Come over here and sit on Mommy's lap. I've got some bad news, Tommy. Are you ready? Tommy, while you were at school today, Sparky got out of the backyard and ran in front of a truck. I rushed him to the vet, but there was nothing she could do.

I'm so sorry, honey. I know that you loved Sparky very much, but I'm afraid he's gone to Doggie Heaven. Remember learning about Heaven in Sunday school? Doggie Heaven is like that, but there are no people there, because it's a place for dogs to spend forever, romping and playing with other dogs.

Hmm, that's a good question, honey. I don't know who's going to feed Sparky. I guess no one.

Don't cry, Tommy. You shouldn't be sad. Doggie Heaven is a wonderful place where all the dogs nap in the sun on big cloud mattresses all day. And every dog has his own big food bowl with his name engraved on it. But I suppose you're right: Sparky's bowl will be empty, because you won't be there to fill it. Eventually, he'll probably get so hungry he'll try gnawing off his own tail, just to do something to try to stop the pain in his belly.

Doggie Heaven has big, green fields for romping, and Sparky can chase all the rabbits and squirrels he wants. Everywhere you look, there are all kinds of rubber toys. But he'll probably be so hungry that he'll tear the rubber toys apart and eat them. Then he'll throw up, just like the time he ate the potpourri. I imagine he'll try to eat his own vomit, and then the angels up there will smack him with a rolled-up newspaper for being a bad dog.

Of course Doggie Heaven has angels! They're God's special friends. The angels play harps for the dogs and make sure they don't jump the fence into cat heaven. Do you remember when Grandma died, and we told you about St. Peter? He's the one who knows who's been good and who's been bad, just like Santa. But instead of presents, St. Peter lets people into Heaven. That's a nice idea, honey, but he's much too busy to feed little boys' dogs.

Why don't the angels feed Sparky? Because he's your dog. Remember how you begged us to get him from the pet store, and we didn't think you were ready for the responsibility? Remember how you prayed that you'd be able to get Sparky and promised that if we brought him home, you'd be the one to feed and walk him every single day? Well, Tommy, you made a promise, and God will hold you to it, no matter how much Sparky howls and whimpers. I wouldn't be surprised if God chains Sparky outside until he learns how to be quiet, which might be a long time. You remember how spunky Sparky was. That was part of the reason that we loved him, wasn't it? Sparky had character, but God likes obedience. He won't take kindly to a dog with an attitude.

Of course Sparky is going to miss you! He was your best friend, and he's up there right now with a ball in his mouth, waiting for you to play catch with him. When you go to Heaven and are an angel yourself, you'll be able to visit him and play with him all you like, unless he's gone crazy from malnutrition and tries to eat your face off when he sees you. Well, that is, if he still has eyes. He may have already clawed them out in hunger.

But you can't feed Sparky from here. You're still alive and Sparky is an angel dog. You can fill up his bowl down here all you want, but he's up there and can't get to it. The delicious smell of Ken-L Ration wafting up to Heaven won't do anything but make Sparky hungrier.

No, Sparky won't be able to die. He's in heaven, you silly-billy. You can't die in Heaven. Even if Sparky asks another dog whom he trusts to tear his throat open, or deliberately twists his neck between the bars on the pearly gates, or chokes down some sticks in an attempt to puncture his aching tummy, he still won't be able to die. Sparky will just keep on living forever, wondering why you aren't feeding him. That's how Heaven is.