An old man and his dog were walking down a dirt road with fences on either side. The country they were traveling through was strange to them and a little unsettling.
On both the left and right the man saw a magnificent panorama of fields, streams, hills and valleys -- just the sort of country a man and his Basset Hound can only dream of -- but all along the fences on either side large "NO TRESPASSING - KEEP OUT" signs were posted every few feet, so they walked on.
Soon the two companions came to a magnificent gate made of gold and encrusted with precious stones. An imposing figure in a flowing robe of the purest white stood there beside it.
"Welcome to Heaven" the man in robes said.
The old man was stunned beyond words. He hadn't even realized that he was dead! At least, he thought, his hound, the closest friend he had in all the world, had made the trip with him. With a sigh and a smile, the old man started through the gate with his dog at his side, but the gatekeeper stopped him.
"Dogs aren't allowed," he said. "I'm sorry but he can't come in here with you. He'll have to stay out on the road."
"What kind of Heaven won't allow dogs?" asked the old man. "If he can't come in, then I won't either. I'll just stay out here with him. He's been my friend all his life. I can't walk away from him now."
"Suit yourself," said the robed figure, "but I have to warn you, the Devil is on this road and he'll try to sweet talk you into his place. He'll promise you anything to get you inside, but the dog can't go there either. If you won't leave the dog, you'll spend Eternity on this road. There's no room in Heaven or in Hell for a man's dog."
So the old man and his dog went on their way. In time, they came to a rundown fence with a gap in it -- no gate, just a hole where a few boards had fallen of or been removed. Another old man, humble in appearance, was fishing in a pond just inside the fence.
The man and his dog stopped at the gap. "Excuse me, Sir," the old man said. "My dog and I have been on this road for a long time now. We're getting mighty tired. Mind if we come in and sit for a spell?"
"Of course!" said the man inside the fence. "Come right on through. There's some cold water under that tree over there." He gestured toward a huge old oak tree with majestically spreading branches. At its roots a bubbling spring rose, cool and r efreshing. "Make yourselves comfortable. You're welcome to stay as long as you please."
"You're sure my dog can come in, now?" the old man asked. "The man down the road said dogs weren't allowed anywhere around here."
"Would you come in if you had to leave the dog?" asked the fisherman.
"No, sir, I would not!" the old man replied. "That's why I didn't go to Heaven back down the road. The man there said my dog couldn't come in with me." He shrugged and continued. "We'll be spending Eternity on this road, I suppose, just the two of us. A glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now, but I won't come in if it means my friend here has to wait on the road."
The man behind the fence smiled a big smile and said, "Welcome to Heaven, friend."
"Hold on, now! You mean THIS is Heaven?" asked the old man, quite surprised. Dogs ARE allowed? How come that fellow down the road told me different?"
"That was the Devil back there." St. Peter replied, for indeed, the old, ordinary seeming man behind the fence was none other. "He gets all the people who are willing to give up a life long companion for a little comfort. They soon find out their mistake, but by then it's too late."
"The dogs can still come in here," he continued, "but the selfish people stay back there. God wouldn't allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, He created them to be man's companions in life, how could he separate them in death?"
A smile that went from ear to ear broke out on the old man's face. He reached down to his side, gave his loyal Hound an ear rub and said, "C'mon, boy!" And with that, the two of them passed through to the other side of the fence. They walked up the gentle rise to where the shade of the oak and the cool water from the spring awaited their coming.