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POODLES AND FIGURE SKATERS

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“Good mornin’, my beautiful furry children!” our Human said as he turned on the lights. I say “our human” because I share him with nine other dogs. The other humans call him “Eeno” but he’s “our Human”. He is almost as hairy as all the dogs except me. And maybe that one across the way, Yakov. He was rescued from a burning car and he never grew back much of his fur.

Anyway…

Every morning starts off the same. Our Human gives us all a loving rub - he knows I like it when I’m hugged. Then he fills up our water bowls. Food will come after they hose down the floor and clean our kennels. I like splashing. Especially when the weather gets hot, I try to chase the stream of water from the hose. After we eat, Our Human and some other humans walk us around the track. Sometimes we go out to a park with squirrels and some other dogs but most of the time, it’s the road around where we all live. After a while, things, places, and humans become familiar. A lady with yellow hair and big orange ears would run up to me and give me a belly rub every other day on my walk. Then she’ll run away again. I think our Human calls her “Maddy”. I’m not sure. But she smiles whenever I hear that word.

After that, we just kind of walk around in our side of the home. They call it “shelter”. Several humans check in on us from time to time. Yesterday, the huge pitbull who lived beside me was taken out and the human who put her on a leash kept saying “goodbye” to all of us. The pitbull hasn’t come back and a new dog took its place. I was sad a little bit but the pitbull looked happy as she walked away.

 


 

“We’re here,” Yuuri sighed as his boyfriend, Viktor, parked the car.

“This makes it what, shelter #3?” Viktor said, sitting back and looking at the shelter. It didn’t look as polished as the others they’ve checked out. It looked more like a warehouse rather than what he was expecting. “Are you sure about this place?”

Yuuri snorted, “Yes, yes. I know it doesn’t look like much but the websites said they’re legit. Our neighbor got their labrador mix from their kennels and she’s the sweetest dog ever.” Yuuri made to exit the car when Viktor stopped him, grabbing his wrist.

“My love,” the Russian kissed Yuuri’s wrist, “We’re doing this, right? We’re adopting.”

A blush spread on the Japanese man’s cheeks. “Yes, Viktor. I-I know it’s a pet but I think we’re ready to open up our family to another. This is important to me. My dog Vicchan was,” he trailed off. Years have passed since Vicchan died but it still hurt. “It means a lot that you’re doing this with me.”

Viktor gave him that heart-shaped smile. “Of course, I am. Let’s do this.”

 


 

I’ve been here for what feels like a long time just going on with the routine. I like it here. I’m fed, cleaned, I can play with the humans and animal friends. I don’t think I want to leave. But sometimes, I see unfamiliar humans walk around and look at us. Some of them would hold out their hands and give us treats. One time, our Human took me out and walked me over upstairs to what they call an “office”. I’ve been to that room twice before and I remember that soft pillow on the sofa. It was so comfortable that I fell asleep one time. When I woke up, I was back in my kennel and Sala from two kennels away didn’t come back to play.

Our Human said that we are all waiting for our “forever homes”. What? This is my forever home with our Human, the other humans, and my friends. Yes, even Maddy from my walks. I’m happy here.

 


 

A heavily tattooed woman welcomed Viktor and Yuuri at the front door of the facility. “Hi, my name is Izzy. Thank you for choosing JJS Rescue Center,” she said with the bright smile on her face. “I must say, I nearly fell off my chair when I got the email.”

Yuuri smiled and shook her hand. “I was afraid you wouldn’t believe it at first so we sent a photo along with it,” he explained.

“If all goes well,” Viktor added, “maybe we can help you guys out a little too. Yuuri and I love animals and we love what you guys are doing for them.”

Izzy blushed, the tiny heart below her left eye bearing the tint. “You guys adopting one of ours is help enough, Mr. Nikiforov.”

“Please, Viktor.” That smile was enough to disarm anyone.

“Viktor,” Izzy repeated. “I just… ah, I can’t believe it! JJ and I are huge fans of your skating. And you too, Mr. Katsuki. Please, follow me. Let me show you the dogs.”

“Please, call me Yuuri,” he weakly said. “And who is JJ?”

“My fiance. He actually founded this place with a few friends. He’s around here somewhere,” Izzy explained. There were a few people working in the area, tending to the dogs. “This is Phichit,” Izzy pointed to a young man with darker skin and friendly eyes, “He is in charge of the smaller breeds. And over here with the bigger dogs,” she pointed to the other end, “That’s Big Guy Tino.”

