Collarworld: Remembrance at Precinct 3:16

“This is supposed to be a safe place,” Bate the terrier barked.  “And now I’m scared.”

Vincent the tabbycat had no answers.  All he knew was that the one thing Bate feared from the living world – the demonic fighting canine from the dogfighting ring, the same ring where Bate was used as “bait” to encourage violent dogs to fight amongst each other – was now here in Collarworld, the afterlife waystation where pets wait until they are reunited with their masters.

“He’s here, isn’t he?”  Bate cried.  “He’s here…”

“Maybe,” Vincent replied calmly.  “It might not be him.”

“Tell me what happened.  I need to know.  I need to know now.”

For days, Vincent resisted telling Bate about the horrific battle at Indigo Acres, where an angry dog tore through the farmland.  Where that dog tried to cripple Cassius Marcellus, the drafthorse who protected all farm animals at Indigo Acres.  And where, after a valiant fight to save Cassius Marcellus and the rest of the animals, the Siberian husky Stapravi gave his life in a battle with the vicious dog.

It was only after Cassius Marcellus joined the rest of the pets at The Meeting Place, did Bate notice the scars and bite marks on the drafthorse’s legs.  And at that point, he needed to know.

“I know he’s here,” Bate whimpered.  “He’s here.  He’s coming for me.  He’s coming for he and he’ll never stop until he kills me again.  Over and over again.”

Vincent’s tail slowly curled.

“I need to know,” Bate whined.  “Why is he here?  Is he here to torment me?”

The tabbycat looked to the ground.  “This hasn’t happened before,” he purred.  “I mean, there are troublemaking pets here, the Ferals and all, but…”

Bate looked at Vincent.  “You can’t tell me that fighting dogs haven’t been here before.”

“Not in Collarworld,” Vincent replied.  “They go elsewhere.  They don’t come here, unless…”

“Where is ‘elsewhere?'” Bate interrupted.

“That’s probably something you and St. Francis of Assisi should discuss.  But the fact that the dog is here… there has to be a reason.  But right now, the main thing we need to do is to keep you safe.”

“Stapravi tried to do that.  And Stapravi’s gone.”

“There’s something neither of us knew about Stapravi,” Vincent said of the Siberian husky.  “We didn’t know he was a member of Precinct 3:16.”

“What’s that?”

“Precinct 3:16 is a very special place in Collarworld.  It’s where police dogs and fire rescue dogs go.  The reason we don’t have danger in Collarworld is because these animals work behind the scenes.  They stop danger before it starts.”

“And Stapravi was one of those police dogs?”

Vincent nodded.  “Apparently he was part of a Russian police force.  In his final moments, I heard him speak Russian.”

Bate looked away from Vincent.  “I need to pay my respects.  I never got to thank Stapravi.”

Vincent thought for a moment.  “Come on,” he told the terrier.  “Precinct 3:16 isn’t far.  We can make the journey there in a couple of hours.”

And with that, the tabbycat and the terrier journeyed along the dirt path, toward the cloudy, blue-tinted horizon.

==

Precinct 3:16 is a haven for heroes.  In the living world, the members of Precinct 3:16 served in police and fire rescue.  They worked in the military, sniffing out bombs and rescuing trapped human soldiers.  They brought supplies over miles of rugged, frozen terrain to save travelers and hikers.  Many of the dogs at Precinct 3:16 gave their lives so that others may live.  And those who possess the blue-white stripe on their shoulder are indication that they are to protect the peace in Collarworld.

Bate and Vincent arrived at the red-white building.  PRECINCT 3:16, in gold letters, was printed on the building’s side.  In memory of those who continue to give until there is nothing left, only to give more, read an inscription below the sign.

“Can I help you?”

At the door to Precinct 3:16 was a Dalmatian, its black and white spotted body contrasting with the red-white building facade.

“Hello, friend dog,” Vincent greeted.  “I am Vincent, the cat from the green meadows, and my friend here is called Bate.  We are here to pay our respects to one of your own, Stapravi.”

