The internet is atwitter about the FREE Covid Test site going live today, as you’ve no doubt heard. But just in case you only come out from under your rock to read Imagine’s story—as one does—here’s the link to get your tests.
Today’s the day Imagine meets “the bad guy.” Every story’s got at least one…and ours is a dog-chainer, a dastardly fiend if I do say so myself. If you have to catch up on the story, start here at Episode One. Then follow the links at the bottom of the page to get to the next. Happy Reading! See You Next Week!
Imagine…Life on a Chain
Episode Nine: A Ride to Nowhere
Lost and Lonely
Imagine spent the night miserable and alone, curled in a ball next to an old tree. Every unfamiliar noise spooked him and his mind spun, going over and over the moment Mom fell. He could feel the bugs taking up residence in the thick of his fur and remembered that no one had put flea medication on him in awhile. He scratched harder, bit at himself, trying to make the parasites feel as unwelcome as he did in this strange world.
“What did I do wrong?” he asked himself for the 99th time.
Even though all the signs—including his own sensitive nose—pointed to Mom’s end drawing near, the fact that it happened when she stood to clap for him destroyed him. He’d loved Mom so much! He would never do anything to hurt her.
“I’ll never show off again,” he vowed, jumping at a sound from a nearby bush.
A shadow tore itself from the brush and slunk toward him. He blinked. “Who’s there,” he whispered, straining to see through the blackness. He stood, hackles rising, readying himself for the worst.
As his eyes adjusted, he made out the form of a neighborhood stray, one he’d chased from his own front yard in the past.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” the dog hissed, his hackles also raised and bristling. The dog sniffed the intruder’s hind end and Imagine whipped around, protecting his flank.
“Look, I don’t mean any trouble,” Imagine said, struggling to control his fear. He’d never been away from home without Mom, Dad, and his sibling before. He was out of his element, and yes, flat out scared.
He could see now that this dog bested him in physical size, and Imagine no longer felt brave without his territory and pack to back him up. “I got lost out here is all, and I needed to rest a bit before trying to find my way home again.”
“Home?” questioned the dog, “well isn’t that nice. Are you lazing around on fluffy beds all day and being fed treats by your minions?” he snarled, beginning to circle. “Wait a minute…I remember you! I came to your door asking for help when I was tossed out on my own, but you chased me away. How’s about you get a little taste of your own medicine, eh?”
The dog sprang and Imagine pivoted, rushing headlong into a nearby tree. He fell backward, dizzy, his head aching from the impact.
“Bahaha,” cackled the stray, falling into a heap beside him. “That was awesome. What will you do for your next trick?”
Imagine pulled himself to his feet, embarrassed, frightened, and still reeling from the collision. He began inching his way toward the hint of light he could just make out at the edge of the forest.
“I’ll count to three, mutt,” the dog bounced back up onto his feet, sensing his target was set to escape. “If I see your sorry hide anywhere around here again, it’s going down. One…two…” Imagine turned tail and raced toward the brightness, hoping against hope the light he saw was a way out of the woods and back to his family.
Would they even want him back again? He didn’t know.
“That was probably the scariest night of my life…well, until now, that is, when every night is downright terrifying,” Magnum acknowledged, surveying his current predicament. “Why did I get in the car with that creepy guy, anyway? I was a fool, that’s for sure.”
Imagine made it to the break in the trees just as the sun pushed a hint of rose into the morning sky. He looked left and right, but nothing seemed familiar to him. He began to plod, head down, toward the road he could see off in the distance.
When he reached his goal, he sniffed, hoping for a whiff of home to guide him. But everything was foreign, nothing said “Dream” to him, and he wished his sense of direction was as good as his sense of smell.
He shrugged and turned right. Would this path lead him back to his family or further into the unknown?
Right now, there was only one thing Imagine knew for sure: he was one miserable pup. His mom was gone forever, he was lost, he feared for his life, and he didn’t know if he’d ever see his sister or Dad again. To top it off, there were bugs eating him for breakfast and he was starving and thirsty. How did any animal survive out in those woods all alone? He shuddered. He couldn’t help but feel bad for that stray, feel bad for chasing him away when he was suffering.
“At least HE didn’t have me for breakfast,” he thought wryly.
He trudged along the side of the road for a time before a car slowed and pulled to a stop beside him. He looked up hopefully and then quickly back to the ground, realizing it wasn’t his dad come to rescue him.
A window rolled down and a man’s voice called out. “Hey, pup, you lost? Do you want a ride?” The man sounded nice, and Imagine was too tired to consider the possibility that he could be anything but. He wagged his tail and peered into the car. The man jumped out, smoke billowing in his wake. He sauntered around the car and opened the door, cooing sweetly, “Here boy! Jump on in. I’ll get you home. There’s a good dog.”
Imagine didn’t like the smell coming from the man or the car, but he was desperate; he knew he had no other options, so he jumped into the front seat beside the man and brushed his misgivings aside.
They drove for over an hour and Imagine began to feel uneasy, looking out the window for signs of his town, his neighborhood. He knew he hadn’t wandered THAT far from home . . . he should have been back long ago. “How does this guy know where I live anyway?” he wondered, stealing a furtive glance at the human beside him.
The man looked nothing like his father. Imagine wrinkled his nose. This human obviously wasn’t fond of bathing, and his hair hung past his shoulders in greasy strings. His eyes were pinched, his nose flattened, his belly bloated, and his clothes dirty. “Yuk!” Imagine thought, “did I just make another mistake?” But he knew there was no going back now.
Finally, the car stopped, the engine clanked, and there was silence. The man reached into the back and grabbed a chain that lay coiled on the floor, dragging it up to the front. “Well, lookee what we have here,” he snickered, pleased with himself. “Now don’t be skeered, dog. Ain’t nuttin’ to be skeered ’bout.”
Then he calmly and efficiently wrapped the chain around Imagine’s neck and dragged him out of the car, around the house, and into the backyard. Imagine was wild with fear now, bucking and dragging his feet—even attempting to bite his captor—but nothing stopped the man’s assault.
“Here we go,” he exclaimed, his voice now dark and formidable, holding no signs of the earlier kindness. “When I said I would take you home, what I ackshully meant was this here new home…”
“My backyard. Welcome to your chateau,” he cackled, affixing the chain to a broken up, decrepit doghouse tucked back at the edge of the woods.
For the second time that day, Imagine had been threatened, tormented, and mocked. He slumped—no fight left—and resigned himself to his fate.
He hung his head in defeat.
“Guess I’ll never get home again.”
The dog shook the ghastly memories away and stood, noticing that Thomas still sunned himself nearby. “And that, my friend, is how I turned into nothing more than a prisoner, a tethered piece of ‘trash’ in some mean old dude’s backyard.”
The cat was unimpressed.
Next Episode: The Prince of Darkness, Coming January 25th.
Tamira Thayne is the author of It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups. She’s also written other books for adults and children, including these for adults: Capitol in Chains, Foster Doggie Insanity, The Wrath of Dog, The King’s Tether, The Knights Chain, and The Curse of Cur. For kids of all ages she’s published No Guppy Puppy, Raffy Calfy’s Rescue, Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, Squirmy Hermie’s Heroics, Smidgey Pidgey’s Predicament, Happy Dog Coloring Book. She is the editor of More Rescue Smiles, and co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles.