The waiting room was a cacophony of screaming, crying, and laughing. Steph tried her best to keep the foals calm and happy by gently stroking their bellies and backs and feeding them with a small bottle of milk, but the new sounds and smells clearly were distressing the little guys. Still, it was better than the sub-standard care one could get at a Fluff-Mart.
She had brought them in a small open-top carrier with a soft blanket underneath them, and a warm water pillow below that, but even all that comfort didn’t make the chaotic atmosphere any better.
“Shh, it’s okay. Momma is here.” Steph whispered to the foals. Bluejay flapped his little wing nubs with glee at her voice. Cumulus was peeping and wiggling, the noise disturbing him more than her voice could comfort.
“Oh! Babies!” A high-pitched voice screamed out in Steph’s direction.
She looked up to see a young girl with sticky hands on a beeline towards her. Steph grimaced. The girl came up and got close to Steph, peeking into the carrier.
“You have baby fluffies! Can I hold them?” She asked, smiling wide.
“Er, my fluffies are too young to be held right now. They’re really sensitive.” Steph said, protectively pulling the carrier closer to her.
“Please please please!” The girl said, bouncing up and down. “I’ll be super extra careful!”
“No, I’m sorry. They’re just too young.”
“Awww pleeeeeeeease?” The girl begged. She placed her sticky hands on the edge of the carrier, jostling it a bit and making the foals, who had just started to calm down, peep and wiggle.
“Like I said, no. I’m sorry but no.” Steph said, trying to look around for the parent of the girl.
Her search was cut short by the girl screaming.
“W-where are their legs!?” The girl immediately started to sob loudly. “MOMMY!”
Steph cursed under her breath. The jostling, talking, and now screaming from the girl had freaked the foals out again. Steph carefully lifted the foals to the bottle one by one, letting them “knead” and drink. The sweet taste of milkies wasn’t enough to calm them, though, and after drinking they all started to peep and cry out.
Steph wrapped them up in one of the corners of the blanket, trying to swaddle them to peace.
The little girl hadn’t moved and was still crying loudly next to Steph. Steph looked over at the frazzled receptionist and tried to catch her eye for help.
“What’s going on here!?” A loud woman called out, approaching the little girl and immediately hugging her to her stomach. She was wearing a horrible orange and pink dress and had swooping blonde bangs.
“Mommy! That lady t-t-took away those b-b-babies legs!”
“What? What are you, some kind of sick abuser who likes to show little girls hurt fluffies?!” The woman screamed, getting closer and closer to Steph.
“No. Like I told your daughter, they’re really young. I rescued them and they need to go to the vet. Now if you don’t mind backing off?”
“You probably hurt those fluffies yourself, you freak! You don’t deserve them!” The woman continued to howl. It was clear to Steph where the little girl got her lungs and demanding attitude from.
“Listen, just back off, okay? I’m here to take care of my pets just like you are.”
Before the woman could take another breath, the receptionist called out “Dandelion for Suzie!”
“Dandelion’s back!” The little girl said, forgetting all about the maimed foals and immediately running over to the counter to grab a white and green mare. “Dandelion I missed you!”
“Dandewion miss y utu wittew mummah!” The mare said, hugging the little girl as she picked her up.
The woman scowled at Steph before stomping off, making baby noises to Dandelion before scooping the mare up like baby and praising her for being such a good fluffy.
Steph sighed, trying to calm the foals down again. This time she was successful, and the foals all quieted down and let Steph carefully put them in a fluff-pile with each other.
“Stephanie? Three foals?” The receptionist called out.
“Finally…” Steph said, lifting the carrier as carefully as she could and stepping up to the counter. “That’s me.” She said.
“Alright, the vet can see you, second door on your left.” The receptionist said, smiling.
Steph followed her directions and headed down the hall. Everything was cute and fluffy-safe; the wallpaper was brightly colored and there was padding a third of the way up, the floor was soft for fluffy hooves but firm enough to let humans walk comfortably, even the doors were all bright happy colors.
Steph reached her room and stepped inside, gently placing the carrier on the table. The foals all sniffed around, clearly settled by the lack of noise and smells.
The office was lovely. Everything was painted in soft, calming pastels. The room was a nice not-too-cold, not-too-hot ambient temperature, which was great for fluffies, especially foals.
The door opened as Steph was finally beginning to relax and a slender, pretty black woman walked in.
“Hello, my name is Dr. Yvonne. I see you’re here for three foals today?” The vet smiled at Steph and looked down at the carrier on the desk. “Sorry about the sate of the waiting room. It’s a hectic week right now.”
“No, it’s fine, I totally understand.” Steph said smiling. In truth, she was nervous. This place was F.O.A.L certified, an organization that strove for humane and kind treatment of Fluffies, especially pet-grade ones.
“Now, what can we do for these little guys?” Yvonne said, smiling.
