Maine, Maine, Where Have You Baine All My Life?

The view from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Oh, my goodness. I’d never baine to Maine before (yes, it’s a word, they’ll be adding it to dictionary.com any second) but I’m in LOOO-VVVV-EEEEE! Where to start?

One of the goals of our current nomadic lifestyle is to find a state we’d be happy retiring to, and for me Maine is leading the pack thanks to its beauty, coastline, lakes and rivers, and lack of drumpf signs—proven to cause eye spasms and other sundry stress-related illnesses in those with dumpty-allergies. However, we have many miles to travel before such a lofty decision can be made, so I’m tucking my oh-so-humble opinion away for later perusal as we traverse the rest of this fine nation.

The Fridge Fracas

I told you we were total camping newbs, right? Turns out this is good news for you, because I’ll have an extra large barrel of “mistakes were made” stories to dole out as we go along. Yippee!

It seems that the refrigerator locking mechanism, seen above, becomes an important tool to prevent meltdowns and loss of food resources as said camper gets yanked along from Point A to Point B. In this case we undertook a 248-mile trek from Littleton, Massachusetts to Ellsworth, Maine, where we plopped ourselves at the Patten Pond campground for an 11-day stay.

We’d been on the road for only twenty minutes when Joe said to me, “Hey, did you remember to lock the fridge door?”

I gave him the side-eye. Was I supposed to? “No, why, did you?”

“No,” he frowned, watching the camper sway in the rearview. “It’ll probably be fine, though, right?”

“Yeah,” I said in my most reassuring voice. “I’m sure it’s all good.”

NO! No it isn’t, ya dorks! By the time we bounced ourselves into our next campground, most of the fridge and half of the freezer were rolling around on the camper floor. We were able to salvage much of it, and we considered ourselves lucky when we saw what DIDN’T fall out of the fridge—the oversize jar of dill pickles with its requisite buttload of pickle juice. Whew, that was a close one…

Who’s gonna tell ‘im?

Animals in Name Only

The Patten Pond Camping Resort had their streets named with a local animal and then a word starting with the same letter. (Except for Owl’s Way, which just messes with my OCD.) “OOh, how exciting,” methinks to myself. “I would totally name my streets that way too. (Except for Owl’s Way, which—as I’ve mentioned—just messes with my OCD.) “I can’t WAIT for all the animals I’m about to meet! In 3-2-1…”

A Wise Bear brings Wine

Have I told you I like animals? Maybe. Well, I do, and the highlight of each stop for me is always the wildlife. But alas, in Maine I was stymied at every turn. We took the Nature Tour boat ride and only saw seals from afar (nah, we won’t take our binoculars, why would we need those?), hiked and encountered no bears or rattlesnakes (which was probably good, though, now that I think on it) and didn’t even share our campsite with a chipmunk.

But I know they’re out there somewhere; they’re just waiting to get to know me better before revealing themselves. The supply of wooded acreage in Maine is ample and the animals have tons of space to avoid humans, which I grant them is the most smartest move.

The Campground

The Schoodic Peninsula, SHHHH, Don’t Tell Anyone

We found out about The Schoodic Peninsula from the volunteers who run the Downeast Scenic Railroad (above), which we tested out on Sunday. They only do excursions on Saturdays and Sundays, and are a nonprofit with some dedicated volunteers at the helm. As long as you’re expecting a slow, pleasant ride through some woodlands and the town of Ellsworth, you’ll get your money’s worth.

The bottom of Schoodic Peninsula is part of the Acadia National Park, but most people don’t go over there because it’s an hour drive from Bar Harbor and the more well-known Park attractions like Cadillac Mountain and Thunder Hole. For me Schoodic was the hands-down winner, both because of the gorgeous views AND because of the lack of crowds.

So I’ll tell you about it but let’s just keep it between us…if you can only pick one, pick Schoodic. If you can only go on a weekend, choose Schoodic. The Mount Desert (pronounced dessert, I know, don’t get me started) park area is ALWAYS more crowded. Always. No matter the day.

The first day we drove to Schoodic, we set up our chairs along a gorgeous swath of coastline and I commenced reading and snacking with abandon; “ah, this is the life,” methinks to myself. “Finally, I’m livin’ the dream—beautiful weather, beautiful view, quiet, treats, and a book.”

Unfortunately for me, Joe was as antsy as a kid on a sugar high. “Shouldn’t we go hike the trail now before it gets too late?” he blurted out on more than one occasion, ruining my peaceful enjoyment of my surroundings.

“Argh,” says I. “I just wanna read and take in the scenery, why can’t I do that? Fine, then,” I grumble, mumbling to myself about how I’m comin’ back here and reading All. Damn. Day.

Which I did. Only the next time I played it smarter: I made him walk BEFORE we sat by the seashore, and told him he had to stay until I was ready to leave this time. He took a nap, which was fine and dandy by me. The longer he slept, the longer I got to relax.

At Cadillac Mountain we met an artist who was painting the scenery on tiny little copper canvases; seeing talent in action is so inspiring. [Should I take up art again? Nah…I’ll just watch others create, SOOO much easier.] We also explored my fear of heights further (yes, it’s alive and well) and Joe’s unfortunate need to make jokes about plummeting over the edge as my anxiety skyrockets. I’ve heard this is a man thing, but let me be the first to assure men this IS NOT HELPFUL. IN ANY WAY. Thank you.

Should we Talk about the Lobster in the Room?

One of my animal rescue friends texted me: “Tami, make sure you go out on a working lobster boat while you’re in Maine.” We’re still buds because of my kindness and easygoing nature (eh-hem), but I do have to admit he got an earful in return.

I mean, I was already engaged in a fruitless attempt to ignore the very existence of the Maine lobster fishing fetish. I hadn’t realized at first that the buoys I was seeing throughout the water belonged to lobster traps. I thought they were guidance buoys, and when it dawned on me what they actually were, Joe used his patented technique to distract me from the coming animal rant. “Do you see seals out there?”

My head whipped around, “Seals, where?”

“I didn’t see any, I just wondered if you did. Any chipmunks?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I know what you’re doing, ya sneaky bastage.” Truth be told, it usually works, because then we bicker about his distraction techniques instead of him listening to me rant, which he must find an acceptable tradeoff.

Luckily for me he doesn’t like seafood.

Bar Harbor itself is quite lovely, with a plethora of restaurants, harbor and Acadia tours, and souvenir shops. I decided that when I was annoyed by an animal industry, I would buy myself a passive-aggressive t-shirt to make myself feel better.

Animals eating people is always a good choice. Until I get scarfed down by a bear of course…then it won’t be so funny, eh? But I’ll be dead, so maybe I’ll still get a good chuckle out of the irony of it all.

I Can’t Believe it Happened!

Last week when I suggested campgrounds prohibit political signage (you realize before drumpf NO ONE was dragging political signs camping with them, right? Who in their right mind?) I figured it was a pipe dream. But when we hit Maine the campground rules had the following:

Halle-effin-lujah! It finally happened. Now I can’t leave Maine.

Tootius Maximus Gets a Fix

Everyone’s got their way to escape, eh? But Tootie, as a feral cat, doesn’t have much of a life outside this camper. She’s certainly not a cat I can outfit with a harness and leash and walk around the campground, or even let her sit outside with me. She would be terrified and find a way to wiggle out of the harness and that would be it for her. She’d be gone. And I’d be wrasslin’ with a whole tankful of guilt and remorse.

But when I see her sitting in front of the screen door and wistfully looking outside I get sad for her too. Like her mommy and daddy, she used to eat her feelings, but now she can’t because of her throat issue, so she’s forced to eat to live rather than live to eat.

I wanted to enrich her life, but she’s not much for toys at her age. “She does love herself some catnip,” I muse. “Except she usually makes a huge mess by rolling in it and eating it before finally passing out covered in the stuff.”

