A red Poogle named Pog was sleeping peacefully until she felt something touch her shoulder and woke up slowly. Pog automatically assumed that it was her white Doglefox, Roni, because Roni loved waking Pog in the middle of the night for any reason at all. When she opened her eyes, though, she was surprised to see her owner, Casy, standing over her.
"Hi, Casy," Pog said sleepily. "What's going on?"
"Get up. Come on," Casy said with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "We're going on an adventure."
"An... adventure. Fantastic," Pog said, a little apprehensive. Casy waking her up in the middle of the night to go on an adventure could mean anything from a late-night snack to Casy forgetting that she hadn't been to Coltzan's Shrine yet that day.
Roni woke up from all the excitement and walked over to Pog and Casy.
"Well, what do you say, Roni? Do you want to go on an adventure with us?" Casy asked.
"AAIIIIIIIEEE!" Roni squealed excitedly.
Pog laughed. "Shh! We don't want to wake everyone else up." She looked at Casy for confirmation. "We don't, do we?"
Casy shook her head. "Nope. This is something just between us. Just me and my Poogle. And her Doglefox, of course."
"Okay." Pog jumped off her bed, and Roni followed suit. They walked out into the beautiful Faerieland before Pog asked, "So, where are we going?" Even in the middle of the night, Faerieland was still the most beautiful place in Neopia. Pog didn't always live someplace so nice with a kind owner and two wonderful sisters, Ryu the mutant Aisha and Vy the yellow Yurble. She refused to take any of it for granted.
"The Neopian Pound," Casy said.
Pog's eyes widened, and her feet planted firmly into the ground. Roni looked back in confusion, as did Casy, but Pog wasn't moving. She hadn't been to the Pound since Casy adopted her years ago, and she had no desire to go back. She didn't have the happiest of memories from that place.
"What's wrong?" Casy asked.
"You're not going to leave me there, are you?"
"What? No, of course not. I wouldn't do that to you. I love you." Casy knelt on the ground in front of Pog. "You're my Pog the Poogle. Despite the fact that I'm sure everyone in Neopia loves you, nothing is ever going to make me give you up. Ever. You're stuck with me."
Pog smiled. "You sure?"
"Positive," Casy said with a definite nod. "I just think that it's time we add a fourth to our family. I've kind of got my heart set on adopting a Korbat."
"So why aren't you taking Ryu?" Usually Casy always took Ryu with her to the Pound. Ryu was Casy's first pet that she created as soon as she came to Neopia, and the rest of them were all adopted from the Pound. And Ryu was always the one who went with Casy. It was something special between the two of them, it always had been, so why was Casy suddenly taking changing the tradition?
"Because I think it's time for a new tradition," Casy said. It was almost like she could read Pog's mind. "And because I'm a little tired of you giving the Pound a twenty meter berth every time we pass it. Maybe if you can have a happy memory from that place, like helping a Korbat find a new home, you'll be able to walk past the door from ten meters away."
Pog laughed a little. She knew she was being a big baby about the whole thing. All her life she had gotten special treatment for being a Poogle. Just the other day she and Ryu went to the Haunted Woods to search for something Ryu needed for a quest for Jhudora, and she could feel the stares of all the Neopets around her. Which could have also been because she was with her mutant Aisha sister, but it wasn't likely. Realistically she knew that she had only been in the Pound for maybe ten seconds before Casy and Ryu literally climbed on top of someone else to get to her cage and adopt her, but it was the worst ten seconds of her life.
They walked to the Pound, and Casy offered to carry Pog inside. (And cuddle her a lot, so that no one walking in assumed that Casy was abandoning her.) Once they were inside, Casy walked over to the pink Uni standing behind the "Adopt" door.
"Hi, I'd like to look at the pets for adoption," Casy said.
The Uni smiled. "Of course. Right this way."
Pog gripped Casy as tightly as her paws could wrap around her owner's shoulder. Roni was having a good time, snuggled up against Pog. Roni spent her life pre-Casy being pampered in the Neopian Petpet Shop. She was lucky.
