Pound and Pumpkin were laughing away as their parents ran in the direction of Fluttershy’s cottage. Both of them were holding on tight to their parents, each cheering on the parent they were riding on.
“Come on, Mom!” Pumpkin cheered. “You can win!”
“No way, Dad!” Pound said. “You have to win!”
They slowed down as they tired, still a ways from Fluttershy’s cottage.
“Ah, well,” Cup Cake said genially, rubbing her head against her husband’s. “I guess we’re about even. Let’s just call it a draw.”
“Sounds fine to me,” Carrot replied, giving her a kiss.
“Blech!” the twins declared. “Gross!”
Cup and Carrot just laughed.
When Fluttershy’s house was in sight the twins weren’t content to walk anymore. They hopped off their parent’s backs and began running. Cup and Carrot trotting along behind them.
Fluttershy was humming to herself as she watered her flowers. She let out a squeal as two objects collided into her legs, making her drop the hose.
“HI, FLUTTERSHY!” the twins screamed out.
“O-oh, hi.” Looking at the twins they were shaking like they were on a serious sugar rush. “What can I do for you?”
“We want an animal!” they said, their smiles widening.
“We told our mom and dad we wanted a new baby after playing with Skyla, but they said it would take too long and they have enough kids already,” said Pound.
“Sooo,” Pumpkin said, “they told us we could each pick out a pet of our very own to adopt.”
Fluttershy instantly brightened up, stars shining in her eyes. “Really?” She pulled away from them, a blur herself now as she raced to the spout and shut off the water.
She came back, picking the two up and hugging them tightly. “Oh, you don’t know how happy I am! I love seeing one of my animal friends get a loving home to stay in. Of course I love all of them, but I just don’t have the time to give all of them equal attention.”
She set them down. “Just hold on!”
Fluttershy moved around her yard and house, summoning all of her animals. “Come on, everyone! Front and center! Two of you will be getting a new home today!”
There were barks and chitters and squeaks of contentment among the animals as the news went around.
When the animals were all gathered around in the back yard Fluttershy came back to them. “Alright, before we start I just have one thing to say: there are a few animals that are not up for adoption. My little Angel Bunny, for one. And even though he would make an excellent protector I doubt your parents would let you adopt a bear. Then of course there are those animals that would rather just stay with me. Those are pretty rare, though. Most of them would love more solo or family care.
“Okay, you two. Go nuts!”
Pound and Pumpkin looked at each other. “What do you think, sis?” asked Pound. “Should we stick together or split up?”
“Well, we each are going to pick out our own pet, so I don’t see why we need to stick together.” Looking up at Fluttershy she said, “I just have one question.”
“Yes?” Fluttershy replied.
“Do any of your animals hate each other? If me and Pound split up to go and get our own animal it would be pointless if they’re not going to get along.”
“Oh, yeah,” Pound said, putting a hoof to his cheek. “I didn’t think about that. I don’t want our pets to be fighting when we’re not around.”
Fluttershy’s smile got wider. “I’m glad to hear that you’re thinking ahead, Pumpkin. It makes me feel more confident about putting them in your care.”
Pound pouted a little. “I’m planning to take good care of my pet too, thank you!”
Fluttershy shook her head. “Come on, Pound. Don’t be a sourpuss. This is a happy time for the two of you, isn’t it?”
Pound considered staying grumpy, but he took a deep breath and let his bad mood pass. “Fine.”
“To answer your question, Pumpkin, you don’t have to worry about that. My animals are all friends. When problems come up between them I act as mediator to help them past it.”
Pumpkin nodded. “In that case…” She put a hoof on Pound. “See ya!” And with a giggle and a hop she raced off towards all the critters.
“Wait for me!” said Pound, running after her.
Fluttershy followed behind them at a walk, ready to answer any questions or concerns the pair had.
Pound observed the birds around them. There were owls and hawks and toucans and flamingos and plenty more. A bat flew around him, perching on his head. He let out a yelp and shooed it away as it dug into his mane. He didn’t want it trying to make a nest in there.
He looked at each of the birds in turn. When they noticed him looking they began showing off, trying to keep his attention.
Did he want a bird? It certainly wasn’t an animal he was against. If he got a big enough bird like a flamingo maybe it could fly him around town. That would be cool. Then again, once he got control of his wings he would be able to do that himself.
He kept his eye on the hawk for a little while. He knew that certain birds were used as messengers. You could tie a note to their legs and they would deliver it to the recipient. That would definitely be awesome. He could message Tree Leaf. Or tell Twilight about important things he learned. Or tell Fluttershy things that would make her smile. Or even just send it upstairs to Auntie Pinkie to say hi.
