Read FREE! Episode 13 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Starting Over

Today is World Hippo Day. Have you done anything for hippos today? No, me neither, but I guess there’s always time to remedy that with a donation to a worthy nonprofit, eh? I mean, it’s not like we can wade in and rescue one, so I assume supporting an org who does is the way to go.

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, whether you’re your own Valentine or not…always a good excuse to treat yourself if you don’t currently have a S.O.! The hubs ended up having to work later in the day, so we had a nice lunch together and then he went to work and I took myself to the movies, as one does.

I didn’t ask for the senior discount—I have no idea what the age is for that, and I’m not eager to know—but the kid working the counter informed me kindly he was giving me the discount anyway. I opened my mouth to question this affront, but remembering a similar situation that happened to my mother, I kept my trap shut and took my lousy $1 off with as much aplomb as I could muster.

One time Mom went to McD’s and she was given the senior discount on her tea. She was fairly testy (used to embarrass me as a kid,) so she snapped at the counter attendant, “How do you decide who gets the senior discount?”

He replied, innocently, “If they look old, I give it to them.”

Ha. The moral of this story? Don’t ask a question you might not want to hear the answer to.

Now for today’s Episode of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Things have turned around for our boy, and I for one am damn happy about it. New human characters are introduced, and two of them happen to be named after women I respect who are still out there rescuing chained dogs, Melody and Evie. See what happens today as they meet Imagine/Magnum for the first time. Start your Imagine journey here if you need to catch up, and then follow the links at the bottom of each episode. Happy Reading!

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Thirteen: Starting Over

Ladies of Rescue

“Oh, isn’t he cute?”

“That poor, sweet thing!”

Magnum felt overwhelmed as the three women rushed him, their voices at once soothing and terrifying, words tumbling over one another and falling onto his sensitive ears. Arms reached for him but he skirted their embrace, wary; he lowered his head and tail and backed up next to his doghouse.

He had no place to hide, nowhere to run. He bristled, unsure, afraid.

How did he know he could trust these people?

He didn’t. He’d trusted before, and look where that got him.

The leader stopped, belatedly comprehending his fear. “Ok, ladies, let’s hold back here, give him a little breathing room. He’s leery, and who wouldn’t be. Given what he’s been through, he doesn’t know who we are or whether we’re here to hurt him or help him.” She took two steps back and motioned for her friends to do the same.

One of the women rummaged in a little pouch she wore around her waist. “Melody, I brought some treats with me. Let’s toss him a few to get him warmed up to us. If I know anything about chained dogs, it’s that they’re always hoping for food or water to come their way.”

“Great idea, Becky! Just throw them from here until his body language calms down. I don’t want anyone getting hurt,” Melody cautioned, voice low, confident.

The dog lifted his nose slightly, just enough to catch the tantalizing scent coming from the woman’s hand. What was that? He’d never smelled it before, but he knew he wanted it! His saliva glands activated of their own accord, and his mouth dropped open slightly, hoping to get a taste from afar.

His ears pricked and his head lifted in interest as her hand rose into the air. Suddenly the treat was airborne; his eyes locked onto it like it was in slow motion, and he reverted to his days of ball catching, lifting his head and front feet just enough to snag it out of the air.

Yum! It tasted every bit as good as it smelled! Then it was gone, and he looked eagerly to the woman for another.

Becky gasped, exclaiming, “Did you see that Melody? He can catch! There’s no way he spent his life out on this chain. Aw, the poor guy. Can you imagine living inside with a family, and then understanding what you’ve lost once you’re imprisoned out here like this? Makes me so sad…”

“Toss him some more,” the third woman encouraged. “His body language has relaxed from just one treat. Let’s throw him a couple more and gradually bring him closer to us. Then we can let him take one from our hand and see how he does.”

Becky reached into her pouch and Magnum took two steps closer, wagging his tail. He knew what was coming, and he didn’t want to miss one of those juicy, delicious morsels.

“Evie, look at him! Isn’t he amazing? He’s already warming up so much, and he doesn’t even realize it. He’s so intent on catching the treats! Ooh, I want to foster him! Can I, Melody?” Becky asked as she continued to lure the dog nearer and nearer, and each time he easily caught the morsels as they sailed through the air.

Evie laughed. “Hey, I thought he was supposed to be mine? Remember, you fostered the last one!”

“But he loves me already…look how close he is to me…” Becky giggled as Magnum licked her hand for the first time.

“Yeah, he loves you alright. What you really mean is he loves those nuggets you’re using to cajole him to you,” Evie rejoined, snorting.

“Ladies, ladies,” Melody laughed. “You both know there are plenty of chained dogs to go around, alas. Let’s worry about getting him out of here and back to the center first, then we’ll decide who gets to foster him.”

Decisions

The one with the food definitely seems ok, thought Magnum. His belly agreed. That means the others are probably nice enough, too. He began to relax, his mouth open in a pant, and the women moved closer. He sniffed each of their hands and they smelled kind—one better than the others, of course, the one that smelled like treats—but the other two didn’t smell bad or threatening.

The dog looked at his pitiful home. It’s not like anything can be worse than this, right? He had nothing to stay for, and every reason to take the risk of trusting these strangers. He just had to believe it would lead to something better.

