Too Perfect: True Stories About the Lives of Animals and the People They Inspire

It all started with a brown-eyed bear-faced husky-type dog of dubious parentage who broke my heart wide open and as I knit myself back together, the stories of other transformed by animals began telling themselves. 

A 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone, The Hunt, became the stuff of legend when considering our beloved dogs and the eternal question: "Are dogs allowed in heaven?" In this episode, the main character, Hyder Simpson, and his dog, Rip, both down in a pond while hunting a raccoon. 

A dear friend and fellow dog-lover, Don Kirchoffner, forwarded the story to me. I almost missed it because these things have a tendency to fill up my email in-box beyond a reasonable capacity and sometimes I'm so busy I delete them before opening.

In my experiences with animals, I've learned that they come into our lives for three key reasons-- to love us, to comfort us and to inspire us. And when it's their time to leave us, it happens for two reasons: In some cases they have fulfilled their purpose as we have learned the lesson(s) that were given to our animals to teach us. In others, they must leave us so we will grieve them and make the changes we must in order to fulfill our purpose on this planet.

Not everyone learns key life lessons from animals. Sometimes it's from our kids, our parents or another person close to us. Other times those lessons are learned when we make horrible or just plain dumb mistakes. However, I think that often the gentlest teachers are those silent animal companions we know. Their simple acceptance of we humans speaks in far greater volumes than silly words can ever express. When we come into this world we are a blank slate. When we leave, the only things we take with us are the experiences from knowing and loving others. 

And, as such, over the past decade or so, I've gathered a small collection of stories that describe the serendipitous love we share with animals. If we allow them, some animals fundamentally transform us. I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed hearing them and writing them down. Each one describes how and when we make a shift from the person we were to the person we become. Afterwards, we love more generously, more freely and with fewer conditions attached to it. Thank heavens for these blessings. They are just Too Perfect.

The short story that follows is a summary of sorts to a specific conversation between the Twilight Zone's Hyder character and a couple of people posted at the gates to other worlds.

The Hunt

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.

He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"

"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.

"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.

"Of course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up."

The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveler asked.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. 

As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

"Excuse me!" he called to the man. "Do you have any water?"

"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there, come on in."

"How about my friend here?" the traveler gestured to the dog.

"There should be a bowl by the pump."

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. 

The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself then he gave some to the dog.

When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.

"What do you call this place?" the traveler asked.

"This is Heaven," he answered.

"Well, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was Heaven, too."

"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope that's hell."

"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"

"No, we're just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind."

And as the closing narration of this episode of The Twilight Zone so aptly observes...

"Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least, it happened that way once-- in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone."

Click Here to Read Chapter 1 of Too Perfect
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