Still, it was one thing I could offer her to give her a moment of escape, no matter how brief her “high” lasts. Joe picked some up for me at the store and the second it arrived she was out of her “office” and searching for it. This was rare for her in the middle of the day, so I knew she had caught the scent but just couldn’t find it. After letting the anticipation build for just a few more moments I put a small amount on a towel and let her go for it. She did not disappoint! I tried giving her more the next night, but she showed little interest, so I guess catnip will be a once a week special treat so she has something to look forward to!

My friends are starting to send me memes with a little something in common. Should I be worried?

Untethered Tour Shares Massachusetts Campsite with Chippy, Pays in Sunflower Seeds. Oh, and We Visit Some Places, Too.

Do These Seeds Make my Face Look Fat?

I love chipmunks. Bunnies, too. I’d love them anyway, but one of the primary reasons I’m so enthralled is that our home in Virginia had next to none of either, and what you don’t see every day you start to miss and become even more fascinated by. I could only surmise that there was so little food for animals higher in the chain that the chipmunks and bunnies were overhunted and all but disappeared; the situation made me sad.

I had one little guy for awhile but I told myself not to get too attached—I watched him for weeks but then he was gone…[sniff.]

Anyhoo, the chippy you see above was one of the two reasons our campsite in Littleton, Massachusetts (https://campatminuteman.com/) was my favorite yet. The second? A completely wooded locale surrounded by tall trees left me feeling all nestled in, like our small rodenty flatmate.

As we began to back our camper into the site I spotted two of the little guys chasing one another up trees and over rocks and was immediately happier. A chipmunk (or two) I could love for days, yippee!

I discovered “my” chippy had a hole right near a rock by the septic line. Fine, maybe he wasn’t the wisest of chippies—or maybe he won that “crappy” locale in a booby prize contest—but he was still mine, all mine! I immediately set about plotting how to introduce myself, what kind of food I should offer, and if he would agree to be my valentine or not. That last desire made me particularly nervous, because putting myself on the line like that also left me wide open for the worst possible outcome: chippy rejection!

To be honest, I don’t know if “he” was really a dude or not [I had a vibe], but I’m an equal opportunity chippy snuggler, so I was all in regardless.

I immediately procured [yes, these are for ME, honey], some shelled sunflower seeds and put a little pile in sight of my window. Within moments Linus (that’s his name, he told me, I swear!) was onsite fillin’ up. Impressive! How do they know so fast? Smell, sight? Maybe I should investigate, or you can educate me, which sounds easier now that I think about it.

I dug out my camera with the long lens to get a closer shot, then I piled seeds around the campsite so I could watch him discover the next and the next and then carry his booty off to his lair. As I watched him my heart splooted and the baby talk splurted outta my mouth, “Oooh, come here sweet little guy! Those cheeks…can I please kiss ’em?”

He, of course, because he’s small and probably doesn’t swear, even to himself, replies, “Good seeds, Nutto, but you’re not getting those freaky lips anywhere near THESE cheekies. Now remove your nasty poo-mobile from my proppity.”

But since I don’t speak Chippish (which I will rectify as soon as Duolingo gets onboard), I continued to give him seeds and attempted to woo him daily with varying degrees of success.

Joe Channels His Redneck Ingenuity

I guffawed when he said he’d use the leafblower to get the fire going. He had the last laugh. I poo-pooed his desire to roast marshmallows inside instead of out on a rainy night, but he got me on that one too. He’s obviously been studyin’ up! Now I gotta’ get me a “Redneck Camping 101 for Idiots” manual too so I can find all the workarounds.

We Did Sightsee Too…Salem was First

I was excited to visit Salem because of the notoriety of the place, and found myself a bit disappointed. I mean, not sure what I was expecting, really? Bonafide witches galore, unknown and super creepy creatures at every corner and perched in every tree? Perhaps my expectations were too high…

The city was bigger than we thought, so after we finally located a parking garage (nope, not a city girl) we jumped on the next bus tour ($22, recommended) and then visited two of the many museum choices.

The Salem Witch Museum ($16.50 each) seemed to be the most popular, but I was like, “Um, why?” after we spent our time and money to get in on the action. Consider yourself warned. Not only that, but [uh-oh, is she warming up the soapbox for a RANT?] you could ONLY buy tickets online…even if you were standing at their door.

Which seems not only rude, but also ROO-OODE. What about the elderly, or people who just don’t have a smartphone or internet for whatever reason? They just can’t come? Discrimination, I tell ya!

Joe and I can muddle our way through these kinds of things even though we speak internet as our third or fourth language. But if my mother were still able to travel she simply couldn’t get into the museum, for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m all for online tickets…they’ve made our lives no doubt easier. But we can’t discriminate against those for whom today’s world can be very overwhelming, can we? [End rant.]

I “enjoyed” the Salem Witch Dungeon ($13 per person) more, although by then the bar wasn’t very high. Pretty much wherever you went you heard the same tale of how it all went down—some teenage girls were looking for attention by creating drama, and then some so-called Godly people got in on the action by lying about folks they didn’t like so they would be killed. Nice. So what we’re saying is people then were just as nasty as they are today? Noted.

Boston’s Duck Boat Tour, and Then a Boat Tour

Yes, this may seem redundant, but not in the mind of my hubby, whose inner workings I’m not always privy to. We attempt to make what we see and do fair by either choosing something we both enjoy or taking turns. Since I really wanted to do the Duck Tour, when he still wanted to take a harbor tour after I simply shrugged and said “Ok.” Whatever floats his boat, right? Apparently that’s boats and more boats…

We had a real character for a tour guide on the duck boat tour, and I can only remember two of his jokes to go with the above pics: 1. Here’s a statue of a woman looking at her phone in church, and then they hanged her. 2. There’s a bar across the street from this cemetery, and it’s the only place in the world you can drink a cold Sam Adams while overlooking a cold Sam Adams. (I didn’t say he was politically correct.)

Joe said he’d never been to Boston, but I knew I had…except I’d only seen the Capitol building because I was chained out in front of it all day. Chained dogs don’t get city tours of course; they’re ostracized and ignored, which I can assure you happened to me in every state I visited. “Who’s that crazy lady on the chain? She’s soooo awkward! Avoid her at all costs.”

Whatever, people! I was making a point…

I met this rabbit at the Capitol building. He almost came right up to me! I’m used to woodland creatures who run at the first sight of a human, these city guys blow my mind. If I wasn’t already engaged to Linus the Chippy, I would have offered Bun Bun my hand as well. No two-timing allowed…at least in the same state. That’s my rule and I’m sticking to it.

I told you that Joe and I are antisocial introverts who hide in our camper and never talk to anyone. Yeah, that’s kinda true, although I’ll have you know I’ve been making a little effort to meet new people. Why, just today I talked to our neighbors in the campground, as a matter of fact, and they were nice and didn’t cut me up and cook my eyeballs or anything.

They’re both pretty adorable

We had some mail sent to Joe’s son’s friend’s apartment in Boston, because mail on the road is a bit of a nightmare. Rachel kindly walked downtown to rondevue with us after her work and we had dinner together; then we got to meet her puppy Atlas, who you can imagine I was quite taken by. (We wrastled.)

I also went on a lunch date-but-not-a-date with author Christy Burbidge, who has two books with FreedomChaser and is co-editing Don’t Look a Gift Couch in the Mouth with me [Yes, I know we’re decades behind, but I promise it will be out in time for the holidays. My bad….] We forgot to get a pic together though, so my question is “if there’s no pic did it even happen?”

Enjoy some more photo evidence of our Massachusetts stay. Or not. Really, the choice is yours:

We’re currently in Maine, so sign up for updates or check in next week for more Untethered Tour news!

Tootie funny: she tried to go into her hiding spot from the other side—got stuck—so she just hung out like that for a bit before she backed out and huffed to her normal “office.”

East Hampton, CT, Land of Father’s Days, Anniversaries, and Family Visits

One of the funny signs seen while camping in East Hampton

Happy Father’s Day, Male Readers! What, that was a week and a half ago? Well, no matter. Keep in mind that I thought of you that week, and make this retroactive to last Sunday like a good lad. There ya go.

Here, I’m leaving you this funny sign that was probably written by a man, which doesn’t in any way interfere with its ability to amuse. You’re welcome.

