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The rain poured down over the dense Bulgarian forestry. Water dripped from the large green leaves of the high tree canopy and down on to the course prickly bushes below; pooling into deep cold puddles on the muddy forest floor. From under one of the many bushes came a small pitiful whine. The sound belonged to a small silver and tan terrier.
She shivered violently; her thin matted coat offering her no protection from the sudden storm. Her stomach rumbled loudly and clenched with hunger pains. It had been many days since she had last found a morsel of food; discarded at the side of the road, wrapped in a tattered bag.
She thought sadly about the town where she had been born and the children who had thrown stones at her to make her leave the rubbish bins and their houses when she had tried to find a warm place to shelter.
They had thought she was being naughty but she had only been looking for food. Her shoulder still hurt where a sharp rock had cut into her skin and her neck stung from the large bite she had received for straying in to another street dog’s territory. The terrier lay down with her head on her paws; she was very sad and lonely. Feeling tired she closed her eyes and drifted off in to a dreamless sleep.
Some time later she was woken by the sound of hooves thundering through the forest. The rain had stopped and the sun had burnt up the puddles too fast to allow her time to drink.
The sound of hooves came closer and closer; the little dog became frightened and tried to push herself further under the bush to hide. Poisonous thorns pricked in to her skin causing her to yelp loudly. She whimpered as she frantically tried to pull them out.
The horse ground to a halt next to the bush and the little dog looked up at four large hairy brown legs and four enormous black hooves. The little dog thought that each one was bigger than her head.
The horse was so tall that she could see nothing more from her hiding place. Suddenly a lady reached under the bush and carefully pulled the little dog out. She began talking but the dog didn’t understand what the lady said. It wasn’t a language she recognised but it sounded nice and friendly and she enjoyed having her ears scratched. So cautiously the little dog began to relax.
The lady began walking through the forest leading the large brown horse with the little dog under her arm. The terrier sneaked a look at the lady from under her lashes. She had pale pink skin, green eyes and lips the colour of rose petals. Her hair was hidden under a large black hat. The little dog wondered if she was the forest goddess.
She had heard stories about the goddess who roamed the forests protecting the plants and animals.
As they reached the outskirts of a village the little dog became very frightened. She was worried it would be like last time and people would hurt her and scare her away. Already she could here the ominous sound of loudly barking aggressive dogs. She began to struggle; barking in her high pitched squeaky voice. The lady kept tight hold of her wiggly body; talking softly. The little terrier thought it was very reassuring, even if she didn’t understand.
For a moment she wondered why she didn’t’. Usually she recognised some words, but nothing the lady said made any sense at all.
The little dog didn’t have time to wonder any more because they had stopped outside a large house with a big metal fence surrounding it. Dogs of all shapes and sizes appeared barking and growling loudly. The little terrier tried to hide in the lady’s arms. She let out a small growl; just to warn the others to stay away but that was all she could manage.
A tall dark haired man appeared at the gate and lifted the little dog in to his arms. He carried her down the stairs and in to the house. The little terrier barked frantically. She was frightened of the house with all the dogs and wanted to go back to the kind lady.
‘It’s ok, you’re safe here,’ the man told her quietly.
The little dog looked at him in surprise. The lady had said some of those words too. She was sure she recognised them. She wagged her short stubby tail enthusiastically to show she understood.
The man smiled and stroked her head gently, ‘You’re going to need a name,’ he said. He looked at her very carefully, ‘I think you look like a Dolly. What do you think?’ he asked. The little terrier wagged her tail. A name sounded like a nice thing; she had never had a name. Her mother had died when she was only a tiny puppy so she had been on her own for a very long time.
For a while when she had been a puppy, she had been kept by a man who tied her to a short chain in his garden and hit her when she made a noise. He had made her sleep on the cold ground, with no shelter and only fed her scraps of bread occasionally. Dolly had escaped from there as soon as she could and wandered the countryside alone ever since.
The wooden door opened and an older woman entered the room. Dolly liked the look of her immediately. She had a friendly smile and twinkly eyes. Behind her followed three small hairy dogs.
‘Who are you?’ demanded the tallest brown dog. He had a small squashed nose and big eyes and made a kind of snorting noise. Dolly wasn’t at all frightened of him he only came to the top of her leg.
‘Where am I please?’ she asked politely.
‘You’re in the rescue centre,’ he replied, ‘the people here help dogs and cats who are hurt or have no home. They’ll make you better and then help you to find a home of your own.’
Dolly looked at him suspiciously, ‘I’ve had a home before, I didn’t like it very much,’ she told him sadly.
The other two dogs began to giggle, ‘Not that kind of home silly,’ the youngest told her, ‘they find you a good home, with people who love you and are kind to you.’
Dolly wagged her tail she thought she might like that kind of home. ‘So why are you all still here?’ she asked feeling a little confused.
‘We live here. I’m Charlie,’ the largest dog explained, ‘we came here when our owner couldn’t keep us any more and the people liked us so much that this is our forever home.’
Dolly liked the sound of a forever home. She wondered what it would be like to have a place and people that were all of her own. ‘What about all the others?’ she asked, ‘does it take a long time to get a forever home?’
Charlie looked sad, ‘It does for some dogs,’ he replied, ‘some of the dogs here were very ill when they arrived and they are still getting better and others like Arrow, the Bull terrier; who had to get his leg removed, aren’t very popular with the people who come to look, so he’ll probably stay here forever too.’
Dolly looked scared and began to tremble. Her whole body shook violently and she span round and round in circles. ‘What if no one wants me?’ she asked in a small worried voice.
‘Then you’ll stay here with us,’ replied the smallest dog stretching her front paws up to the top of the bed, so she could have a closer look at Dolly. ‘I’m lady,’ she told her, ‘I hope you’re allowed to play with us soon.’
Their conversation was interrupted by the lady coming back towards the bed carrying a small grey cage. She placed it on the bed and put Dolly carefully inside. ‘You’ll need a visit to the vets,’ she told her kindly.
Dolly began to panic; she was frightened of being locked in, she barked and tried to spin around in the cage but it wasn’t large enough so eventually she gave up and laid down. She didn’t know what a vet was but it didn’t sound like something she would like. She began planning how to escape as soon as someone unlocked the cage.
‘It’s ok,’ Lady told her, ‘I’m going too. I have a rash that I’m getting medicine for.’ ‘But I don’t have a rash,’ said Dolly in alarm.
Lady giggled, ‘All the new dogs go to the vets,’ she reassured her, ‘they have to make sure your not ill, then you get inoculations to stop you getting diseases and a small operation to make sure you can’t have puppies. It’s to make sure that no more unwanted dogs end up on the streets. Afterwards you’ll get fed and a comfy bed to sleep in.’
Dolly wasn’t too sure she liked the sound of the vets at all; but food and a comfy bed sounded nice and maybe when she got back Charlie would tell her more about how to get a forever home. She closed her eyes and began to day dream. She wondered what her family would be like.