Book Excerpt: Dawg Heaven

  1. Note: This particular story, taken from Writers in the Afterlife, is fairly short and played for humor.  The longer stories are more dramatic or philosophical.

Dawg Heaven

He loved dogs.  “Honest, I really do,” he said to a Shepherd/ Husky mix.  “It’s just, I’m not a dog.” He was the only human in a vast field of dogs.

“People called you Dog,” Shepsky replied.

“No they didn’t.  They called me Dawg.”

“In your case, that’s just dog with an accent,” Shepsky countered.

“Accent on the Dog, that is.  He is a white guy,” said a Dalmatian. Being the only human was drawing a crowd.  “He’s not even from the South.”

“How do you know all this?”

“The nose knows,” said a Keeshond.  All the dogs howled with laughter, like this was the funniest possible play on words.

“But we still don’t know the why,” said a Chocolate Lab.  “Everyone else in his circle was John or Don or Skip.  But you alone were Dawg.  How come?”

“It started out as a nickname.”

“Maybe, the whole time, they were calling you Dog.”

“Maybe.  What did they call you.”

The Chocolate Lab hesitated.  “Ice Cream.”

“I hear you.  Not a great choice for a name.  Still, no one thought you were ice cream.”

“Maybe they did, especially the kids.  They licked me.  I liked it.”

“All right, Chocolate Lab likes to be licked.  Ice cream sort of fits.  Bad example.  Luck of the draw.  But you weren’t really ice cream.  That’s my point.”

“I had a better idea.”

“For what?”

“A name: Ozymandias.”

“Any dogs here who had human names?”

A Beagle came forward.  “They called me Dave.” Then a Miniature Poodle spoke up.  “Marilyn.” Then a Malamute: “Ulysses.  Ule for short.”

“That’s more mythic.  But can you see my point?  Many of you had human names and you weren’t human.”

“They didn’t call you Spot or Rover,” said a wise looking Lhasa Apso, his face partially shaved so that his large brown eyes spoke with him.  “And no one named us Human, or even Humawn.  Our names reflected projections by the people who named us.  They didn’t know dog names, which don’t translate into human scent communication.  So they used the only names they knew to give.”

“Tell him brother,” barked a Terrier in agreement.

“What did they call you?” Ice Cream asked the Lhasa.

“Lao, short for Lao Tzu.”

“Good name.”

“You guys are missing the point,” Dawg said in an effort to regain control.

“She called me Missy.  ‘Here Missy, Missy, Missy’,” said a Pomeranian.  “‘Does Missy like her little pillow?  Come to mommy now, don’t bark at strangers.  Here’s a little treat for my Missy.’  She talked to me like I was a baby.  I learned that I got treats for barking at strangers.”

“They called me Tiger,” said a Pit Bull.  “Clearly, I am not a tiger.  I don’t even have stripes.  Does that make sense?  I put up with so much nonsense.  I deserve a medal for never biting anyone.”

“You got dog heaven,” said Lao.

“He’s not going to bite anyone now, is he?” Dawg said to Shepsky.

“This is dog heaven, of course not.  No one even sniffs another dog’s butt without full and participating consent.”

“You sound like you’re not getting your butt sniffed enough,” said Tiger.  “Besides, if you bothered to look, let alone smell, you’d see I’m female.”

“So why did they did they name you Tiger?”

“Yet another contradiction.  And they fed me cat food and trained me to pee on concrete.  Did you ever pee on concrete?”

“Well, if I had too many beers, and the bathrooms were full, and I really had to go, I’d use the alley.”

“I sniff a partial truth,” said a Bloodhound.

“OK, I liked pissing outdoors.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I felt free with my, you know, dangling in the air.”

“Like a dog, Dawg.”

“I didn’t do it that much.”

“How often?  Asked a Retriever.

“Probably once a week.  Usually on grass.  I camped out a lot.  I also had a big yard on the outskirts of the suburbs.”

“Did you like to do it doggy style?” Asked a Collie.

“Now you’re getting personal.  Heck, of course.  Sometimes.  Who doesn’t?”

“Missionaries,” said Dave, and all the dogs burst out laughing.  “I’ll bet you weren’t a missionary.  I’ll bet you weren’t even religious.”

Dawg sat down on his butt.  There were no chairs in dog heaven.  No human accommodations of any kind.

“Listen guys…” He was cut off.

“Yes, we love playing poker,” Dave said as if he was anticipating a request.  “Five card draw.”

“Except Lao cheats, ” Said the Bloodhound.

“Passing cards under the table is clearly allowed in the rules, so long as it looks cute from a side angle.  And it’s probably a good idea not to get caught black-pawed.”

“I don’t want to play poker.  There aren’t even tables and chairs, let alone decks of cards.” Tables and chairs sprung up across the field, each with its own brand new deck of unopened playing cards.  He pulled up a chair and sat down, mostly because it was preferable to sitting on the ground.  Also sitting at his table were Doug, Lao, Tiger, Missy, and Shepsky.

