Sophie hunched over her warm mug of cider, juggling Izzy on her lap, and stared at the snow falling outside her window. She’d made it through one more year competing with the chain stores, and so far her landlord hadn’t sold out to developers. If Christmas sales were good, she told Izzy, she might even treat them to a spa vacation, provided she could find one that welcomed four pound chihuahuas.
The front door jingled, and her best friend, Amy, sailed in on a gust of wind. “You should see what’s going on up the street,” exclaimed Amy. “Another sign just went up announcing two more condo towers, and tearing down the old two story houses.” Amy saw Sophie’s face sadden. “They say there’ll be retail on the ground floors…” offered Amy.
“Likely more chain stores, coffee shops, upscale restaurants,” Sophie sighed “and sky high rent. I love the old neighbourhood; people know each other, kind of like a family…but I guess you can’t stop ‘progress,’ if that’s what it is. I just hope I can adapt and fit in.”
“Sophie, the neighbourhood loves you, and there’s a meeting next week for residents in the area to ask questions and voice their concerns. Maybe we should go?” encouraged Amy. Sophie looked down her nose and rolled her eyes. “Come on,” said Amy. “You could meet some people, and gage the neighbourhood’s reaction; and they’re providing appetizers; you won’t even have to cook dinner!”
Sophie laughed, “Ok, ok, enough! Drop by the shop when I close that day, and we’ll walk over.” Amy gave her friend a hug and ruffled Izzy’s ears, “I’ll be here this weekend to help you out with the adoption days,” she smiled as she zoomed out the store.
Sophie sat Izzy down. She knew it was just a matter of time before she would have to find another place. “Come on Izzy, let’s go bag the treats for weekend, and pull out the Christmas decorations for the shop. Maybe we can get everyone in the mood to adopt and buy their fur babies presents?”
After closing the shop that evening, Sophie and Izzy, climbed the stairs: Izzy ready for her kibble and a snuggle around Sophie’s neck and a comfortable snooze, while her “Mum” hunkered down in an old easy chair with the day’s receipts and the shop’s books. Sophie reached behind her head and rubbed Izzy’s back, “You must have been a cat or a bird in your last life, Izzy. You’re my best girl, and no matter what, we’ll find a way, we’ll always be together.”
Izzy let out a friendly bark the next day as Jeff and John entered the stop with Snooze and Cruise, their long haired dachshunds, and what looked like a bag of laundry. Jeff handed the leashes to John, disentangling himself from wagging tails and walked toward Sophie, who was restocking shelves. “Come down and give me a hug, I come bearing gifts.”
Sophie gave Jeff a hug, with a questioning look at the bag on the floor. “John and I have collected slightly used clothing and blankets for your adoptees and their new parents this weekend.”
“What would I do without friends like you,” smiled Sophie. “It looks like we’ll have a large group this time, some via kill shelters in the states and some just abandoned or turned in here to the rescue groups. I wish I could do more.”
John stepped forward, now that the troops were in the screened off play area, enjoying themselves, noticing Sophie’s frown. “How can we help?”
“Actually guys, things have been going well. If the Christmas season is good, I’ll be in the black, and so far the landlord hasn’t made noises about raising the rent or selling out to a developer…but”
“But…go on,” the guys said in unison.
“Amy was in yesterday and there’s a new notice down the street about further development and more small shops will be caught in the cross-hairs. She said there’s a meeting next week at the promotional office to get input from the community, not that it will make any difference,” Sophie shook her head. “I told Amy I’d go with her next week to listen, and ask if the developer has plans to move further north.”
“We should all get involved,” announced Jeff. “We love the neighbourhood with its mixture of small shops, restaurants and coffee shops.” John chimed in, “And the last thing we want is to live among tall towers, where no one knows their neighbours, stays behind their condo doors, and pretend they’re experiencing the atmosphere of the village.” “You mean like the ‘village’ close to us,” interjected Jeff, “where the big draw is how many designer shopping bags you’re seen with on your arm!”
Sophie laughed, “You guys always make me smile. Do you think more people would be interested in going to the meeting? I can contact the local business owner’s association to put the word out in case they haven’t heard.”
“And we’ll tell our friends and put up some notices in our favourite shops and cafes,” offered John, and turned to Jeff, “And you can see if there’s anyone in the big downtown law firm where you work, who knows anything about this sort of thing, and will attend the meeting.”
“Well, now that I have my marching orders,” Jeff smiled and hugged Sophie. “Let us know if you need anything else this weekend.” Sophie grinned as Jeff and John opened the shop’s door, Snooze and Cruise bounding out ahead.
On Friday, Sophie finished getting ready for the weekend pet adoption event. The week had gone well. She’d contacted the local business owner’s association, who was aware of the developer’s meeting and had promised to alert their members and have someone attend from the association. One of Jeff’s colleagues, who worked with developers, had volunteered to attend and provide Jeff with his thoughts. And John had papered local businesses with colourful notices alerting residences to the meeting and the changes to come.
The next morning, Sophie and Izzy woke early, bundled up, and welcomed the first of the rescue groups, leading them to the small backyard that was fitted with crates of all sizes, water for the animals and blankets courtesy of local donations. There were puppies, senior dogs; small, medium and large from a variety of mixes, breeds and colours. And, as always, there were a couple of boxes of cute kittens that so far no one wanted. Each of the rescue groups were given an area where they could put their signs and information and help people with the adoption process. Sophie kept a few crates in the shop itself which she and Amy managed for “special pets” who had been in foster care for a long time without finding a forever home. Everyone who came, regardless of whether they adopted a pet, was thanked for coming and given a bag of treats, just in case …
Sophie and Amy relaxed upstairs after the last rescue group had gone. Izzy was snuggled in her bed and Amy poured wine while Sophie cooked spaghetti and warmed up meatballs in homemade sauce. Amy handed Sophie her wine, smiling, “Lots of happy animals and new owners.” They clinked glasses. “I hope the ones who didn’t find homes today will tomorrow. It’s so hard for the larger dogs in the city, and the older ones too,” Sophie half-smiled, “It’s always great to see the new ‘parents’ come back with their happy friend. Maybe I should get the rescue groups to advertise the adoption dates where there are people in houses close enough to attend?”
“You’re always thinking of new ways to help,” said Amy. “When are you gonna make some time for yourself? When was the last time you were out on a date, got a mani-pedi, bought a new shade of eye shadow or lipstick?” Amy glared pointedly at Sophie.
“Right now my best date is Izzy,” laughed Sophie. “How about if I promise to put on some nail polish and wear a dress for the meting next week?” Amy shook her head.
The next day’s adoption event ended with only one parent returning a dog and all but four dogs and 3 kittens finding homes. Sophie and Amy finished cleaning up the backyard and shop, storing the crates for next month’s event, and putting the leftover treats at the cash register for customers and their fur babies when they came in. Amy was headed out the door, and Sophie called after her, “I can’t thank you enough. Go home and hug Fergie for me. I know you can’t bring her…”
“What, you think my orange and white ball of fur would hide from the barking and yowling? How little you know, but she’s happier on top of her blanket on the radiator looking out the window. You just remember to look like you have another life when I come by for the meeting on Wednesday evening!”
“Yes, mam! I’ll do my best.”