Jeremy realised he had been daydreaming as he often did. He gradually drifted back to reality half expecting somebody to say, “Are you listening to me?” Well, that was usually what happened.

This time however was different. He found himself walking along a quiet country lane on a beautiful summer’s day. There were green fields to either side and ahead were some hills that he thought would take a bit of climbing. Best of all however, darting in and out of the hedgerows and yapping at insects was his most faithful old friend, his dog Skipper. Jeremy relaxed and enjoyed the moment. It almost seemed a perfect day and being with “Skip” was the icing on the cake.
As he walked along a bit more, it dawned on him that he wasn’t sure where he was going but that seemed a small matter as Skip would keep running back to him and then dash off once more chasing anything that moved. Jeremy reflected, with a smile to himself, that dear old Skipper had never caught anything in his whole life.
It occurred to him that perhaps this last thought was a little odd. It seemed almost as if he knew that Skipper would never catch anything. Like dominoes tumbling into each other, Jeremy’s thoughts raced and gradually the certainty dawned on him that Skip had in fact died peacefully in his sleep of old age, about 10 years before. After such a wonderful friendship he had decided it could never be repeated and so would never have another dog.
So now Jeremy found himself contemplating the improbable. He continued to walk because somehow it just seemed the right thing to do but now he had questions that needed to be answered. Most importantly, if Skip had indeed passed away all those years ago, what was he doing here? Not that Jeremy was complaining, being back together with Skip on such a beautiful day made everything seem perfect.
Gradually a possible conclusion came into his mind and he concentrated as hard as he could to try and remember his most recent thoughts before this walk. He remembered driving his car. Bit by bit it came back to him. He had approached a crossing and the lights were green and then suddenly that lorry had come from nowhere and he couldn’t miss it….”Oh!” he thought, “It would seem that Skipper and I have both moved on.”
So Jeremy and Skipper continued to walk in this wonderful landscape beneath a brilliant sun and crystal blue sky. If he had a concern, it was not having any water. The day was getting warmer and his mouth was definitely dry. He also knew that Skipper would start to get thirsty far more quickly than him.
Eventually they came to the hills and started up the steep slope as the path started to twist and turn in between surrounding higher ground.

After another hour Jeremy was feeling very thirsty and he called Skipper, who came running over but not with quite the usual bounce in his step. Jeremy was saddened to see that Skipper’s nose was warm and dry. It was clear he needed to find some water soon and so he walked on.

Another hour went by and still they kept going with each upward bend in the road showing nothing more than yet more twists and turns ahead. Skipper was now plodding along beside Jeremy with his tongue hanging out. It was clear they both needed something to drink in the near future and three turns later the answer came.

They came round one more corner and revealed in front of them was, what can only be described as a silver palace. It had huge turrets, long flags on poles, high walls and a drawbridge; all the things you might see in a fairy tale. Everything was glistening and sparkling in the sun. It seemed to be in perfect condition as if it had all just been polished. Cut into the rock beside this magnificent building were two huge, closed silver gates. In bold letters across both gates the word ‘H E A V E N’ was spelt out. Just next to the gates was a smiling young man wearing a crown and sitting on a huge silver throne with a big ruby red cushion.  Despite feeling so desperately thirsty, Jeremy’s face broke into a broad grin.
“Welcome to Heaven” said the smiling young man from his throne and with a sweep of his hand he said “All of this I share equally with you”. Jeremy found it hard to speak because his mouth and throat were so dry but he managed to croak, “Thank you. Would it be possible to get a drink of water?” With a press of a button on the arm of the throne, the man made another sweeping gesture towards the gates. They smoothly and silently swung open. Jeremy could hardly believe what he saw. There were more fountains than he could count with water shooting many metres into the air. In the distance a large waterfall was cascading down from a cliff into a beautifully clear and sparkling blue river which ran through picturesque countryside.
Jeremy stuttered slightly, “Is i…i….it. Is It OK to go in?”
“Yes of course,” said this kind gentleman, “It is all for you.”
“Oh wow! Thank you so much” said Jeremy and he called out, “Come on Skipper.”

