Taking Away the Pound's Gloom
For a long time, the only pet I had was Lyrisette.
Across Neopia, I’ve noticed that owners fall within two categories, people who were content with bonding only with one pet and people who had a small army of pets. For a very long time, I fell into the first category, but that was changing.
It was more for Lyrisette’s needs than my wants. There had been many occasions where I couldn’t come see her for days, even weeks, and the loneliness it caused her was great. Lyrisette was a very sociable, energetic creature, and I knew a sibling to share her time with would help to solve many of her problems.
I was the one who decided that we would be adopting from the pound. As enticing as creating a new pet was, seeing so many pets sitting alone and with little hope in the pound was hurtful to me and Lyrisette. Lyrisette was also a very sympathetic creature, and the way I got her to agree with me to adopt from the pound was by tugging her heartstrings and filling her head with the horrors of pound life.
“You know how lonely you get when I’m not around,” I would tell her. “Imagine that all day, every day, no one to talk to or play with. Imagine growing hopeful for freedom at every person that walked by, only to be snubbed for not being exactly what an owner was looking for.”
Lyrisette had a habit of tugging on her ears when she was upset, something she used to do to her antennae before I morphed her from a Ruki. Whenever the pound came up into conversation, she practically ripped the furry ends of her ears off. “That’s it!” she cried once. “Let’s go save someone!”
I had just recently morphed her into an Ogrin, even getting enough money to paint her Christmas, a color we had been eyeing for a while. I could afford a second pet, but I worriedly wondered if Lyrisette could suddenly handle a younger (or perhaps older) sibling vying for attention.
It’s a problem every owner faces when getting pet number two. Will pet number one be okay? Will they get along with pet number two? Will everyone be able to handle it?
With that in mind, I took Lyrisette with me when I finally went to the pound.
The weather was what many would call gloomy. Cloudy, dark, and rainy, the only color in the world coming from the variety of umbrellas fluttering about as cover for anyone who ventured outside. I personally found rain relaxing, the soft ambience easing any stress I may have had from this day.
It was different for Lyrisette. She was filled to the brim with nervous excitement, her anxious energy making it difficult to keep herself from running out from under the safety of our umbrella. She spoke little, and leaving me to wonder what was going through her mind. Was she busy thinking about what kind of pet she would like to live with or was she thinking about all the trouble that might come with it?
The entrance to the pound was a cute, pink, cottage-like building. The people around were of mixed mood, some pets nervous and excited, some sobbing or looking betrayed, making it easy to point out who was here to abandon and who was here to adopt. It was unnerving.
Upon entering, a balding yellow Techo gave me a sinister look. I walked right past him and his desk labeled “Abandon” to a much more cheerful pink Uni. The Techo instantly calmed down.
The Uni smiled brightly when she spoke. “It’s nice to see you!” she said as if we had met before. “I’ll get the paperwork together right now.” She opened a drawer on her desk and removed a single sheet of paper and wrote down the date before standing. I had to smirk. Some paperwork.
“Okay, just come with me.” The Uni began to trot down a hallway lined with many doors.
Lyrisette was staying unusually quiet. She glanced behind us. I looked back, too and saw the Techo from before comforting a green Quiggle. He was being led through one of the many random doors, disappearing into the dark chasms of the pound.
Lyrisette looked at me with a frown. All I could do was shrug; there was nothing we could do to keep that Quiggle from being abandoned.
The Uni suddenly stopped, opening an equally random door and motioning us to enter. When we entered, she shut it suddenly, leaving us alone in a dim room. I could hear her feet as she quickly trotted away, ready to lead the next adopter through this moody place.
“This is weird.” Lyrisette suddenly broke her silence.
We looked around the small room. On the wall across us was a large blank screen. A machine panel set out in front of it had two large buttons, each labeled in blindingly bold letters; SEARCH and ADOPT. It looked more like something that belonged in Virtupets than in the pound in Neopia Central.
“Well,” I said, “what are we waiting for?”
Lyrisette swallowed hard. We both stepped forward slowly to the panel, our eyes nervously locked on the screen. My hand rested on the SEARCH button a little shakily.
“Ready?” I asked.
“...I guess,” was my Ogrin’s weak answer. So I hit the button, machinery began humming, and the screen lit up, rabidly going through a list of thousands, no, millions of abandoned and lonely Neopets waiting for me to give them the glimmer of hope for a new life.
How do pound surfers do this, anyway?
The first pet to appear was a blue Grundo, his given name a nasty mess of letters and numbers, clearly made by an uncaring owner. His stats were listed next to his picture. Level 1, dim witted, but nice to others.
I looked down to Lyrisette, who simply blinked. I hit the button again, feeling awful while doing it. Next was a Chia, having an equally unfortunate name, and even worse, she had the Neezles. Lyrisette was shaking her head, so I hit the button. Another Grundo, this time purple, badly named, and with a bad personality.
