Come dance with the Wanderers... Circulation: 100,597,592 Issue: 199 | 14th day of Swimming, Y7
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Dr_Death On Life

by darkwolf__untamed


Author's Note: Names have been changed or left out in order to protect the history of the pets and/or Owners mentioned in Dr_Death's narrative. Other than that, the story is reported exactly as Dr_Death himself wrote it originally.

Just once, every Neopian should visit the Pound. Even if you never intend to adopt a new pet into your family, you should still make the trip. Let Merideth (commonly known as "The Adopt Uni"), take you into the back to see all the pets that have been abandoned. Look into their sad faces and remind yourself how lucky your pets are that you care for them.

     Think about how many so-called owners carelessly stop by the Pound and drop off pets that they created. Their reasons are almost always one of three things; "I can't afford to feed it anymore", "I just wanted it so I could get an avatar", or, my personal favorite: "I don't like its name anymore". I see it every day and every night. I listen to those owners say the words that used to make me cringe, but now I barely bat an eye as I take down their information and escort the unfortunate abandoned pet back to the holding areas. How could I possibly stand it every day, you ask? Who am I?

     I'm Dr_Death. And I was once one of the very pets that I now care for.

     It wasn't very long after Owners first began creating Neopets that I found myself in what I assumed was an ideal home. I had an Owner who fed me and seemed to care for me. He'd given me the name Dr_Death as some sort of inside joke with one of his Neofriends, but I didn't particularly mind. It was fun to introduce myself to other pets and see their surprised looks when I told them my name. Everyone assumed that I would be mean with a name like that, but I never was.

     I loved to read, and eagerly awaited every new book my Owner would bring me. I played with Techo Toys and Lupe Plushies. I had all the Omelette I could eat, though I didn't actually know where my owner was getting it. I found out later that ignorance of that sort can actually be bliss. Had I known where my main food supply was coming from, I don't think I would have eaten it quite so eagerly.

     Then, one day, I was shocked to discover that the other Techo down the street who I'd been playing with since I was created was suddenly gone. His Owner now had a Lupe. No matter who I asked, no one would tell me what had happened to my friend. All the other pets said that I should just forget about him, but I couldn't. I had to know what had happened to him. Then one day, my Owner finally gave in.

     "He was taken to the Pound, Dr_Death," my Owner said.

     I didn't understand. "What's a Pound?" I was worried. "Is it going to hurt him?" Until then, the only 'pound' I had been aware of would be the literal meaning of the word. Such as to pound one's fist on a table. If someone was pounding their fist on my friend, then I would have to do something to stop it, and right away.

     "No, of course not," my Owner reassured me. "It's just a place where Owners can take pets they don't… can't care for anymore."

     I was still confused, and after some convincing, my Owner agreed to take me to this Pound and let me see my friend. "If he's still there," my Owner said. "The Pound is also a place where new Owners can adopt the pets that others have left there, you see."

     The next day, I walked along quietly beside my Owner as we headed for the Pound. I was nervous about what we would find when we got there, but I was excited about seeing my friend again.

     On the way, we passed the Daily News area and my Owner stopped for a moment to check out the newest happenings in Neopia. "Hey, look!" he said excitedly. "A new species has been discovered. The Zafara… It looks so cool…" He turned and looked at me, and I swear I saw a shadow pass over his face for an instant. But then it was gone and I was certain that I had imagined it ever being there.

     We started walking again, but instead of talking about the Pound, all my Owner wanted to talk about was the new species. It excited me as well. I hoped I would get to see a Zafara soon. New species were always amazing to me. Especially when I tried to figure out how no one in Neopia ever seemed to have seen them before. It was as if they simply appeared out of thin air, sometimes.

     Finally we found ourselves in front of a building that seemed rather foreboding. Unlike the other buildings in Neopia Central, which tended to be rather whimsically shaped to indicate the wares they sold, this building was a solid grey monolith. It had very few windows, and those that there were seemed as if they hadn't seen a window washer since their installation. The look of the building from the outside was enough to send a cold shiver down my spine. And for a cold-blooded Neopet like a Techo, that isn't an easy thing to cause.

     Despite my apprehension, my Owner boldly opened the door and I walked in with him. He went up to talk to a rather frazzled looking Uni behind the desk, while I wandered over to look at the pictures and plaques on a wall.

     "The Neopian Pound is not designed as a holding place for Neopets to allow an Owner to move them from one home to another," one of the plaques said. "If you attempt to use the Pound in such a manner, there is a chance that you will lose your pet. Due to limited containment space, we are required to adopt pets to the first new Owner who shows interest in them and can afford the modest adoption fee."

     None of this really meant anything to me, but it was interesting to read. I moved on to the next plaque.

     "The Neopian Pound, Established 199-". It was strange that the last number on the plaque seemed to have been scratched off. Almost as if someone or something had grabbed the plaque in an attempt to stop themselves from being taken somewhere. In fact, the wallpaper near that plaque seemed to be a slightly different color than the surrounding wallpaper. I reached up to move the plaque, and barely had enough time to focus my eyes on what appeared to be… Claw marks? Claw marks that went deep into the wall beneath the wallpaper… before I heard my Owner call to me.

     "Dr_Death? Come on. This nice Uni is going to take you to visit your friend."