As Skip came trotting towards him at as fast a pace as he could manage, the man on the throne stood up and said, “Oh! I’m terribly sorry but HEAVEN is for you only. Unfortunately pets aren’t allowed.”
Jeremy stood still as if in shock. He looked at Skipper who looked back with total trust and then towards the unlimited supply of water that flowed just beyond the gates. He turned to face the throne and said, “But Skipper will just sit outside the gates waiting for me. He won’t leave. He’ll suffer in agony”.
The man on the throne smiled kindly and said, “I’m ever so sorry, this is just the way it works.”
Jeremy replied, “I don’t think you understand, Skipper is the best friend I have ever had. He is totally faithful and just full of love. Leaving him is beyond me. It would kill me”.
The kindly, smiling face looked at Jeremy and said, “There is no death in HEAVEN my dear friend and to gain entry to the Promised Land we all have to make sacrifices”.
Jeremy stood there thinking. After just a few seconds he looked up and said, “No, I cannot leave such a faithful companion. Whatever he suffers, so will I.”
The smiling face gradually changed to one of shock, “Do you mean you wish to give up your place in HEAVEN?”
“If it means leaving my best of all friends to suffer outside, then yes,” was the reply.
“This is your last chance to join our heavenly host. Please take it,” came from the throne.
“Thank you for your very kind offer, but I cannot and will not leave the most loving and comforting companion I have ever known. We will walk on.”
With that Jeremy watched those beautiful gates swing effortlessly together. He looked at Skipper, who managed a slight wag of his tail. With a sigh Jeremy turned and started, ever so slowly, to walk on. In truth, he knew they could not go much further. Neither of them had much strength but he also knew that if he walked on then Skip would always try and keep up. Jeremy was determined. They would stay together whatever happened.

Step by step, one foot in front of the other Jeremy and Skip managed to continue along that twisting lane ever further upwards into the hills. I am not able to explain how he or Skip kept going but I believe, on Jeremy’s part, it was due to the pure emotion of love for his dog. Wanting to find Skip some water was for him the very strongest of motives.
After 90 minutes more they could hardly walk. Jeremy and Skipper staggered round a bend and there in front of them was a very run down old farm. The building was made of wood but had holes in the roof. There was a tall wooden fence to either side of the farmhouse and two old wooden gates that looked as if they were about to fall off their hinges. All the wood looked as if it had seen better days.
On the porch was an old man with a beard sitting in a rocking chair that looked as if it too was about to fall apart. As the old man rocked gently back and forth he broke into a warm smile but did not speak. Jeremy tried to talk but all he could hoarsely whisper was, “Wa…t…er”. The old man clearly had nothing wrong with his hearing because he said, ”Of course” and waved towards a very old fashioned, cast iron water pump on the far side of the yard, “There’s a cup and even a bowl for your dog.”
Jeremy hobbled over very slowly followed by Skip.
Now, if you have ever been on an aeroplane, the safety speech always says, “In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Always look after yourself before attending to any children”.
Well, I can tell you now that, as desperate as he was to drink, Jeremy found the strength to pump water into the dog bowl first and to watch Skip drinking deeply before thinking of himself. Only then did Jeremy fill the old tin mug and drink. After four cups full of cold, clear water he sat down on the ground and noticed that Skip had drunk his fill, leaving a small amount in the bowl. Jeremy sat on the ground and Skipper came to rest his head upon one leg. They were both totally exhausted. Feeling himself drifting off, Jeremy lay back and started to doze. Within two minutes, both man and dog were in a deep sleep. The old man did not speak.
Unaware of how long it had been, Jeremy awoke with Skip and looked across at the old man who was still gently rocking back and forth on the porch and who quietly said, “Looks like you two needed a rest”. It seemed to Jeremy that nothing would ever surprise this old man.
Jeremy stood up and walked over to the farm house porch and asked, “Where are we?”
The old man replied, “You’ve finally made it home. It took a while but I never doubted you’d get here.”
“I don’t understand,” replied Jeremy.
“Well,” said the old man and stood up. He ambled over to the ramshackle wooden gates and started brushing the dust away. In very faint and worn letters the word “h e a v e” was spelt out in a slightly lighter shade of wood. He stood back, looked and then started kicking around in the dirt. Eventually he picked up a letter “n” and held it in place at the end. “I’ll have to get that fixed,” he said.
He then went on, “We’ll have to get these open for you but there is a catch,”
Jeremy’s hand automatically went down to rest on Skipper. “Are you going to tell me that my dog can’t come with me?” he asked.
“Don’t be so silly”, said he old man, “Do you think that in heaven we would split up such a true friendship as yours? No, the only catch is that you’ll have to help me open the gates. The hinges are a bit rusty. Just lately we haven’t had too many visitors”.
Jeremy went across and between them, with much creaking and groaning, they gradually started to open one of the gates. As they worked together, Jeremy said, “Do you know there’s a very posh looking place with a young man back down the road. It has the word ‘HEAVEN’ in big silver letters. It’s very impressive?”
“Yes”, said the old man quietly.
“Doesn’t it make you angry?” asked Jeremy.
“Not at all”, replied the old man, “They take individuals who are just not our sort of people”.
“Oh!” replied Jeremy, “But they do have lots and lots of water there”.
Not when the gates close. Not when they close behind you son,” was the reply.
Jeremy would have liked to consider this reply more but by then one gate was open and he looked in to see green fields, trees and a stream. A path led across the middle of the first field.
“Well, what are you waiting for”, asked he old man.
So there we must leave them.
Jeremy is walking through the field towards the stream. Skip is bounding around playing happily by his side. Both are happy and at peace. 

Perhaps one day we will have to ask ourselves whether we love somebody enough to wait and give them the first drink.