I hear tomorrow is National Puppy Day, and what better way to celebrate than reading the next episode in our story about a very special pup named Imagine? OK, maybe actually ADOPTING a puppy would be an even better way to celebrate, but if you’re already got a houseful, our story is bound to be the next best thing.
Without further ado, allow me to present what to me is an extra special episode of Imagine’s story, and you’ll know why by the end. If you need to catch up, start HERE AT Episode One and then follow along with the links at the bottom of each chapter. If you’re new, welcome. If you’ve been reading along, thank you, and make sure to share with your fellow dog lovers!
Imagine…Life on a Chain
Episode Eighteen: A Special Volunteer
A Plea for Help
After Ben left, Evie rushed to the computer in the office while Becky and the two remaining staff members fed the dogs dinner and gave each of them a short exercise break, too.
Evie felt sick with worry, and asked that Imagine be brought to the office as soon as he’d finished his dinner. Even though she and Becky were dumbfounded by the discovery of his abilities, she had to believe it was true after what she’d seen the past two days:
1. he’d alerted Melody, who hadn’t understood him, and now was sick.
2. He’d alerted Jay, and taught the others in his group to follow his lead to make it harder to ignore the message.
3. he’d alerted Ben, with the other dogs again backing him up.
The evidence was there.
But would their supporters believe her? Would they step up and help the organization during this scary time? She didn’t know, and the not knowing was even more terrifying.
Determined to try her best, she started her email:
“We Pulled Him Off the Chain, and Now We Believe He’s Detecting COVID!”
The Great News.
You might not believe it, but we didn’t believe our eyes at first either! We’ve rescued a dog from a chain who we think has the honest-to-goodness gift of being a living, breathing covid detector. Not only that, but he’s taught four other dogs in his new pack to alert when he does!
Now For The Bad News.
He’s detected what we believe to be the virus in three of our staff members. Each is now in quarantine and awaiting test results. We’re in DESPERATE NEED OF VOLUNTEER HELP to keep our dogs fed and cared for during this difficult time!
We know it’s a big ask, and we’re sorry we need to. We’ve been able to find a pack of 100 masks to keep our staff and volunteers safer, and one will be given to each person who spends time in our facility.
If you have pre-existing conditions that would put you at greater risk, please don’t volunteer! We don’t want anyone to come to harm for trying to help our dogs.
The Good News.
You’ll get to meet our wonder-dog Imagine and see him work, as he’ll be checking everyone at the door to alert to any sickness.
Able to Volunteer for Even One or Two Days?
Please call us at 555-123-4567, or show up at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to our address on Moonlight Rd.
She then inserted a photo of Imagine on the chain and one after his rescue, hoping that—once their supporters saw his sweet face—they’d want to meet him and see what he could do for themselves.
Only time would tell if the plea worked.
The E-mail Goes to Work
Even though fear clutched the community hard, at times like these adversity brought out the best in people, too. Once Imagine’s face started popping up in local e-mail and social media accounts the shares multiplied, and wonder and excitement over the organization’s claims brought immediate attention to their needs.
Evie was on her cell with Melody catching her up on the events of the day when the office phone lines began to twinkle. “Um, I gotta go, Mel,” she said. “We’re looking like a Christmas tree in here! I better start answering these calls if we want any help this week. Feel better and call me tomorrow.”
Becky, Evie, and the two remaining staff members arrived the next morning at 7:30 a.m., nervous and unsure what the day would bring. Becky handed each a mask and asked them to stay away from one another until Imagine could give each of them a sniff “test.”
As Willow seemed to be his second in command, she decided to bring the once-shy dog along too.
Imagine was waiting by his bedroom door as if he’d sensed her coming. “Well, good morning, handsome,” Becky smiled, giving him a pat and hunkering down beside him. “We have a very important job that we think only you can do. Will you help us?”
Imagine wagged his tail as if to say, “Yes, ma’am, when do we start?” He grabbed his ball on the way out the door and trotted after her, head high and a new self-confidence lifting his paws. He knew he could help his human friends—he just needed the chance to prove it.
They stopped for Willow and he shyly nuzzled his new friend, glad she would be with him. She’d been the first to believe in him, and her belief had given him the courage to act. Not only that, but it was her plan that had made the humans understand; now both dogs felt a sense of mission and purpose. They were together, and it felt right.
Becky opened the door to the staff room and Imagine and Willow followed her in. “Ok, everyone, one at a time; please invite Imagine to you and allow him to smell your hand. He hasn’t alerted to me, so I think—for now at least—I’m ok.”
Evie called him over first. “Imagine, come here boy.” The dog didn’t need to be invited twice—he was eager to get to work, to again prove himself capable. He paced toward her and sniffed her over, turning immediately to the next person without any indication that he’d noted the illness. Willow stayed by his side, studying his movements, but he remained silent for each of the staff members. A collective sigh of relief went up when he went back to sit beside Becky.
“Whew,” Evie exhaled. “That covid ‘test’ is almost as scary as the real thing! I was holding my breath the whole time, afraid he’d tell one of us we were next.”