     I forgot about the strange marks on the plaque and on the wall quickly, as I jogged over to the desk and smiled at the Uni. She appeared sad, and that seemed strange to me, but I was too excited about seeing my friend again to pay attention to her expression for more than a split second. "He's still here?"

     My Owner patted me on the shoulder. "Go with the nice Uni, Dr_Death. She'll take you to him."

     I grinned and followed the Uni behind the desk and into a large hallway. The door closed behind us and I heard a lock click into place, but I ignored that sound. I was going to see my friend.

     The Uni turned to me as we walked along, and introduced herself. "Dr_Death, my name is Merideth. If you need anything at all, please let me know, okay?"

     I just smiled at her. "Nice to meet you, Merideth. But I don't think I'll be here long enough to need anything. I'm just gonna visit my friend, and then I'll be going home with my Owner."

     There was a stricken look on Merideth's face and she stopped in her tracks, looking at me. "Dr_Death… This is always difficult to explain, but…" She sighed. "I can't believe your Owner didn't even tell you… Most Owners at least have that courtesy." She sighed and regarded me slowly with her deep blue eyes. "Dr_Death, you won't be going home with that Owner today. He signed the forms that officially turn you over to the Neopian Pound." She offered me a little smile. "However, I'm sure that a new Owner will be along to pick you up in no time."

     I froze. Abandoned. I had been abandoned. But… why? Why would my Owner abandon me to the Pound? He'd created me… Numbly, I trailed behind Merideth as she led me to my new quarters. I felt a little better when I discovered that I would be sharing the small room with the Techo I had thought I was coming here to visit. But that didn't take away the sting of what had happened to me. And I felt it anew the next day, when, as I looked out the window of the little room I shared with my friend, I saw my Owne- my former Owner walk past… With a newly created Zafara by his side.

     Days passed into weeks, and weeks into months. My friend, who was a Starry Techo, was adopted within the first two weeks. But I was left alone. No one wanted a plain yellow Techo. Especially not one with a name like mine. The name I had enjoyed introducing myself by had become a curse. And as everyone knows, a Neopet cannot change their name once their Owner has named them.

     The only Neopet who remained in the Pound long enough for me to get to know was Merideth. And after some weeks, we had become rather close friends, and she no longer required me to stay within my room as most of the other abandoned pets were required to do. I helped her care for the abandoned pets, and over time, she taught me everything that needed to be done to man both the Adopt and Abandon desks.

     I watched Merideth, day after day, as she escorted the new arrivals back to the rooms and introduced them to their new lives in the Pound. And I saw that same sad look every time. It broke my heart that Merideth had to be the one to handle the reports, the adoptions, and the abandoned pets. After some consideration, I finally came to a decision. I wouldn't let Merideth handle the Abandon desk anymore.

     At first, she told me that it would be wrong for me to take over all the Abandon Desk duties. "Dr_Death… I can't let you do that," Merideth said to me quietly as we had lunch together in the exercise yard behind the Pound one day. "If you took over the Abandon desk, it would mean that you wouldn't have any time to put yourself in lineups anymore." She looked at me and said, softly, "You would be giving up the chance to ever find another Owner."

     I nodded. "I know, Meri. But I want to do this… It's more work than one Neopet can handle, and you know it." My voice softened, "And I don't like how it hurts you to see the new pets coming in. You can run the Adoption desk, and I can handle the Abandon one. You've already taught me everything that I would need to do." I put a hand on her head and let my fingers run through her mane. "Let me help you, Meri. Please."

     She looked at me for a moment, and ate a couple of bites of her salad. When she spoke again, she wouldn't look at me, and her voice was so soft that I could barely hear her. "I never told you how I came to work at the Pound." She looked at me then, with the same pain in her eyes that I was so used to seeing when she took a newly abandoned pet back to the holding areas. "I was like you, once. My Owner wanted a new pet, and couldn't afford to take care of us both. The Pound had just opened. I was the first pet to be dropped off." She took a deep breath, and I couldn't stop the gasp at her revelation.

     "Meri… I had no idea…"

     She shook her head. "Please, Dr_Death… Don't stop me. I might never get the rest of this out if you do." Another deep breath. "The Faerie who had been taking care of the Pound disappeared very suddenly… I don't think she could handle the influx of new pets. I heard later that she had opened some kind of Soup Kitchen in the Bazaar, to try and offer food to those owners who couldn't afford it. I think she hoped that her efforts would make the Pound unnecessary… It didn't work, obviously, but I bear her no ill will for it." She paused for a moment, then continued, "I had nowhere else to go, so… I took over. I vowed that I would never abandon the Pound… Those pets who are left here have already been abandoned once. I care for them too much to leave."

     She swallowed and looked at me. "And that's why I can't let you run the Abandon desk, Dr_Death… If you give up your chance of ever finding another Owner, I don't-"

     I placed my hand on her shoulder. "Meri, it is my choice. My decision. And this is what I want to do with my life. Please, let me help you."

     Merideth watched me carefully for a moment, then finally nodded… and smiled. "Thank you, Dr_Death. Thank you for reminding me why I took this responsibility in the first place."

     I smiled back. I knew I had made the right decision.

     And so, this is where I've been for several years now. I run the Abandon desk of the Neopian Pound. I take care of pets that have been abandoned by their Owners, and, with Merideth's assistance, I find them new ones. This is my life now. And, to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.


The End

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