He decided to try with humans one last time. A rush of hope buoyed his heart, and he rubbed up against Becky, who sighed and ruffled his fur. It felt nice! Prince had never once showed him such a kindness.

Soon both Melody and Evie were loving on him, too, scratching behind his ears and pulling ticks out of his fur and hide. “Disgusting,” Evie said, making a face and shaking her head, her dark hair swaying. “Maybe you can foster him after all, Becky,” she said ruefully. “You ready to stay up all night tick picking?”

“Well, he’ll stay at the center until he’s all cleaned up and vetted,” Melody replied. “That’s our standard protocol anyway, and it’s safer for everyone. Guess what, though, guys? Did you notice that he’s neutered? Chained dogs are never neutered! That definitely tells me this guy had a real home before. I’ll bet once he’s had a chance to fill out and rid himself of all the parasites, he’ll make a great companion for someone again. Let’s do this!”

Freedom

Melody pulled the relinquishment paperwork from her bag and walked over to Helen and Elmer. As she worked on filling it out and getting their signatures, Evie and Becky continued to fawn over the dog and check for any signs of lingering wariness or illness. Seeing nothing of concern, Evie removed a collar and leash from her backpack.

“What do you think, boy? Do you want to go with us?” she crooned, ensuring she kept her tone soothing and light.

Go? Go!!!! He knew that word! Mom and Dad used to say it right before the word WALK! He couldn’t believe his ears. Was it really happening? He jumped up and down, the excitement almost too much for his beat-up soul to bear.

He raced around Evie and Becky in his eagerness to GO!, entangling them in his chain. “Ouch, boy, settle down,” cried Becky, frantically pulling the links from their legs before they ended up in a heap and covered in doggy doo. “I think he knows the word G-O!” she told Evie, tears in her eyes. “It makes me so damn mad that anyone would do this to a dog. I’ll never, ever understand it.”

Evie rubbed her arm, tearing up in empathy with her friend. “I know. It sucks. All we can do is make sure he gets the best life ever from this day forward. And we will . . . let’s promise him that.”

She turned to the dog. “Are you ready to go, boy?” His tail thumping against her side told her all she needed to know. “Then let’s get this collar and leash on you, and we’ll blow this one-horse popsicle stand.”

Becky held him as Evie fitted the collar to his neck and attached the leash. Melody was busy taking photos and video for their social media accounts: there was nothing their supporters loved more than watching that moment of release! It always brought a happy tear to every dog lover’s eyes.

Even Helen and Elmer held each other, smiling, and teared up at that special moment of release: Evie unfastened and then dramatically dropped that rusty old logging chain like it was on fire. Having second thoughts, she picked it up and pitched it with all her might against the doghouse, nodding her head when it hit with a satisfying crash and broke yet another board from the dilapidated shack.

Whoops of joy and cheers filled the air, and the dog who’d suffered so unimaginably was finally FREE! He jumped toward the front yard and FREEDOM, pulling with all his might as he dragged Evie behind him and raced for the open van.

Melody and Becky hurried after them. “I guess he knows where he wants to be,” Melody laughed. “Anywhere but here!”

The dog jumped without hesitation into the crate in the back of the rescue van, and Becky gave him a couple more treats for being such a good boy. Don’t mind if I do, he wagged, exuberant.

He didn’t know where he was going—but for the first time in years, he didn’t care. All he knew was it had to be better than where he’d been, and for now that would be enough.

If there was one thing he knew for sure? He’d treasure this moment for the rest of his days.

Next Episode: The Rescue Center

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.

Read FREE! Episode 12 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Rescued…For Real this Time?

Welcome to lovely February, month of Valentines and proposals, apparently. In checking my new handy calendar of all things holiday, today, February 8th, is ostensibly Proposal Day.

I, for one, propose that we all stay in bed all day, how’s that for a proposal we can all get behind? Fine, we’ll do it tomorrow instead, since we’re too late to commence the plan today. True confession, I may have started without you yesterday…but today I’m back on the straight and narrow and providing you with another episode of Imagine: Life on a Chain.

Interestingly enough, the hubby actually did propose to me today, having no foreknowledge that today was Proposal Day. Eerie! He bought us new wedding bands in the trendy style of matchy-match that were supposedly created from meteorites, and they came in today. So he reproposed to the woman who’s made him crazy for the last thirteen years (God love him), while I stood in the kitchen in my sweats. When I asked why he didn’t save them for Valentine’s Day, he promptly asked for the ring back.

But I said, “No givey-backy’s, Man. It’s all mine now!”

Now, let’s talk about Imagine. His chainer has succumbed to the virus, flat out in his backyard. What will become of Imagine now? If you need to catch up, here’s Episode One. Start there, and click at the bottom of each episode to bring you to the next. Happy Reading!

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Twelve: Rescued…for Real this Time?

Another Ambulance

The dog sighed and laid his head on his paws. He felt no sadness, only relief. And yes, fear…because as bad as the Prince of Darkness was, the truth was that this awful man had been his only source of food and water.

Would anyone come for him, or would he die here on this chain?

The thought engendered anxiety, but a seed of HOPE had begun to take root, too.

He was struck anew by the fact that he was not in control of his own life. His fate was intertwined with that of the humans surrounding him, his destiny only as good or bad as they allowed.

A somber realization, to be sure.