“Same,” said Becky, the others nodding in agreement. “Now that we can feel reasonably safe for today, we need to go outside and see if anyone has shown up to volunteer. I’m going to leash Imagine and Willow and take them with me. Evie, can you grab the volunteer release forms, and have anyone who is virus-free start filling them out? “Sam and Stacy, can you please start dog care as best you can for now? I’d suggest getting everyone fed, and maybe by walk-time we’ll have a couple volunteers to help you. Thank you, everyone! I appreciate you more than you will ever know.”
Holy Volunteers, Dogman
Becky’s eyes flew wide and a gasp escaped when she and Evie peered out the window. “Holy Smokey the Bear!” Evie whispered, pulling her friend back. “What are we gonna do with all these people?”
A line of 30 people snaked around the building, some wearing makeshift masks and all maintaining a wary distance from one another. Not only that, but two news vans had pushed to the curb out front, the crew filming b-roll of the building and interviewing those in line.
“Dang,” Becky agreed. “Let’s have Imagine check everyone out, and then ask anyone who’s staying to sign releases. I guess one of us will have to be front person for the media, too, with Melody in quarantine. I vote for you, since you’re technically second in command and I’m third. Ha! You ready?”
“Oi,” Evie replied, mustering her courage. “OK, I’ll try my best. Let’s make Melody and Freedom Chasers proud.”
The two walked out the front of the building together, masks in place and Imagine and Willow by their sides. All eyes turned toward the small group, and people oohed and aahed over the pups. Threat of the spread of the virus held potential volunteers back from rushing the dogs as they might have in the past, and Becky was grateful for the restraint.
It was definitely not a time to get up close and personal with strangers.
Evie stood well away from the others and pulled her mask from her mouth so she could project her voice. “Thank you for coming to volunteer for Freedom Chasers today! We are thrilled that so many of you have come out to help, and we can never thank you enough. It looks like we have too many folks for one day, but that’s a good problem to have. We’d like to get release forms from everyone and set up a schedule for this week, if that works for you all.
“I know that you may be curious about Imagine’s capabilities, and the intrigue raised by our e-mail may have brought you out here today. Welcome! If everyone is ok with him giving you a covid “test,” you will witness a first-hand demonstration of his abilities. Please signal by raise of hand if you give permission for him to sniff you and possibly alert to the presence of covid. Please take note of our disclaimer, however: although he has alerted to three of our staff members—and all three had been starting to feel ill—none has yet gotten the results of their official covid tests. Please don’t take what happens here today as gospel either way. If you feel ill, visit a doctor and ask for a standard test.
“Now, if you’re all onboard, we can begin.”
Murmurs arose amongst the potential volunteers, and TV cameras panned the group as each individual came to a decision. Hands went up by ones and two and threes, and in the end only two people felt uncomfortable with being publicly tested. Evie thanked them for their time and they moved away from the crowd, stopping to watch from the sidewalk.
Then Becky instructed the volunteers to stand in a comfortable position and keep their masks in place; she would bring Imagine and Willow to them. The first four potential volunteers heaved sighs of relief when the dogs passed them by, but the fifth person in line wasn’t so lucky.
“Arp!” came the high-pitched yelp from Imagine, and then he poked the young man with his nose before sitting and staring into his eyes. Willow immediately followed suit.
“Oh, NO!” everyone gasped and pulled further away from the poor lad as he turned bright red, camera lenses catching it all for the 6:00 news. Becky quickly consoled him. “Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be alright. Look, why don’t you go to the doctors and get tested right away? Let us know how it comes out. We’d be happy to have you come back to volunteer when you feel better.”
The man sheepishly eyed the ground but smiled and bowed when everyone gave him a round of applause. Regaining his sense of humor, he called out, “You’re welcome for the demonstration of Imagine’s skills. Happy to be of assistance!”
Imagine alerted twice more, and the group gave each person a cheer, a few words of encouragement, and a send-off to the doctor. The news stations arranged permission to follow up with all three to learn their test results and incorporate them into a follow-up news story.
It didn’t take Imagine long to reach the elderly gentleman at the end of the line. He caught one whiff of the man, did a double take, and then did something no one had expected or seen before: instead of yipping, instead of barking, he whined and fell to the ground, rolling over and then popping up to lick the man’s hands and face in a frenzy.
The man looked like he’d seen a ghost and his knees hit the ground. “It can’t be, it just can’t. Is it really you, Imagine? My boy?” He collapsed onto the dog, cradling him and rocking back and forth. “My boy, my boy, my boy . . .” he whispered, wonder in his voice and tears streaming down his cheeks.
Everyone was motionless with shock.
The TV cameras focused tightly in on the duo.
For Imagine, the outside world crumpled, disintegrated. There was only this one moment and this one human, a dissolution of all else. The moment he’d longed for, the moment he’d never believed would arrive, was here.
It was now.
And Dad was all he saw.
Next Episode: The Biggest Dream
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.