Who doesn’t love the word “amok”?

Camping signs are a definite “thing” out here in the RV world, and I’m all for anything that can make me lol. Therefore I’ll be kind enough to share with you any gems I come across in my travels. No need to thank me—I’m generous like that.

I love the word “amok,” don’t you? It’s just funny without even saying another word, which is a rarity. In fact, one of my favorite lines from a movie is in Two Weeks Notice, where Hugh Grant is eating cheesecake and he says to Lucy, aka Sandra Bullock, “There’s something amok with this cheesecake.” In his English accent? Hilarious. [Turns out it was made from tofu, which probably wasn’t as good back in the early 2000s, but is downright tasty these days. I’m looking at you, Daiya.]

Signs in Campgrounds Should be Funny or Kind…Not Anxiety-Producing, Amiright?

Turns out there are signs that aren’t amusing in any way, and I don’t understand why campgrounds won’t make their sites a politics-free zone. You know the ones I’m talking about. Ones that, say, worship a man who led a cult to assault our Capitol and our democracy? Yeah, that one. We trundled our way up to Connecticut, a blue state, eager to escape the stress-inducing world of drumpfdom.

The first sign I saw as we pulled into the Markham Meadows Campground read, “You are Now Entering a Stress-Free Zone.”

“Oh, Hallelujah,” methinks to myself. “Finally, I’m in a sane place and can relax into the moment.” Then we schlepp around the corner to park our camper, and lo and behold run headlong into yet another disturbing sign of drumpf worship—and it’s directly across the pond from us. I despair that this particular disease has spread well beyond the borders of trumpland, and folks like me are being ideologically assaulted everywhere we go. Bah.

All these campgrounds already give campers a list of rules you have to abide by; how difficult would it be to add one little rule that reads: “No political signage. Everyone is out here to leave daily life behind, so please leave politics at home and be kind to your neighbors. Thank you.” There. Problem solved!

The 11th Anniversary Bargain

We celebrated our 11th Anniversary on our first whole day in East Hampton, and a bargain to forego cards and gifts FOR THIS YEAR ONLY was struck in advance due to space constraints in the camper. I had to be very careful to ensure that the hubs understood this was a ONE-YEAR EMBARGO only, because he’s fully capable of extending the policy ad infinitum if I don’t keep an eye on him every second. How do I know that? There is precedent.

Consider this . . . every year we hold this particular discussion at Easter:

Me: Are we doing anything for Easter?

Him: We aren’t religious, we don’t celebrate Easter.

Me. The Bunny doesn’t care if you’re religious or not, The Bunny brings candy for ALL.

Him: But we aren’t religious.

Me: Buy me some fucking candy.

See what I’m sayin? He’s a sneaky one. He has also attempted to deploy the same argument in favor of boycotting Christmas, but that test balloon never made it off the ground. I’m watching you, Bud! (But I’ll always love you…)

We ate breakfast at a little local diner, and then headed in the direction of the coastline hoping for some beach time. We landed at a harbor in Old Saybrook where there wasn’t a beach per se, but there was putt-putt, so we shrugged our shoulders and the challenge was on.

Joe and I are both a trifle too competitive. He will deny it of course, but I for one shamefully admit to being the bearer of a competitive nature; he won’t even play Scrabble with me anymore because he claims that I get mad if I don’t win by ENOUGH. I don’t think he has any evidence to back him up on this foul accusation, though, so it will have to forever be his word against mine.

Hubs with his tiny putter

I immediately claimed the right to choose his putter for him and handed him the tiniest one for the tots. To get even he pulled the one for Andre the Giant out of the rack for me, and the game commenced.

I was distracted by the local pokemon go action (don’t be judgy) and by the third hole I was already bleeding profusely. I made the ultimate sacrifice of putting my phone away so I could focus on the task at hand, but my luck never improved and I was soundly trounced by my loving husband.

After the match we once again went in search of a beach, but Old Saybrook was charging between $25-$40 just to park at one of their beaches if you weren’t a resident. Highway robbery, I tell ya’. Nah…that wasn’t happening.

Visiting the CT coastline? I’d recommend doing a little better homework than we did.

In the end a nice dinner (Impossible burger for me, yum) and a couple different ciders rounded out the day nicely.

Grandma Pat and the Laundry Conundrum

This would come up as a topic of discussion at some point, so we might as well thrash it out now. I have a teeny tiny laundry issue—that’s not really even worth mentioning really—except it impacts my joy of travel.

I spend less time pondering the fun things we can do on our trip than the following crazily important questions: “What about laundry? Can I do laundry there? Is it gross? Crowded? What if I can’t do laundry for weeks at a time? How will I survive?”

I’ve never liked laundry to pile up, because then it seems overwhelming, like it’s something you’ll never get done. I’ve got enough overwhelminginity in my life without adding dirty laundry to the list. My fairly normal OCD worsened from my years in dog rescue, because then EVERY DAY became overwhelming. Not only did my laundry need to be done but all the dog laundry too. AAAHHHH!

I felt a touch bit better knowing we were going to visit Rayne’s grandma Pat; not only because I love her to pieces, but also because she’s a laundry nut too. She’s constantly doing laundry and even grabbing our laundry when we visit, so I knew she’d be onboard with us dragging our dirty clothes along behind us. We even washed our sheets and our comforter, so I can breathe a little easier for a week or two! Whew.

Dishwasher Despots

Every family’s got one: that person who knows the ONLY right way to load the dishwasher, and spends half their lives re-arranging it along behind the rest of the family. God help ya’ if you have more than one!

Joe is ours. Brynn and I never cared enough to argue about it with him, so we’d just shrug our shoulders and save our energy for more important battles. We don’t have a dishwasher out here on the road, and I think Joe relished the opportunity to put his considerable skills to use at Pat’s house.

Except here he ran into an immutable force: a fellow Dishwasher Despot, in her own territory! He was outgunned. As it turns out, there’s MORE than one right way to load the dishwasher, and Pat took the opportunity to school him on the REALLY real correct way: hers.

I simply sat back and enjoyed the show. In fact, “relished it” wouldn’t be a stretch. Sometimes it’s just the little things, ain’t it?

This week we’re in Massachusetts, and I will regale you with more splendiforous tales soon. In the meantime, enjoy some more photos from the campground and other Connecticut delights.

Oh, and P.S.

I put my Imagine: Life on a Chain novella into paperback and kindle formats if you’re interested in reading it or purchasing it as a gift. Audiobook to come soon.

I will definitely be offering nonprofit pricing to any groups who’d like to purchase to give away or sell at booths. Just reach out to me through my site at tamirathayne.com.

I don’t have it up on the site yet because I’m still figuring out how to make time for writing and publishing while I’m on the road, but I’ll get there!

Imagine: Life on a Chain

by Tamira Thayne

The dog awoke, feeling more uncomfortable than usual—which was saying something, given that he was chained to a dilapidated box the size of a grocery cart.

The world seemed off, the neighborhood quiet, even the woods behind him hushed—like everything waited…

He shifted uneasily, sniffed the air.

What was that? He brought his head up and inhaled deeply.

He didn’t recognize it—and yet…and yet. Something about the odor nudged a memory from his mind, of a time when life held promise, when he’d fully embraced the naïve enthusiasm that came with puppyhood.

He tugged on the mental string, and the flashback overwhelmed him. He sagged onto the ground, assaulted by memories of his first home…

• Based on true-life stories of rescue dogs •

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-954039-20-9
Paperback https://www.amazon.com/dp/1954039204

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B4BD34S8

Untethered Tour Camps in the PA Poconos, But No Heart-Shaped Honeymoon Tub for Me

The Pocono Palace. Hubba hubba.

We were halfway through our sojourn in the Poconos before Hubs comes out with the truth.

“See that hotel? That’s where my first wife and I went on our honeymoon.”

“Whaaattt? Oh, these jokes write themselves. Where’s my heart-shaped jacuzzi tub? Champagne? Why did she get all the good stuff and I’m in a camper in a rundown campground with my 11th anniversary looming in a matter of days? WHAAAAAA!”