He felt no need to bark, no need to draw attention to the unmoving figure face down between him and the house. It was way too late for Prince.

An hour passed before the neighbor lady again poked her head out her back door; the dog was glad for her nosiness, lifting his head to see what would happen next. “AHHHHHHH!” she screamed. “ELMERRRR! That idiot next door is dead or sumpin’. Don’t go out there! Call 9-1-1. He probably has the sickness. Lord, I hope you didn’t already bring it back from his place with ya’.”

Elmer shoved past her to see for himself, but never left the doorway. “Goddammit, Helen! You made me go over there. Now we’re probably gonna die from that gawdawful virus, too!”

Soon the dog heard the sound of sirens and knew his backyard was the destination. The noise was so shrill it felt like a drill into his brain, and it raised all the repressed fears and longing for his mom, his once safe home, and the family he’d loved and lost.

Within minutes three humans in full protective gear raced into the backyard with a stretcher and medical kit. It didn’t take long for them to ascertain what the dog already knew: the man was gone. Their movements slowed. There was no rush now.

They took their time loading Prince onto the stretcher and covering him up, one of them taking notes while the other two worked. As they turned to carry his body back to the waiting ambulance, Elmer yelled from the safety of his yard next door. “Hey, is he dead?”

“Yes, sir,” the medic called back. “Unfortunately, we were too late for this man. Do you know if there’s anyone else living in the home we can speak to?”

“Nah, he lived alone. But he’s got this here dog left out back. What’s to be done wit’ him?”

The medic turned and Magnum strained toward him, willing the chain to release him from its grasp. “There’s a group about an hour away that does chained dog rescue, Freedom Chaser. Have you heard of them?”

“Nah.”

“Well, look them up and give them a call. Or take him to the local shelter if this guy has no family. By the way, do you know his name?”

“He called ’im Magnum.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the medic. “I was talking about the deceased, sir. Not the dog.”

“Ah,” Elmer chuckled, the sound out of sync with the darkness of the occasion. “Believe me. That dog is a whole sight better’n the man ever was. His name was Prince, but he weren’t no prince. Rudy Prince.”

“Thank you. Someone from the coroner’s office will be out tomorrow. Goodnight, sir.”

Elmer yelled as the three retreated with the body. “So, no help for the dog then? This is my problem now, eh?”

There was no answer.

A Full Belly

The next morning Helen stuck her head out the door and glared at Magnum. “I guess you’re my cross to bear now, dog. I don’t even want to go in that jackal’s house to get your dogfood. I’ll probably get the ’rona and die if I do. Just hold on. Elmer’ll be out in a minute.”

The dog stood and wagged his tail slowly…wistfully. At least she didn’t sound too mean this morning. Plus, he usually got nothing this early…no food, no water, no acknowledgement of his status as a living being. 

He was mostly invisible.

Which made her attention already a step above his normal day.

The door swung open again and Elmer grumped his way through the two yards and over to the dog, hands full. Magnum eagerly picked up his battered dish and met the man at the edge of his territory. “Where’s your water bowl?” Elmer asked, looking around in confusion. “You only got one dish? What a loser that guy was,” he snorted.

Elmer poured water from a gallon jug into the dog’s dish and set the plastic bowl of leftovers beside it. He peered over his shoulder to make sure Helen wasn’t watching, knowing he’d get an earful about letting the dog eat from her good plastic. “Go ahead, dog. Eat up…I’ll find you another old bowl come dinnertime.”

The dog dug in, not believing his luck. Food! In the morning! Human food at that…so much better than the generic nuggets he normally choked down.

Elmer watched him gobble the offerings and clucked his tongue. “Poor old guy. I’ll go call that rescue group for ya’. Hopefully they’ll have room and you can go find yourself a better life than this wretched one. See ya’ later, boy.” Elmer reached out and ruffled the dog’s fur before leaving, the closest thing to a petting Magnum had received since the day he lost his mom.

He’d cry if he could. A quiet whine escaped his throat. At least my belly’s full, for once. And, I still have water left over for later.

Alreadythis day was better than the ones that came before.

Freedom Chasers

That night Elmer—good to his word—brought another bowl (Food! Again! Twice in one Day?) and some more water. The man wasn’t grumpy this time; in fact, he was smiling. He could barely contain his excitement. “Guess what, Magnum! There’s a rescue group coming for ya’! I talked to someone today and told them about Prince dyin’, and they’re sending someone out for ya’ tomorrow. Now the missus and I don’t have to witness your sufferin’ anymore, and you can git yourself the life you deserve. I can’t wait!” He giggled, sounding more like a teen girl than the grumpy old man he normally showed the world.

The dog didn’t understand a word Elmer said, but he caught the air of elation and began to get excited, too. Would he be free? Soon? Today?

In fact, it would be another 24 hours before someone other than Elmer made their way to the backyard where the dog was contained.

Magnum lay on his side sunning himself, belly once again full (unbelievable!), when he heard women’s voices and a knock on the front door. With their query unanswered, the group made their way to the backyard; the dog stood warily to his feet, chain clanking.

Elmer and Helen both raced outside, tripping over themselves to tell the ladies all about that “poor dog over there.”

The “poor dog” wagged his tail.

Would today be the day?

Next Episode: Starting Over

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.