"See, Pog, this isn't so bad. And this is why I wanted to come in the middle of the night. There's hardly anyone here."
It was breaking Pog's heart to see all the pets lined up in cages down the wall. None of them were going to wake up to yummy omelettes and fluffy petpets tomorrow. It was suddenly abundantly clear to her why owners were only allowed to have four pets at a time, because she was ready to take every one of them home with them.
"Keep your eyes peeled for Korbats," Casy reminded her.
Pog nodded. They walked around a little, and it was a few minutes before she heard a high-pitched screeching that was the unmistakable sound of a Korbat.
"There's one," Pog said, risking her grip on Casy's shoulder to point to a cage on their left.
Casy walked over to the cage and inspected the Korbat. "I don't want him," she said after a moment.
"What? Why not?" Pog asked.
"Because he's a level one Korbat. I could create my own level one Korbat and name him anything I want."
"But this one needs a home," Pog insisted.
"All the pets here need a home, Pog. We'll find one, okay?"
They found a couple more Korbats that seemed perfect to Pog, but Casy had her own reasons for not wanting to take home every one.
"What's wrong?" Pog asked. "I thought you came here wanting to adopt a Korbat."
"I did. I just want to make sure that whoever we adopt is a good fit for our family. Whoever we adopt, I'm not ever going to want to give up again."
Pog knew that Casy was right, that they couldn't just adopt a pet they didn't want for the sake of giving an unwanted pet a home. It just broke her heart to be another one of the masses who didn't want these poor unwanted pets.
They heard a light clicking sound farther down, and even though Pog was pretty sure she'd never heard a Korbat make noises like that, Casy walked over to the noise and laughed quickly.
Inside the cage between a green Acara and a yellow Shoyru, a little red Korbat was pecking at the floor of his cage like he thought he was a chicken.
"What's his name?" Pog asked. "He's cute."
Casy looked at the tag hanging off his cage and said, "Ater_Animus. What a cute name."
Pog bravely released her grip on Casy's shoulder and put her front paws against the Korbat's cage. "Hi, Ater. My name's Pog," she said. "How are you?"
The Korbat looked at her warily, but Pog's goofy grin was irresistible. He smiled at her and clucked. "Hi, Pog."
Absolutely delighted, Pog turned back to Casy and grinned. "Casy, please let's take him home. He's perfect. Ryu and Vy will love him."
Casy laughed. "Okay, sweetie. We can take him home." She turned to the pink Uni who was in charge of adoption and said, "We'll take him."
Pog couldn't take her eyes off her new brother, who went back to chewing on the ear of the Snoogi sitting in the corner of his cage.
The pink Uni nodded. "I do need to tell you that he has Chickaroo, which is why he thinks he's a chicken. Once he gets medicine he'll act more like a Korbat."
"He'll be fine," Casy said. "We live in Faerieland. We can stop by the Healing Springs on the way home."
The pink Uni nodded again. She opened the cage and said, "Come on. We found a new home for you."
Ater gripped his Snoogi tightly but flew out of the cage and followed them down the hallway so Casy could fill out the adoption paperwork.
"You're going to love living with Casy," Pog told him excitedly while they waited. "She's fantastic. And we live in Faerieland, which is the most awesome place in Neopia."
"Okay, we're ready to go," Casy announced.
Pog smiled at the pink Uni and said, "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Pog. Come back anytime you like."
Pog was shocked. "You remember me?" she asked.
"Of course I do. I remember all the pets who come through here. You seem a lot happier than the last time I saw you."
"I definitely am." Pog smiled at Casy.
As they walked back to Faerieland, Pog thought about it, and she was really glad Casy woke her up in the middle of the night to take her to the Pound. Casy was right; Pog did feel a lot better about giving one of the unwanted pets there a home, even if he did think he was a chicken. Maybe she couldn't give all those unwanted pets a home, but she could certainly make life better for this one Korbat. She could take him to the Healing Springs and get his Chickaroo cured, give him a warm, comfy bed to sleep in, and in the morning they would all have sausage omelettes, and for the time being, everything would be right in their little corner of Neopia.