The day had arrived for Penny-dog to present at Sunday Storytelling Club.  Tiny held her breath as her friend walked gingerly towards the stage, tail tucked firmly between her legs.
“You can do it, Penny-dog,” Tiny whispered across the forest floor. “Be brave!”
Penny-dog’s eyes were as wide as gold coins as they scanned the crowd. She gave a brisk shake of her head, then began to tell her tale.

“I was just a pup when they first called me trouble. There were shouts, then slams, then they gave me a suitcase and sent me away. I wanted a friend, but all I had was that old case.”
Penny-dog nodded towards a trunk on the ground. Tiny lifted the dusty lid and pulled out a red rubber bone, a blue knitted sweater, and a threadbare blanket featuring a drawing of majestic wolf.
“They said it was to remind me of my roots, but I never had a chance to unpack.”
Tiny’s heart snapped in two. She picked up the pieces and put them into her pocket. “You’re doing great, Penny-dog,” she urged. “Keep going.”

Penny-dog held her gaze and gave a small nod of her head.
“Soon I found a job on the docks. But I untied too many knots and the boats floated away. Then I worked at the sock factory, but I ate too many socks, and they told me to leave.”
Tuts and tsks arose from the crowd. Penny-dog continued. “After that I joined the road builders, but they told me my holes were in all the wrong places, and when a truck fell in it was time to go.” She hung her head and whimpered. “They were dark days. Once, they called me feral.”
Tiny gasped, shaking her head in disgust. “Oh, Penny-dog,” she said, her voice cracking.
“They tried to put me into THUMP*, but I wouldn’t be caged, so I wandered the streets and . . .”
“And that’s when we found each other,” Tiny said, finishing her sentence.  She ran to the stage and buried her face in Penny-dog’s warm fur.
“Home isn’t always a place, is it?” Tiny said through a muffled sob.
“No,” Penny-dog thought. “Sometimes it’s a friend, a hug, or a kindness.”
On hearing the word ‘hug’, the others ran to join them. They held each other in a tangle of fur and claws, snouts and paws, until Penny-dog giggled and spluttered for breath.
“Home is here, with all of you, she thought. “Finally, I’m home.”

THUMP* is the Treetops Home for Undervalued and Misunderstood Pets