Pound and Pumpkin Tales 2

by Never2muchpinkie


5-3: Compromise

Lemon Zinger sat down next to Pound at the bottom of the stairs.

Pound didn’t acknowledge her presence.

With her front hooves on her knees Lemon said in a forlorn voice, “I understand what you’re feeling.”

Pound felt a brief flash of anger, but it was overwhelmed by his sadness. “No, you don’t,” he said in a quivering voice. “You get to keep your dog.”

Looking forward towards the wall she felt a reminder of the past. “When I was a filly I always wanted a dog, but my parents were always opposed to the idea. Dogs were my favorite animals, and I was sure I could take care of one well, but no matter what I did or tried they always said no. They’d never give me a reason, but I guess they just didn’t like dogs.

“When I moved out and got my own place the very first thing I did was buy a dog.”

Champ walked over to the pair, laying down against Pound’s legs.

Fluttershy wasn’t sure what was going on, whether Lemon was telling him a story to make him feel better or because she was going to relinquish her dog to him. Either way she wished there was a way for both of them to be happy.

Pound leaned over, rubbing Champ’s side.

“Butch was just a puppy then. He was a tiny little thing, only three months old. We were together for six years, through the good times and the bad. When I was having trouble he was always there to make me feel better.”

Leaning over she said despondently, “Then came a string of bad luck. They began cutting my hours at work, and Butch broke his leg. I was lost! I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t afford an expensive vet bill, and I couldn’t just let Butch suffer either. That’s when I remembered our resident animal caretaker: Fluttershy.

“I begged for her help, and she assured me she would care for him and get him back on his paws. She didn’t want any money from me. Her only concern was for him. It was such a relief.

“However, on the way back home…”

Pound paused in his petting of Champ, glancing in her direction.

“Because of the heavy downpour I lost my footing. I slid into a big mud puddle that carried me right into and over a guardrail, and on the way down I hit my head on a big rock.”

Pound winced.

“I lost consciousness. The next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital. Once the next few days I started to remember things. Eventually I remembered Butch, and my heart grew heavy. I had been out for so long and I knew he had to be suffering without me, but I was stuck in the hospital, and I knew I couldn’t have a dog there.

“When I was released from the hospital I wanted to get him then, but my parents had made their stance on dogs perfectly clear, so I couldn’t retrieve him then either. I had to work my way up from nothing. I had to reach a point of financial stability that I could get my own place and be able to care for him again. I pushed so hard for that, knowing that showing myself to him before then would only cause him distress when I had to leave him behind again.

“So what about you? How did you come by him? What’s it been like for you?”

Pinkie was grateful that things had quieted down, but no matter what happened someone was going to be devastated.

Pound looked down at Champ, thinking of their first meeting. In a subdued tone he said, “We got to play with a baby one afternoon, and we had such a blast that we wanted our parents to have one so we could play with them all the time. However, they said it would be difficult and take too long, so they offered to get me and my sister a pet instead.

“We each went our separate ways when we got to Fluttershy’s place to pick out our own pet. At first the only animal I was interested in was a hawk, but then I spotted Champ off by himself. Fluttershy told us that any animal that was presenting itself was up for adoption, but he initially ignored my attempts to make friends with him. He immediately came to Fluttershy when she called, though.

“That’s when I first saw the problem with his leg. He was limping. When I asked Fluttershy about things she told me about his accident and how she thought that you abandoned Champ for it. She also said that all the other ponies that looked at Champ passed him by for the same reason, and every time it hurt him so much inside.” A tear came down his eye.

“She said that other ponies looked down on him for being different, or not being as good as other animals. That reminded me of how much I was suffering in school. Everyone in my class was so much better at flying than I was, and I had a group of bullies always mocking me for it. It hurt so much.”

Scooting forward off the stairs he hugged Champ’s neck. “That’s why I picked him. I knew right then and there that there wasn’t any other pet I wanted as much as him. Like I told Fluttershy, I named him Champ because it was short for Champion. I promised her that both of us would excel together, and I made that come true for both of us. I can fly now, and I’m pretty good at it. And because of the daily walks and play we have together Champ’s leg eventually grew strong and he stopped limping.”

Champ licked his face.

He closed his eyes, quietly sobbing. “I th-thought we were going to grow up together. We w-w-were supposed to be an unstoppable team blazing a path of glory. B-but that’s all over now. Now it’s time to say goodbye.

"But I don’t want to! I don’t want to lose Champ!” He buried his head in Champ’s fur as he began wailing.

Champ whined.