I can’t imagine for the life of me why he waited until we’d passed it a dozen times before fessing up. It’s not like I’m fully capable of turning such things into joke fodder or a means of upping my own wifely status.

Redboxes: They Still Exist and Now I Know Why

I remember it clearly, as it was just a month or two ago and it hasn’t yet slipped through my mental sieve. I stopped at a convenience store and noticed the Redbox outside. “Redbox? Who the hell still rents movies from those things. Dinosaurs, I tell ya’!”

Cue digging foot of mouth in three…two…one. Me, that’s who! Turns out we’ve got ourselves a tiny little internet problem out here on the road. Firstly, I assumed we came equipped with unlimited hotspot on our phones—as we used to—but Verizon played a sneaky trick last time we “upgraded” and cut us down to 25 GB a month. Joe ran out of data in May and I ran out in June, and that just ain’t raight. Rude, Verizon, Rude!

Secondly, I assumed all campgrounds would have free wifi as this isn’t the dark ages, but apparently much of the U.S. is still missing that memo. Including campgrounds. Double Rude.

Others traversing the U.S. are sporting internet solutions that we haven’t yet explored—newbs and all. But I’m sure Joe will investigate more this week, and then we can slay this particular giant. Or not.

We ended up renting movies we hadn’t seen on two different nights, and I’m here to assure you that Redbox does still have a purpose on this earth after all. My bad, Redbox. Continue about your business.

Bushkill Falls Hike

Come on, it’s Adorkable!

We’ll be sightseeing at least a coupla’ days at each stop, but don’t expect us to showcase the obscure or out-of-the-way stuff. We’ll most likely be hitting up popular tourist activities that spark our interest or float our boat, and who doesn’t love him or herself a good waterfall?

We sojourned to Bushkill Falls during the week (advised, so much less crowded!) and it cost $15 each to partake of this particular beauty. It’s $18 on weekends.

In my humblest of opinions it was well-worth the price of admission. They’ve spent a ton of time and money adding wooden walkways and steps throughout, so you get to feel like you’re living in a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse as you traverse the terrain and trot out your own particular brand of oohs and aahs.

We picked the longest route, even though it clearly told us those who are out of shape should be moving along to one of the easier trails. I’m surprised our faces weren’t plastered on the sign as a cautionary tale: “These idjits thought they could do the two-hour tour. Don’t be them. Bwahahahaha….”

Maybe we’ll actually get a little more svelte throughout our journey thanks to all this exertion? One never knows.

The Big ‘Un

There’s no shame in admitting that I had to make frequent stops when ascending the rocks and steps. As soon as this girl’s heart rate hits 140, my inner diva makes an appearance and I do declare “Imma bouta faint” or something equally awkward. Luckily for us we were surrounded by others of a similar shape and size, and there were frequent drink and “I gotta sit down before I die” breaks for most everyone.

The only animals we saw were stuffed, which is ew, but at least they don’t appear to have been killed just to display here, as the sign claims they were donated by “state and local game commissions.” Take it for what it’s worth.

Speaking of Out of Shape…I Got A Bike

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m not a good biker either. I know. Who’da thunk it?

Ever since I was a little kid I had to walk up ALL the hills. Even the little ones. Everyone says, “Don’t you shift down?” like I never thought of it or somethin’.

“Why Yes, Yes I do! But then I have to peddle MORE to go a shorter distance. How is that easier? My poor tiny leggies get too tired to go on. All I can do is end this torture and get off the bike!”

Walking is easier.

Joe lived in town and biked EVERYWHERE as a kid. He even peddled 12 miles to go work for FREE at a garage, and all I can think is Who Does That?

For whatever reason, even though he’s barely ridden in years, he hasn’t lost his bike finesse. Being the gentleman he is, however, he kindly got off and walked when I did, informing me we’d work on my lack of biking fortitude as we go. Don’t hold your breath, man!

Pocono Snake & Animal Farm

In a perfect world there would be no zoos, no roadside animal exhibits, no exploitation of animals, but support for them to live in their native habitats. We don’t live in a perfect world, alas, and sometimes BETTER has to be good enough because BEST isn’t an option. This applies primarily to wild animals who are purchased by humans with zero clue as to their needs, and who hence inevitably seek to “get rid” of them. But where can they go? They can’t go back into the wild because they’ve become unable to fend for themselves.

As such, I didn’t find myself vehemently opposed to the Pocono Snake and Animal Farm. Many of their animals are rescues, or “donated” as they called it, by people who got them and had no business having them. Most of the animal habitats ranged from adequate to good, and I truly hope these babies lives have improved from whatever dastardly conditions they previously endured.

Food we purchased for BearBear, the monkeys, and the pigs or goats.

We paid $9.50 each to get in, plus $6 for food for the animals.

Food! For the Animals!

I’ll be the first to admit this is a genius move on the part of the PSAF. We pay to get in…AND we pay for the food for their animals, too? Diabolical!

I’m a hardcore animal feeder, and my primary concern (i.e. obsession) when I visit these kinds of places is “Are the animals being fed?”

I worry and drive myself to distraction over the thought of hungry animals, even though I logically know it’s happening all over the world at any given time and there’s little I can do about it.

But I can at least help in my little corner, right?

If I see an animal I want to feed him or her. It’s really that simple, and it brings me great joy to watch them eat and know I played a part in filling their little bellies. [Assuming they aren’t chomping on a human or another animal, that is…I can’t be seeing that, oh, the trauma.]

I bottle-fed the pigs, tossed fruit and veggies to the monkeys (spoiler, they throw most of the veggies on the ground, but they love the fruit), and fed the bear. Bearbear is over 20 years old now, and they have a couple monkeys who are over 50 years old. It’s normal for animals reaching the end of their life spans to look a little worse for wear; as we age it happens to all of us—and our companion animals, too. The owners of PASF wisely posted signs about the age and condition of the oldest animals so that people like me wouldn’t lose our minds.

A few of the animals we met that day: Bearbear sits in front of the tube and catches each treat as you put it down. Timmy the capuchin jumps up and down and throws his pillow around to entertain the kids who visit. The alligator snapping turtle sits with his mouth open, wiggles his tongue, and the fish swim right in. Who knew!

Tootie Gets a New Hiding Spot

If you know feral cats, you know they have to have a hiding spot. These are hard to come by in a small camper, but Tootie was squeezing herself amongst our stash of stuff at the end of our bed whenever she felt scared. This was far from ideal, since she couldn’t turn around in the tiny space and was left with her butt hanging out. It looked downright uncomfortable. So we moved her cat tube to the end of the bed and covered it with the bottom of the comforter. Now she can slip under the blanket and up into the tube whenever she wants. She proclaimed herself satisfied with the upgrade, and now she comes out of “her office” for food, potty, treats, and some occasional mommy love.

Timothy Lake North Campground

What a dump! Oh, is that too harsh? How about this: Methinks this campground could use a teensy bit of fluffing up. We felt like we were camping in an apocalyptic ghost town, complete with skeletons of campers past and an aversion to grass cutting or any of the basic tenets of groundmanship.

The campground is run by Thousand Trails, which we’ve joined with a basic camping membership on the recommendation of a friend. We’re still debating the pros and cons of purchasing any of their various upgrades, but Timothy Lake North Campground was not a plus for their side. Oddly enough, Lake Timothy South is just a mile or two down the road, and it is clearly a much better run and cared-for campground. What up with that?

PoGo in the Poconos

Either the Poconos isn’t fond of Verizon or Verizon isn’t fond of the Poconos. Whichever the case may be, I showed two bars or nothing throughout our stay, an unfortunate circumstance which is not conducive to pokemon play. I even got tossed from a Mewtwo raid that only had four people in it, an obvious crime against PoGoLand! I was needed, dammit!

The worst violation took place at Bushkill Falls, which sported an impressive array of gyms, pokestops, and pokeman for the taking. I witnessed the bounty before me as we turned onto the property, slavered appropriately, only to freeze up and catch the distinct tinkling laughter of Verizon as they mocked my dismay. I never could get back in the game while there. Triple Rude.

