Alas, we’re almost to the end of our tale. Today we get to see the rest of Imagine’s reunion, and then next week we’ll have the Epilogue. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Imagine’s tale, but then I’ll wrap it up in book format and make that available in online book outlets like Amazon, etc., too.
This story is excellent for older humane education projects and classes, and I made sure to keep any swearing out of it for that purpose. Ha! If you want to start from the beginning, click here and go to town. If you’ve been following along the whole time, thank you and remember to share! Your fellow dog-lovers might enjoy the free read, too.
Imagine…Life on a Chain
Episode Nineteen: The Biggest Dream
Witnessing a Miracle
“I haven’t seen him in three years,” Dennis whispered, looking up at Becky and then over to the news camera. “The day my wife died he escaped through an open gate . . . we could never find him. I thought he was dead.” His voice broke, and tears began to stream again. He held Imagine like he’d never let go; the dog laid his head on his dad’s shoulder, nuzzling him. “Where was he?”
“About an hour away, in a small town in Potter County,” Becky told him. “We got a call this week about a chained dog who’d been abandoned after his owner died of covid. We picked him up two days ago. I don’t know if you remember me, but I fostered him and his family when he was a puppy. You’re Dennis, right?”
Dennis nodded. “Why didn’t you call me? He’s microchipped?” The man sounded bewildered, heartbroken.
“I’m sorry. Our chip reader broke and we’re waiting on a replacement. I immediately thought of you, but we didn’t want to give you false hope. If our reader didn’t arrive this week, we were planning to have him checked at the vet office on Monday. He does respond to the name Imagine, though, so I knew there was a chance he was your boy. I’m so glad you’re here now, Dennis, and we all were lucky enough to witness your beautiful reunion,” Becky replied, wanting to reach out to him but hesitant because of the virus. “I doubt there’s a dry eye in the house,” she added, looking around at all the volunteers wiping their eyes and murmuring to one another.
The TV reporter pushed a microphone as close as she dared to Dennis and Imagine. “So, Dennis, how do you feel? Were you surprised? What are you going to do now that you’ve finally found your dog?”
Dennis had gone his whole life without being the subject of a news story, and he felt uncertainty silence his voice as he looked up at the reporter. Squaring his shoulders, he got to his feet and pictured Val watching from the Rainbow Bridge; he could do this for her.
“Well, I’ve never been so surprised in my life, to be honest. I came here this morning hoping against hope that the photos I saw in the email from Freedom Chaser were really him. He looked older and thinner, and so sad on that chain. Who would do that to a dog? Imagine lived in our home with us his first two years of life. We took him everywhere, travelled the country, and to think of him chained out there in that backyard for three years is infuriating. That’s the only way I can put it. Just infuriating.”
The reporter nodded. “So what will you do now that you found him?”
Dennis turned his eyes to Becky. “Well, I suppose I’ll have a conversation with Becky and her people here at Freedom Chaser, and then I’ll take my boy home to see his sister. She’s been watching out that window every day for years waiting for this guy.” He hunkered back down to Imagine’s level, running his hands through his fur. “Want to see Dream, boy? You ready to go home?”
Home? Imagine’s tail began to wag and another whimper escaped his throat. To Dream? Am I dreaming? He shook himself, making sure he was in fact awake.
He gave his dad another slurp, and Dennis laughed and hugged his dog to him again. That would suffice as his answer. Yes, I want to go home, Dad. How about now, please?
A Bargain Struck?
Evie and Becky worked quickly to get the volunteers signed up for slots for this week and next, while Imagine, Dennis, and Willow sat outside quietly together, enjoying the spring day and waiting their turn. Sam and Stacy brought the two pups breakfast and some water, along with a special treat for all their hard work.
Finally, Becky made her way over to the little group, asking Dennis if he’d like to come into the office to talk further.
“Sure, as long as Imagine comes, too. And his friend here . . . what’s her name?”
Becky smiled. “Of course. And that’s Willow, she’s his lieutenant, one could say.”
The four made their way to the founder’s office, where Evie was already seated in Melody’s chair. She smiled when she saw them come in. “Dennis, it’s so nice to meet you! I just can’t believe this morning’s reunion. That’s what I’d call a tearjerker, for sure. That reminds me, I have to get a link to the news story tonight so we can send your interview out to all our supporters, too. I’ll bet you can expect a few other reporters beating their way to your door when this comes out tonight.”
“Tell me something, Dennis,” Becky said. “Did you have any idea Imagine could do this? Sniff out disease like this?”
“Yes, I’ve given it a lot of thought since Val passed. He had been poking her with his nose for months before we knew she was ill. We just didn’t understand what the poor boy was trying to tell us. Now that I saw him and Willow at work this morning, I’m even more sure of it. He has a gift, I’m convinced,” Dennis explained.
