It’s been several years since we said goodbye to Shakespeare our beagle-lab mix, yet I dream of him often. He was such a good dog and had the distinction of being an opera singer. Anytime opera music came on the television or radio, he sang along.
Yes, I know, it was just howling, but the point is he seemed, always, to try to match the pitch and tone of the singers. We were thoroughly convinced it was more than mere wailing.
Anyway, when we finally released Shakespeare from his pain, something any pet owner will truly understand, it was a painfully dark day for us. As much as we knew it was the right thing to do, it stabbed at our hearts. Our one relief was that we knew it was the right thing to do.
We brought him home and laid him to rest in a pretty corner of the yard. Never was there a deed harder for me to do and, yet, I did it with cheerful pain, if that makes any sort of sense. That night, the house was quiet and subdued. Our daughter was broken-hearted. Shakespeare had been her first dog.
You never forget your first dog.
When I feel asleep that night, I did what I always do, I dreamed. I’m a lucid dreamer. Sometimes I get my best story ideas from them. This dream was a dream any pet owner will understand.
In this dream, I saw Shakespeare. He was running across an open field of soft grass. He was young and strong again; his arthritis was gone, and he ran with joy in that great large heart of his. As he approached the other side of the field, two men, one rather thin and the other tall and portly, came into view. Shakespeare, being a friendly dog, ran up to them.
“Hello, Shakespeare,” the thin one said. “I’m Enrico Caruso, and this is my friend, Luciano Pavarotti.”
“We’ve been sent to collect you,” Luciano added.
“Collect me?” Shakespeare replied.
They nodded, parted and gestured at a golden escalator behind them.
“Yes, the Old Master deems you worthy of ascension,” Luciano explained. “He gave us the privilege of escorting you.”
Enrico smiled. “After all, we’re opera singers just like you.”
Shakespeare wagged his tail and happily stepped aboard. The escalator slowly rose into the clouds. At the top, spread before him was the City of Paradise and, at its center, was the biggest opera house ever. The three stood before the great oaken doors of the building.
“We would be honoured if you would join us tonight for ‘The Marriage of Figaro’,” Enrico said.
“The Old Master would like you to sing lead,” Luciano added.
“It would be my honour.”
That night, to a standing room only audience, Shakespeare had his heavenly debut. Never was he happier. Not only was the Old Master in attendance in His box seat, but He had a very special guest seated at His right hand: Shakespeare’s mommy.
I woke with a tear on my cheek and a smile on my face. Yeah, maybe it was merely a dream, but I can always hope that it was something more. Who knows, perhaps one day I will walk upon Heaven’s streets and seek out a certain building. I’m not worried about getting tickets for a sold-out show; I got a friend on the inside.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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