t even think about it. There are these occasions, though, when something felt particularly real and when I’m done, it’s a bit of a disappointment, like waking up from a great dream.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. As real as it feels, it’s not. It’s exactly how we want it to be every time. We’re not making new memories with our people even though it’s still fun.”
Zippy paused as he collected his next thoughts. He’d been here longer than Hugo, even though they didn’t think about things that way often. He had seen enough reunions to know that things changed.
“It doesn’t bother me though, Hugo. Not anymore. I think of the day that Kevin arrives. You and I, and maybe others then, who knows, rush up to greet him. Then we head off towards the blue-orange sky and have the rest of forever to make new memories with him. And who knows what it’s like over there. Maybe it’s all new memories of anything you want.”
Hugo often thought about that moment of reunion. What Kevin would be like. How he and Zippy would greet him. And who are these others Zippy is talking about? He’d have to think about that. In any case, he hadn’t much thought beyond the reunion, what it would be like when they walked up the path, the grass growing back behind them as they walked away, growing smaller and smaller.
He liked thinking about it now. When Sparky and his mother make that final walk up the path. When Simon, Driver and Kaydon do the same. When it comes his, Zippy’s and Kevin’s turn. Whatever is waiting on the other side, they’ll be going there together. New memories. It’ll feel real again. And he’ll spend the rest of forever with Kevin.