It was midnight, nearly a thousand midnights since Lucky had died, and all at once I felt his weight on my hospital bed. I had heard of it time and again, in accounts of dear animals once gone, come to touch us again.
There was no body there just the belief of his weight, but I knew who it was.
"Hi, dear Lucky!"
Not a bark, not a sound, but I felt the familiar weight of him, I imagined him again in the dark, the soft charcoal and bronze of him, the spotless snow of his paws and his bright white scarf, always so formal.
How many times we had run across the field and meadow near our home, Lucky the Sheltie, one second half-hidden in the tall grasses, then in a bound flying over the green on his next stride, running to meet me. All so beautiful now in the night, his dark eyes watching me, thoughts for words.
"Hi Richard. Want to run?"
"I have a little problem..."
He considered that. "I had one, too, on Earth. Not now. And you can run, now, too."
The land where I awoke then, was like my home, but not quite. It grew manicured, not the wild places I knew. As Lucky had said, I could run.
He trotted along by my left leg, as we had so many times before.
I slowed to a walk for him. The sun dappled the path, summer lights and shadows in the forest. A quiet afternoon.
"What’s happened for you, Lucky? All the time you’ve been gone."
"Not gone," he said. "Listen: Not gone!"
Dying’s a child’s belief of location, of space and time. A friend’s real for us when they’re close, when we can see them, hear their voice. When they move to a different place, and silent, they’re gone, they’re dead.
Easy for him, he was with me when he wished, wondering why I didn’t see him, touch him. Then he realized that was my belief. It will change, one day.
For now he was not sad for the limitation of my understanding. Most mortals have that problem.
"I’ve been always with you," he said. "You’ll understand, some day."
"What was it like, Lucky, dying?"
"Different for you. You were so sad. You and Sabryna held me, and I lifted out of my body. No sorrow, no sadness. I got bigger and bigger... I was part of everything. I’m part of the air you breathe, with you always."
"Oh, Lucky. I miss you."
"You miss me when you can’t see me, but I’m right here! I’m here! I’m all you loved about me, I’m the spirit, the only Lucky you loved! I am not gone, not dead, I never was! You walk every day with Maya, with Zsa-Zsa, around the meadows and with me, too!"
"Do they see you, dear Lucky?"
"Sometimes Maya does. She barks at me, when Zsa-Zsa sees an empty room, and you don’t notice."
"Why does she bark?"
"I may be partly invisible for her." I laughed.
He looked at me as he walked. "Time for me is different from what it is for you on Earth. We’re already together any time we wish, like now."
"Not in Earth time. We call them memories." I remembered. "You’d look at us, sometimes, I knew you were thinking about us all."
"I love you still."
"When you died, I found two animal communicators. One west coast, one east coast. Sent them your picture. Called them."
"What did they say?"
"Not solemn!" He looked down the path. "Was I solemn?"
"No. You smiled a lot, your last year. I don’t think, except in that picture, you were solemn."
"I smiled when you tried to hide from me. Remember? I’d go ahead out of sight, you’d stop, hide behind a tree. I couldn’t see you."
"Yes. I closed my eyes. Didn’t breathe."
"Of course I found you. You heard me next to you. You heard me breathing."
"That was so funny, Lucky!" I laughed out loud, in the forest.
"I always knew where you were. Didn’t you know that?" Humans, he thought, not the smartest animals, but kind to dogs.
"They were wrong about solemn. Did they say anything I said?"
"You talked about when you died. You left us, you said, and you got bigger and bigger."
"I was the size of the universe. I knew I was everything. Did she say that?"
"They said that you were always with us. In every breath we breathed. You were part of us."
"Close. You were part of me. It felt as though you were with me. I thought of you a lot."
"They said why you died."
"That I didn’t want to be tired, and sick?"
"They said you weren’t sad. You didn’t miss us."
"I didn’t have to be sad. I knew we’re always together. I didn’t have the sense of loss that you had." He looked up at me. "Have."
"Lucky, it was so hard to watch you die, not have a word from you since."
"I’m sorry for that. That was a mortal’s limited sense of life. A mortal dog’s too. Maybe I would have felt the loss if you had died and I stayed on Earth." He looked into the forest, back again. "I came back, time and again. You could never see me. But I knew you’d see me when you died. A matter of beliefs. It will be no time since that happens."
A matter of beliefs. What had happened? Has Lucky become a teacher for me?
"The end of a lifetime," he said. "We can’t help but learn when we cross the Rainbow Bridge."
"That’s a human’s story, The Rainbow Bridge."
"It’s a loving thought, therefore true. Other reunions, but the Bridge, too."
"I asked if you’d come back. They said you didn’t know. If you did, someone would tell us of a little puppy, from someplace south of home."
"I still don’t know. You’ll be moving soon. I’ll have to see about your place. I need lots of room to run. This place has spoiled me." He looked up, to see if I smiled.
"I doubt I’ll be moving, Lucky."
"This place is your home. It’s mine, too."
"No place on Earth is your home. You know that."
We walked down the trail in silence, up to the house at the top. Lucky lay down on the porch. I sat close, leaned against the six-by-six support for the roof. He put his chin on my knee.
"We’re together now," I said.
He didn’t move, didn’t change his expression, but his eyes, so serious, looked at me sideways. That made me laugh, as always.
I smoothed the fur of his snow-bright neck, a brief loving touch.
If Lucky says he’s always with us, I thought, what does that say about his consciousness? There is no time and space. Love is everywhere. He’s happy. He’s learning. He cannot be hurt. He sees and knows us. He sees possible futures. He can choose to live with us again.
If it’s easy for a Shetland Sheepdog, why is it so difficult for me?
The nurse flicked on the lights, moved me one way and another, began changing the sheets.
"Thank goodness you came," I said. "I was almost asleep!"
"It’s two a.m.," she said sweetly. "We change the sheets at two a.m."
I needed to leave this place. If I stayed, I was going to die. I missed my dog. I wanted to die.
Illusions II: The Adventures of a Reluctant Student
by Richard Bach.
A former USAF pilot, gypsy barnstormer and airplane mechanic, Richard Bach is the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions, One, The Bridge Across Forever, and numerous other books. Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone. A second book, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, was published in 1977. Visit Richard's website at www.richardbach.com