Chapter 1: Four Furry Friends 1 Four Furry Friends
“For the last time, stop licking my ears!” Luna hisses the warning with a twitch of her whiskers.
“They are filthy,” Mitzy protests. “I am cleaning them for you.” She pushes her curly white snout through the grate separating their cages, and sticks her tongue toward Luna.
“BLECH.” Luna marches to the far corner, out of reach of Mitzy’s slobber.
“Alert! Alert!” Gus springs up, his long shaggy tail straight with attention. “Intruder approaching! I repeat, intruder approaching!”
“It is a kid!” Mitzy dances with excitement. “I love kids! Kids love me!”
A woman and young boy come into the lobby. Mitzy’s round brown eyes beg them to meet her glance.
“Welcome to Whiskers Down the Lane Animal Shelter,” Ted greets them. “Are you here to find a new family member?”
“My son, Dustin, has been begging for a dog,” the woman says, placing her hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“I am a dog!” Mitzy bounces higher.
“But I’m not sure he’s ready for the responsibility,” Dustin’s mom continues. “So we just came to look today.”
“I see,” Ted begins. “Well, if you’re not prepared to adopt yet, we offer a fostering program where you can bring a pet home with you for a few days. It’s like a mini-vacation for the animals so they have some time out of the shelter.”
Dustin’s mom nods. “I think that might be a good way for Dustin to see how much work it is to own a dog.” She glances at Gus, who is still barking. “But we can’t host any big dogs. Our apartment isn’t large enough.”
“I am small!” Mitzy squeals, her short tail wagging at top speed. “Here! Over here!”
“You’re coming on a little strong,” Luna observes, but Mitzy ignores her. Instead, she grips her favorite purple ball in her teeth and gives it a playful SQUEAK.
Dustin laughs. “Can I meet this dog?” he asks Ted.
“Yes!” Mitzy twirls in a circle. “Yes, you can!”
“Dustin, how about cats?” his mom asks. She strokes Luna’s head with her finger. “They’re easier to care for—yow!” She yanks her hand away. “She swiped at me!”
“Sorry. Luna can be feisty,” Ted admits. “We also have a kitten on this side.” He taps the cage beside Gus, which contains a lumpy blanket. “Buttons is a tad shy.”
“No cat,” Dustin insists. “I like dogs.”
SQUEAK, SQUEAK. Mitzy tosses her ball aside as Ted unlatches her door. Then she takes a flying leap into Dustin’s arms.
“Whoa!” He wobbles as he catches her.
“Hello!” Mitzy pants hot breath on Dustin’s face. “Do you have any treats?”
“Mitzy is a toy poodle,” Ted explains. “She’s very affectionate, and she still likes to have fun, even though she’s one of our older pets. She takes a few medicines to help keep her healthy.”
As he speaks, Mitzy tickles Dustin’s chin with kisses, which makes him giggle. “Can we take her?” Dustin asks.
His mom shakes her head. “Let’s see who else is here first.”
With an unhappy sigh, Dustin returns Mitzy to her cage and follows Ted to the back room.
A few silent seconds pass before Buttons whispers, “Are they gone?”
“Indeed,” Gus answers. “I have protected us once again!”
Buttons slinks out from his blanket and spots Mitzy looking at the ground, her eyelids droopy with sadness. “What’s wrong, Mitzy?”
Mitzy plops her chin onto her paws and whimpers, “I thought that boy was going to play with me. I want to run and jump and fetch my purple ball.”
“Somebody will play with you soon,” Buttons tells her. “I promise.”
Mitzy turns away. “You cannot promise something that is not true.”