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Dedicated to Robert D. Walters and his best friend, Buddy

An old man and his cat were walking along a country road, enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to the man that he had died. He remembered dying, and realized, too, that his cat had been dead for many years. He wondered where the road would lead them, and continued walking down the country road.

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, white arch that gleamed 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 was pleased that he had finally arrived at heaven, and the man and his cat walked toward the gate. As he got closer, he saw someone sitting at a beautifully carved desk off to one side.

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When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, but is this heaven?”

“Yes , sir, it is,” the man answered.

“Wow! Would you happen to have some water for me, and a saucer of milk for my cat?” the man quickly asked.

“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.” The gatekeeper gestured to his rear, and the huge gate began to open.

“I assume my friend can come in...” the man said, gesturing toward his cat.

But the reply was, “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”

The old man thought about it, thanked the gatekeeper, turned back toward the road, and continued in the direction he had been going. After another long walk, he reached the top

of another long hill, and he came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate. There was no fence, and it looked as if the gate had never been closed, as grass had grown up around it.

As he approached the gate, he saw a man just inside, sitting in the shade of a tree in a rickety old chair, reading a book.

“Excuse me!” he called to the reader. “Would you happen to have any water?” The old man was afraid to mention the saucer of milk, for fear his feline friend of many years would not be allowed.

“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there,” the man said, pointing to a place that couldn’t be seen from outside the gate. Come on in and make yourself at home.”

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Finally, he had to ask, “How about my friend here?” The old man gestured towards his beloved cat.

“He’s welcome, too. There’s a fresh saucer of milk by the pump,” he said.

They walked through the gate and, sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a dipper hanging on it and a fresh saucer of milk next to it on the ground. The man placed his cat by the saucer, and then took a long drink himself from the dipper.

*+-When both were satisfied, he picked up his cat and walked back toward the man who was sitting under the tree waiting for them. The man inquired, “So what do you call this place?”

“This is heaven,” was the answer.

“Well, that’s confusing,” the old man said. “It certainly doesn’t look like heaven, and there’s another man down the road who said that place was heaven.”

“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates?”

“Yes, it was beautiful.”

“Nope. That’s hell.”

“Doesn’t it offend you for them to use the name of heaven?”

“No. I can see how you might think so, but it actually saves us a lot of time. They screen out the people who are willing to leave their best friends behind.”

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