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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

Written for Dragonnan, whose musings are an inspiration in and of themselves.

Too little, too late. That could be said of so much lately, and yet, it was so unsatisfying. Perhaps that’s what it was meant to be – unsatisfying. An accusation, maybe, of what could and should have been. A slap in the face, a reminder of ‘should haves’ that went undone and itches of conscience that went ignored. And when finally everything came to turning point, when procrastination and ‘good enough’ were no longer an option, one is simply left standing alone on the street corner thinking it was too little, too late. A rough start to life, he could have turned that around and done great things with the right chance…any chance. But no, it wasn’t meant to be. Not for lack of effort, but for that damned too little too late.

 

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            At least he was met with caring hands…at first. Part of a litter that was too big for one family to manage, but being the caring hearts that they were, they brought the puppies to the local shelter to ask about their chances for adoption. The shelter was often too full, unfortunately. The family knew this. The numerous advertisements and public service announcements were plenty informative of this fact. But they had to try. And surely, the shelter was optimistic. These were young puppies, after all. Who could resist? They were well cared for, healthy, friendly, and so incredibly cute. The volunteers quickly took bets on how long it would take for the entire litter to be adopted.

            Sure enough, the litter quickly began to disappear. First one puppy, then another, and even two at a time for one eager family with two children. The volunteer helped them to their car and bade the two little balls of fur goodbye as the doors closed and the car drove away, sure that these two little pups would go on to lead good lives. She returned to her area in the shelter to see the remainder of the litter. Only 4 left. Only with puppies would she ever expect to see 8 dogs adopted in two days. Not that she could blame anyone, but still. It seemed somewhat unfair to the rest of the dogs that were there and that had been there for however long. It was no fault of their own that they weren’t the cute little balls of fur any longer, but such was life. Fair or not, it seemed that Lady Luck did not only care to deal with humans when it came to the harshness of life.

            “Don’t worry, guys. You’ll all get to go home tomorrow, I’m sure.” She said with a large and encouraging smile as she closed the door and prepared to close up shop for the evening. The litter would not be reduced down to one solitary puppy, she determined. These little guys were just too cute. She promised herself that if at the end of the day tomorrow, there was only one pup left, she would take it home herself. It seemed responsible enough. She wouldn’t jump on board just because of a cute face with adorable eyes looking back at her. She would even take the risk of going home completely empty-handed. Heck, she wouldn’t even make a choice of which puppy she wanted herself. She would let fate decide whether she would even get one, and then fate alone would decide which one was destined for her. That’s the way it would be, and that’s the way that felt right. She took a few extra moments to pet one specific puppy before stepping out. He should be home by now, but hadn’t been picked up yet. Perhaps tomorrow. No harm in spending one more night with his siblings.

            But Lady Luck would once again rain on the best laid plans – literally. Rain was not generally the kind of weather that families preferred to go out in to look at puppies for adoption. The shelter was open and ready for business, but that was not to say that anyone else was. And so, the puppies remained. They remained snuggled up in together in a corner, somewhat confused and unsure of themselves since being taken from their mother, yet at least comfortable in their warm indoor kennel. They took extra comfort from the warm fuzzy blanket brought in by the nice young volunteer, who made it a point to come in regardless of the unfortunate weather.

            “There you go. Sorry, I know I promised you a home yesterday, then today, but looks like it’s just not meant to be.” She apologized while scratching behind the puppy’s ear, laughing as he buried himself in the blanket. “Don’t worry, they’ll come for you.” She smiled and returned to her other duties with the rest of the kennels, stopping back on occasion to make sure everyone in the litter had everything they needed. Taking care of puppies was hard! She could at least take comfort in knowing that young puppy litters were often adopted out quickly, but once in a while, things just didn’t go as planned.

 

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            Too little, too late. Ok, maybe she shouldn’t have said it out loud, but spending so much time here at the shelter, where far too often those who were rescued were then put to sleep, she couldn’t help herself. She didn’t sign up for such a level of heartache when she applied for this volunteer job. She signed up for afternoons spending time playing with cute furry puppies and hugging sad dogs who needed someone to love them. That’s all she wanted. Perhaps they would give her the kind of love and emotional fulfillment that she so desperately craved, also.

            But no. Far too often, her hugs and words of comfort were for those that she knew were about to be put to sleep. Those dogs that were so maltreated and abused that their injuries and illnesses went far too deep for healing. There were also those dogs that, although healthy enough, were perhaps too old or ‘undesirable’ to be selected by dog seekers. These were the ones that tore at her heartstrings the most. Having to die simply because no one wanted them. Then there were the cases that were plain and simply not fair. These were the ones that not only hurt, but made her angry beyond belief. A litter of puppies might be overwhelming at first, but they’re just too cute to last long. There’s no way that they stay in the shelter long enough for any harm to come to them. Well, that was the way it was supposed to work out. That’s the way it should always work out.

