When Nelly was a tiny, round brown puppy with short legs and a stumpy tail, she lived with a baby boy and his mother.
Nelly and the baby boy were always together. They rolled and tumbled across the floor and around the backyard. They played tug-of-war, splashed together in mud puddles, and dug in the sandbox.
When the baby boy cried, Nelly snuggled beside him, fussing over him as if she were a mother dog and he was her puppy.
But when the baby was a nearly two-year-old walking, talking little boy andNelly was an already grown-up dog, the mother got a new job in a country on the other side of the world. She and her little boy had to move, and they could not take Nelly with them.
The mother asked all her family and friends, but no one had a place for Nelly. There was only one thing she could do.
"We'll take her to the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter and ask them to find her a good home," the mother said.
Rainbow Street was short and narrow. At the end, surrounded by a tall wire fence, was a big garden with shady trees andgreen lawns. The building at its front was pale blue, with a bright rainbow arching over the cheery, cherry red door.
"Can I help you?" squawked a gray parrot as the little boy and his mother stepped into the waiting room with Nelly.
A young woman with long dark hair wound up above a kind face and a name tag that said MONA came out from a door. "Gulliver likes being the receptionist," she explained.
"Gulliver!" the parrot agreed, in his croaky old man's voice.
The mother smiled, and her little boy laughed.
But the little boy stopped laughing when his mother said good-bye to Nellyand lifted her into Mona's arms. He did not want to leave without his friend. He threw himself onto the floor, kicking and screaming in the loudest, most ferocious tantrum of his whole life.
With a wriggle and a squirm, Nelly leapt out of Mona's arms. She snuggled in tight against the little boy's side, licking the tears off his face until he had to giggle.
Then his mother picked him up, Mona picked up Nelly, and they said good-bye. The mother felt like crying, too, but she knew that this was the best place for the little stumpy-tailed dog to find a new home.
Mona met lots of dogs every day, but shehad never met one who worked so hard at making someone feel better.
"Now you need someone to look after you!" she said, when the little boy and his mother had gone. She stroked firmly down Nelly's back, one hand after the other, over and over, till the round brown body started to relax.
A gray-haired man came in from the dog runs, and smiled to see Mona sitting on the floor with the dog. He had never seen his busy friend look so relaxed.
"Will I take her out to a kennel now?" Juan asked gently. His voice was the same as the parrot's.
"Hola, amigo!" screeched Gulliver, flapping his wings with excitement.
"In a minute," said Mona, still stroking the little brown dog.
But before she could get up, the door burst open and a man came in carrying a white cat wrapped in a towel.
"She was running down the middle of the road, scared out of her wits!" the man said. "I don't know where she came from."
He put the cat bundle down on the floor.
Nelly leapt toward it.
The cat hissed, spat, and backed into a corner.
"Nelly!" shouted Mona.
"Sorry!" said the man.
"Can I help you?" screeched Gulliver.
"I think it's okay," said Juan--because Nelly was not chasing the cat. Even when she waved a scratching claw at Nelly's nose, the little brown dog just crept forward on her belly, her head down and bottom up, stumpy tail wagging.
The white cat meowed but didn't hiss.
Nelly crept closer and started to lick the frightened cat. The cat twitched her tail in annoyance, but let the dog go on licking.
Finally, the cat gave a shake and jumped up onto the windowsill. She began smoothing her rumpled fur with her neat white paws, looking around the room as if she had always been there.
"I've never seen anything like that before!" said the man who'd rescued her.
"Neither have I," said Juan.
"Nelly," said Mona, "I think you've found your home."
So Nelly became Mona's dog, and came to the shelter with her every day.
The white cat stayed, too. No one ever came to find her, and she never wanted to leave the office. Juan named her Blanco,but even though Blanco loved Juan more than any other person, she never wanted to go home with him. She was happy just to curl up in her basket under the desk for the night.
In the morning, when Nelly and Mona came in, she rushed to greet them. Nelly licked her face till Blanco blinked and leapt up to her windowsill to wash the doggy kisses off her fur. For the rest of the day, she sat there watching everything that happened, letting people pat her if they asked politely, and keeping out of the way of the other dogs and cats as they came through the waiting room.
But Nelly liked meeting the people and animals that arrived feeling lost orworried. When puppies or kittens needed mothering, she stayed with them till they could be alone or were ready to be adopted. And if they were very young, Mona took them home at night so she could give them their midnight milk and Nelly could snuggle them all night long.