Read FREE! Episode 11 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. The Sickness is Here

Good Tuesday to you all, from one of your (probably numerous) pandemic slacker acquaintances. I see so many people going to town with their creative efforts during this time, and I’m envious but lazy.

I so wish I was one of them! Apparently just not enough to get my butt off the couch and my nose out of a book…

Speaking of which, I’ve never been a football fan, but I read an article today about Tom Brady retiring. It talked about how he never let others’ opinions of him sway his belief in himself, made his own truth. Don’tcha wish we could just bottle that up and sell it? I know I’d be first in line! [Or 20th, or 2,000,000th…depends if I was reading a good book at the time.]

Today we unveil episode 11 of my fiction novella, Imagine: Life on a Chain. Imagine’s background tale is finished now, and we hit present day, where his rotten owner isn’t feeding him. Wonder why?

If you need to catch up, start here at the 1st Episode and hit the buttons at the bottom of each to jump to the next. Have a Happy Week and Happy Reading!

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Eleven: The Sickness is Here

Real Life

The conclusion of his mental movie—not a happy ending in sight—brought the dog full circle to his current reality: stuck at the end of a chain.

“And a glorious one it is!” he thought sarcastically, pulling himself to his feet. His joints complained anew, an ongoing reminder that he was not the dog he once was.

Magnum paced the perimeter of his territory, both happy and sad to have revived memories from his youth. It seemed so long ago and so far away, almost as if it happened to a different dog in a different world. “I loved my family so much,” he sighed, “but it hurts to remember them—both for the loss, and for what has become of me since.”

In truth, he despaired of ever leaving this backyard alive.

The sun was high in the sky now, a sign that mid-morning had passed him by. The temperature had risen, making his day more bearable, and a light breeze still carried that disturbing scent. He lifted his head again, drew a deeper breath. “Where is it coming from?” he wondered.

Did he dare hope his captor was the source of that telling odor? If the worst (or best?) should occur, what would that mean for him?

There remained no sign of movement from the Prince of Darkness, although his rumbling snores still assaulted the dog’s ears. The neighborhood itself stayed ominously quiet, amplifying the sounds coming from inside the house.

Magnum knew deep in his gut that something had changed.

He just didn’t know what.

 The Sickness

Dinnertime came and went, and the dog’s pacing grew more agitated as he worried. Was he going to get anything to eat or drink today? He rarely howled anymore (what was the point?), but this seemed like a good time to revisit that policy. His throat was scratchy from disuse and the constant thirst that plagued him, but he stretched his neck to speak out anyway.

“Woo Woo!” he called, his voice rasping. “I’m hungry and thirsty! Is there anyone out there who can help me?”

The light flickered on at the neighbor’s house, and a woman peered out the door. “What’s wrong, bud? Isn’t that prick feeding you?” She made a disgusted sound in her throat. “Elmer!” she screamed. “Go next door and see if that schmuck is dead or alive. His dog’s out there starving again. I swear, why that man continues to drag these poor beasts home only to treat them this way is beyond me.”

Magnum pulled his chain toward her and wagged his tail, but she slammed the door and went back inside. Dejected, his slumped to the ground. “What’s the use,” he thought. “No one around here cares about me, anyway. I guess this is how I go down after all. At least I’ll be out of this miserable place.”

Soon the neighbor’s door opened again, and the man who must be “Elmer” stomped out. “Why do I always have to do the dirty work,” he grumbled to himself. “Like she’s some kind of saint herself, with the animals. Ha.”

He pounded on Prince’s back door and waited, scrambling back when it was flung open. An obviously-ill man held onto the frame, his breath coming in wheezes. He barked out, “What is it, man? I’m trynna’ rest! I got a cold or summin’, I’m not feelin’ good taday.”

“Oh, dude, do you got the ‘rona?” Elmer gasped, easing his way further back.

“Nah, it’s just a cold, I toldya. That’s all fake news anyhow. Waddya want?” Prince raised his head just enough to glare at his neighbor.

“Ruth sent me to tell you to feed yer dog,” Elmer stuttered. “He’s out here cryin’ and she can’t even hear the TV for all the ruckus.”

“Well, why don’t she feedim then, if it’s botherin’ her sa much?”

“Because he’s yer dog, not ours. Just take care of him. Or we’re callin’ animal control on yer arse.” Elmer huffed—proud of himself for delivering the threat—and stomped back to his house, slamming the door for good measure.

The Prince of Darkness swayed in the doorway, grimacing at his stolen dog. “I dinna why I ever picked ya up that day,” he growled. Magnum whined softly, wagging his tail in hopes of persuading the man to bring out his daily rations.

The dog hated having to prostrate himself before a being so cruel, but he was helpless, dependent on the man for his very survival.

Five minutes went by before the visibly-sick man dragged himself outside, sloshing much of the food and water mixture onto the ground as he went. As he approached Magnum, the dog was hit with a stench so rotten he almost retched on the spot.

That smell WAS coming from his owner! This does not bode well for the man’s future.

Magnum had a hard time feeling bad for him, though.

After sloppily dumping the remnants into the dog’s bowl, the man turned to go back inside, unsteady, too ill to even taunt his captive like he normally would.

He took five steps toward the door and face-planted into the dirt, laying still.

He gasped once for air and tried to push himself up, but his body shook violently and then he was gone.

