Lisa Lipkind Leibow
and Val Bonney

Val Bonney

The Black Dog

Inspiration Piece

By Lisa Lipkind Leibow


The Black Dog stood at attention before the new arrivals. He forced himself to bark three times in greeting even though it took all of his discipline not to whimper at the sight of the bloody stump where the first man in line’s hand used to be. He almost piddled on the floor when he spotted the plate of windshield protruding from next woman’s forehead. As if the gruesome sights weren’t enough, the smell was what really grabbed him. He fought back every urge to scurry around sniffing like crazy at the mixture of odors – singed flesh combined with perspiration. It attracted him more than bacteria-ridden stinky old sneakers or the garbage can in the back alley behind the fish market. The stink engrossed him, but he stayed focused on the job at hand. He continued to survey the new arrivals as he transitioned from barking to plain English.

After all, he was no ordinary black dog. He was the first point of contact in the Afterworld. The rosters of incoming came from upper management. He matched the newcomer’s obituaries with job openings, and sent the corpses on their way. Sometimes placing newcomers challenged him – like where to put a real estate agent in the universe of the Afterworld where property is limitless and demand is low, or a dog trainer – since most canines were in management in the Afterworld.

The Black Dog sat, facing the lineup and made eye contact with each of the corpses in turn. “Once you were a fetus in the womb – a few cells floating around in a hostile environment. You grew, finding nourishment, feeling safe in your environment. You were born into the Earthly world. Cold and scared, but ready to learn and grow. It may not have been perfect, but you got used to it. Now you’ve died into the next realm.” He pointed his snout to the moon. “Hooooowwwwl!” the way he always did when he got to that part of his orientation speech.

After savoring the way some of the newcomers flinched, cowered, and jumped out of their skin, he muzzled any hands still intact and wagged his tail, still fighting the urge to sniff the gross odors in frenzy. “It’s not so bad here. It’s a vast limitless universe. But in time you’ll lose your fear, find purpose and meaning in your Afterworld existence. Just like on Earth, and in the womb before that.

The night’s lot made for easy placements, a chef and a pyrotechnics engineer. No problem. The Black Dog tugged at the apron of the chef who’d arrived by flying through the windshield of her car. “We’re going to begin to hold more elaborate arrival banquets. You’ll create recipes, plan the menus, oversee the staff.”

The Black Dog sniffed at the boots of the fireworks guy with the missing mitt, willing himself not to lick the open wound. “What’s a celebratory welcome without an explosive grand finale – rockets, sparklers, the works?” The Black Dog wagged his tail as the pair set out for their new existence together in the Afterworld.

The Black Dog curled up by the door and closed his eyes until someone from upper management slipped the next night’s roster under the door hitting him right in the muzzle. “Woof!” He jumped to his feet, grabbed the roster in his teeth, and shook it to open up the folded page. He read the obituaries that came with the rosters.

Edgar P. Berry, a leading plastic surgeon and a former president of the New York County Medical Society, died on Monday at a nursing home.

Reginald Sprague who in 1935 teamed up with Howard Deering Johnson to establish HoJo’s the first modern restaurant franchise, died peacefully at home on Monday.

The Black Dog rested a wet nose on front paws. “No trauma. That’s a relief.” He sighed, making his jowls sputter. “At least I’ll have one night with the smell of death by natural causes.” So much easier to stomach than whiffs of exposed guts and open wounds. He licked himself, making his hind leg go-a-twitch. “What can a plastic surgeon and the father of the franchise business model do for the Afterworld?” He fussed over the pads of his front paws, gnawing at a crack in the skin. That’s when it came to him. “Of course!”


The Black Dog wagged his tail, standing between Sprague and Berry, behind a turquoise banner-wide Grand Opening ribbon. The two recently-deceased men couldn’t have made a smoother transition into the Afterworld.

“Woof!” The Black Dog’s signal echoed off of the orange roof of the new building.

Sprague and Berry raised their giant ceremonial scissors. This was the first of thousands of post-mortem plastic surgical centers across the Universe. From now on, every newcomer would look (and smell) perfect before visiting the Black Dog.

“Woof-Woof!” The Black Dog barked again, admiring the flashing LED sign out front.


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One Comment

  1. Posted November 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm | #

    I had the chance to read THE BLACK DOG by flashlight at a special Halloween Verbal Assault at the Soundry in Vienna, Virginia. If you’d like to “hear” my video of the reading, check out

    (…video in the dark…it didn’t work so well {wink})