“You’re missing the point.”

“There are no Pointers at this table.  Do you see a German Shorthaired Pointer?”

“I’m a human being, a Homo sapien.  I should be in human being heaven.”

“Do you like to play poker?”  Asked Dave.

“Well yes, of course, sure.”

“Then quit yapping and deal the cards.”

“Squirrel!” Yelled a Brittany Spaniel at a nearby table.  The table cleared chasing the alleged squirrel, as did several nearby tables.

“Steady,” said Lao.  “Standard tactic to exchange the new deck of cards with marked decks.”

Dawg dealt the cards.  He was surprised at how adept little Missy was in handling them.  A real pro.

“Are there squirrels in dog heaven?” Asked Dawg.

“You’re kidding, right?  Of course there are squirrels,” answered Dave.  “And we catch them.  Then I’m not sure what happens.  Do we kill them?”

“We chew them back into the playing field, so to speak.  It happens fairly quickly.  Then they can become reborn as new squirrels so that we can catch them again later.  They don’t feel pain,” said Lao.

“That’s my point, I don’t chew squirrels.”

“Do you eat meat?”

“Yes, but, I don’t chew squirrels.”

“Did you hunt squirrels?”

“Yes, but I used a gun.”

“Sometimes we use guns,” said Missy.

“Missy has a little Derringer,” Tiger said laughing.  “She never misses.  So they shouldn’t have called her Missy, should they!”

It was time to place bets.  Instead of plastic poker chips, they used chip shaped dog biscuits.

“How can this be my heaven?  I don’t like dog biscuits.”

“Can we allow him to eat one?” Asked Shepsky.

“I don’t know why not,” answered Lao. “Go on, try one.”

“I don’t eat dog biscuits,” asserted Dawg.

“If Lao thinks you should try a dog biscuit, maybe you should try a dog biscuit,” said Tiger.

“Try one for me,” said Missy, batting her eyes flirtatiously.  “Then I suppose you’ll want your belly rubbed.”

Dawg nibbled on a biscuit, then popped the whole thing in his mouth.  “Wow, better than Oreo cookies!”

“There’s a reason he’s here, wouldn’t you agree Lao?” asked Tiger, with a certain reverence to Lao.

“Yes Tiger, there’s a reason he’s here.  We’re not stupid.  We can see he’s not a dog.  But he’s definitely Dawg.”

“Do we teach him tricks?” Asked Doug.

“No, he’ll learn by association.  We should just be ourselves.”

“Learn what?” asked Dawg cautiously.

“When to ask questions and when to play cards, for a start,” said Shepsky.

Dawg participated in the betting.  The stakes were already quite high.  Dawg requested just one card from the deck.  The problem was, every dog at that table took only one card from the deck.  Either they all had great hands or they were bluffing.  Missy was sniffing the air.

“That won’t help,” said Tiger.

“You never know.”

Dawg looked at his hand.  A royal flush.  Ace, king, queen, jack, ten.  Beautiful.

“Should I yell squirrel?” Asked Doug.

“I’ve got a stuffed squirrel hidden in my coat,” said Shepsky.  “If I threw it far enough I bet even Lao would have some difficulty reigning in his instinct.”

“That I would, gentle dogs.  But I think we may have a squirrel under the table.”

Dawg had no idea what he was talking about, except that he wanted to itch his nuts.  It’s something he’d done more than occasionally in public when he was alive.  “Ballplayers do it all the time,” he’d say if he was caught in the act. That’s why they call them balls, he always wanted to add.

“Are all the bets down?” Asked Tiger.

Dawg looked at the table.  It seemed like a rhetorical question, since all the biscuits were now in the pot, which meant that no more bets could possibly be placed.

“Do you even know what rhetorical means?” Dawg said to Doug.

“Fetch!” The dogs all laughed.  Dawg had no idea why.  I’ll fetch you, Dawg thought, looking at his cards as if for the first time.  They were still there.  An ace high straight flush.  Best hand in poker.

“If you could be any kind of dog, what kind would you be?” Doug asked Dawg.

“Are we talking or playing cards?” Tiger was actually curious.

“I’m just saying, any kind of dog.”

“A Great Dane,” Dawg said without hesitation.

“A Great Dane,” echoed Tiger, again merely curious.

“You must know it’s not size that matters,” Missy informed him.

“What am I supposed to do with cards like these?” Dawg could have sworn Shepsky had winked at Lao as he spoke.

“You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt,” Lao replied.

“I call,” said Dawg, trying not to stare at his royal flush.

“How-w-w-w-w-l.” The dogs were all howling.   Dawg actually joined in.

“Squirrel!” Barked Shepsky.

Doggone if Dawg didn’t feel the unmitigated urge to join in the chase.  When he returned to the table he neglected to pick up his cards.  All he knew was that he loved the taste of biscuit in his mouth.

Link to  Writers in the Afterlife eBook ($1.00):

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