He filed the hawk away in his list of potentials.
Pumpkin was on the other side of the yard, looking at all the bunnies. Fluttershy certainly had a lot of them, and they were just so adorable. She definitely wouldn’t mind having a bunny as a pet.
A yellow bunny hopped up to her, sniffing her. She reached up and rubbed its ear, and it kicked its leg like a dog, making her giggle.
Fluttershy had plenty of animals, but Angel Bunny was Fluttershy’s pet, the one she was closest to. She could always ask Fluttershy how hard it was to take care of a bunny. There were so many around that she didn’t know if she’d be able to pick just one.
Pound thought that Fluttershy’s animals were mainly in three categories only: land, sea, and air. He’d looked at the flying ones already. He didn’t think he wanted a sea animal. It seemed like it would require a lot of water. Fluttershy lived right next to a lake, so she had no problems with that. They lived in the middle of town. He guessed they could always buy a pond or something, but at the same time he didn’t want to have a pet he couldn’t do anything with. He wanted to be able to bring it along with him when he went out.
His mind went back to the hawk. How totally cool would he look walking around town with it perched on his shoulder?
He weighed his options. What kind of water animals did Fluttershy have? Even if he didn’t think he wanted one, it couldn’t hurt to at least take a look. There was a seal that he immediately discounted. Way too big, and not that mobile. A flamingo was perched in the water, along with some swans and ducks.
When he noticed most of them were following along in a line, with all the followers smaller, he decided against getting any of them. If they were family he didn’t want to split them up.
His stomach twisting in knots he turned to Fluttershy, who was nearby. “Fluttershy?”
“Yes, Pound?” she replied, turning towards him.
“Is… is it really okay for us to take these animals?”
Pumpkin looked up from the bunny she was petting. “What are you talking about, Pound? If she didn’t want us to adopt them she wouldn’t have brought them all out to begin with.”
Pound rubbed his hooves together. “But…” He pointed towards the ducks. “But aren’t most of them family? I know I would be sad if someone just came over one day and stole me away from Auntie Pinkie and Pumpkin and our parents.”
Pumpkin blinked in surprise. Now she was looking uncomfortable too. “Oh… you’re right. I wouldn’t like that either.”
Fluttershy walked over to him, leaning over and kissing him on his forehead. “See, Pound? You got all upset before because I praised Pumpkin, but you too are already making your pet’s well-being and happiness your top priority, and I am just as proud as you for doing so.”
Pound blushed. “T-thanks,” he said awkwardly.
“It is true that there are families that have grown up around my cottage, but those are not the ones standing right in front of you showboating every time you glance at them. I know my animals well. Any animal that is presenting itself to you is one that is content to have a new place to live. The ones that do not want to be split apart are the ones that are not around. So you have my word that you won’t be destroying any families or stealing them away from loved ones when you make your selections. Every pet that is before you is open for adoption.”
Pound let out a sigh of relief. He felt better now, and with a quick hug to Fluttershy he went back to looking around.
Pumpkin did likewise. She would have felt terrible about taking any animal away from its family. Now that she didn’t have to worry about that she kept looking around for the perfect pet.
She really wanted a cute animal above all else. She spotted a squirrel running around. Would a squirrel make a good pet? Like Pound she was thinking about the kinds of extra things a pet would need, aside from food, shelter, and love. Squirrels liked trees, and foraging for nuts. A squirrel would likely be unhappy living with her, then.
She considered a butterfly. They were colorful and looked cute. She gave up on it after a minute. She didn’t think butterflies had very long lifespans, especially when they were so fragile. If she was going to get a pet she wanted one that would last.
Maybe a cat would be her best bet. Cats were adorable.
Having gone through the air and sea animals Pound was walking along looking at the land animals now. Squirrels, bunnies, chickens, cats, mice, raccoons, otters, badgers, beavers; they were all fine, but none of them really thrilled him. It just didn’t give him that feeling in his heart of being the right choice. More and more he was looking toward the hawk as being his best choice.
As he was getting ready to tell Fluttershy so he spotted an animal off by itself. It was a dog, a golden retriever. It was lying down, its head on its paws. He looked around. It looked like it was the only dog she had. Except for the bear, it seemed like every one of her animals had some companion of its own.
Pound called out to it. “Come here, boy!” The dog lifted his head for a moment, then with an air of indifference set its head back down, turning away.
Pound was surprised. All of Fluttershy’s other animals had been willing and eager to be adopted. Maybe… “Here, girl!” he tried. This got him a growl from the dog, and he knew he was off-track. Maybe he was one of those unadoptables Fluttershy told him about.
“Are you interested in Butch?”
