2001, S Hartwell

One day, three animal experimenters were involved in a fatal car crash. They found themselves outside a set of pearly gates being greeted by an angelic scientist with a halo. The angel welcomed them to heaven and guided them through the gates towards a huge building which they quickly saw was a giant research lab. Entering, they saw every type of experimental equipment they could ever have wished for - surgical implements, electrodes, drugs, toxins and irritants and racks of rabbits and mice and pens of monkeys, beagles and kittens.

"Is this heaven?" asked one of the scientists.

"Oh yes, this is heaven," confirmed the angel.

Rubbing their hands in glee, they realised they could continue their lives' work after death and had been provided with all the necessary resources.

The angel led them towards a set of stocks and to their surprise they were clamped in place. Electrodes were implanted into their brains and day after day, bleach was sprayed into their eyes and they were cut open, sewn up, injected, force fed, abraded and burnt. The only thing they could not do was die.

Finally one of the scientist screamed out, "You lied! This is not heaven!"

The angel indicated all the animals in cages and pens and only then did the scientists realise that none of the cages had doors and none of the pens were locked. The animals were bedded down in comfort, singly or in groups as they wished, and were impassively watching the agonising experiments being performed on their former tormentors.

"Oh yes," said the angel indicating all the animals, "This is heaven. But nobody said it was YOUR heaven."



A man was riding his horse down a road, his cat sitting in front of him and his dog padding along by their side. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it dawned on him that he was dead. He remembered dying. Then he remembered that his horse, cat and dog had all been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, the party 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 nudged the horse toward the gate, and as he got closer, 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 friends," gesturing towards his horse, cat and dog, "come in, too?" the traveller asked. "I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept animals." The man thought a moment and then turned his horse back toward the road and continued the way he had been going. His cat merely purred and his dog padded faithfully beside them.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road which led 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. The whole place looked ramshackle and untended.

"Excuse me!" he called to the man, "do you have any water?"

"Sure do, there's a pump over there" The man pointed to a place that couldn't be seen from outside the gate. "Come on in."

"How about my friends here?" the traveller asked.

"There should be a bowl and a bucket by the pump."

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old fashioned hand pump with a bowl and a bucket beside it. His cat jumped down from the horse and the traveller filled the bowl and gave it to the cat and dog while he filled the bucket for his horse. Only after the animals had been tended to did the man drink from a battered old tin cup hanging from the pump. When they all were satisfied, he led his horse back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them, the cat and dog following faithfully behind.

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

"This is heaven," was the answer.

"That's confusing," the traveller 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?"

"Nope. I can see how you might think so, but we're just happy that they screen out the folks who'll leave their best friends behind."

Only then did the traveller notice that he was no longer in a ramshackle farmyard, but that they were standing in a sunlit field full of other travellers and their dear animal friends.



There was an air of anticipation on Rainbow Bridge. Several dozen cats were gathered there; their tails were lashing in anticipation of the reunion. While most of the animals there had been healed of their lifetime injuries, these wore their injuries as badges of courage so that their human would recognise them. They ranged from scrawny unweaned kittens to skinny older cats. Many were missing eyes, most had snotty noses and obvious scars. All were severely malnourished. Most had untreated skin conditions while others resembled large mats of fur with baleful eyes that were almost gummed shut by conjunctivitis. Their appearance spoke of a lifetime of neglect and an absence of both veterinary attention and general care. A stench of urine and faeces emanated from their matted fur. The other animals kept a healthy distance from them.

Suddenly a feline voice called out "She's here!" and the wretched cats began to hiss in anticipation. A lone human figure appeared in the distance. The dozens of cats swarmed towards her, yowling their rage. The human figure went down under the mass of diseased cats and began to scream.

"What was that about?" asked a pampered Persian, reclining in the branch of a maple.

"That was a cat hoarder. She kept all those cats imprisoned in her home and neglected them. Even the ones that Animal Control rescued from her were so ill or wild that they had to come here," replied a tabby, nursing the kittens that her owners had drowned years ago.

"But I thought there was no suffering here," the Persian asked in a perplexed voice, "and our wounds healed," he said as he idly exercised his regrown claws on the branch.

"Oh those cats weren't suffering while they were here, they just stayed looking like that. It was time for the hoarder to face the suffering she'd caused," the tabby said, kneading the dappled grass under the maple.

The animals who had known only love and care in their lifetimes watched the cats swarm over their tormentor. The cat hoarder's screams continued for a long, long time...