We’ve landed in Massachusetts at a tres bonne campground boasting internet AND cable. Lordy, lordy, am I witnesseing a miracle? I shall regale you with our [mis]adventures from last week and this one soon. Tata for now…

Untethered Tour Stop One: Home in PA, an Engagement or Marriage?, and One Angry Feral Kitty

The Untethered Tour has officially begun! I’m not gonna claim that our first stop was particularly auspicious by any means…but every beginning is still a beginning, no?

New to the blog? If so, all you need to know to catch up is that the hubs, yours truly, and my feral cat Tootie are spending the next year traveling the U.S. in search of freedom (not the idiotic “patriot” kind), adventure (no rock climbing for this girl), and any interesting animals and people we meet along the way.

Since the three of us are freakishly shy, you can expect us to meet more animals than people. And by “meet animals,” I probably mean just awkwardly spying on them in the wild. Through the window. As one does.

Before we could commence on this daring adventure, however, we had to be out of our house by the end of April and Joe still had over a month of work to go. So he dropped me (and dear Tootance) at my mother and stepfather’s house in Bellwood, PA, so I could make myself useful for a couple weeks. My mom suffers from advanced dementia, is no longer verbal, and unable to care for herself; her husband Chuck is determined that she won’t die alone in a nursing home, which is so “god love the man” of him.

Mom with Chuck and her caregiver Celia. We went for walks on nice days.

I hadn’t seen them much since the pandemic started, both because I lived four hours away and because I was terrified of taking them out with covid. I knew he had his hands full, but without spending the three weeks with them I wouldn’t have understood the extent of his sacrifice.

Sisterly love. My Aunt Bee comes down a few times a week to help get mom to bed.

A huge Shout Out and much respect to all caregivers of dementia patients. To lose your husband, wife, or parent to this disease is horrific and cruel…the person you love is gone long before their physical body follows.

Watching Chuck behave so lovingly with my mother, however, gave me chills. He’d tease her by talking in a falsetto, and then he’d laugh and kiss her while she just looked at him like “who the eff is this dude taking liberties with my personage, I’ve never seen him before in my life.” He was inspiring.

Once in awhile, though, once in awhile, a slight smile would lift her lips and I’d be left to wonder how much of the world around her might still be getting through. As a test, I sang and danced for her daily, but she, alas, remained unimpressed. I mean, I’ve been told I’m a “very determined” dancer, so I can’t imagine she wasn’t secretly enthralled by my performance. She just has a good poker face.

Tootie mostly hid under the bed. What can one expect from a feral cat, anyway? She does love her mommy, though, so she would come up and cuddle me at night, yet never became comfortable enough to venture out during the day, what with all the “stranger-danger.”

After Mom and Chuck went to bed, however, party Tootie came out to play…or lay, as the case may be. Whatevs. At least she was out!

Joe picked me up Wednesday the 8th, and we drove the 12 miles to our campsite in Duncansville, PA for the next five nights. Why so close you ask? [Damn, it’s gonna take these moe-rons three years to cross the country at this rate…]

We had a reason, I promise. My handsome, almost 29-year-old son Rayne and his girlfriend Kristin got engaged, and we could hardly miss my first child’s engagement bash! That just makes for bad family drama, which we’re obviously way too mature for. (Duh.)

We decided to pick up Tootie the next evening, because we still had a lot of work to get the camper in order, and—to be honest—we were terrified of wrastling her out from under the bed. The little turd bit me recently when I was trying to give her medicine, so I’ve been left with a pretty healthy respect for her general chomper area and tend to avoid pissing that part of her off.

As a disclaimer, I fully hope that she will eventually “get” what we’re up to and docilely toddle into the crate to be moved from the camper to the truck and back on moving days. We remain far from this goal to date.

The wrastling went as poorly as one could expect, and included ferocious growling and gnashing of teeth. Tootie wasn’t happy either. I was a little too fluffy to fit under the bed (eh-hem), so I had to scour the garage for a primitive cat-sweeping tool, finding a set of old crutches which would fit the bill. I quickly learned that Tootie must have had a bad crutch experience in her past, because she immediately set to attacking the offending “cat sweepers” in a most unladylike manner. The ensuing battle spilled from the bedroom into the laundry room, where after some more “persuasion” she was finally cornered and morosely slipped into her crate, pouting in the corner.

I would have taunted her for being such a sore loser about it all, but I’d prefer not to have my face ripped off in the middle of the night; I wisely kept my commentary to myself.

Plus, I love her. She a little Tootie Monster, after all.

Engagement or Marriage? It’s All Very Confusing

I love my kids. I love that they are so different from me and from each other, and I love that they have minds of their own. And that they are pretty unapologetic about it, too! As they should be.

Rayne asked Kristin to be his wife on a ski trip in March, and—as women are wont to do—she immediately went into planning mode while Rayne looked about for a hiding spot. They worked it out amongst themselves eventually, and settled on an engagement party this year and a wedding at the Outer Banks next year.

Then they threw a wrench in the works by getting “technically married” at the courthouse so she will be listed as his next of kin when he goes off to school for the Air Force Reserves. But they still had the engagement party and the official wedding is still on for next year, so seize the day, you do you, and all that good stuff.

I love Kristin to pieces, and warned her that she picked a bit of a clunker family to marry into, but WELCOME! Guess she’s stuck with us now.

One of us has one pair of shoes out. The other has four.

Happy Camper Tips

  1. Drugs. I recently started taking anti-depression meds for the first time in my life, and I wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner! Now me and the other ladies I meet bond over our meds. Ha. And I’m much less concerned about the little things. Which is important when taking the plunge on a change like this! Campground is creepy? Stay inside and read, you say? Sweet, I’m in.
  2. Have a partner who likes to plan. In truth, Joe doesn’t like to plan either, but he’s been on the hook for most of it so far. Turns out his ex-wife did most of their itinerary stuff when they were together, so I figure why can’t we just ask her to plan our route? Seems like a wise compromise to me.
  3. Learn to live with your partner’s messiness. I want to be neat. I think I have the gene for it, somewhere buried under all those years of dog fostering. I don’t often succeed, but when it comes to a space as small as our camper, my mind automatically rejoices, “Yes, NOW our house can be unsullied, flawless even! Surely Joe will see how important it is that we keep everything in its place and then we’ll be the happiest of campers forever after, amen.” Wrong. I’ve mostly given up on my dream of the perfect little camper home already, and we’ve just hit our second campground. If you want to know how I’ve gotten over it so quickly, a reminder to see Tip #1.
  4. Don’t travel with a feral cat. The reasoning on this should be obvious to everyone who isn’t me, but just in case: the reality is that if said cat escapes the confines of the truck, camper, or carrier, you may never lay eyes on the angry little kitty again. No pressure, though.

Scorecard

I wouldn’t rely on me for great camping advise. I’m a total newb. That being said, I’ve been to three campgrounds so far, and Wright’s Campground in Duncansville made the top two. I think if you get a decent spot, you’ve got a full hookup, and they keep the place looking cared for and the grass cut, how bad can it really be? After all, we already bring our “hotel room” along with us. The people there were nice and the place was cared for. It was small and basic, but it worked for us!

Sightseeing at the Horseshoe Curve

I’m from the area but Joe isn’t, so we made an effort to visit one tourist attraction while we were in town. We chose the “World Famous Horseshoe Curve,” because anything world famous must be Ah-Maz-Ing, right? Most locals have been there, kids even take field trips with school like I did as a youngster, so it’s worth a looksee if you happen along. It cost us $8 for the two of us to get in with military discount, and we waited an hour for a train to decide to show up. With 50-60 trains per day, we obviously hit the lunch break or something, but there’s also a museum where I learned that during WW2 Nazis were arrested for planning to blow up the Horseshoe Curve. See? I told you it was THAT important.

For Pokemon Go players such as myself (no shame!), the Horseshoe Curve sports a gym and a coupla stops too, so go throw me out when you get there so I can get my 50 coinage.