Pound jumped. He hadn’t heard Fluttershy approaching. “I guess.”
Fluttershy whistled. “Come on, Butch. Here, boy!”
This got the dog’s attention. He got up on his paws and started running toward them.
Pound felt his stomach twinging again. The dog had a defined limp in his front right paw.
When Butch arrived he sat down, panting.
Pound thought he looked in pain. “What’s wrong with his leg? If he’s hurt you shouldn’t have made him run.”
Fluttershy leaned over and began petting Butch. “Who’s a good boy? You are! You are!” Butch let out a healthy bark. When he turned over onto his back Fluttershy started rubbing his belly, making his hind leg kick.
Pound watched Fluttershy playing with the dog, but he felt she was hiding something. Even though she sounded really excited and happy he could see that those feelings weren’t reflected in her eyes.
He sat down on the ground, coaxing the dog over. Just like before the dog ignored him, staying with Fluttershy. He let out an annoyed grunt, ready to move on.
Fluttershy put a hoof on his shoulder. “Please don’t be offended, Pound. Butch has been through some bad experiences.” She sat down too, and Butch rolled over back onto his stomach, setting his front half on her lap as she kept petting him.
“I’m listening,” he said shortly.
“Well, Butch was abandoned by his former owner.”
Pound’s glare cracked. “Because of his leg?”
Fluttershy nodded. “Butch was delivered to me by a mare. She heard of my reputation in Ponyville for being an animal caretaker. When Butch broke his leg she took him to me because she couldn’t afford a vet. She said she was talking him for a walk, and he slipped, hurting his leg. Naturally, this stirred my heart, and I agreed to take him in. I’m no professional, of course, but I created a suitable cast for him, and agreed to take care of him until he was better.
“The mare thanked me graciously, and then she left. The night she came it was raining heavily, and she was wearing a hooded coat, so I never saw her face clearly. And she never returned after that, ever after his leg healed up.”
Butch let out a mourning howl.
“I did what I could for him, for a while expecting the mare to come back every day, but it never happened. I’ve had Butch for over a year now.”
“You said his leg healed up, but he still runs funny.”
Fluttershy sighed, closing her eyes. “That’s true. I brought Butch to the vet for an x-ray, and they confirmed that the bone had healed. However, he lacks the spirit to do much even now that he can.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s heartbroken. He still misses his owner. Even though the leg is healed he’s still not properly recovered because he doesn’t exercise enough. He spends most of his time just laying down and sleeping. I try to take him for walks and encourage him to get on his paw to strengthen his leg muscles back up, but I’m just one pony. I can’t do it all myself, not with over a hundred animals to look after.”
A tear came down her eye. “I’m always open for animal adoption. Several times ponies have shown interest in adopting Butch. However, every time they saw the condition of his leg they’d pass him by, because they’re more interested in a pet that’s perfect than to help an animal reach its true potential. They just look down on him because he’s different.”
Pound felt like a lightning bolt went through him. He didn’t understand why he was reacting so strongly.
He shook his head, pushing the feeling away. He wiped a tear off Fluttershy’s face. “Don’t be sad, Fluttershy. You’ve done a great job taking care of him. And he obviously trusts you, since he ran right over when you called. You’re amazing and I love you very much!”
Fluttershy looked at Pound, who was giving her an encouraging smile. She giggled a little and rubbed his head. “Thank you, Pound. I try my best.”
Maneuvering herself from under Butch’s paws she stood up. “So, Pound, you’ve looked all around. Are there any pets that have caught your eye?”
“Yeah…” Pound chewed on his cheek. The hawk was still the only thing that he had really loved, but something was still bothering him. He could feel his heartbeat in his chest, and felt like he could start crying at any moment. Pound wondered where all these feelings were coming from. Was he just upset at Butch’s story?
As he started walking away to point out the hawk he wanted he thought of Butch, how the dog would probably see him as just another pony that couldn’t look past his limp. His bad feelings had started when Fluttershy had mentioned other ponies looking down on him because he was different. And then it clicked in his mind.
He came to a stop, tears forming in his eyes. He was the butt of many flightless pony jokes at school for being the only one in his pegasus class that couldn’t even hover in place. He was picked on for being different all the time.
He also felt inferior to Pumpkin sometimes, because she was much better in school and could use her magic already. He also pondered whether his parents looked down on him or favored Pumpkin for being more special.
He hated those feelings. He hated the thought of everyone being above him or that he was worthless just because he couldn’t do the same things as everyone else.
With that, his choice was made. He spun around, his face set. Things wouldn’t always be this way. He would… no, THEY would prove it. Together. No matter what it took.
