Buster was the best of dogs. I always told him so, and I loved to see his tail wag when I told him what a good dog he was, how smart he was, how handsome he was. I loved playing with him and walking with him and spending my days with him. And when things started to get worse, when war broke out and we had to hide in our bunker that I had made at our house, I would hold him close as the bombs dropped and we would wait it out. London wasn't the safest place to be, then. But we didn't have anywhere else to go, so we just stayed in that little house that used to be my mother's, but was now mine. The blitz lasted for what seemed like forever, and while Buster and I were walking, I came across a man.
He smiled, and tipped his hat, and sat next to me on the bench as I watched Buster play with some neighborhood kids in a park. He never gave me a name, but I remember he knew mine without my ever having said it. He asked me some odd questions, but the oddest one had to be if I had one wish, what would I wish for? And he explained it could be anything in the world – I could have wished for the end of the war, I could have wished for the death of Hitler, I could have wished for the bombs to never drop on my house. But, as always, my thoughts turned to family and my only family now was Buster. He was 9 years old, and that means he's only getting older and dogs don't live for that long. The thought of being alone in London without Buster was awful. I told the man that if I had one wish, I would wish for Buster to live forever so that I would never have to be alone while I was in London.
I heard the man laugh as he said that I was a generous soul to give my wish to someone else. And then he was gone, and I never knew why he was there; I never knew who, or what, he was but he granted my wish. The next day, Buster seemed lively as ever, his eyes and his coat looking brighter than I had ever seen them. His gray whiskers never grew beyond what was there already. By the time we reached his 14th birthday, I started to wonder if that man had made my wish come true for Buster. By his 21st birthday, I knew that he had. Buster lived with me and stayed with me through the end of the war, through everything, all the way until I reached the end in my sleep, with Buster at the foot of my bed.
I didn't know what had happened to Buster after that. I always assumed that he would be joining me, but then I remembered the wish I had made and I realized that Buster couldn't join me in this world. He would live on forever, I would probably never see him again unless I decided to be reincarnated, and even then I probably wouldn't recognize if I ever did manage to do that.
For the longest time, I just roamed, enjoying time with my family, being together again, though it didn't feel quite right without Buster.
But soon, I had someone come up to our family, a spirit I didn't recognize who asked for me by name. She told me that my dog had come to her after my death and she had adopted him. She thanked me for training such a wonderful dog who was always so compassionate and caring. In tears, she told me how Buster, who she renamed Reggie, had gotten her through the hardest time of her life when she feared it wasn't worth living. Reggie had been there to nudge her into the kitchen to make food for herself, and for him. He had been there to scare off the people that scared her. And he was always by her side until she could no longer afford to keep a dog. Her life had taken a worse turn and she had given Reggie to a good animal shelter she knew before she was evicted from her home. She had died in the street in a homeless community from untreated pneumonia, but she wanted me to know that Reggie had gone to a good home.
A while after that, another spirit came. He told me that he had adopted Reggie, renamed to George, and ended up taking him with him into combat in Iraq. He told me how George had been such a great help to him, and his platoon, sniffing out explosives and saving their necks a number of times. He described a time he had been hurt by an IED, and George had pulled him out of the rubble by the collar of his uniform and gotten help. The man had lost his leg, but he was forever grateful for George and made him a permanent part of the family. He had given George to be watched by his family after his joints grew too stiff to feed him and play with him like he needed. He told me he was always happy that George had been there in his life.
After the soldier came another spirit, the solder's granddaughter. She had been fond of George since her grandfather adopted him, and liked to call him George III when he came into her care. He had been with her through high school, through the hard break ups and the anxiety-ridden life she lived while she was a student. George III had helped her through her anxiety and she considered him a service dog that was necessary for her. She had him put through the training in order to be a service dog for her anxiety, and his time in the military taking commands had certainly helped him with that. He had been with her through her whole life, helping to keep herself and calm and reminded her to take her medication when she needed to.
After the granddaughter, I met another man who said that the dog previously known as George III had been his best companion. He had been evicted from his home, fired from his job, and left alone on the streets. He met a dog that he shared meals with whenever he got his hands on some food, he called him Rusty because he saw that the dog was kind of old, like him. He was a war veteran that had very little left for him, but Rusty helped him through the hard times when he was traveling across the country, begging for spare change to get a meal. Eventually, he started saving and he had enough to afford a guitar. He laughed as he told me when he first started playing on the street corners, Rusty had howled and joined in his singing of his favorite bluegrass songs, how Rusty used to jump up and dance. He had helped the man to find a place to give him a good haircut and a suit for a job interview through the money they raised as street performers. He bought a camera and he used Rusty to help become an internet sensation, which helped him in the media department of his office. Rusty had helped him so much.
After the internet sensation, I met a police officer who said that he had trained the dog formerly known as Rusty into a police service dog. He had been trained well and took to everything very quickly. They named him Bruiser, and he had become a police dog. He had stopped so many criminals from selling illegal drugs, or from creating illegal drugs, and he had stopped people from shooting another to death. The officer described to me a day when he was out and there was a hostage situation that went wrong, the man had been about to shoot him as he barged out of the house, but Bruiser had taken him down before he had a chance to fire the gun, and saved his life.
After the police officer came another, who said she was the partner that stepped in after the officer who had named the dog Bruiser had retired. She had taken him into her home and watched over him, and he had watched over her and her babies. One day a fire had broken out, and she was away from home at the time. The neighbors had called the fire department, and Bruiser – now called Spot by the baby – Had been able to get out of the fire alive, but the baby was still inside. With excitement, she described in detail how the neighbors told her Spot had run into the burning house to get her baby out of her crib and follow him down the stairs quickly enough for the fire department together and save her without any permanent damage. Spot was her hero and was celebrated throughout their life as a family.
I heard so many stories about Buster with different names, but they all knew he was my dog first. I had raised Buster from a puppy, I made him into the wonderful dog that he came to be, helping so many people. After a while, I came across that man again, seeing how he tipped his hat and smiled at me. He asked if his wish had made me happy, and I said that it had, though I missed Buster dearly. He asked if I wanted to change my wish so I could have Buster's spirit with me in the afterlife. I wanted to say yes, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized Buster must be doing so much already. All of the spirits I met had already passed, who was he helping now that all of us were here? I told the man no, that I don't want to take it back or change it. Buster's doing good work down there, making people's lives better and even saving a few. The world still needs Buster.
The man laughed that same laugh when we first met, saying I was too generous for my own good, but he knew that overwhelming generosity and kindness brought me here, so he wasn't about to complain. Before he could leave, I asked for his name. He told me, and I asked him if it was possible for him to grant me another wish. He said no, but he asked what it was anyway. I asked if I could have a way to see Buster while he was still on Earth, a way to watch over him and check his progress every few years or so. The man said he couldn't do it, but he'd put in a request for me. I haven't heard back from him yet, but I'm hopeful.