Trumpers gotta trump

Speaking of Not-sees, the Cult of Trump still has to trumpet their loyalty even as their golden boy goes down for attempting to steal an election in what’s supposed to be a democracy. I’m out here tryna’ forget about all things drumpf, but these constant reminders could drive a girl to edibles. What states are they legal in nowadays, anyways?

Today we landed in East Stroudsburg, PA, so if you have any tips or animals for us to meet, give me a shout! See you on here next week with another tres-exciting update.

Road cat—as opposed to road kill—but just a little less grumpy.

Preparing for the “Untethered Tour,” aka Life on the Road with Tami and Joe

I started this “Untethered” blog many moons ago when I was daily advocating for dogs on chains. While I’m no longer on the front lines of the dog-chaining issue, I appreciate all those who still work on their behalf and am forever grateful to those who care for these “forgotten” dogs.

It turns out, however, that “Untethered” as a principle continues to fit many aspects of my life, so I’m just gonna keep on goin’ with it wherever the blog takes me today.

In 2015 I left the organization I’d founded to free dogs from chains, Dogs Deserve Better, and I felt “Untethered” from my life’s mission—an uncomfortable feeling given that I believed I’d work with and for chained dogs forever, and even had the tats to prove it.

Now what was I supposed to do?

My sweet hubby had bought us my dream home along the Thornton River in Culpeper County, VA, and I thought we’d live there forever, so I busied myself writing more books and publishing animal books by other authors, too.

But alas, at the grand old age of 58, I’m learning there may be many “Untetherings” in a person’s life; last August Joe and I began to discuss the greatest “Untethering” of all: selling our house and going on the road for a year to explore the country.

We’d just lost my precious cat Una, who tethered me to the here and now for each of his 18 years. You know when you meet that soul animal who becomes your reason to get up in the morning, the first kiss of every homecoming, and the one who might just sleep on your head (and you like it)? Una was that guy for me.

Joe had suffered a trauma in the form of a motorcycle accident 1.5 years ago which left him with ongoing health issues. He worried if he waited until he was 62 to retire that his health might be too bad to explore the U.S., so we decided to leap a bit early and JUST GO FOR IT NOW.

And So We’ve Become Untethered…

We sold our beloved home (yes, I cried) and had every intention of traveling without animal companions, too. I was concerned that my constant worry for the safety and well-being of the animals would dampen our joy at being on the road, so friends stepped forward to care for our dog and “the boys.” (Yes, I cried.)

We finished the fence at Joe’s friend Samantha’s house, and His Puppyness is making himself right at home with her and her children. It turns out he LOVES kids, something we didn’t know because we haven’t yet had grandchildren and had no young ones running around.

Then my high school friend Julie and I drove from North Carolina to San Diego with the bobtail brothers Jersey and Mike, where they will be hanging out with her, her boyfriend Joe, and their kitty Katy. We took four days to cross the U.S. and “lived it up” in cat-friendly hotels each night, which we found with the help of the Bring Fido app (recommended!)

In fact, no sooner had we reached the glorious shores of the Motel 6 in the glamorous town of Lordsburg NM, than we plotted to visit the Mexican restaurant across the street for some Cinco de Mayo beverages. The boys would be safely “hotelified” and we reasoned that we could have ourselves a little fun and then waddle on back to our room for a good night’s sleep before we tackled our last day of driving.

Julie went to ask for some shampoo while I put my feet up on the bed to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. Twas a brief moment, to be sure, because next thing I heard was an ungodly shrieking that my rescue brain told me could only be the demands of a kitten. A very tiny and hungry kitten. Yikes!

(FYI, the second thing my brain always says in these instances is “NO! No, no, no, no, no…this isn’t happening! But alas it is…)

A thorough search and questioning at the office and of other Motel 6ers turned up no other kittens and no Momma. We were on our own. I don’t consider myself a kitten expert, but I knew we needed formula and we needed it yesterday, AND I consulted one of my cat-expert friends just to be sure. Unfortunately the closest Walmart—which I knew carried it—was almost 50 miles away! The only grocery store in town was a no-go, and there were no pet shops.

At first I was like, “No way am I driving another 100 miles round trip after we’ve been driving all day,” which makes sense; however, one shriek later had me in the car and putting the Walmart address in the gps.

We all knew who the boss was, and it wasn’t me!

Julie and I took turns playing Momma all through the night, and the kitten mews—a kind word for it—continued pretty much unabated if he wasn’t eating or napping. We stopped at the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, AZ the next morning on our way through, where they graciously took our little boy in and will nurse him until he’s ready for adoption. Julie was already a little attached and feeling conflicted because she’d been the one to rescue him, but in the end we agreed that putting him in the hands of experts would give him the best chance at the life he deserved.

We may have missed our party, but we got to do a good deed for an animal instead, so in the end we were the better people for it. Right? Right.

I visited with Julie and Joe for a couple days while we got the boys acclimated, then I sold my car and took a flight back to VA.

Talk about “Untethered!”

Now I had no home, no car, and three of our companions were with friends…

There was still one more, though…

Enter Da Tootie Monster, aka Tootance

Tootie Monster has been with me since she came to the DDB Center in 2011. She was a feral kitty who was born near the Treasurer’s house in PA, and when we thought she was pregnant we took her in to foster with me at the center. When she turned out be “sans kittens” we got her fixed and she stayed on as one of my gang.

Tootie is still mostly feral but does love her Momma and her sister Bryn. She has suffered ill health for about two years due to ongoing throat issues; I thought I would lose her in November, but we opted to get her through Christmas with stronger meds. I was prepared to let her go in January, but then she was like “Nah, whatchu lookin’ at, Momma. I’m all good here. Move along. Nothing to see.”

So, the great irony is that we will indeed be traveling with a companion anyway—the one who is most guaranteed to hate every second of it.

Ah, life.

Test Weekend

We bought a camper and a truck to haul her with, waiting up to seven months for delivery due to new pandemic “norms.” We bought small, as there are only the two of us (plus one additional happy cat camper, eh-hem.)

Last weekend we trundled ourselves out for a test weekend to Gettysburg, ala the Drummer Boy campground. We weren’t there for sightseeing purposes, though, although there is much to see if you haven’t been there yourself…no, it was something much more nefarious: Exactly HOW MUCH of our lives COULD we squeeze into this 26-foot camper?

As it turns out…not nearly as much as we hoped. We’d divided our goods between a storage unit and boxes that went into the camper, and Friday night was another in a long line of packing and unpacking nightmares of which I’ll spare you the details. The pics speak for themselves after all, no?

By Saturday a.m. we finally had the place looking as promised in the brochure, but it was not without a meltdown or two. (It was Joe…ok, fine, it was me...picture me wailing and throwing myself on the bed proclaiming I was done and couldn’t do it another second and you could have been right there with us.)

I’d been invited by one of my long-time facebook friends, Stephanie Baum, to come visit her cat rescue Saturday morning while we were in Gettysburg, Forever Love Rescue. I went in expecting a home-based rescue the way DDB was until we got the center, but I was blown away by the beautiful building and all the precious cats waiting and hoping for their new forever homes!

One of the things we talked about was how people like me in the early 2000s had inspired Stephanie to get involved in animal rescue, and it was both thrilling and gratifying for me to see that the cycle continues—it’s now women like Stephanie inspiring others to take action on behalf of animals.

Forever Love was exactly what I’d hope every cat facility would be: cats who did well with other cats and had “graduated” roamed free throughout the facility, plus they have foster homes, and wonderful and dedicated leaders and volunteers. What a joy for me to experience!

I promptly plopped my butt down on the floor and tried to make friends with every feline who came within petting distance. Only one wasn’t amenable to my considerable charms, so I’d call it a win right there.

We’ll be heading to the northeast soon . . . if any of my other rescue friends would like a visit and a shout-out please let me know! I’d love to see your work for the animals.

We rounded out the test weekend with a lunch date with Joe’s sister Ibi and her family, and she gifted us an adorable Happy Camper sign and a book on the national parks. She’s sweet like that. [I understand that Happy Camper signs are a prerequisite to going on the road. I’m not sure what you do if you’re an Unhappy Camper, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes.]