Magnum knew that particular quiet all too well.

He calmly finished his food and settled against his doghouse.

It was gonna be a long night.

Next Episode: Rescued, For Real this Time?

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.

Read FREE! Episode 10 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. The Prince of Darkness

Welcome, welcome, to another Tuesday here in cheerful America. Can’t you feel the whisperings of hope in the breeze? Ha. No, me neither. But I suppose we shall endure, as humans have been doing for centuries despite the cruelties of the world.

But I digress. In today’s episode, Imagine/Magnum gives us a glimpse into what he’s had to endure in the last three years, and it’s a life I’d like to believe most of us wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. To think that folks in America—and the world over—find dog chaining an acceptable practice still blows my mind, 20 years after I started Dogs Deserve Better.

It’s cruel, and everyone knows it, whether they make excuses for the practice or not.

If you’re just happening upon Imagine’s story, start here at Episode One and continue following the links at the bottom to today’s release. Thanks for joining us!

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Ten: The Prince of Darkness

A Mistake, Alright

“That mistake,” the dog acknowledged, “cost me three years of my life…and counting.” He’d now been chained in this backyard for three winters, somehow surviving seasons of frigid temperatures, snowfalls, and ice, followed by unbearable months of heat and humidity.

He couldn’t tell which was worse.

He looked around bleakly. “And what a miserable existence it’s been. It’s unbelievable, but I’ve been stuck here longer than I lived with Mom and Dad and Dream.”

He wished it was all a bad dream.

Thomas the cat washed his face and continued to be unimpressed by the canine’s tale of woe; but the dog felt just a tad less lonely with someone to talk to. He brushed aside the cat’s indifference, sniffed the air for threats, and then lay down again. He was almost to the end of his musings.

The man who rescued him had turned out to be anything but a rescuer. Imagine cried, barked, whined, and howled by turn all that first day and into the night. Neighbors yelled, “Shut that dog up, Prince,” and even banged on the man’s door, but he ignored all entreaties. Imagine could hear the TV playing inside the house, yet the man never came out or offered him food or something to drink. He was so thirsty!

“Prince,” he scoffed, after he’d barked himself hoarse. “Prince of Darkness, maybe, but I’ve never met a human further from an actual prince than that guy.”

Late the next afternoon the man stumbled from his back door, smoke again trailing in his wake. He lugged a banged-up metal bowl and sloshed water and old dry dog food over the edges with each step. By the time he reached his captive’s doghouse, half of the mixture was gone.

“Here, mutt. Guess I’d better thinka sumpin ta call ya…I know! Magnum. ’Cause ye ain’t mean yet, but you will be soon’s enuf, and then I’ll sic ya on these annoyin’ neighbors a mine. Ha!” He laughed at his own joke, poking the dog as he eagerly lapped the meagre offerings.

Imagine growled, afraid the man was going to take away what little sustenance he had. This only made the man guffaw louder.

“That’s raight, Magnum. Yer gittin’ it now. If’n yer lucky, I’ll bring ya more tamarra. If yer lucky…and don’tcha be barkin’ no more neither.” He threatened and shuffled back inside, chuckling to himself as he went.

The dog, still hungry but knowing there’d be nothing more tonight, dragged his chain to the side of the doghouse and threw himself against the termite-ridden siding.

He’d never felt more hopeless. 

Endless Cycle

Perhaps the cruelest part of life on a chain, even moreso than the physical, mental, and emotional trauma, Imagine soon realized, was that there was no end in sight.

Each day was the same, an endless cycle of pain and abuse. He hunkered in the rain, huddled in the snow, and sweltered in the heat. He wished for death, yet somehow his physical body betrayed him just enough so that he woke each morning to face another onslaught.

As he paced the circle created by his chain, he acknowledged that his owner had been right about one thing: the dog now known as Magnum grew meaner, even killing voles, mice, rats, and groundhogs when they were unfortunate enough to wander within reach of his jaws.

The dog he used to be, Imagine, the name he called his “former self,” still felt shame afterwards; yet hunger and intense anger at the world drove him to commit crimes against his fellow beings anyway.

Magnum, the dog created by the “Prince of Darkness,” had grown indifferent to the suffering of others.

He glanced at the cat mere feet away, noting with concern the rattle in his chest as he breathed, the missing and matted fur, and his skeletal appearance. “Or have I?” he questioned. “Am I really as evil as the one who named me? Or could I yet be saved?”

Thomas glanced his way, waved his tail in a lazy goodbye, and wandered off into the bushes behind the doghouse, searching for his morning meal.

Magnum envied him that freedom, at least.

Next Episode: The Sickness is Here

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.

Read FREE! Episode 9 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. A Ride to Nowhere.

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.”

Rescuer?

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

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.

Read FREE! Episode 7 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Mom Comes Home

I hope the New Year finds you all well and rested! Apparently I just had a cold last week—not Covid, according to a rapid test at least—although I had another brush with “that darn virus” over the weekend. I await my body’s verdict on if it will take hold or not. With omicron sweeping the country, it becomes more and more likely we will all contract it at some point, alas.

I got a new calendar (yes, still old school there, also known as JUST OLD.) You’ll be happy to know today is National Spaghetti Day. Mangia!

