Welcome to Episode Three of my free novella, Imagine: Life on a Chain. A new episode will be posted here weekly until the story is finished. If you need to catch up, here are the links to what you missed so far:
Imagine…Life on a Chain
Episode Three: Imagine and Dream Go Home
A New Family
As Val and Dennis giggled with glee and scooped up their new family members to carry them home, Imagine’s eyes met his mother’s for what would be the last time. In their depths he saw both sadness and resignation, and although he was confused by the look, he would eventually understand what she had been telling him.
“Goodbye, my love.”
The dog felt wistful, that teasing edge of longing now familiar.
Imagine and Dream grew from toddling pups into fully mature and beautiful dogs in the next months and years. They experienced the kindness and love of which humans are capable; memories of Star, the mother who nursed them and brought them into the world, faded into the background, although the siblings whispered about her sometimes in the dark of night. Her memories comforted them.
Val and Dennis were empty-nesters, their kids off to college and beyond and leaving them to reinvent life into their retirement years. Imagine and Dream became like surrogate children, the four companions traveling the countryside in the couple’s deluxe RV—hiking, camping, and even singing by the campfire together during the chilly fall evenings.
“I was the best singer, naturally,” Imagine thought to himself. “That Dream never could sing a lick. I guess Mom was ok, too, but Dad? Please!” he chuffed.
Even though Dream and Imagine were close as pups, they’d become inseparable as they grew. Dream liked to tease him with her peanut-butter kong, telling him, “You want mine, Immy? I’m still full from dinner. You can have it.”
Imagine’s eyes would grow big, and he’d gobble down the last of his own peanut butter treat, making room in his belly for hers. Just as he’d go for her kong, she’d slap her paw down on it, growl “Mine!” and run around the room in a ploy for him to chase after her.
It always worked.
“I was such a silly mutt back then,” Imagine decided ruefully. “And I definitely didn’t appreciate how great I had it. I was so naïve I thought those fun times would last forever. Ha!”
Before the pups knew it, two years had gone by. Imagine and Dream were both full adults by now, with shiny, thick fur and soulful amber eyes. It was evident they came from the same litter, but Imagine had chocolate highlights accenting his black fur, while Dream was the opposite, being more russet in color but sporting black eyebrows and ear tips. Life was good for the siblings, and both their demeanor and body condition boasted of the kind of home that every dog deserved.
One day, though, Imagine noticed Mom and Dad slowing down—it took them longer to get the RV up and running, longer to pack for a hike, and longer to walk the trails than it used to. They were often out of breath while the dogs were just getting revved up . . . yet they still teased one another like he always remembered. “Come on, you old fogie!” Mom would tell Dad, pulling him along and pretending it was him holding them back.
Dad would grin and grab her around the waist, pulling her into a kiss. “Who’s the old fogie now, young lady? Just because you’re two months younger doesn’t mean I can’t beat you to the top of the mountain!” Then he’d push her behind him and race the last few steps to the summit, jumping and waving his arms around like a kid. “Victory is mine!” he’d yell, and Mom would giggle and look at him with love in her eyes, same as she always had.
“Those were the best times,” Imagine remembered. “But then came THE day . . . That awful day when Mom began to smell different than she used to.” He would never forget that sour, pungent odor . . .
He laid his head on his paws. Sadness, hunger, and thirst all gnawed at him, and although the memories had become more painful, he immersed himself in the journey anyway. What else did he have to occupy his morning?
He couldn’t put his paw on it at the time, of course. The experience had been new to him, but his senses tingled, and he knew his sniffer wasn’t lying to him: something wasn’t right with Mom.
“Dream, do you smell something funny about Mom?” he asked his sister, three days after he’d first noticed the strange odor.
“What are you talking about, you doof?” Dream scoffed. “Mom’s fine, stop being such a party pooper. Now play with me!” She jumped on him, pinning him to the ground.
But Imagine wasn’t in the mood for games and shoved her aside, leaping to his feet. “Are you seriously telling me you can’t smell that?” Imagine asked, astounded.
“Smell what? She’s the same as always to me.”
Imagine shook his head. He just couldn’t believe it. Why couldn’t Dream smell it when it was so obvious to him?
It was only then that he realized why the memories had shoved their way to the front of his mind this morning. He understood now what he hadn’t known as a young dog: the smell? That was the scent of human sickness. And the sour pungency that drifted its way through his neighborhood at this moment reminded him of just one thing:
How Mom had smelled.
At the end.
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.