Snobbish. That was the word for them and their twitchy irate tails. They had nothing to be upset about, fed and kept warm and now squealed over. All the other girls, their black overcoats undone, bent and teased the kittens with their fingers. Ellie frowned, she had no desire to have her hands pricked by the small already holier-than-thou creatures. .
She sighed, a deep and designed to be heard exhale of breath through her nose. Ellie saw Matron Havish’s eyes twitch to her disapprovingly before old woman turned, hiding acknowledgement of Ellie’s disquiet behind the brim of her hat.
Ellie tried again and was ignored. She was competing against a lot. The kittens were viciously capricious, and thus they suited the girls wonderfully. Ellie could already see who would be leaving with whom.
Black coats and sharp pointed hats crowded the cat enclosure, preventing Ellie from selecting her own little yowling familiar. Not that she was sold on having one of the mewling aristocrats following her around and giving reproachful looks for whatever slight she managed to blunder into. It was hard enough navigating the social intricacies of her catty human classmates.
Besides, cat’s fur made her nose itch.
Ellie glanced at Matron Havish. The woman was helping Beth extricate a storm colored fluffball from the girl’s coat, picking little claws off the slinky fabric one by one. She was not paying attention to Ellie. No one was.
The swinging doors behind them opened into the shelter’s long back hallway. Thick grey doors bordered the stark almost hospital like interior and Ellie adjusted her hat nervously. It wasn’t hard to pick her destination. A cacophonous mutter of baying rioted when she entered as the dogs threw themselves up against the chain kennels.
Ellie held back, surprised by the aggressive yet earnest vigor. These were not the happy labradors and fashionable pomeranians that came to mind when you pictured ‘dog’. Instead the animals were flat headed or narrow muzzled, scrabbly coated and ill proportioned, all grinning desperately or wheezing in excitement. All of them felt the need to announce either her or their own presence as loudly as possible.
Ears adjusting slowly, Ellie began the slow circuit around the concrete floor. Paws against chain they pressed themselves against the links, searching out her smell or touch. Thunderous as their barking was, each of them watched her with fervid honesty even when they wouldn’t quite meet her eyes.
She was almost back at the door and already feeling the prickle of tears. The kittens back with the others had preened and played, half-enjoying the attention her classmates were so happy to bestow. But the crooked and stubby tails around her wagged violently just at her presence. It wasn’t fair.
Ellie knelt at one of the cages, the edges of her inky coat pooling around her like an oil spill against the concrete. She’d thought the chain link cell was empty at first, as its occupant had been resting in the corner. Its stubby legs were corded with muscle, and its flat viper shaped head was set low on thickly wide blocky shoulders. With short shiny black fur Ellie could only barely make out slitted eyes glittering in the dark under ripped and pointy bat ears, She thought it looked as if someone had shrunk a gorilla considerably and then mated that gorilla with a small gargoyle
But it was a dog. It chuffed and made a quick amble to Ellie, setting its nose between the links, nostrils flaring. Ellie reached out and nuzzled its chin. The dog looked up, grateful gaze meeting Ellie’s while its butt wiggled. Ellie smiled and the butt wiggling intensified.
The gorilla gargoyle dog pressed its face against the metal, squishing fleshy jowls in an attempt to get more of its face through the links and within Ellie’s reach. The dark honest eyes never left her’s though.
She didn’t think she’d been gone long, and she didn’t notice when Matron Havish stepped into the kennel room. She didn’t even notice when the Matron gave a deep, designed to be heard, sigh that would have rivaled Ellie’s best.
Ellie looked up, hand falling away from the odd dog face half squished through the chain links. The dog whined deep in its throat and clumsily poked a black paw through. “I don’t want a cat.” Ellie blurted.
Matron Havish rolled her eyes with another sigh. “Of course you wouldn’t.” The woman made a ‘stand up’ motion and waited while Ellie started to untangle her feet and coat. Matron Havish gave a disdainful yet defeated look towards the dog.
These things couldn’t be helped. Everyone knew witches didn’t pick familiars, they got picked. Ellie had been chosen by muscley black creature still waggling its butt happily behind the cage door. “I will see what we can arrange. Perhaps its for the best. I doubt a cat would have you.”
Ellie didn’t argue with that.