Izzy continued to give them a tour. Viktor was ooh-ing and aah-ing at the dogs. It almost felt like he was more excited than Yuuri. When they were discussing it, they agreed to adopt a younger dog, preferably a puppy. An older dog might not be able to withstand their constant traveling and active lifestyle.

But as they were being introduced to Big Guy Tino, Yuuri saw a big brown fluff towards the end of the row. It was a grown poodle with big eyes, head on top of his paws. Yuuri felt something, as if he was being physically drawn to his dog. But as his feet began to move, Viktor called him over to start the interview.

 


 

Hmm, that was a kind-looking human.

He was with a loud human with funny looking hair but this other human looked nice. No, he felt nice. That’s strange. I’ve never felt that way before.

No, I have. With my old human, Kenny and his family. I was with them everyday since I was a pup until one day, I was here and they were gone. They called me Makka. I loved Kenny and his yellow hair. It wasn’t all yellow but I couldn’t tell what the other color was. But I remember his smile and laughter. I was sad for a long time after that. I wanted to go home to my old bed and the sandy box outside. But after a while, this place became my home. I still wonder about Kenny but I know I’ll never see him again.

When this new human looked at me, there was this softness and kindness in his eyes. I wanted to run to his arms. But the loud human pulled him away. I don’t think I like that loud human.

 


 

“So tell me about yourselves,” Izzy started as the three settled into the interview room that doubles as an office. “Other than what’s on Wikipedia, I mean.”

They all chuckled. “Well, as you already know, we are international athletes, figure skaters,” Viktor started, gently holding Yuuri’s hand, “and with that, we tend to travel a lot, both for business and pleasure.”

“Viktor here is actually semi-retired but he still travels with me as my coach/choreographer,” Yuuri explained, squeezing Viktor’s hand, feeling their “unofficial” engagement rings clink together. “I know he feels a little lonely merely watching me by the sidelines all by himself.”

Viktor fake gasped dramatically. “Yuuri Katsuki, I would never…”

“... Admit it, I know,” Yuuri finished with a blush. Izzy thought they were so sweet.

“Aw, poor Viktor,” Izzy cooed. “How’s your living situation? I know you travel a lot but how’s your home? We will have to do a home check too but I need to have an idea of what your house is like so I can choose a good dog.”

Viktor pulled out his phone. Scrolling through pictures, he showed the screen to Izzy. “We live in a second-floor condo. The first floor is just a gym and some shops so we don’t have neighbors down there to bother. Our pup can run around as much as it wants without a noise complaint,” he explained as the woman scrolled through the album named, “Our Humble Abode”. He continued, “The building has both a large courtyard and pool as well as a rooftop garden. If that’s not enough space, there is a dog park a few blocks away.”

“This is a very nice area, Viktor,” Izzy said. She knew the place. It was an upscale part of town, of course. She handed back the phone. “Do you have a specific preference? Male or female dog? Any specific breed?”

“We’re possibly looking for a puppy. A behaved and good-mannered younger dog. I mean, we’re open to all but if you’re asking for a preference, that would be it.” Yuuri glanced around the office filled with pictures of dogs already adopted and some who had already passed. “And both of us should have a good connection with the dog. As you know, I have anxiety and based on my experience, a good and calm dog helps with it. And if we are going to take it with us to competitions, Viktor might be spending more time with the dog than I will.”

Izzy nodded in understanding. “Fair enough. Okay, I will have JJ bring up some candidates and we’ll see what happens. Are you guys excited?” Both men smiled, clutching their hands tighter. “Oooh, you guys are so cute! I hope to find someone as adorable. I’ll be right back.”

 


 

Our Human and the one named Chet were talking, I guess about the two new humans that came by. Chet sounded excited, clutching his phone to his chest. Our Human didn’t look as excited but he was smiling. Then Chet got called away by the loudest human in the place, Jay. Or I think that’s his name. He’s nice enough; he knows all our names. And his eyes become shiny whenever he looks at “Queen Zee”.

Chet and Jay passed by with a little pup in Jay’s arms.

 


 

“Greetings!” an equally tattooed man burst through the door, cradling a light brown ball of fur in his arms. “I am the man they call, King JJ and this, my friends, is the adorable little Leo.”