That brings us to this week’s FREE read, Episode 7 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Mom Comes Home. If you’re new to the story, start HERE and follow the links at the bottom of each episode to find the next.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Seven: Mom Comes Home

The End of the End

Two weeks went by in a blur of sadness, always waiting for Dad to come home from the hospital, always hoping for good news that didn’t come. Even Dream—the more even-keeled of the two—was losing her equanimity, often snapping at her brother.

Neither said so, but fear dogged their every waking moment, invaded their sleep.

“How long has he been gone this time, Imagine?” Dream whined. “Why does he leave us alone every single day. He doesn’t feed us the way Mom does, either…we’re lucky to eat once a day. Thank goodness we have the doggie door, or we’d be making a mess in here, for sure.”

It was Imagine who played peacekeeper now. He rolled onto his back next to his sibling, rubbing his face along her ear. “I think he’ll be home soon, Sis,” he said soothingly. “Want to go in the yard and play ball? It’s a nice day.”

“Who’s gonna throw it, Immy? In case you didn’t notice, we’re the only ones here.”

“I’ll throw it to you! And then I’ll chase you for it, just the way you like,” Imagine cajoled.

Dream smiled begrudgingly. “Fine, but get the new ball. Your slobber grosses me out,” she teased, then got to her feet and trotted out into the yard.

It’s Mom

“Incoming!” Imagine yelled as he whipped his head and released the ball toward the edge of the fence; Dream raced to grab it before it took a bad hop and disappeared from sight. Imagine was proud of his throwing ability . . . he’d taught himself in the “before days”—happier times when each morning brought new promise of adventure with his little family.

He sensed those days were gone.

“Dream tormented me about my ball obsession,” the dog remembered fondly, scratching his ear in tacit acknowledgment of the fleas already taking their blood breakfast. Dream would tire of the game quickly, as did Mom and Dad, so Imagine had taught himself—tossing the ball up into the air and catching it . . . over and over and over again.

“I never could get enough of that ball,” he sighed sadly, looking around at his empty, dirt-packed home. Not a ball, or any toy for that matter, in sight. How many years had it been since he had a ball? He couldn’t even remember anymore.

Suddenly Dream stopped dead in her tracks. “Immy! I hear the car! Dad’s home,” she cried, rushing past him and in through the door. “Maybe today will be the day he’s happy again,” she called over her shoulder to her brother.

Imagine shook his head. He didn’t think that day would ever come.

Afraid to hear any more bad news, he dawdled in the yard, pretending he had to re-mark the property boundary to keep intruders out.

“Well, that boxer next door needs to learn some manners,” he rationalized, grumbling to himself. “He’s always daring to stick his snout through that hole in the corner of the fence. He’s just lucky I’m a gentleman,” he huffed as he reluctantly took himself into the dark of the rec room and up the stairs to the kitchen.

Before he reached the top of the steps his gait quickened. What was that he heard? Could it be? Was that Mom’s voice?

It was coming from the living room!

Heart pounding, he charged into the room and ran smack into Dream, knocking her over. Neither dog said a word, though, as they pulled themselves together.

Both had eyes for only one person.

It was Mom, sitting small and seemingly shriveled in the corner chair, the good one, the one they never used. Her eyes met his, and he was struck by memories of his goodbye with Star. For in the eyes of the human he now knew as “Mom,” the one who made him feel safe and loved and kept his belly full, he again saw both sadness and resignation.

The only difference was that this time he wasn’t confused by the look—he understood what she was telling him: “Hello and all too soon Goodbye, my love.”

Next Episode: Homeless

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.

Read FREE! Episode Six of Imagine: Life on a Chain. His Greatest Fears

I’m feeling covidy today; but alas, there are no tests to be had in my town during this omicron outbreak, so I’m just staying in bed and reading…not so much a hardship, then, eh? This does mean I ALMOST didn’t publish today’s episode, but didn’t want to break my promise in case I have someone actually waiting on tenterhooks {ha!}, so here we go…

Remember, if you need to catch up, start at this link, then just follow the links at the bottom to the next episode.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Six: His Greatest Fears

The Middle of the End

Imagine and Dream moped downstairs, while an eerie silence took hold of what was once their warm, safe home. Dad had rushed off to the hospital after Mom, and the two dogs felt scared, alone in wondering what was happening and if they would ever see their mom again.

It was many hours before Dad came through the door, the sadness apparent on his face as he brushed a hand over his eyes and rubbed down toward his mouth. The dogs waited patiently, sitting quietly nearby and hoping for Dad to tell them something, anything.

Dennis sank heavily onto his kitchen chair. He looked at Val’s empty teacup beside him and tears began to work their way down his cheeks. He suddenly sprang to life, grabbing a scrub brush and a bucket of soapy water and ferociously swiped at the kitchen tiles, trying to remove every last spot of blood from Mom’s fall.

His anger spent, he sank back against the cabinets and looked at the dogs. “Come here, Imagine, Dream,” he called in a hushed voice. The dogs were nervous; negative emotions filled the room, and nothing felt the same. Their home was normally a happy one, but today everything was different. The siblings obediently crept to Dad’s side and lay down, heads in his lap.

The three sat for what seemed like hours, Dad running his hands through their fur and talking to them softly. They didn’t understand much of what he told them, but they knew from his tone that they had probably been right about Mom.