            More teardrops fell to the table, falling harder the more she thought about it. The main reason for a shelter’s existence was to offer a chance to animals who had fallen on hard times because of human stupidity. That was hard enough to deal with, but when a puppy with everything going for it had to suffer because of a broken promise…she just couldn’t fathom feeling any sense of peace about it. Had she known…had she only known…she would have tried to get it adopted. She would have gotten it adopted. There was that one couple – how they looked on his big, expressive eyes with such adoration. It was love at first sight. They would have been perfect. But no, the puppy was spoken for. She had to offer another one, because someone else came here first and ‘called dibs’ on this one. Turning a perfect home down because some idiot decided to ‘call dibs’…and she could slap herself for believing him. Ok, so he did seem to really like the puppy, and there was no reason to believe he was lying…but her experiences with men should have taught her better. Trust was just not a quality they were worthy of. Keeping the puppy just that one extra day was what did it – she was sure of it. The puppy should have been out of there when the guy promised to come pick him up. He would have had a better than decent chance if he had followed through. She was sure of it.

             

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            She knew it the moment she went to his kennel that morning. The symptoms were undeniable…and just as undeniable was the distance that her heart dropped. He was too young. Too small. Too fragile. Puppies like him didn’t recover from parvo, no matter how much she begged and pleaded with her head for another reasonable explanation. He was alone in his kennel by now, having seen all the rest of his siblings adopted out, leaving him behind only because he was the one that was ‘spoken for.’ She had been prepared to give him a little (ok, a lot) extra company and cuddle time to make up for the loneliness. She would even consider taking him home herself if the shelter manager would agree to put him back on available status. Either way, he was not going to spend another night at that shelter, whether from having gone to another family, or from going home with her. Things were looking up for him, she thought happily. Maybe getting stood-up and forgotten would end up being a good thing if it meant he could become hers in the end.

            But no – it wasn’t the good morning she had expected and hoped for. He wasn’t feeling well, and she knew there was no amount of comfort she could offer that would ever be enough. Maybe if she put off telling anyone, it wouldn’t be true, right? She had almost convinced herself of this, and she might have succeeded, if she wasn’t already aware of the danger that other dogs in the kennel might be facing with her silence. Yet again, he’d be the one that would have to sacrifice for the sake of the other dogs around him. It just wasn’t fair.

            How she even went through with the motions of what had to be done was beyond her. Never did she think she would be so deeply affected by this, but she refused to push her feelings aside while holding him tight, wrapped in the blanket that seemed to bring him so much comfort. Even if it wasn’t technically recommended, she insisted on being in the room when the preparations were made, talking to him and showing him as much love as she could possible give. He would have such a short life….way too short…unfairly short…but she prayed that the puppy would have considered it a good one.

 

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            He wondered how long he could stand on this street corner before someone called the cops on him, complaining of someone suspicious hanging around on a street corner. Not that he really cared, except for the idea that he didn’t care to talk to anyone from the SBPD right now…for many reasons. He wanted to be angry at her words, at how little she cared about being polite…but he just couldn’t. She was right, after all. Had everything gone as planned, he would have picked up the puppy and all would have been well. He could even imagine a reality where Lassie trained the young pup to help out on cases. Whether or not that would actually dampen Marlowe’s baby fever would remain to be seen, but the puppy would have a happy life, and he would make others happy in the process.

            But things didn’t often go as planned, did they? Could he even say he didn’t plan on lying to the SBPD…to Jules? Maybe not at first. Definitely not at first. But maybe…did it at some point actually become a choice to him? It wasn’t a question he could really answer right now. All he knew was that the list of casualties kept growing even further than he ever thought possible, even to the point that some poor little puppy was paying the price of his decisions.

            Too Little, Too Late.

            Perhaps. There was no going back for the pup. There would be no going back for the kind of trust he was hoping to build and keep with Jules. There was even likely no going back for the one relationship he could actually see himself pursuing no matter how much effort it took. Whether she ever took him back was completely in her hands, leaving him completely helpless and at her mercy.

            And that’s just what it all came down to, wasn’t it? No matter how much effort he put into trying to rekindle his relationship with Jules, and no matter how much anyone tried to bring back the puppy…in the end…it would all be too little, too late.

Chapter End Notes:
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