By Pepper the dog:

Wouldn’t you know, it’s happened again! I awaken from my light, vigilant slumber to find my master slumped over beside his keyboard, asleep in a puddle of cool drool. He works so hard on these columns, but as far as I can tell scrolling through what he was up all night pecking away at, it’s fairly meaningless. It’s just more blathering about Russia’s inability to accept the consequences for its actions. That is why I, Pepper the dog, will save the day by talking about something real.

Like how I survived the McCrum fire two weeks ago today.

You read that right. On the fateful morning of March 24, I was in Belfast less than a mile from the site of what once was the McCrum potato processing facility. My master had gallivanted off to Europe and left me in the custody of his Belfastonian friend, who also has a T-shirt-wearing Irish Wolfhound with whom I bunked for a week — up until that day.

The other dog (Stella) and I smelled something was amiss. At first it was tantalizing, like a hundred thousand French fries cooking at once. But soon our noses informed us this was no ordinary fry-fest, as we smelled other materials burning too, like wood, plastic and possibly even chemicals.

We sounded the alarm by howling at the sky. Stella’s mistress was oblivious to this, or perhaps just wrote it off to dogs being dogs. But there was a real gravity to our alert that eventually prompted her to check in with VillageSoup and see what was what. When she was done checking her phone, she joined us in our state of canine anxiety and told us we’d have to stay inside for now.

Meanwhile, my master was tens of thousands of feet overhead riding a great bird on which was written the odd word “Lufthansa.” I myself have never flown more than a few feet off the ground. But I’m told when you return to America from Europe you have to fly over Maine longingly before getting ejected somewhere else, requiring yet another bird to bring you back to Portland or Bangor.

Could he see the cloud of black smoke rising into the atmosphere? Did he understand as we did the dire threat the fire posed to the Route 3 bridge to East Belfast, that the heat of it could have warped the iron beams and sent cars careening into the Passagassawakeag River below? I can only speculate, but knowing my master to be a wise man, he must surely have known the scope and scale of the disaster we were facing here on earth.

He had paid the $19.99 for inflight Wi-Fi, though — I know this because he texted Stella’s mistress and urged her to take us all to a safer place, even as far as our house in Bath. But she was stoic, and told him we’d stand our ground.

Indeed, the text Stella’s mistress received came from Belfast Area High School, where her daughter — and Stella’s human sister — is a student. They were canceling classes that day — not the clarion call it was in pre-COVID days, but still a data point on the seriousness of the situation.

Not long after, the Belfast police arrived on the scene and urged Stella’s mistress to evacuate us all. We all packed into her little car and tore off to Augusta, which seemed to make sense because it’s the capital. While we there, Stella got groomed at the Pet Smart. Then I urged everyone to come and see my stomping grounds in Bath, where we rested and recuperated. I stayed, but they all returned to Belfast when the all-clear was sounded.

To be sure, the Thursday before last was a trying day for all of us. Not least of which, the 138 souls who worked at McCrum’s. I hope they rebuild quickly, most likely on less valuable real estate, I’d imagine, watching the market as I do.

This weekend we drove by the scene and it was quite something. My master had just returned from a war zone and even he was moved. Thank goodness no one was hurt. But let it be known: We dogs did our part trying to alert folks.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.