“I don’t know if you guys have noticed lately, but Mom hasn’t been well. I kept after her to go to the doctor, but I think she was afraid to hear any bad news, so she refused to go and played it down. She told me it was just a cold, just a headache, just a little tweak or twitch that would go away. I think she’s been in a lot more pain than I realized.

“They did a bunch of testing at the hospital . . . It’s the worst news we could imagine. Mom has cancer, and it’s all through her body; there’s nothing they can do. On top of that, she now has pneumonia, and they don’t even know if she will ever come home again.

“How is this possible, Imagine?” Dad asked brokenly. “Just last week we went on that hike to Red Rock, remember? Yeah, she was slower than usual, but so was I. I figured it was just our age getting to us. I had no idea she’s been this sick for this long.”

Imagine licked Dad’s hand, wishing he was a human too so he could take away some of Dad’s pain.

Dennis was sobbing now, holding both dogs tightly to his chest while long, mournful moans shook his body.

Imagine looked to Dream and whined, wondering what they could do. Surely there had to be a way to fix everything?

Dream shook her head, and then tried the only things she knew. She trotted downstairs and brought Dad offerings like she did with Imagine—first a ball, then a stuffed animal, and finally her leash and the promise of a walk. But nothing roused Dad from his stupor until she carried her dog bowl to him and dropped it in his lap. Dad blinked his bleary eyes and focused on her face for the first time.

“Oh, I’m sorry, guys. I’ll bet you’re hungry. Forgive me,” he sniffed, and then stood shakily to his feet, moving slowly about the kitchen to ready their dinner.

“Here you go. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was so late…” his words trailed off, and he stumbled toward the stairs, pulling himself up the railing and to his bedroom. Ignoring their food, the dogs followed, watching as he fell fully-clothed onto the bed and lay motionless. The rise and fall of his breath were the only indications he was still of this world.

The chained dog jerked from his reverie, peering about for signs of danger. Thomas still stretched across the grass nearby, but he’d moved into a new patch of sun to stay warm. “Magnum” stood and yawned. As painful as his current life was, he recognized that day as the start of his slide into what he would become…

Imagine and Dream curled into their beds on the floor, wondering what would become of them as they watched everything they loved slipping away…  

Next Episode: Mom Comes Home

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.

Read FREE! Episode Five of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Now What?

Hello, and Happy Holidays, no matter how, what, when, or where you celebrate! I hope you are able to find some happiness and relief in this week’s celebrations after a long and hard year.

Today we’re hitting Episode Five of my FREE Novella, entitled Imagine: Life on a Chain. Imagine finds himself still chained, but wrapped in memories of another time that feels so long ago. If you need to catch up, start with Episode One and follow the prompts at the end of each episode all the way through to where we are today. I hope you’ll share Imagine’s story with all your dog-loving friends…his and others living chained deserve to be seen and heard. Thank you.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Five: Now What?

The Beginning of the End

The dog was drawn from his reverie by a sound from the bushes behind him. He hopped to his feet and turned toward the noise, chain clanking. He was vulnerable and he knew it. The thickly-coiled logging chain gave him zero choice in the matter: fleeing wasn’t an option for the dog his owner called Magnum. The once-gentle animal was left to fight for his life, no matter the foe.

Despite the highway being only blocks away, the woods and river to his rear offered the occasional brush with animals larger than the medium-sized dog, including bear and coyote. To date, these passersby had always been more interested in stealing his dinner than in making him dinner, but he knew the day could come when hunger drove them further.

He understood that drive, as he himself had attacked and killed smaller animals who dared venture into the ring created by his dragging chain—though in his youth he would have been more likely to befriend other creatures, even welcome their company.

“When I was young and foolish,” the dog thought as he stared into the brush.

Fear for his life kept him on high alert now, but relief took over when he saw it was only Thomas, a bedraggled black cat who lived three houses down. The cat sometimes taunted him by lounging just out of reach of his chain, but Imagine didn’t bother giving chase anymore, understanding Thomas was probably just as lonely for companionship as he was.

Thomas strolled to a nearby patch of sun and lay down, stretching to take advantage of the warmth drawn to his black coat. Imagine relaxed too, feeling a little less alone with the cat nearby. He slipped back into his memories, although he was poignantly aware he’d be better off forgetting what came next…

Imagine raced upstairs to find Mom facedown on the kitchen floor. He was hit by the rusty odor of blood, and a trickle weaved its way from Mom’s forehead through the grout in the tiles beneath her. Panicked, Imagine turned to his sister. “Dream, I can hear she’s breathing; lick her hands and face to try to wake her up. I’m going outside to get Dad.”

Dream nodded and Imagine raced back downstairs and out the doggie door. Imagine had never liked the sound of the mower…it was loud and scary to his sensitive ears. But he knew he couldn’t indulge his fears today: he HAD to get Dad to pay attention! He raced to the middle of the yard and frantically circled both the mower and Dad, barking ferociously.

“Dad, it’s Mom! Please, please, come inside, NOW,” he yelped, hoping his unusual behavior would be enough to pull Dad from his task.

Dad turned off the mower, a concerned look on his face. “What is it, boy? Is everything ok?”

Imagine continued to bark and circle. The pressure to get Mom help immediately drove him to a frenzy he didn’t understand—he just knew Dad had to go inside.