Saturday evening was the first time in forever that we were “done” with our long list of chores and able to relax in our new camper. We sat beside each other and read and chatted for a bit, but then it seemed like we were getting on each other’s nerves. So I slunk on over to the bed to read to get a little distance, yet I remained at most only ten feet away from my beloved husband of 11 years.

Um…this might take a little getting used to for two very independent introverts.

My kids are betting how long it takes us to kill each other (I don’t think they mean that in the literal sense, right? I mean, a divorce would be a lot more socially acceptable.) If you wanna get in on that bet contact one of them. I’m not your bookie…unless you wanna give me a cut…

In another two weeks we will officially begin the “Untethered Tour,” and I hope to blog more about our trip and the animal and human friends we meet and make along the way. Follow me to get the scoop on all our adventures!

Can we say Bon Voyage if we’re staying in ‘Murika? Who knows…

Read FREE! Episode Twenty of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Epilogue

Well, we’ve come to the end of our tale. If you’ve reached this point I’m grateful to you for reading along, and I hope you’ll share Imagine’s story with your fellow dog lovers.

Imagine’s character is based on two dogs I rescued from chains, a dog named Magnum—the dog you see pictured on the cover—and one named Banshee, a black lab. Magnum was so damaged by his time on the chain that he had difficulty with life as a family companion. He stayed with me until his death. Banshee loved his ball more than life itself, but suffered from separation anxiety due to his imprisonment. He would have made an incredible working dog, and I believe he could have sniffed out virtually anything if he’d been given the chance he deserved. It always made me sad that he didn’t have the opportunity to excel because of man’s shortcomings.

This version you’ve read will be polished up and made into a book, too, which I’ll announce when it’s ready. I guess it will be more of a novella at around 25,000-30,000 words.

Enjoy Imagine’s finale, and I’ll be back next week with the first episode of a free read on a short story. If you want to catch up from the beginning, go here and just click along the links at the bottom of each episode to reach the next.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Twenty: Epilogue

Using his Gift

Dream was transfixed by Imagine’s mournful tale of life at the end of a chain, clucking her tongue and cuddling into him when he became too sad.

“Well, that will never happen to you again, my bro,” she insisted. “You’re safe now. Home. For good! Let’s go play some ball. Confession: I’ve missed you so much, that I even taught myself how to play ball alone, the way you always did. Ya dork!”

They raced to the backyard where she proceeded to show him her own perfected toss and catch, and Imagined teased her by getting to the ball first and initiating a round of keep-away.

Dad called them in for breakfast, and then asked Imagine the question he’d been hoping for.

“Imagine, do you want to go back to the center today? They asked if we could put your gift to use for the community to sniff out this virus. Is that something you’d want to do?”

Imagine responded by rearing up on his hind legs and giving a happy “Woof” and a wag of his tail.

“Good enough, then, off we go. Dream, would you like to be your brother’s lieutenant?”

Dream looked at Imagine in confusion, and he quickly explained to her what they would be doing. “Remember when Mom was ill and I could smell the sickness on her?”

“Yeah?” she said, a question in her voice.

“Well, now there’s a new sickness out there among the humans, and I can smell it. I taught dogs at the center to follow my lead, so when I alert that someone is sick they all alert as well. It’s quite impressive to see. Want to try it?”

“I’m not leaving your side, bro, so I guess I’m all in. You’re never getting rid of me again!” Dream responded, a determined set to her shoulders.

Imagine grinned, finding it hard to believe that not only did he have his family back, but he’d get to help his community too. Was he awake? Was this all a dream?

He shoved a paw in his mouth and gave it a chomp. “Yelp!” he cried. “Yep. I’m awake, alive, and I’m finally feeling happy again. Yippee!”

He ran circles around Dad, barking. “Let’s go, old man! We don’t want to be late on our first day!”

Dad laughed and picked up their leashes, motioning for the door.

Keys to the City

They arrived at the center just as the morning volunteers were lining up outside. Folks cheered when Imagine reached the sidewalk, and Becky called out, “Here’s the Dog of the Hour now! Thanks for coming, Imagine, Dennis, and this must be Dream. You turned out so gorgeous, pretty girl.” She held out her hand for Dream to sniff.

Willow was leashed at Becky’s side like the day before, and she pulled the leash taut, trying to reach Imagine. “Guess what, Imagine . . . I think I caught the scent too! Maybe I can lead my own team.”

“Wow, that’s amazing, Willow! I’ll let you take the lead this morning, and if they see you’ve got it too, maybe we can break up into two teams.”

Willow did indeed prove to have the gift as well, so Imagine served as her first lieutenant, Dream following behind and learning the ropes. They scented one staff member and one volunteer, but overall the center had enough help to manage the day’s workload.

Before long, a line of reporters from local and even national news beat a path to Freedom Chaser’s door, with Imagine and Willow putting on demonstrations all over the area.

Soon Willow was adopted by Dad’s new “friend” Julia, and the two dogs and their teams became regulars around town, always starting at Freedom Chasers first thing in the morning and then heading to town hall, the mayor’s offices, and even the county courthouse.

Julia and Willow eventually moved in with Dad, Imagine, and Dream, and the dog who spent three years on a chain now awoke each morning with a smile on his face, memories of the hardships surfacing only in the occasional nightmare.

As masks and vaccines became widely available and the world longed for a return to normal, Imagine was needed less by the community, and that suited him just fine. He looked at the matching Keys to the City framed and hanging on the rec room wall, and smiled.

Willow and he had been honored by the community, their work recognized and valued, and now he could relax and enjoy his golden years with his expanded family, his sister and father by his side.

He was Free. Beloved. And Happy.

Like every dog deserves.

The End

Tamira Thayne is the author of It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups. She’s also written other books for adults and children, including these for adults: Capitol in Chains, Foster Doggie Insanity, The Wrath of Dog, The King’s Tether, The Knights Chain, and The Curse of Cur. For kids of all ages she’s published No Guppy Puppy, Raffy Calfy’s Rescue, Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, Squirmy Hermie’s Heroics, Smidgey Pidgey’s Predicament, Happy Dog Coloring Book. She is the editor of More Rescue Smiles, and co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles.

Read FREE! Episode 19 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. The Biggest Dream

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.

Read FREE! Episode 18 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. A Special Volunteer

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.”

Covid “Tests”

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.

Read FREE! Episode 17 of Imagine: Life on a Chain. They All Come Tumbling Down

Happy Tuesday. I supposed it must be Taco Tuesday—and I’m not one to turn down a good bean taco—but today is also National Peanut Lovers Day according to my trusty calendar. Both my dog and I are a bit crazy for peanut butter, and I’m pretty sure he’d happily eat the whole jar if I let him.

It’s also National Celery Month, so lots of meat-free choices for my animal-loving friends this month. Might I suggest a little peanut butter with your celery stalk? You’re welcome.

On to this week’s Imagine episode. Our pup has landed safely at the rescue center, but now his particular talent is coming back into play with covid spreading. The problem is, can he make the humans understand? Read on to find out! If you need to catch up, start here at Episode One and just click the links at the bottom of the post to find yourself at the next episode. Happy Reading.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Seventeen: They All Come Tumbling Down

The Sickness is Here

The next morning Melody wasn’t at the center, and the rest of the staff was speaking in hushed, solemn tones.

“She was tested last night and is still waiting on the results,” Becky told Evie and Jay. “She’s coughing and in quarantine now; she called to say she’s sorry, she hopes she didn’t infect anyone else. We’ve gotta find a way to get ahold of some masks! I know they’re mostly reserved for health care settings at this time, but we have to care for these dogs every day. We can’t afford to have everyone sick at once.”

The others nodded in agreement, and then Evie remembered something. “Hey, I saw a story on the local news last night about masks starting to become available in stores. Why don’t I run out and try to track some down? They would at least provide staff protection while they’re at work.”