Lemon felt that familiar sensation again as she watched the colt with her dog. When he quieted down a little she stood up herself and kneeled over him. “I can tell that you love Butch with all your heart. I’ve been so immature, competing with a child in such a heartless contest, trying to force him to choose me over you. I regret it.”

Pound glanced over at her with a tear stained face.

“I have no excuse for it, but I feel like that was the filly in me that had always longed for a dog growing up coming out. She couldn’t accept it.

“I had my time with him, loving every moment. Now… I guess it’s your turn. Take good care of him for me.”

Then without another word she started heading for the door.

“Huh?” Lemon’s sudden turnaround took Pound by surprise. Quickly wiping his eyes he hopped up. “What are you talking about? Champ is your dog.”

She didn’t answer.

“Wait!” Pound called after her. “This isn’t right!”

She paused, but didn’t turn around. Shaking her head she said, “No. As you said yourself things will be hard enough. Why drag them out?”

“B-but…” He let out a little huff of breath. “You had him since he was a puppy. You raised him for almost his entire life until you had your accident. I’ve only had him for a few months. And when me and Pumpkin were searching for pets I made sure to ask Fluttershy if taking any of them would mean taking them away from their families. I can’t hold onto Champ when I know that he has an owner that’s been waiting just to see him again.

You should keep him. I… I can-can always get… another d-dog.” His lip quivered.

Fluttershy groaned. After both fighting so fiercely for him now the both of them were trying to get Champ to stay with the other, knowing how deeply both of them cared for him.

She looked over at the dog, her heart breaking. Dogs were always known for their loyalty, and Champ’s love for both of them meant he had to let someone down no matter who kept him in the end.

Lemon sighed. She turned to look at him. “I’ve seen the bond you share with Butch, and as someone who grew up wishing I had had a dog to grow up with me I’d never be able to forgive myself if I took Butch away from you. That’s all.

“You can get to experience all the things that I always wished I could have had as a child but never got to.”

She took a few steps toward him. “You know, the reason I took Butch was basically the same as yours. Butch was the runt of the litter, and even his own littermates seemed to snub him. When I saw that it immediately made me want him, to show him how wonderful the world can be with a loving owner that truly cared about them.

“I know you’ll take care of Butch right, and love him the way I always did. His happiness is all that really matters to me.” She met eyes with Butch, seeing his mournful expression. Forcing a smile she said, “Goodbye… Champ. Look after Pound for me, okay?” She gave him a wink.

Pound still felt funny about this. He just couldn’t find the right words to describe it.

As Lemon headed for the door again her steps became a little wobbly as memories began surfacing. Telling Pound of how she had gotten Champ reminded her of that very first day.

A mare with a litter of puppies was selling them. She had looked at the eight puppies, seeing the potential in all of them. Most of them were full of energy, like they were eager to find an owner. Her attention was drawn to one that was off by himself. The other pups would wrestle or play with one another, but none of them seemed to join Butch in with their games.

For that reason alone she had thought he was the perfect dog for her. When she stepped around the other puppies and picked him up, declaring her intent to adopt him, his expression immediately perked up. He let out a little happy yip, and began licking her face. In that moment she knew she had made the right choice.

She had done all she could to ensure he grew up properly. She didn’t feed him too much or too little, she made sure he got plenty of exercise, and she gave him oodles and oodles of love. It was everything she had always imagined it to be. They were partners; companions; friends. He was as much her family as her mother and father.

He brought so much joy into her life… and then on the same day tragedy struck them both. Butch broke his leg, and she hit her head and went into a coma. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help but think that if she had only had more courage they wouldn’t be in this position right now. As much as she didn't want to admit it, in a way she had abandoned him.

When Champ had hurt his leg she knew she couldn’t afford a vet and took him to Fluttershy as a last resort… but why hadn’t she stayed? She couldn’t bear to hear Butch’s whimpers and pained yips, so after Fluttershy agreed to get Butch back in shape she had left reassured.

In the most painful time of his life she had deserted Butch. If only she had stayed by his side back then… if only…

Even with the guilt she now felt in her heart she still didn’t want to leave him behind. They had too much history together. She could spend the rest of her life making it up to him if they could be together again. Ever since she had gotten discharged from the hospital there wasn't a day that went by where she wasn't pushing herself to be self-sustained. Everything she did for the past few months was just so she could have Butch back in her life again.

As she reached the entranceway her legs gave way as her emotions overflowed. She practically collapsed against the side of the doorframe, starting to wail.

Tears came to Pound’s eyes. He couldn’t do this. He loved Champ with every fiber of his being, but he just couldn’t take what it would do to Lemon.