To his relief, the message was not lost on Dad. “Alright, alright, you’re worrying me now. This isn’t like you, boy…I’m coming.”

Dad and Imagine hurried inside, Imagine through his doggie door and Dad sliding the screen door open and rushing in. By the time the two reached the kitchen upstairs, Mom was sitting up, Dream still worriedly licking the blood from her hands and face.

“Val!” Dad cried and knelt beside her, looking her over. “Oh my God, honey, what happened?”

“Calm down, Dennis, dear,” Mom said weakly. “I honestly don’t know. When I stood up I felt rather dizzy, and I think I hit my head against the counter. I must have passed out…”

“I’m calling the ambulance,” Dad cut her off, reaching for the phone. “You haven’t been yourself lately. You might have a concussion.”

Despite Mom’s assurances that she “would be fine, just give her a minute,” soon the sound of sirens reached their neighborhood, and Mom was ushered into a waiting ambulance on a stretcher, emergency personnel hooking up things that beeped and made strange noises.

Imagine and Dream stood miserably off to the side of the commotion, wondering if they’d ever see Mom again. Both dogs shook as the adrenaline wore off and a bone-deep weariness took over.

What now?

Next Episode: His Greatest Fears.

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.

Read FREE! Episode Four of Imagine: Life on a Chain. The Dream is Lost

Welcome, Friends, to today’s FREE EPISODE of Imagine’s Story, a fiction tale based on true rescue pups. Need to catch up? I got you!

Here are the links to the first three:

Episode One: A Weird Smell

Episode Two: His First Home

Episode Three: Imagine and Dream Go Home

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Four: The Dream is Lost

Mom is Sick

Imagine knew something was wrong with Mom, just knew it. But how could he communicate with her? He felt an urgency take hold and he paced, whining with anxiety. He heard Mom and Dad talking to Dream and him every day, but he only understood a handful of the human words they used: breakfast, dinner, treat, ball, toy, walk, RV, and swim were his all-time favorites… 

Those words had always elicited a tail wag and a happy “woof.”

Early on, Imagine and Dream learned to communicate their needs for bathroom breaks by poking Mom and Dad with their noses, and it seemed to work. Eventually Dad installed a doggie door from the rec room to the fenced backyard, and the two dogs spent part of the day chasing each other in and out, in and out, never again having to ask to do their business. 

“Well, unless we were camping,” Imagine remembered. “Mom hated to take us out of the RV for potty breaks at night, and always made Dad do it; he grumbled under his breath the whole time.” The memory was bittersweet.

Mom and Dad didn’t understand most of what he and Dream tried to communicate, either. It was generally acknowledged by all that they didn’t speak the same language, yet they muddled through to the best of their abilities—as families did.

With little choice in the matter, Imagine tried the only thing he knew: he poked Mom with his nose, then sat back on his haunches and looked at her expectantly.

“What is it, boy?” Mom asked, baffled. She yelled downstairs: “Honey, is the doggie door open? Imagine’s acting like he has to pee.”

“Yeah, everything’s a go down here, Hon,” he yelled back, muting the TV for a moment to make sure she could hear him.

Mom patted Imagine on the head. “Dad says it’s fine down there, sweetie. Run along and let yourself out if you need to go.” She made shooing motions and Imagine ruefully headed downstairs and out into the backyard, lost as to how to make her understand him.

***

Shadow

As Mom’s scent grew more pungent and overpowering to Imagine’s sensitive nose, even Dream began to detect it. “Oh, now I get it, Brother,” she told him one day. “That is a bad smell! It reminds me of the animals we see on the road sometimes on our trips, or along the trails we hike. Do you think Mom could be dying, too?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, Dream,” Imagine sighed. “I keep poking her with my nose to try to tell her, but she just thinks I have to go to the bathroom. It’s so frustrating!” He paced back and forth, not even his pile of tennis balls bringing him much comfort these days.

Imagine became Mom’s shadow, always worried she was going to fall; or worse, leave them when he wasn’t looking and never come back.

One day Mom sipped her afternoon tea at the kitchen table, lost in her own little world. Dad was mowing the lawn in the back, the hum of the tractor and scent of cut grass enveloping the house in a cozy familiarity. Imagine lay at Mom’s feet, keeping an ever-watchful eye on her as he fell in and out of slumber.

Mom crossed her legs, kicking her dozing “shadow” by accident. He yelped. “Imagine!” she cried in exasperation. “What is wrong with you? Why are you constantly underfoot? Get out of there! I need some space to think. Geez, buddy. I mean, I love you, but…”

Imagine slunk from under the table and down the steps, flopping beside his sister, who raised an eyebrow at her now-always-moody brother. “Bro, I know it’s sad, but what can we do? I don’t think she’s getting your message…you’re just annoying her now. Want to play ball? It’s your favorite…” Her voice trailed off hopefully, and she jumped up, wagging her tail and play-bowing.

But Imagine just didn’t have the heart for it.

Suddenly there came a “thud” from upstairs. Imagine looked at his sister wildly, and tore up the steps…

Next Episode: Now What?

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.

Read FREE! Episode Three of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Imagine and Dream Go Home

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:

Episode One: A Weird Smell

Episode Two: His First Home

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.

Next Episode: The Dream is Lost

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.