After she’d gone, Jay and Becky split up the daily chores between themselves and two others and got to work. They were quiet, subdued, with thoughts of the virus, Melody’s health, and their own fears taking a toll. The atmosphere at the center was completely different from the happiness of yesterday, and Imagine picked up on it immediately.

He noted Melody’s absence, chastising himself for failing to get through to her. I knew she had the sickness. Why couldn’t I make her understand? He was so frustrated with his inability to communicate in a way that the humans could relate to.

His pack walk was different this morning too. Jay paced the field instead of running and encouraging the dogs to chase after him, and he didn’t laugh or talk to his furry charges, either. He half-heartedly threw the ball for Imagine a few times, but yesterday’s enthusiasm was gone.

Imagine felt just as worried as the staff did, and he explained to his new doggie friends what was going on. “There’s a bad illness out there, and I smelled it on Melody yesterday. Now she’s not here today, and everyone else is upset and afraid. That’s what you’re sensing, and that’s why staff is so quiet today.”

“Ah,” said Willow, a shy black lab who was part of Imagine’s group. “That makes sense. How are you sniffing out this sickness and none of us have noticed it?”

“Well, my old Mom got sick and died, and this smell is very similar. Some dogs must have a keener nose when it comes to illness, is all I can figure. My sister Dream couldn’t smell it until it got really bad, either,” Imagine explained.

“But I can catch a whiff of it early on,” he continued. “The problem is, I’m not having an easy time letting the humans know. I touch them with my nose and then sit back and look at them—trying to communicate the problem—but they just ignore me. Or worse, they think I’m telling them I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Hmm,” Willow thought for a minute. “Wait a second . . . what if you let us know when someone has the scent, and we ALL do the same thing? If we ALL touch them with our noses . . . surely they would understand something is wrong then?”

“Hey, that’s an awesome idea, Willow!” Imagine got excited now. “I’ll bet that would work! They might think one dog is just being weird, but if everyone does the same thing, sooner or later they have to figure it out. You’re a genius!”

Willow looked down, embarrassed and pleased by his praise. Her life on the chain hadn’t been easy either, and it was hard for her to trust others enough to speak her mind about anything.

Imagine went to work immediately, teaching the other four dogs to react in the same way he did upon his signal. Little did the new friends know just how quickly they would be called upon to test their plan. . . .

There Goes Jay

There was no group training today, as staff was spread thin with both Melody and Evie away from the center. Evie called around noon to say she had a lead on some masks, but she was still searching and she hoped to be back (and successful!) by late afternoon.

Imagine played ball by himself for a bit, but mostly the dogs lounged on the kuranda beds in their playroom, talking quietly amongst themselves. They did get out for another quick potty break and some treats in the early afternoon; when Jay slipped back in the door behind Willow, Imagine followed, taking a discreet sniff.  He came to a full stop. Sniffed again. Was it?

Yes, he was sure. It was just a whiff of the odor, but a whiff was all he needed. Jay has it! Imagine felt sick to his stomach. What if they all died, like Prince did? He’d just found these nice people, he couldn’t lose them already!

He shook himself to get ahold of his runaway emotions, then gave the agreed-upon alarm call—a quick, sharp, emergency yip—to let the rest of the dogs know he’d smelled the sickness. Jay turned to see if someone was hurt, only to find Imagine staring at him, intently and deliberately. Jay looked about in confusion, wondering what he’d missed with the dogs.

Imagine walked the couple steps to Jay, poked him with his nose, and sat on his haunches in front of him. Willow followed suit, prodding the man with her snout and then stepping back to sit next to Imagine. The remaining three pups did the same, and soon a line of five dogs stared intently at Jay.

“What the HECK!” Jay yelped, pulling out a walkie talkie to call for backup. “Hey, Beck, you around? I’ve got a situation in Training Room A. Could you come in here please?”

Becky raced into the room—afraid a fight had broken out—but instead she was faced with a line of dogs sitting calmly and watching Jay. Their eyes flickered to her and then back to Jay again, holding his gaze.

“Um, what is going on here?” Jay asked Becky. “They just did this when we came back inside from the yard. First each of them poked me with their noses, and then they all sat in a line like that. I’m seriously freaked, Becky,” he told her, backing away.

Becky too kept her distance, fear of the illness topmost in her mind. “You know, Imagine did that to Melody yesterday and she thought he was just being sweet. But if they’re all doing it? Seems to me their trying to tell us something. And now Melody is sick. Are you feeling well, Jay?”

Jay turned toward her, eyes wide. “As a matter of fact, I do have a sore throat today. I didn’t want to mention it, because I knew we were short-handed and you needed me. Oh, God, what if I have it too?” He stared, stricken, backing up and falling into a chair at the edge of the room. “Stay away, Becky. Maybe Imagine’s onto something, and he’s got the other dogs doing it too? I know it seems far-fetched, but weirder things have happened.”

“Well, we can’t dispute what our own eyes are telling us. Why don’t you leave and go get tested. I can handle the rest of the workload for today, and hopefully Evie will be back with masks soon for all of us. Just let us know what you find out.”

Jay gathered his things and left, shaking his head and giving one last wild-eyed look at Imagine and the other dogs. “It worked!” Imagine told the others, elated. “At least they believe there’s a chance we’re onto something—enough to send Jay to get help. Thank you all so much! I know without you they would have just ignored me again. There is strength in numbers!”

Willow gave him a quick nose prod of her own. “We’re happy you’re here. Because of you, maybe now we can give back to these humans who’ve been so kind to us.”

Now it was Imagine’s turn to feel embarrassed—and pleased, too.

Masks and a Call for Volunteers

Evie was feeling triumphant as she walked back into the center, a pack of 100 masks gripped tightly in her hands. They felt like a lifeline in a very tenuous situation, and it was all she had to cling to right now. She called an emergency meeting with the three remaining staff members—asking everyone to keep their distance from one another—as she updated them on Melody and Jay.

“We now have two people out sick and waiting for test results. As you know, this is a very scary situation for us here at the center because our dogs rely on us every single day. If we all become ill, who will care for our animals? I’ve been able to secure 100 masks, and I will ask you all to wear them while you’re at work. If you’re feeling ill, let me, Becky, or Melody know immediately, and go get tested.

“I’m sure you’re feeling afraid, as am I. I will put out a call for volunteers to come in starting tomorrow to help us through this rough patch. I will also put out a call for emergency adopters or foster homes, as many folks are off work right now and can care for a dog. Any questions?”

Ben, a young guy who’d only been working at the center for two months, raised his hand. “I hate to tell you, Evie, but I’m feeling sick, too. I’ve been sucking down cough drops all day and trying to stay away from everyone. I didn’t want to let you all down, but it’s probably worse if I’m coming to work and making others sick. I better go get tested, too.”

Evie and Becky looked at one another, the despair obvious in their eyes. Becky said, “Ben, can you walk over to our newest rescue dog, Imagine? He’s the black and tan one there. Yes, that’s him. Just go up to him and hold your hand out for him to scent.”

Ben was confused but did as she asked. Imagine sniffed his hand for a long moment and then gave a sharp yip. He prodded Ben in the leg and sat back on his haunches, gazing at the young man expectantly. He was followed first by Willow and then the other three by turn, the ritual once again ending with five dogs staring at the young man.

Ben stumbled back, saying, “Whoa! What’s goin’ on? Why’re they doing that?”

“Yes, that’s what it is,” Becky said, awe in her voice. “Imagine’s able to scent the virus. This is the third person he’s alerted to it, and he’s even trained the others to follow his lead. I’ve gotta call Melody. Ben, go on home and get tested, please. Evie, we’ve gotta send out that plea for emergency volunteers, NOW. I suspect within the next few days we will all be going down, and these dogs need people to care for them.”

She walked over to Imagine, hunkering down before him. “You’re amazing, pup. You know that, right? You’re simply amazing. We’ll get through this somehow . . . with your help.”

Imagine couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. Finally, finally, someone understood! And he could help. Although the situation was dire, at least now he could play a part.

He wasn’t worthless like Rudy Prince told him every day. No, he wasn’t worthless.

Not anymore.

Next Episode: A Special Volunteer

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.