Pounds were depressing forms of torture. I hated wandering their lengths seeing the desperate faces of abandoned animals staring up at me through the bars, knowing I’d never be able to save them all. I reached out, blindly clutching at Ice’s hand. He let me, squeezing it warmly when I needed the reassurance.
I hated animal shelters.
We’d been here long enough for a girl to take our names, details and then hand us a clipboard and pen. She looked harried, explaining that today was half-off as they needed to clear the floor before they received a shipment of more animals tomorrow. Ice took the clipboard, and together we walked up and down the crowded shelter kennels, looking at the puppies, the dogs and then the older ones. None said pick me. None were quite right. But all deserved a home and a happy life.
I wanted to cry.
“It’s okay.” Ice’s voice was low, his head near my ear. “It doesn’t have to be here.”
“No.” I shook my head. “Your dog is here.”
The harried girl from earlier appeared at my elbow. “Made a decision?”
“No. Do you have like a,” I paused, looked over at Ice, then back at the volunteer, “a dog no one wanted. Like a trouble maker?”
She blinked at me a few times then frowned. “I… try the kennel second from the last row, third from the end. There are two in there, though and they go together. It’s why we haven’t been able to adopt them out.”
Ice turned me and we walked to the kennel she’d directed us to. Inside was the ugliest dog I’d ever seen in my life. It was some kind of wolf-hound cross mastiff cross something else. It was like an orgy of breeds had landed in this one poor animal and all of them had cast off their worst part in him. Or her. It.
I reached for the card on the kennel and laughed. “He’s called King.” I held it up to Ice who peered over my shoulder.
“Never seen a less regal looking dog in my life. Looks like he has a Queen with him as well.” He nodded at the card. The bottom half was a profile on the other dog, a small dachshund called Queen who was his bonded friend.
“Is she in there?” I asked, turning to look at the kennel. Ice dropped to a crouch and made soft soothing noises.
“Hey big guy. You ugly dog. I know you and your girlfriend don’t want to be here, hows about you come and meet me, see if you like us and then we bust you out?” Ice asked.
King looked up from his bed, his giant head and miss-matched ears perking. Slowly he stood, stretching, and padded over to where Ice was still murmuring at the fence. On the bed, curled in a ball was a still sleeping Queen.
I watched as King sniffed at Ice’s fingers. “You think he’s friendly?”
“I think he’s been abused, and just wants to trust people.” Ice said calmly. “I get that. Hey big guy? You want to come home with us?”
King sat, looking at us, then slowly lifted a paw to scratch at the door of the kennel. Ice stood, dusting off his hands. “Go get the volunteer. I’ll stay here. I want to meet him face-to-face, make sure he doesn’t have any behavioural issues when we touch his girlfriend and if we’re all good, we’re taking these two.”
My heart was full. “You said you wanted one. And a big one.”
He shrugged. “One for me, one for you. You deal with the midget.”
I couldn’t contain it, I threw myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck and squeezing him tight. He gave me that, hugging me back for a moment before he disentangled himself.
“Go, get the volunteer. I want to get them home. God knows we need to get them food, bedding and toys, all that stuff too.”
I beamed at him – beamed! “‘Kay!” Then ran off to see a lady about our dogs.