Izzy buried her face in her hands in embarrassment. She loved JJ to death but sometimes, she wished that he wasn’t too theatrical. Yuuri had a shocked look on his face while Viktor looked unimpressed. To distract their guests, Izzy talked more about Leo, “He’s a golden retriever mix puppy. We rescued him and five other little ones from behind a preschool.” JJ placed little Leo between Viktor and Yuuri. The poor guy was shivering in fright. “A bunch of school kids found their mom and followed them over to a hole on the side of the building and there they were.”

“The mom and two other pups have been adopted already,” JJ continued. “The whole litter is energetic but Leo’s pretty mellow.”

“Hi there, little one,” Yuuri cooed, gently rubbing the puppy’s head with a finger. “You are so cute.” Viktor looked at Yuuri with love. Yuuri was trying to coax the puppy to carry it to his lap but the puppy wouldn’t budge.

“He’s a shy one,” Viktor commented. “He’s pretty little too. How old is he?”

“We estimate about 10 weeks old,” JJ said. “He still looks for milk sometimes but we feed him gruel, mostly wet food. No dry food yet.” JJ might be showy but his veterinary nursing training made him very knowledgeable. “He might not be the best traveler yet but give him time. I’m sure he’ll be awesome.”

Yuuri’s face fell a little bit. It was off-season so they won’t be traveling much but it was obvious that Leo was just too nervous and Yuuri wasn’t ready to take care of someone with worse anxiety than him. Izzy and JJ knew it too.

“Well, we have more dogs to introduce to you,” Izzy said.

“Don’t get me wrong, Leo is lovely,” Viktor said, “But it looks like he’s not ready yet.” JJ nodded and went out to fetch another dog.

 


 

I decided to take a little nap. It was nearing time to eat again and there wasn’t much to do. Our Human turned on those huge fans because it was getting hot again. I hope he brings out the hose. Mira, George, and I love playing in the water.

I noticed Chet making his way to the office with little Gee on a leash. I wonder what happened to that other puppy.

 


 

“This little guy is called Jiji,” Phichit said, handing the orange-y fluff to Viktor. He pleaded with JJ to have him do the introductions. He was a fan of both skaters and he wanted to meet them. “He’s a chow chow pup.”

Viktor almost melted into the couch. The little puppy was super cute. It was a jumping ball of fur, lick-kissing Viktor’s hands and face. “Settle down there, lovely,” the Russian chuckled trying to escape the cuteness attack. “Aren’t you adorable…”

“A literal ball of energy,” JJ said. “Chows aren’t always that energetic but little Jiji here seems to be an exception. Try booping him.”

Viktor tapped the little nose and the chow chow immediately calmed. “Well, that’s like a switch,” Yuuri laughed. “How is he with water?”

Phichit sat on the floor by Yuuri’s feet. “Oh,” he hesitated, “not so good. Normally chows enjoy being wet but Jiji here is rather scared of water.”

“Ah that’s too bad,” Viktor said, hugging the chow chow to his chest. “We don’t want you falling into the pool.”

“Aw, I’m sorry,” Izzy said. “I’m sure we have one more to show you.” Phichit looked sad but he turned the frown to a dazzling smile when the skaters accepted his request for a selfie. For good measure, Viktor followed him back on Instagram.

“Don’t worry,” JJ said as he opened the door for the unaffected chow chow, “I’m sure the perfect one is around here somewhere.”

“Yeah, we don’t have a lot of puppies but we have young ones too,” Izzy said, flipping through her book filled with pictures of their dogs. “How about we go a bit older than puppies?”

“Actually…” Yuuri trailed off, a fingertip pushing his glasses back up his nose. He remembered the sweet little thing that caught his eye earlier. “I want to meet that fluffy brown poodle you have outside. One of the bigger dogs.”

“Makka?” Izzy said, knowing right away who Yuuri was talking about. “She’s a little bit older. Didn’t you say you preferred a younger dog?”

“Yes, but… I-I don’t know,” Yuuri stammered. “Sh-she… what’s her story?”

JJ was the one to reply. “Makka is a sweetheart. She’s playful yet controlled. She loves food but is also very active. We got her from this nice family from the suburbs.”

“She already had a home?” Viktor interjected. “What happened?”

“The family had to move to another country,” JJ answered. “They couldn’t take the dog so they had to leave her somewhere. Better here than to be put down.”

“Yeah, poor kid,” Izzy said. “The owner, I mean. He was crying so much, Makka’s fur was soaked. They made sure the poodle was asleep before they left.”