“Hello Lord Vincent,” the Dalmatian replied.  “You are well-known and loved among us.  And many tales have been told of your sacrifices for others.  And we know of your friend Bate.  That’s why Stapravi was assigned to protect you.”

“I don’t understand,” Bate quipped.  “How would you have known of me?”

“The Great Lord Ingemar told us,” the Dalmatian said.  “The tiger from the Sawdust Oval said that we need to protect you, should any danger arise.  And we sent our best – Stapravi – to watch over you.  We even covered his shoulder with a patch of fur so that his police stripe would not give him away.”

“Are there other dogs like you?”  Bate asked.  “Other protecting dogs in Collarworld?”

“More than you know, little one,” barked the Dalmatian.  Bate noticed a dog tag on the Dalmatian’s collar.  The engravings on the dog tag read: RECON – FDNY – 9/11/2001.

“Stapravi was a police dog,” barked Recon.  “He came to us a few years ago.  In the living world, he was the top rescue dog in his Russian village.  One day, he saved two children who were trapped in a collapsing house.  He searched through the house and barked until he found them, and then he led them to safety.”

Vincent smiled.  “It seems as if Stapravi always saved others.”

“He did,” barked Recon.  “In our world, he handled small things – rescuing animals who strayed from their realms, reuniting litters who were separated in the living world and reunited here.  No deed was too mundane or miniscule for Stapravi.  And when we heard about the Demon… yes, young one, we know about the Demon and what he did to you in the living world… he volunteered to keep you safe.”

“I thought Collarworld was a place of safety,” Bate whimpered.

“It is,” barked Recon, as he looked toward the horizon.  “That’s what we tried to do.  To keep you safe.  Violent animals aren’t allowed in Collarworld in the first place, so we’re still not sure how he got here.  But we know about the Demon, Bate.  We’ve known ever since he came to Collarworld.  We’ve tried to keep him away.  Away from you.  Away from any animal that he could terrorize.  But somehow he got past us.  And that’s when Stapravi volunteered.  He said he would work undercover to protect you.  That he would never let any harm come to you.”

“But at the barn… how did he know…”

“He didn’t.  Not at first.  But when he saw the Demon attacking the animals at Indigo Acres, he knew he had to find a way to stop the carnage.  By any means necessary.  Whatever it took.  Even if it meant never seeing his master again.”

Vincent’s whiskers twitched in a soft breeze.  “So Stapravi gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

“He followed our oath.  ‘To give until there is nothing left.  And then to give more.'”

==

One day later.

Bate was back in the meadow, looking for Vincent or any of the other animals in the realm.

“Vincent…” Bate whispered.  “Where are you?”

A scurry of leaves from a nearby tree.  And a king orange tabbycat slowly climbing down the tree trunk.  “I’ll get up to that top branch yet,” Vincent commented.  “Hi Bate, I wanted to talk to you.  Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Just over that ridge.  I want to show you something.”

On the other side of the ridge, Bate saw a series of small, carved stones that were embedded into the grassy ground.  Each stone had a small name etched in the stone face – names like PRINCESS and TORPEDO and MAX, names like OBERON FORTUNE and PAISLEY and BUTTERSCOTCH.

“What are these?” Bate asked.

“These are the names of those who are part of my memories in Collarworld,” Vincent purred.  “These were the friends, the confidants, the joyous.  And before the day comes when my master and I are reunited, I want to take every one of my memories of these friends and share them with him.  I want to tell all these stories.  And for every story he tells me, I want to tell him a story as well.”

A few feet away from the stones, Bate saw a small, muddy rock.  And immediately, without hesitation, the terrier scampered over to the rock.  “Vincent?”

“Yes.”

“How do you spell Stapravi?” Bate asked, hoping to carve into the rock with his nails.

“Spell it the way you remember it,” the tabbycat purred.

And as Bate chipped and tapped his nails into the stone, Vincent looked around.  Nobody nearby.  No other animals.  And most importantly… no Demon.

“I promise you,” Vincent whispered, as Bate worked on the stone.  “I will give up everything – even seeing my master – to keep you safe.”

One more glance.  No Demon in sight.

“All of us in Collarworld will keep you safe,” purred the tabbycat.

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