Lyrisette kept shaking her head. I hit the button a few times more, each time her head shaking no, no, no. A yellow Skeith, a red Lupe, a green Tuskaninny, none of them made Lyrisette perk up. I finally took my hand from the button, leaving another poor Grundo on the screen.
“What are you looking for in them?” I asked the disheartened Ogrin.
She sighed heavily, and reaching her front paws to her ears, wailed, “I don’t even know!”
“What do you mean?” I inquired. “I told you to think about it. I want you to be happy about this too.”
She nodded, her ears in her grip. “I know, but... but the more and more I thought about what I would want in a sibling, the less I felt like I knew,” she sniffed. “What am I to decide? It's not fair that we can only save one pet! Why do I, or we, have to choose just one when so many others want to be adopted too!”
I knew exactly what she meant and thought that maybe all my talking about the pound had backfired.
“I want to have a sibling now, but I don’t want to pick one out!” She stopped with a sob.
I rubbed to top of her head. “Okay then,” I consoled her. “Don’t worry about it.”
Lyrisette looked up at me with her large emerald eyes, teary with sentiment for all the abandoned pets. They grew wide. “Wait, we aren’t going to adopt?”
I smiled. “Oh, we are, but we won’t pick who it is out.”
She let go of her ears to wipe her eyes. “Then who will?”
“The SEARCH button.” And without any more thought, I rapidly tapped both giant buttons to see what would happen.
Across the large screen, the words “Thank You” scrolled by. The machinery stopped its hum, and the door to the room swung open.
“Okay!” the same pink Uni from before piped. “Let’s go meet your new pet!”
After being lead down more winding corridors than I could keep track of, Lyrisette and I were left alone again. This time is was clearly a waiting room, comfy chairs lining the walls, windows glowing with the day’s rainfall. Lyrisette and I gladly each took seats, but were hardly relaxing.
Who was going to come out? What would they be like? We both thought, almost frantically. The excitement was now affecting me even more so than Lyrisette. She seemed more relieved than anything.
On one wall was a large brown door with an exit sign hanging above it. Fixating my attention to it, I realized the irony of it. Only those who abandoned pets left out the front door. Those who adopted left out here. Adopters had a special exit, a much happier one.
Lyrisette began jabbing my shoulder. For an instant, I was happy they were Ogrin paws and not Ruki claws, but my attention was dragged away by her happy expression.
“I hear someone coming!” she shrieked with joy.
She was right, we could hear the Uni’s jaunty trot along with another set of much heavier footsteps. The Uni was busily saying something to the other. They stopped at the door.
“Are you ready?” the Uni asked my new pet on the other side.
I knew I was. I was practically shaking with anticipation.
The door creaked open, slow motion, almost as if the Uni were trying to prolong the moment. Standing on the other side was a green Tonu. A Tonu! A Tonu in the pound?
Before I could fully register that realization, the Tonu literally bounded forward, her size not affecting her grace in the least, smiling so brightly that it put stars to shame. The Uni laughed and left us alone, shutting us in like she did before.
My Ogrin jumped past me, equally cheerful, and introduced herself.
“Hi! I’m Lyrisette!” Her voice was so thoroughly filled with energy now that she sounded like the high notes of a flute.
The Tonu nodded, her eyes twinkling a little. “I’m Kiosheyzana!” she answered back, relieving any worry I may have had about her name.
They grew silent for a moment, not knowing what else to say. I was speechless from the moment she walked in.
Kiosheyzana suddenly sat (more like plopped) down. “Oh, I’m really happy right now... I don’t really know what to do! I never had an owner!”
That couldn’t be right. My mind falling back into place, I asked, “But then how were you in the pound?”
Her smiled faded a bit. “The person who found me brought me straight here. He thought for sure I’d be adopted as soon as I entered since Tonu are rare, but...”
It felt awkward now. “I have to admit it,” I began to her. “I didn’t know at all about what you were until you came through that door. I hit adopt before it could load a picture. We couldn’t just pick someone out.”
My Tonu blinked at me, not entirely sure how to take that.
“Who cares!” Lyrisette broke in and grabbed us both in her arms. “I have a sister now! I won’t be lonely when you aren’t around!” She smiled at me, then turning to Kiosheyzana, said, “If you’ve been in the pound your whole life, you haven’t ever been out in the rain, have you?”
She shook her head.
“Great!” She jumped away toward the exit door, stopping only to launch our umbrella toward me. “Well, come on!”
That glittery smile came back to Kiosheyzana’s face, and both pets darted out the door. I stepped outside at a more leisurely pace, unable to resist smiling myself.
I opened my umbrella and looked up to the clouds, wondering how people could call this kind of weather gloomy.