I looked into my dog’s eyes before she shut them for the last time and said something I have said to her many times before.

“You are the best dog in the whole wide world,” I said.

And she was.

Her eyes were cloudy and she wasn’t able to do much, but as I held her and talked to her, she really was the best dog in the whole world.

It’s strange. Not only was she the best, but also pretty much every dog (and I have gotten to know many in a long lifetime of dogs) has been the best dog in the whole world.

At least for a short while

It is a curious phenomenon.

In fact, it came up the other day when I was having breakfast with a friend.

He and I each had acquired a new dog since the last time we had had breakfast together.

At some point in the conversation Patrick said, “ My dog is the best dog in the whole world.”

I replied, “No, my dog is the best dog in the whole wide world.”

We glared at each other a bit.

Then I said, “My dog was certified to be the best dog in the whole world by a panel of dog experts”.

Patrick looked a little shaken, but he quickly recovered. “Well, the people I got my dog from said HE was the best dog.”

I decided to let it go.

We went on to finish our breakfast and complain a bit more about life before we parted.

But later in the day, I began to think back on our conversation, and on this paradox.

How could it be?

That so many dogs are the best in the whole world?

Logically it made no sense. Only one dog can really be the best dog.

I found this especially perplexing, as I was one who had made just such a judgment on a variety of dogs and in a variety of situations.

I knew it was impossible. Yet I had declared the impossible to be true.

And not only that, but deep in my heart I knew it absolutely had to be true.

I decided to Google the subject in case there was some arcane logarithm that explained this impossibility.

And as happens so often lately, Google yielded nothing of import.

Later, as I lay in bed, I twisted and turned and could not get comfortable.

I was deeply vexed by the whole thing.

Slowly I calmed down and in time drifted off to sleep.

Then at some point in the night a strange dream enveloped me. Upon awakening I could remember only a very small part of it.

It involved a multitude of dogs.

They stretched forever in a line, a disorganized dog-like line, but still a line.

And they all seemed to be waiting…..patiently waiting for something.

I could make little sense out of the dream and soon it was forgotten.

Weeks passed.

Then yesterday I found myself on the floor of a veterinarian’s office holding my dog Angel and talking softly to her.

There was not much time left.

I wiped away my tears, readied myself, and looked into her eyes and said,

”Angel, you are the best dog in the whole wide world.”

She looked at me, and we both knew that what I had said was absolutely true.

It had been just as true at other places and in other times, but at that moment Angel was the best dog.

Suddenly I knew why.

At the precise moment that I said those words, Angel was the only dog in the world.

Time had stopped. No other dogs existed.

All the other dogs, past, present and future waited.

They waited patiently.

It was Angel’s turn.

No other dog existed so Angel really was in all respects the best dog in the whole wide world.

Then, as it is wont to do, the world moved on.

Time stands still for no dog.

The other dogs continued to wait even so.

Angel shut her eyes.

The other dogs all knew that it would be their turn soon.

But now it was Angel’s.