Yuuri felt a tear forming in his eye. Viktor was already wiping one away. “But she’s quite recovered, if you can call it that. She was depressed for a couple of months after but now, she’s playing well with the other dogs,” JJ said. “Like I said, a sweetheart. She loves hugs and cuddles.”

Viktor looked at Yuuri and without words, they agreed. “We want to see her, please,” Yuuri said.

 


 

“They want Makka?” I heard our Human say. I’m Makka so I immediately perked up in attention. Eeno was looking at me with a smile. “Hear that, girl? Maybe this is it!” I jumped around in my kennel as Eeno opened the door. He attached my leash onto my collar and led me to the office.

There, I saw Jay and Zee talking to two unfamiliar humans. One was the loud guy with the funny hair. The other was the one with the kind eyes. And he looked like he was sad. But he was smiling? I don’t know what was going on.

 


 

“Makka,” Izzy said. “Lovely girl,” Makka then hopped over to Izzy’s lap. “Good girl.”

“She’s beautiful,” Yuuri sighed. He opened his arms to her, “Come here, Makka.”

It’s the nice human! He wants me to come to him? But the loud human is right there beside him. I don’t like him that much. But he’s smiling too. And that’s the nice couch from before.

The dog stared a bit longer, looking at Izzy for confirmation. When the woman nodded, Makka jumped over to the big couch in between the two men. Immediately, Yuuri put his arms around the fluffy poodle, burying his face into the dog’s fur. Makka proceeded to lick his face, skewing his glasses.

“I love her already, Viktor,” Yuuri mumbled into the fur.

Love? Kenny used to tell me that too. And Vitor? It must be the loud human. I looked up and he had a heart-shaped smile on his face. That’s interesting.

“Looks like she loves you too, Yuuri,” Viktor said, pulling his phone out to take pictures of the pair. “Oh Yuuri, she’s perfect!”

“Hi Makkachin,” Yuuri said, giving the dog a kiss on the top of her head. “Oh Viktor…”

“Chin?” JJ said.

“Yes, it’s a Japanese term we use for younger kids and females,” Yuuri explained. “And it fits this lovely girl perfectly.”

The kind human was glowing. And he’s also crying. I licked at his face so he won’t be sad. And now he’s laughing, hugging me close.

“Yui!” the human named Vitor said, hugging my human - wow, that sounds so right - and kissing him. Maybe that’s his name? Yui. His face lit up when he heard that name. Just like Maddy.  

“Hi there, Makkachin,” Viktor said, trying to get into the hug. “Aw, do I now have a rival for my Yuuri’s affections?”

Makka looked at him and eventually transferred her weight onto the Russian’s arms. “That’s my girl,” Yuuri smiled.

Maybe Vitor is not so bad after all if he makes Yui happy. I guess I now have two humans!

“So we have a match?” Izzy asked with hearts in her eyes. All Yuuri could do was nod and join in with the cuddle.

 

EPILOGUE:

 

“Aw, so cute!” Izzy squealed at the Instagram photo on her feed.

[PHOTO]

Liked by phichit+chu, sukeota3sisters and 11,504 others.

v-nikiforov A princess and her princes in her castle! #makkachin #poodle #katsukiyuuri #HasetsuCastle #Japan #EndlessDiscovery

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phichit+chu That’s my baby girl!!!

yuri-plisetsky okay, I will allow her near my Potya. She is cute. And no, @otabek-altin, we are not getting a dog.

christophe-gc @yuri-plisetsky nyaaaaan!

JJ opened up his Instagram and added a like and a comment, “I’m glad she’s settling in nicely @v-nikiforov . And @yuri-plisetsky , if ever you change your mind, @JJS!dogs is here for you.”

Izzy saved the photo on her phone. She messaged Viktor asking permission if they can add this photo to their website. It was just too cute. Makka - who was now called Makkachin - looked like she was having fun. After a short time settling in with her new family, the skaters arranged her paperwork and took her with them to Russia. Now, the family is in Yuuri’s hometown of Hasetsu, Japan on vacation.

As promised, Viktor and Yuuri made a generous donation to the rescue center. They even had their skater friends pitch in with their own donations. Adoption was also on the rise. Both Leo and Jiji found loving homes with Yuuri’s colleague Seung-gil Lee sending Phichit into a crying mess but gaining another famous follower on Instagram.


 

I love my Humans. And they love me. I think I know now what a “forever home” means. It means “love”.