Day Care Dragon epilogue – The New Pet
This story contains spoilers for Day Care Dragon!
The New Pet
by Zoe Chant
Toblerone had a good life for a cat, if he did say so himself.
Ever since Toblerone’s barely-remembered kittenhood, Dad Darius had taken good care of him. There were always soft cushions to sleep on, and warm fires and sunbeams, and dishes of food prepared by the same human chef who made the people food. He had an entire mansion to explore, along with the nearby grounds—there was little risk of danger, since no predators would dare come close to a mansion patrolled by a dragon, and there were always humans around to pet him.
And when Mom Loretta came to live with them, she was the best at petting, with a very nice lap to curl up on.
True, the people did sometimes make questionable decisions, such as when they decided to stop living at the nice mansion-place for some reason and moved to a condo in the city. It was a large condo, relatively speaking, but Toblerone was used to having the run of an entire mansion full of rooms, plus the rose gardens. Here, he wasn’t even allowed to go outside, and there was nothing to hunt, and only two people to pet him. He explored everything there was to explore in the condo in about two days, and then he was bored out of his mind. He entertained himself by destroying rolls of toilet paper, socks, and every one of Dad’s suit jackets.
Eventually he won the argument, and they moved out of the condo into a new mansion-place. This one was even better than the old one. It was only half built, so it changed every day, and there were always new piles of lumber to explore, new fields being cleared, or new hallways he hadn’t been down yet because they had only just been built. And there were more mice around, and wilder trees, because the place they were building the new mansion-place hadn’t had a house on it for years like the previous one had.
So yes, his life was excellent, the very best life a cat could have.
At least, usually.
But now his people-parents had a new pet, and Toblerone did not like it one tiny bit.
Mom Loretta had gone away for a while and came back with the new pet. Toblerone could not for the life of him figure out what made her decide to get it, or why she seemed to like it so much.
It was roly-poly and soft in a squashy sort of way. It didn’t chase things, or jump on things, or do anything except smell weird and make high-pitched noises that hurt Toblerone’s sensitive ears.
Even a fish would be more interesting than this. At least they swam around in a way that produced very pleasant pouncy feelings.
When Mom Loretta first brought the odd, squashy thing home with her, she called Toblerone over. He made sure to come slowly, with his tail up in the air, so Mom Loretta would know that he was still upset that she’d left for so long, but she also needed to know that he would be willing to forgive her if she gave good scritches. And she seemed to understand, because she scritched his head and his back in a satisfying way.
Then she knelt down. She was holding the new soft, squashy little pet in her other arm. Carefully she held it down where Toblerone could sniff at it, which he did.
“Toblerone, this is Ryder. You have to be very gentle with him, okay?”
Out of all of that, he understood “Toblerone,” which he knew referred to him. He sniffed the new pet a few more times. It didn’t do anything except squirm a little. Was he supposed to eat it? Play with it?
He tried batting it with a paw. Mom Loretta pushed his paw away.
“No. Be gentle.”
He gave up and strolled away to find something more interesting to do. This new pet was so dull that they would surely get tired of it soon enough.
But they didn’t. In fact, they found the new pet even more fascinating than they used to find Toblerone. For the first time in his pampered life, he felt neglected. They spent hours and hours petting it and cuddling with it, when they used to pet and cuddle with him. And Mom Loretta slept all the time, and seemed distracted, and kept going off with the new Ryder-pet to be alone with it and cuddle it more.
Had they all lost their minds?
Toblerone spent hours watching the pet, sitting on the top rail of its cage-bed with his tail twitching and waiting for it to do something, anything, to suggest a reason why the people had suddenly become fascinated with it and not him. The cage was a very easy cage to jump out of, but it couldn’t seem to jump that high. Or jump at all. It couldn’t even roll over by itself.
Unless it was just biding its time, letting them all put their guard down, waiting for a chance to attack?
(“Look,” Loretta whispered. “He’s guarding the baby.”
“He looks more like he’s trying to figure out how to eat the baby,” Darius said.
She smacked him in the arm.)
He tried everything he could think of to get their attention. It had, after all, worked in the condo; after they had enough of him destroying their socks and chewing his way into boxes of cereal, they had given up and found somewhere more interesting to live. So maybe if he did it again, they would get rid of the new pet and he could be an only pet again.
(“I swear it’s like he’s mad at us or something,” Mom Loretta said, shaking cat litter out of her slipper.)
But nothing worked. They would not give up the new pet, and now he was getting shut out of the bedroom regularly, which was intolerable. At least he could clearly display how intolerable he found it, by asking and asking and asking and asking and asking and—
“Would you shut up?” Dad groaned, opening the bedroom door.
Toblerone whisked past him into the dim interior of the bedroom. It was only mid-afternoon, but Mom Loretta was lying on the bed, fast asleep, with the new pet in its cage beside the bed.
It was nice that the humans had finally figured out how to be sensible and sleep during the daytime, but also worrying, because they never did it before the new pet came to stay. Was it doing something bad to them, draining their energy somehow?
“Sweetheart,” Dad murmured, sitting on the edge of the bed by Mom’s hip. He ran a hand over her arm. “I’m going down to the home office for a while. Can I leave the cat in?”
Mom made some kind of sleepy reply, and Toblerone curled up in the crook of her arm just like he used to.
Of course, just a few minutes later the pet began whimpering, and Mom Loretta sat up with a sigh. Toblerone tried to dig his claws in to keep her there, but she detached him and leaned over and picked up the Ryder-pet.
“Shhh, shhh,” she crooned to it, rocking it back and forth.
Toblerone sat on the bed with his tail curled around his feet. That reminded him of something. Some long-ago, very distant memory, barely even a memory at all, more of a dim sense-impression of soft fur and purring and little crooning noises made by …
Oh oh oh!
It wasn’t a pet. It was a kitten!
He looked up at Mom Loretta cradling the small, helpless thing, and he understood everything.
It was Dad and Mom Loretta’s kitten.
And suddenly it all made sense. Kittens were small and helpless and soft, just like this creature. Kittens also needed to be protected and cared for and kept warm, just like that.
He simply hadn’t realized that human kittens were so large, or that it took so long for their fur to come in.
Or that there would only be one of them. Were Dad and Mom sad that she’d only had one kitten? He would have to be sure and make up for their sadness with extra purring.
But meanwhile, there was a kitten! A brand new kitten to snuggle with, and to teach to hunt later when it had proper fur and claws.
… Well, to the extent that humans ever had proper fur and claws. Toblerone decided to hope that this one would have the right amount of fur. Maybe if he spent a lot of time around it, then it might learn how to grow a proper fur coat.
Mom Loretta lay back down with the Ryder-kitten in the hollow of her body, where Toblerone usually preferred to lie. But this time he didn’t mind. Of course the kitten should go there. Instead, Toblerone lay down along the outside of the kitten’s soft, vulnerable body, stretching out so that he could keep it warm and safe from harm.
Mom Loretta’s hand settled on his head and idly petted his ears. “You’re a good guard cat, aren’t you?” she asked quietly. “Protecting the baby just as you ought to.”
Toblerone understood none of that (except for “cat”), but he finally had a sense that all was right with the world. He was exactly where he should be.