Fluttershy watched Pound. He walked right past her as if he didn’t see her. She noticed the expression on his face, and wondered what had gotten into him.
Pound sat down on the ground, and said quite clearly, “I want you to be my pet!”
The dog stared at him for a few moments, then let out a bark and walked over to him, licking his face.
Fluttershy’s heart swelled. “Oh, Pound! I’m so glad. What made you decide on him?”
Pound looked up at her. “Fluttershy, now that he’s going to be mine would it be okay if I gave him a new name?”
“Well… I think you should ask him that.” Butch barked. “Well, that settles that. He said yes. But you still didn’t tell me why you picked him.”
Pound hugged the dog’s neck, a fire in his eyes as tears streamed down them. “We’re gonna prove them all wrong! All the ponies that made fun of me for not being able to fly, and all the stupid ponies that only saw Champ for his limp.”
“That’s right!” He gave a strong nod. “Champ is short for Champion. I WILL fly one day, and Champ is gonna be the best runner around! I promise that.”
“Mmmm,” Fluttershy said contentedly. “I believe you.”
“Hey!” Pumpkin said. “I picked my pet!”
Fluttershy looked over, seeing Pumpkin with an orange coated cat, with stripes going along its body and a white patch on its front.
Pumpkin was grinning from ear to ear. “Isn’t she just adorable? I even know what I want to name her: Princess Tiger Lily!” The cat nuzzled her, audibly purring.
“I think that’s a wonderful name, Pumpkin. Come over here and sit next to your brother.”
When she was seated Tiger Lily came to sit on her lap, kneading Pumpkin’s legs for a few moments before lying down and closing her eyes. Hearts formed in Pumpkin’s eyes as she began petting her.
Joyful tears came to Fluttershy’s eyes. “It always makes my day to see pets find loving owners. Not that I am not a loving owner myself, of course, but my biggest weakness is time and energy. As I said earlier I’m just one pony, with over a hundred animals. As much as I’d love to I just can’t provide every animal with all the love and attention I’d like to give.
“It seems clear to me that both of you have taking a liking to your animals, and they have done so in turn. I’m honored to see them go to you. I declare this a successful adoption.”
Pound shook his head. “No, you’re wrong.”
“Hmm?” Some of her excitement vanished. “What do you mean?”
“Well, right now we’re only borrowing them. They’re still yours right now.”
“I don’t get it. You said you were coming here to adopt a pet, right?”
Pumpkin nodded. “That’s right, but our parents said they’re not our pets yet. Not until our birthday.”
“So… you only want to take them during the day?”
Pound shook his head. “Nope. We’re gonna have them all day and all night.”
Fluttershy rubbed the side of her head in confusion. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“When we played with Skyla the other day it was a lot of fun.” Pound hugged Champ, nuzzling his head. Champ responded by licking his face, making Pound giggle. “We wanted to do that some more, so we asked our parents if we could get a little brother or sister to take care of.”
“But our parents said that it wasn’t a good time,” Pumpkin continued, scratching Tiger Lily’s ears. “And we would have had to wait like a whole year anyway for mom to get pregnant and it to grow and come out. It’s not exactly the same thing, but they offered us a way to have something to take care of without waiting at all.”
“Me and Pumpkin are still kids, and we can sometimes be selfish brats.”
“Or get into fights and yell at each other.”
“So our parents said they want us to prove that we’re capable of taking care of a pet first. Our birthday is a month away, so it’s a long enough time for them to watch us.”
“And if we pass the test then they’re gonna make it official.” She picked up Tiger Lily and nuzzled her nose. “We’re definitely gonna pass for sure. I don’t think I could say goodbye to her.”
“I see,” said Fluttershy, giving an understanding nod. “I think that’s fair. Even if you truly love them, if you’re unable to properly care for them then I agree it would be in their best interest to return to me.”
Fluttershy got down on her knees, putting her hooves out. “Tiger Lily, Champ, let me just say goodbye.”
Champ ran over to her, licking her face repeatedly. Tiger Lily held back from the excited dog until he was done, then approached Fluttershy and gave her some nuzzles.
Champ returned to Pound, tackling the young pegasus and licking his face as well, his tail wagging hard.
Pumpkin waited for Tiger Lily to return to her, then began to pet her again. She looked up. “Mom, Dad, what do you think?”
“I think you both made wonderful choices,” said Cup Cake.
“And I hope that you maintain that enthusiasm you had today,” added in Carrot.
“We will!” they said unanimously.
Fluttershy spent the next half-hour instructing them on care for their respective animals. Pound and Pumpkin listened harder than they ever had before, knowing that they didn’t want to lose their pet by their own mistakes.
