The town of Goldale was located on the outskirts of the capital city of the major business province of Millinin. Its original inhabitants had been farmers and most of the land was under cultivation. With time, however, other trades had found their way into the town. Because of the laid-back nature of the inhabitants, it had attracted a lot of families that prided themselves on traditional values. One such family was Tiffany’s. She was an only child whose father was a doctor and whose mother was a housewife. She however had a large extended family.
Tiffany was walking home from school that Friday afternoon like she always did when she spotted something golden in a nearby bush ahead. Curious, she went to see what it was. She heard the whimpering sounds before she got to it. It was a puppy, huddled into a corner of its own trying to stay warm. It was shivering mildly yet the sun had not yet set. She walked up to where the dog was and stretched her hand gently to brush its fur. To her surprise the dog cowered and seemed to pull away. This took Tiffany by surprise because she did not intend to harm the dog; neither did she understand why anyone would have wanted to harm it. She crouched down beside the dog and began to pet it. “Little doggy, why are you so scared? Why do you look so sad? Where is your mummy and daddy?” The puppy looked straight at her and continued making whimpering noises. Its eyes were big and shone under the light of the late afternoon sun. Tiffany felt very sad for the dog and decided that she would take it home. Since her father was a doctor, she was sure he would know what was wrong with the dog and would be able to make it all better.
Tiffany’s mother was a housewife but she tended a small garden at the back of the house where she grew different kinds of flowers. On occasion, she would sell some at the flower shop downtown but mostly she would give them to her husband’s patients. An ordinary day saw her prepare breakfast and get everyone ready; then she would spend most of the morning doing chores within the house. The afternoon would see her visit her husband at the clinic and run other errands outside the house. She would get back home before her daughter and prepare dinner once Tiffany had showered and was doing her schoolwork. On this particular Friday she had not had much work to do in the afternoon so after lunch with her husband she had paid her mother a visit.
Jane was expecting Tiffany to get home any time from four o’clock. She went to a nearby school and the area was relatively safe so the children from her school would ordinarily walk home together. Jane had already prepared tea and biscuits for her daughter and was waiting for her at the gate. She saw Tiffany when she took the corner and noticed that she was holding something in her hands. It looked like a little dog. When she saw her mother, Tiffany ran to her. “Mummy! Mummy! Look at what I found.”
“Where did you find this little dog sweetie?”
“I found him lying all alone in a bush. He looked so scared mummy and he was shivering. I wanted to bring him home so that daddy could take care of him.”
Jane smiled as she explained to her daughter that her father was a doctor that took care of people not animals. “Can he still try to fix the dog?”
“Of course he can, but first you need to take your tea and biscuits then we can get both you and the little dog cleaned up.”
Tiffany’s face lit up and she set the dog on the sofa before washing her hands so she could have her tea. Afterwards, she and her mother gave the dog a nice bath. By then, it was not shivering as much and it even looked a little happier. Tiffany played with her new friend for a while before finishing her school work. She was only in the fourth grade so she did not have much to do. She was watching one of her favourite cartoons when she heard a car pull into the driveway. Her father was home. Excited, Tiffany ran up to meet him before he walked through the living room door.
“Daddy! Daddy! Guess what I found today?”
“What honey, what did you find?”
“A little dog that was scared and all alone, so I brought him home with me. He looks sick daddy, will you fix him?”
Tom smiled picking up his daughter and asked her to show him where the dog was. Tiffany had left the puppy on her bed covered in one of the blankets she had used as a baby. It had been asleep but woke up when they got to it. Tom examined the dog and noticed that its limbs were slightly weak and it was shivering. Given that his weekends were never busy, Tom promised Tiffany that they would take the dog to the vet the following morning. That night Tiffany prayed for the dog and asked God to take its pain away. She also gave it some warm milk. When Jane went to wish her daughter a good night, she found both Tiffany and the dog sound asleep, with Tiffany cuddling the puppy just like a child would cuddle a teddy bear.
The next morning, after breakfast, Tom and Tiffany got into the car with the dog and drove to the vet’s. They were the first ones in so they saw the vet after a few minutes. He examined the dog for a long time before asking to speak with Tom in private.
“I’m afraid this dog had been out in the cold for too long before you found it. Its chest and lungs are too badly damaged. I’m afraid there’s not much that I can do. It won’t be long before it dies.”
Tom’s head sank as did his heart. “Tiffany will be devastated to hear that. She already loves the dog so much. Is there anything we can do in the mean time?”