Pinkie let out a heavy sigh, crossing the room to help Lemon up. It seemed like there was nothing to do. Her life was dedicated to making others happy, but both Lemon and Pound had good reasons for keeping him by their sides. Was there really no way to resolve this quandary?

After a few seconds eyes suddenly lit up. “Ooooh!” she said joyfully. “I might have the best idea ever!”

Lemon sniffed, glancing over at Pinkie. “L-like what?”

“You’re working now, right?” Lemon nodded. “Do you have a set schedule?” She got another nod.

Pound was staring hard at Pinkie. He didn’t know where these questions were headed, but he trusted her to find a way out of this mess.

“Now, then…” Pinkie let out a quick breath, her heart beating hard in anticipation. This was the most important question of all. Everything hinged on this point. “Do you work in the mornings or the afternoon?”

Lemon similarly didn’t know what the point of these questions were, but she answered, “I usually work from three to eleven. Why?”

Pinkie let out a happy squeal, hopping up and down. “YES! Oh, that’s the exact answer I hoped you would give! Problem solved!”

Everyone looked at Pinkie questioningly. “How does that solve the problem, Pinkie?” asked Fluttershy.

“Pound, come over here,” said Pinkie. “You too, Champ.”

The pair rose, standing in front of Pinkie. “So what do you have in mind?” Pound asked.

“There’s no need to fight over Champ. He doesn’t have to just be your dog or her dog. He can be a dog with two owners because the timing is absolutely perfect.”

“What do you mean, Auntie Pinkie?”

“Yes, what do you mean, Pinkie?” asked Lemon, a hopeful expression on her face.

“Lemon, when are you free during the day?”

“Um… the mornings?”

“And Pound? When do you go to school?”

“The morning,” he responded.

“Exactly!” said Pinkie with another hop. “Because the kids are at school and we’re working during the mornings Champ is usually stuck upstairs most of the day. When we get some down time I take him out to go to the bathroom and for a little exercise, but it isn’t until Pound gets home that he gets a lot of attention.”

Lemon was starting to catch on, a smile returning to her face. “I see what you’re going for. I’ll have Butch while Pound is at school, and Pound will have Butch while I’m at work. This way we both get to spend equal time with him and he’s always got someone nearby to shower him with love and attention.”

Pound gave a quick look at Lemon, then looked back at Pinkie. “That’s brilliant!” He quickly hugged her. “You’re amazing, Auntie Pinkie!” All the tension in his body went out of it. Now nobody had to be sad.

Pinkie hugged him back. “We’ll have to iron out some of the details, like weekends and holidays. And I’m sure there will be nights that Lemon will want Champ to sleep with her, but for now I think this is a fair compromise.

“Wouldn’t you agree, Champ?”

Champ let out a hearty bark, running in small circles.

Fluttershy came forward. “I don’t want to rain on your parade right after you’ve settled things, but what about his name?”

“What about his name?” asked Pound, letting go of Pinkie.

“Both of you gave him a name.”

Lemon chuckled. “Oh, that. I’m not concerned about that at all. If he’s going to be our dog I see no reason why he can’t have two names. Besides, Pound said that Champ is short for Champion. ‘Champion Butch’ is a name to be proud of, wouldn’t you agree?”

Pound nodded. “Yeah! I don’t want to fight over something as small as a name after we’ve settled where Champ is going to be staying.”

Fluttershy smiled. “I figured as much, but I thought it was better to bring it up now so you didn’t wind up fighting about it later.”

"Come on!" said Pound, grabbing the end of Champ’s leash. “Let’s go for a walk together, Lemon. You can tell me about what he was like as a puppy.”

Lemon beamed. “Sounds great.”

He offered Lemon the leash, and she eagerly took it. The dog’s tail was going a mile a minute.

The trio went out the door. Pinkie went outside too, but didn’t follow them.

Fluttershy came outside too, her eyes teary as she hugged Pinkie. “Oh, Pinkie!’

Pinkie held her back. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing at all now. When Lemon came back I was terrified. She was furious that I gave away her dog. I thought for sure this couldn’t end without one of them thoroughly miserable, but just look at them now.”

Pinkie giggled. “I know what you mean. I felt the same way.”

Although the dog was excitable, Pound and Lemon seemed to be in no rush. They gave Champ a lot of slack as they walked around, and she could hear them exchanging stories about Champ, talking like old friends.

“Everything is fine now.”

As she watched the trio she pledged to do whatever it took to keep this joint ownership business running as smooth as possible. She’d get a house key from Lemon so she could pick Champ up or drop him off if Lemon was unable to do so herself.

"Everything will be just fine."