“Uh, before you start, I just want you to know I am not an abuser. I rescued them from a bait shop and couldn’t just let them go…”
Yvonne frowned and moved the blanket back, revealed the three pillowfoals. If she was surprised, she didn’t show it.
“Pillowfoals? And three of them?”
“Uh yeah… I just, I couldn’t leave them in the store. I love fluffies and I wanted some but I just walked by them and they looked so sad.”
“Well, why don’t we get started on the exam and we can discuss your options after that, okay?” Yvonne said, carefully lifting Aurora out of the carrier and examining her.
Yvonne frowned at the foal’s nubs, examining the exposed scar there. She gently felt around the foal’s ribs, stomach, and shoulders, looking for any further damage. Once she was finished there, she examined the foal’s genitals, eyes, and mouth, being more delicate than Steph had thought was possible.
Aroura, for her part, did not enjoy the exam. She was wiggling and peeping as Yvonne examined her, and wobbled her head around, her nostrils flaring as she smelled around for Steph.
“Aw what a feisty little girl.” Yvonne said, smiling. She quickly went over to the phone, picked it up and dialed a short number. “Hey Mary?” She said, “Can you send in Turnip? Yeah three of them. Thanks.”
Steph didn’t interrupt the exam, but was watching intently. Her foals were clearly uncomfortable, and she wanted to be there for them. Little Aurora was peeping and sniffing for her and all she wanted to do was pick her up and cuddle her.
Yvonne, finished with Aurora, put her back in the carrier and went on to examine Bluejay and Cumulus. Steph couldn’t tell if the hemming and hawing were good signs from the vet, but she hoped they were. All of the foals were now upset, peeping and complaining at their comparatively rough treatment.
There was a soft tapping at the exam room door, and Yvonne quickly opened it, letting a pale brown mare with a green mane in.
“Hewwo dokta!” Turnip said, looking up and smiling. Turnip turned to Steph and smiled. “Hewwo pat’ent!”
Steph sadly smiled as she looked at the mare and waved gently to her. “Hi Turnip.”
The mare was clearly a product of abuse. Her coat was clean and pretty, shiny and well taken care of, but thick scars were visible from some patches of thin fluff. Her left eye was sewn shut, the skin healed over but still showing where scars had been. Her snout and all four hooves had thin scars, and her tail was docked close to her rump, leaving her with just a small green poof of fluff.
She limped slightly as she walked over to Yvonne, assuming the ‘upsies’ pose and being carried up to the exam counter.
“Now Turnip, do you think you can feed these three babies for me? They were hurt pretty bad and don’t have any leggies.” Yvonne said.
Turnip gasped in abject horror, placing her hooves over her mouth.
“Babbehs nu hab weggies!? Dat am wowstest ting!” Turnip said, tears welling in her good eye. She shakily looked over a Steph, clear fear rising from her.
“No, no. That’s their good mommy. She found them and wants to help them.”
Turnip visibly relaxed and examined the foals one by one as Yvonne took them from the carrier and placed them in front of her.
“Ooo!” Turnip said, eye sparkling. “Babbehs am su pwetty! Hmm… onwy hab two miwkie-pwaces su babbehs nee’ take tuwnies…” She said muttering to herself as Yvonne wrote some things down on a chart.
“You can feed them in any order you want, just make sure they’re all fed.” Yvonne said gently, smiling at the surrogate mother.
“Pwetty white babbeh am bigges’ babbeh, su get miwkies wastest. Nu wowwy! Tuwnip hab wots o’ miwkies!”
Steph watched as Turnip adorably and very gently placed Bluejay and Aurora on her teats, and gently lifted Cumulus into her arms and rocked him gently.
Yvonne came and sat down next to Steph, holding her chart in a way that obscured what was written there.
“Now, about your foals.” Yvonne said. “Honestly, they’re in pretty good shape. The legs were an in-house job but were also made with an industrial tool. I’ve seen it before so I believe your story about the bait shop. That, and the foals kept sniffing for you. If you abused them, they’d fear your smell.”
Steph let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. She didn’t like abusers, hated seeing fluffies get hurt on purpose, and the last thing she wanted was for someone to think she abused fluffies.
“Here’s the issue.” Yvonne continued. “They’re gonna have a really hard time. Exercise is really important to fluffy health – physically and mentally. They won’t be able to play with toys, they won’t be able to run or chase each other, they won’t do well with other fluffies around, either. They’ll only have you or each other.
“Now, I won’t pressure you to do anything, but in my professional opinion euthanizing them is the kindest option. Pillowfluffs are a lot of work. Like, a full-time job lot of work. These foals may be okay for a while because they have each other, but eventually they’re going to get depressed, and when they get depressed it’s only a matter of time before they go ‘wan die,’ and when that happens, they’ll fade.”
