Got those post-holiday blues? I’m with ya. I’m pretty sure in a perfect world I could read my life away, even though I almost always feel guilty when I spend too much time reading. You?
I just read a book that I enjoyed, called The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis. I mean, I have no idea what kind of books you like—and I get nothing from recommending a book—but I’ll definitely give a shout-out to ones I appreciate on here and you can check them out if you’re interested. I’ve been finding myself drawn to more historical fiction lately, and am a bit fascinated with anyone who made it through the hell that was Nazi-land in WWII. This book has a touch of magic, a touch of survival, and a happy ending, all things I’m in favor of.
Now let’s get to this week’s FREE READ Episode of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Things are going downhill fast for poor Imagine, and our doggie friend is “about to go through some things.” Stick with me, though, and hopefully we’ll all come out on the other side together! If you haven’t started the story yet, visit this link. Then just click the link at the bottom of each episode to land at the next. Happy Reading!
Imagine…Life on a Chain
Episode Eight: Homeless
The End of the End
Mom smiled and called the dogs to her. “Dream, Imagine! I missed you so much, babies. I’m sorry if I scared you. Thanks for taking such good care of me, Dream, and getting Daddy to come help me, Imagine. You’re the best pups a mom could ever wish for.”
She leaned forward and hugged them both to her, clinging tightly; then she sighed and sat back, looking frail and weak tucked into that corner chair. “We’re gonna’ need to have a long talk this week, my darlings, but not tonight. Mom’s too tired, and she just wants to crawl into her own bed and hold Dad’s hand for a bit. Dad will feed you, then we’re all off to bed. Ok?”
Dennis smiled, patted Val’s knee, and wearily shuffled off into the kitchen. Imagine thought he looked ten years older than he had a week ago, and a sadness hung in the air, palpable, suffocating.
Mom was happy to be home, and the next day she seemed a little more spry. There were no more family walks, but she projected a semblance of the “old Mom,” making sure the dogs had a healthy breakfast to start their day. She cuddled on the couch with them downstairs in the rec room, talking, snacking, and watching movies. Dad snuggled up too, something he seldom used to do; Imagine could tell he wanted to treasure every moment with Mom.
“Dennis,” Mom said. “Do you remember the day we brought these guys home? Oh, what a joy they were!” she laughed. “Imagine had a rougher time with potty training, but Dream got it right away, and I suspect in the end she was the one to show her brother the ropes.”
Dad chuckled too. “I never could have conjured better companions for us, that’s for sure. The trips we took together, the hikes? Amazing. That was one of the best decisions we ever made, adopting both of them together. I wonder where the rest of the pups ended up? Sometimes when I see a dog who resembles them, I wonder if it could be their brother or sister.”
Mom agreed. “Yeah, me too. I guess we’ll never know.” Then she broached the subject that none of them wanted to discuss. “What will become of them when I’m gone? You’re gonna’ keep them here with you, right?”
Dennis bristled. “Can we please not talk about this right now? I really just want—no, NEED—a couple days to believe everything will be ok again. I don’t want you to leave us, I don’t want to be without you…not now, not ever. Please, honey…” his tone trailed off, begging.
It got really quiet then, but both Mom and Dad had tears in their eyes.
“Two weeks,” Imagine thought. “That’s all the longer she lasted. But dognabit, those were the best two weeks of my life.”
And in fact, they were. Mom made sure of it. She devoted every waking moment to her family and her pets, even baking their favorite cookies—oatmeal—at one point, over the objections of Dennis. The dogs didn’t normally get to eat “people food,” but Mom said they were gonna’ live each day like it was their last; the dogs were included in every activity, and obligingly gobbled up every treat that came their way.
The kids rushed home from college and careers, and the house took on an almost festive air, laughter and memories tumbling over one another all day long.
“It was the sendoff Mom deserved, that’s for sure,” the dog remembered, growing misty-eyed.
To this day, though, he couldn’t quite understand how it all went so wrong in the end: how had he lost Mom, Dad, and Dream all in the same day? He thought hard, frowning. One minute they were all together—the kids too—and they’d been having a blast. He’d wanted that moment to last forever, and thought his face might freeze into a perpetual doggie grin.
His human brother Ben had been throwing the ball for him for an hour, Mom clapping and enjoying the show from her chair along the edge of the yard. She’d stood, cheering, as he made a spectacular leap to his most impressive catch yet. He came down, elated…
And then Mom fell, again. Crumpled, really. Only this time he couldn’t see her breathing, couldn’t feel the blood whooshing through her veins, couldn’t hear her heart keeping the steady rhythm he’d grown used to.
Chaos erupted. Ben dropped to his knees and started pushing on Mom’s chest and forcing air into her lungs. Caroline cried out, then grabbed her phone and dialed 9-1-1, screaming for an ambulance.
Dad was frozen, pushed up against the side of the house, unable to make sense of the nightmare scenario unfolding before him. He shook his head, whispering, “No, no, no, Val. I’m not ready. Please come back…” He fell to the ground and held her hand, sobs wracking his thin shoulders.
One moment happiness reined, and the next it was all gone. Destroyed.
“And it was all my fault,” the dog thought glumly. She’d stood up to cheer for him, after all. “I was just showing off. In the end, it was me who killed Mom. Dad and Dream and the others probably still hate me….not like I’ll ever see them again, anyway.”
He thought hard, fighting to piece the end together. He remembered the sirens, the medical personnel rushing past him into the yard, the gate left open as they whisked Mom away for the last time.
He remembered slipping out soon after, the pain of loss and guilt consuming him. He remembered walking along the side of the road and finally melting into the cover of the trees.
He sought a respite, a solace he knew he didn’t deserve. Most of all, he sought to avoid the agony of a heart torn asunder.
And that was the last day he’d ever seen those he loved most in the world.
The memory of Dream teasing him with her kong resurfaced, and he most remembered just how much he missed his sister.
Next Episode: A Ride to Nowhere
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.