She directed them to the pet store she always used. She was such a frequent shopper that they always gave her a sizable discount for her food purchases.
Pound walked around, grabbing several toys, a leash and collar, as well as some biscuits.
Pumpkin grabbed a scratching post, a toy mouse, a cat house for her to sleep in, a litter pan and litter, as well as a scoop, and some cat treats. The both of them also grabbed food and water bowls.
They returned with their purchases up to the front register where their parents were patiently waiting.
With everything paid for they said goodbye to Fluttershy and started the walk home. Tiger Lily was sitting on Pumpkin’s back, while Champ walked side-by-side with Pound.
After dropping off all their purchases in their rooms the twins came back downstairs. “Can we go to the park?” asked Pound.
“Yeah! Can we, can we?” Pumpkin pleaded
Neither of them had ever seen the twins so happy, and there was no way they were going to dampen their enthusiasm. “Of course,” said Carrot.
“WOOHOO!” Pound shouted, hopping up and down in excitement. He ran up to his dad and hugged his leg. “I love you!”
Pumpkin hugged her mother’s leg as well. “I love you too! So, so, so much!”
“You’re the best parents ever!”
Cup and Carrot blushed at the praise. “Now, now,” said Cup Cake. “I think that’s enough.”
“Okay. Come on, Pumpkin! Let’s go!” He went bounding out the front door much like Pinkie Pie. You could almost hear the boing each time he landed. Champ barreled after him.
“Hold on tight, Tiger Lily!” Pumpkin said, running out as well.
On the way to the park the two were talking up a storm. “I can’t wait to show Tree Leaf-the rest of our friends will be so excited-best day ever-I’m so happy-”
When they arrived Pound played ball with Champ, while Pumpkin walked around showing the park to Tiger Lily.
Hours passed before Cup and Carrot could convince the children to leave.
When they arrived home Pound and Pumpkin set up the bowls, filling one with water and the other with dry food. Pumpkin also set up the litter pan and the house for her cat. It was about as tall as her, with one circular entrance, made of a soft material.
The kids were a bundle of energy the rest of the day, but when it grew late and their excitement had tempered a bit the two of them went to their rooms with their pets. It was a rare occasion when the pair would wash up and get ready for bed without any prompting.
When Carrot and Cup entered the room to say goodnight they could see their children both under the covers, their pets with them. Tiger Lily was on Pumpkin’s belly, while Champ was lying between Pound’s legs, curled up and facing the bottom of the bed.
Pound said, “Will you read us a bedtime story?”
“Please!” Pumpkin added.
“Alright,” said Carrot. “You’ve been well behaved today.”
Grabbing some chairs they sat down in the space between the beds. “So what would you like to hear tonight?”
“The silly, silly pony,” said Pound, snickering.
Carrot rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Why that one?”
“Because you do the best voice for the silly pony,” said Pumpkin, tittering too.
“Alright,” he said, resigned.
He picked out the book from the shelf, opening it up and beginning to read. Pound and Pumpkin guffawed at his squeaky voice each time he voiced the main character.
When he was done the twins were in high spirits. Under his breath he said, “Someday I swear I’m gonna burn that book.”
Cup Cake gave him a kiss on the snout. “We both know you love the attention, dad of the year.”
“Yeah, yeah. Butter me up, why don’t you?” He kissed her back.
She giggled. “Well, that was an entertaining story, and now I think it’s time to go to bed.”
She expected them to fight her, to ask for a few more or if they could stay up a little later, but they didn’t put up an ounce of fuss. All she got was a polite “Okay, Mom” from them. It was odd, but quite refreshing.
The both of them gave the twins a kiss goodnight, set up their night light, and shut the light switch off, before closing the door to the room. They didn’t hear a peep from the twins all night. Usually they would hear the twins at least once after saying goodnight.
At dawn Cup Cake was steeling herself for another hectic morning. First things first was to get the twins up, which usually went from difficult to a nightmare. “Five more minutes, mom?” “I don’t want to go to school today!” She’d experienced it all.
With a sigh she went to their door, knocking on it. “Pound! Pumpkin!” She opened the door, and her eyes nearly bugged out of her head in surprise. “It’s time to… to…”
The twins were already up. Their beds were made, their saddlebags near the door. Pumpkin was scooping the litter pan, while Pound was attaching the leash to Champ’s collar.
“Yeah, yeah. Can it wait, Mom? I’m busy.” He gave a quick tug. “Come on, Champ! You should go to the bathroom before we go to school.”
With a bark the dog followed after him as they left the room.
Cup Cake was speechless. If THAT was how the twins were going to act from now on, then getting them pets was the best investment they had ever made.