“I know they’re going to be a lot of work but, well, I want to give them a chance. I don’t want to put them down… I think I can be there for them. I think I can make their lives okay.”
Yvonne looked at Steph for a while, her face an unreadable emotion as she clearly weighed Steph’s words.
“I understand. I’m just letting you know what I’ve seen as a doctor. Many people have come through these doors, hoping to give a pillowfluff a better chance at life, only to be sorely disappointed. It’s not a matter of if these foals go into the wan die cycle, it’s when.”
Steph nodded slowly. Was she being selfish, wanting to keep these foals alive? Would their lives really be nothing but misery? Surely they could enjoy some iota of the happiness they were meant for, even if it wasn’t the same as a normal fluffy. After all, you didn’t just put a disabled person down.
“How can I prevent that for as long as possible then?” Steph asked.
“I strongly recommend keeping them away from any other fluffies. Most fluffies don’t do well with amputees or other physical disabilities, and for creatures that rely so heavily on social interactions, being ostracized like that will devastate them.
If you’re going to get a TV in their saferoom, make sure you put on Pillowfluff programming, which severely limits the number of episodes about physical activity. That being said, they will still need some activity. I recommend getting them comfortable in baths now so you can have them doggy-paddle their limbs as a workout. Also, try to feed them a low fat, high fiber diet. It’ll be less pleasant for them, but since they’ll live a stationary lifestyle it’s important.”
Steph nodded. She looked over at Turnip who’d allowed Cumulus to drink from her teat while Bluejay and Aurora had curled around one another just in front of him.
“Have you thought about getting a nurse mare?” Yvonne asked.
“Yeah, but I really want to hand-raise them. I don’t mind taking the time to feed and care for them.”
“Okay, if you’re every overwhelmed with that, we do rent them out here. You’d only be able to keep one for two or three days since we need them in the nursery, but the offer is on the table.”
Yvonne stood, gently stroking Turnip on her back and avoiding the bald patches with scars.
“She’s so sweet.” Steph said, nodding at Turnip.
“Oh she’s a great fluffy.” Yvonne said, smiling as she took a jar out of the cabinet and pulled a treat from it. “I think someone deserves a sketti treat for being such a good nurse-mare.”
“Sketti!” Turnip said happily, keeping her voice down so as not to disturb the foals. “Tuwnip wuv sketti, buh’ nu nee’ tweat fo’ hewp babbehs! Wuv babbehs…”
Turnip happily gobbled down the sketti treat, and then placed Cumulus with his siblings.
“Dokta, du Tuwnip haft u go back tu Nusewey nao? Can stay wif nu-weggie babbehs a wittew moaw?”
“Sorry sweetie, but there are lots of babies that need your help in the Nursery. Now let me take you down and you can head back, okay?”
“Otay.” Turnip said obediently, if not a little sadly.
Yvonne picked her up and placed her gently on the ground, opened the door, and watched as she left.
“Now, let’s get your foals their shots!” Yvonne said, grabbing a small vial off the table and a small syringe.
“They need shots already?” Steph asked, looking at the sleeping pile of fluffies.
“Yes. Especially since these little guys aren’t going to be active, we don’t want that lethargy to impact their immune system.”
Yvonne gently picked each foal up and, one by one, gave them a shot on their rumps. It had the expected effect; the foals were peeping and wiggling as soon as they were lifted and the squealed in pain as they were given the shot. Fortunately, all the excitement and all the milk had made them sleepy, and once they were back in the warm safety of their carrier, they curled up and fell asleep.
Steph sighed and gently wrapped the blanket around the foals, watching as they wiggled into the warmth.
“You really think I should put them down?” She asked Yvonne, still watching the sleeping foals and they wiggled slightly in the sleep.
“I do. I love fluffies, I have rescued many and given many disabled fluffies homes. The nursery is where I raise foals that have been surrendered or abandoned and I think are viable for adoption. You saw Turnip; she’s one of the fluffies that I’ve rescued over the years. She’s just one of many disabled and previously abused fluffies that I use in the nursery.”
Yvonne took a moment to fold the papers she’d been writing on into an envelope. She began to methodically clean the exam station, throwing the old exam paper away, and pulling out a new sheet. She was already preparing for the next patient.
“I don’t want to say pillowfluffs can’t live happy lives, but the odds are very stacked against them. These foals will have a very hard time. Fluffies are biologically programmed; every fluffy, even those raised in total darkness and alone ask for their mummah, ask for hugs, ask to be loved. They have distinct personalities, but those core tenants are always true.
“I think you can probably make their lives comfortable and happy, but you’ll have to be prepared that, eventually, they will most likely become depressed to the point that they want to die. They probably won’t tell you, too ashamed to make you upset, but you need to be aware.”
“Steph,” Yvonne said, looking her in the face. “What will you do if these sweet foals tell you they want to die?”