“Would the two of you consider working with us to put Imagine’s gift to good use? I know that you want to take him home with you, but his nose could be invaluable to the whole town during this awful pandemic. What do you say? We can always work out the details later, but our community could really use his help,” Becky pleaded.
“I’ll tell you what,” Dennis replied. “Give me 24 hours to think on it and get Imagine settled in at home. Then I’ll give you a call.”
“Excellent!” Evie exclaimed. “We’ve given him worm and flea and tick medications already. As well as three baths! He has an appointment at the vet on Monday. We’d be happy to take him to get checked out for you as we’d planned to do. I’ll hope to hear from you tomorrow then, Dennis.”
“Sounds good,” said Dennis, standing. “Imagine, you ready to go see Dream?”
Imagine had been napping on the floor next to his dad, but at the sound of his sister’s name he jumped to his feet, alert and ready to go. He raced over to Willow and nuzzled her neck. “Thanks so much, Willow, for everything. I hope to see you again someday.”
“So this is it, then?” she questioned. “How am I supposed to find the sickness without you? I thought we were a team?”
Imagine shrugged and avoided her eyes. “I don’t know. All I know right now is I really need to go home and see my sister. Maybe Dad will bring me back and we can work together again soon, ok?”
Willow turned away, a sad look on her face. She’d just found a purpose, and now she felt abandoned, again.
In the Window
At home, Dream climbed up onto the couch to peer through the front window, for what seemed like the 90th time today. Where had Dad gone so early this morning? When was he coming home?
She knew she shouldn’t hope to see her brother on the other side of that window after all these years, but hope has a way of sprouting through the cracks and continuing to live long past its expiration date.
Nope, nothing yet. No sign of Dad. She plopped onto the cushions and fell into a short nap, rousing only when she heard Dad’s car in the driveway.
Dad? He’s home? She poked her head above the couch and pressed her nose against the pane. Who’s in the car with Dad? A friend? No, it looks like a DOG! No . . . it can’t be. It couldn’t be.
She rushed from the couch to the garage door and waited impatiently for whoever—or whatever—was in that car with Dad. . . .
Imagine just couldn’t wait. This day—heck, the past week—felt so surreal he almost couldn’t believe it happened. Prince was DEAD. HE was freed from his chain. He was brought to a HAVEN for dogs. And THEN he’d found his dad and his SISTER, too?
Who could even believe a story that fantastical?
He couldn’t sit still on the drive home. He kissed his dad’s cheek then pranced in the seat, eager to get back into the house he’d only seen in his dreams for the past three years.
Dad laughed at him, then ruffled his fur. “We’re almost there, boy, just hold on for one more minute. Oh, look, I see her in the window! Can you see her?”
Imagine barked and circled in his seat, excitement gushing from every pore.
He heard the garage door lift, and remembered that sound.
He heard Dad’s car door open, and remembered the reverberation of noise in these four walls.
He heard a whine at the door, and remembered Dream’s voice.
He remembered it all, and was flooded with memories and feelings that were both comforting and alien at once. As if it was all from another life, another time.
But he was here, now, he reminded himself. He couldn’t come apart at the most important moment of victory over his cruel circumstances!
He dashed out of the car and rushed to the inner garage door, answering Dream’s whine on the other side with one of his own.
He barked. “Dream! I’m home! I’m HOOOOMMMMMMEEEEEE!”
Dad threw his head back in laughter and turned the handle, asking, “You ready?”
The two dogs met in a mashup of fur and teeth and bodies, wiggling and whining, rolling and racing, so busy showing how much they’d missed one another that they were little more than a blur. They forgot to eat or drink for hours.
They raced through the doggie door and out into the back yard, then ran through the recreation room and back up the steps to kiss Dad. Dad grabbed them both in a bear hug and they squeezed their way out to do it all over again.
Even though Imagine would always miss Mom, he realized how stupid he’d been to run away, how much pain he’d caused them all by leaving them. He couldn’t take back the mistakes of the last three years. But he could make sure that whatever time he had left with this, his TRUE family, was the best he could make it.
Finally exhausted, the two dogs slurped down a quick dinner and some water before collapsing on Dad’s lap in front of the TV.
“Immy,” Dream whispered. “Where have you been all this time? Why didn’t you come home?”
Imagine kissed his sister. “Can I tell you in the morning? I’m too tired and happy to ruin it tonight with such a sordid tale.”
“Sure, bro,” Dream replied sleepily. “In the morning. I like the sound of that.”
Next (and Last!) Episode: Epilogue
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.