“Well, just keep it warm give it some milk and maybe even play with it. I’ll write a prescription for some pain medication so that the little guy won’t suffer too much.”
Tom found Tiffany waiting outside in the lobby, petting the dog and talking to it. “My best friend’s name is Lisa. I’m going to tell her all about you on Monday. She has a little puppy just like you called Brinnie; maybe the two of you can be friends.”
Tiffany turned to face her father when he had left the doctor’s office.
“I’ve decided to call him Johnnie,” the little girl said with a smile. She noticed her father was sad and immediately knew that the news from the doctor was bad.
“Little Johnnie is pretty sick, the doctor says we should just keep him comfortable for as long as we can.”
Tiffany started crying and Tom took them both in his arms. “It’s going to be okay sweetie, he’s lucky that you found him when you did.” They got the dog’s medication on the way home. Tiffany did not talk much and when they got home she ran into the house and went straight to her room. Tom explained to Jane what had happened at the vet’s.
After a short while, Jane went to check on her daughter. She heard her crying even before walking into her room. Holding the dog in her arms Tiffany’s head was bent over. The little girl was praying. “Dear God, please don’t let Johnnie die! I just found him and I want to take care of him so that he won’t be sad anymore. I want to play with him and give him good food so that he can be big and strong like all the other dogs. He could even be friends with Lisa’s dog Brinnie and maybe in future they could get little puppies of their own. Please don’t let him die, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Jane gently pushed open the door to her daughter’s room and smiled when Tiffany looked up. She sat next to her and gently wiped the tears off her cheeks, even though she also wanted to cry. As a child she had had a dog of her own that had died of old age. “It’s going to be okay Tiffy; God will take care of Johnnie, even when he is no longer with us.”
“Mummy, is there a heaven for dogs?”
“Yes there is, but it’s not the same as the one we’ll go to. It’s a place where all dogs go when they die. There are angels there to welcome them and give them nice robes to keep them warm; there’s plenty of fresh food for them and toys that they can play with; the lawns are really green where they can ran around and at the end of the day they each get a nice bath, a hot meal and a comfy bed to sleep on.”
“So it’s like a hotel for dogs?”
“Yes, it’s exactly that. Johnnie will get to live there with other dogs with no pain whatsoever; they will all be happy forever.”
“Will I ever get to see him again?”
“Well Tiffany, Johnnie will always be with you in your heart and if you shut your eyes real tight, you’ll be able to see him smiling and hear his barks of laughter.”
Jane hugged her daughter tightly then and they were both smiling. Tom had been standing by the door the whole time, getting carried away by heaven for dogs. He suggested that they go for a picnic at the park, since it was going to be a warm and sunny afternoon. Everybody was excited. Jane and Tiffany made the sandwiches and warmed Johnnie’s milk while Tom cleaned the back of the car.
The family was soon headed to the park. Tiffany was singing the songs she had learnt in school, all the while rubbing Johnnie’s stomach and trying to cheer him up. There were not many other families at the park and after having their sandwiches, Tiffany played with Johnnie some more. He had regained some strength and was able to run around for some time. Now he was no longer whimpering and the shivering was almost unnoticeable. The pain medication had really helped.
When they got home that evening, they all went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. They had even bought dog biscuits for Johnnie on their way home. Jane was making her famous lasagna while Tom and Tiffany prepared the salad. They had their meal and huddled together in the living room afterwards to watch a movie. Johnnie began to fall asleep in Tiffany’s arms after a short while. Just as he shut his eyes, Tiffany whispered ‘I love you’ to him and she saw his little puppy smile. She eventually fell asleep as well and Tom and Jane took them both to bed.
Jane woke up the next morning when she heard her daughter screaming. She ran to her room and found Tiffany crying. “He’s gone mummy, he’s gone! I woke up and Johnnie was gone.” Tom walked into the room then and both he and Jane held on to Tiffany for a long time, until she stopped crying. “Can we bury him?” Tiffany finally asked.
“Of course we can,” Tom replied.
They went outside to their little garden. Tom dug out some dirt, Jane got some of her flowers and Tiffany had Johnnie wrapped in a blanket. As she placed him in the dirt, she shut her eyes real tight while mumbling a few words and then went silent. When she looked up at her father and mother she was smiling. “I’ve seen him in heaven mummy; I’ve seen Johnnie go into the hotel for dogs.” As the sun set that day, Johnnie could be heard running across the lawns of heaven with the other dogs, his fur shining against the light of the sun.