Steve Cochrane slept through his alarm the next morning. It didn’t matter too much, since he didn’t have anywhere he needed to be. Besides, yesterday had proven quite the full day. He rolled out of bed at around 7:20, went to the bathroom, and then made his way down to the kitchen to eat breakfast. By the time he had finished breakfast, showered, and gotten dressed, it was nearly 9:00. Instead of going to his home office to put in some work, he decided to pay an early visit to his new fluffies.
Steve’s barn—which had been empty until yesterday, as Steve had no prior use for it—now housed seven fluffies. Candy, the pregnant pegasus, had waddled to the front of her pen and was carrying on a conversation with Pineapple—a yellow unicorn who shared the largest pen in the barn with Cherry, Orchid, and Grapefruit. Wizard, who had been very shy the day before, batted a ball back and forth with Seraph, the energetic black pegasus stallion who took on the role of herd leader after Steve snuffed out the smarty. Steve liked Seraph—he was protective of his herd, but not an entitled asshole who thought humans owed him the world.
All of the food bowls were empty, so Steve refilled each of them. Maybe it was all of the excitement of the previous day, but Steve just realized how much all of the fluffies stank. He would need to grab a washtub at the store for the fluffies, and figured he’d probably better make a list. Sleep hadn’t come easily last night—he kept thinking of things he could buy to make his new enterprise easier.
The barn was pretty secure, but each of the fluffies would need a collar in case they got out. Plus, he should check into common fluffy diseases and see if there were any vaccines he could give them himself. And maybe a walk around FluffMart would bring to mind additional things he needed.
Deciding his herd was all set for now, Steve headed over to FluffMart. As soon as he walked in, he recognized a familiar face. Katie, the sales clerk, smiled when she saw him.
“Hi Steve! How’s Candy doing?”
She’s getting along just fine. She even has some new friends already.”
Steve told Katie about the small herd that had wandered on to the farm, leaving out the details about the smarty. He didn’t think she was a total hugboxer, but it was probably best not to talk about killing fluffies with a whole wall of them in the store.
“I know I need to give them all a bath, but I’ve heard that they freak out when they’re put in water. What should I do?”
Katie replied, “Well, I’m guessing a bathtub is out of the question since you keep them in a barn. You’ll need some kind of washtub, which we don’t have. Does the faucet run warm water?”
“Yeah, it does.”
“Make sure that the water is lukewarm. These little guys have sensitive skin, so they scald really easily in water that doesn’t seem too hot to us. Too cold, and you’re looking at a full-on freak out. When Hasbio created fluffy ponies, they conditioned the water response because of early tests that showed how easily they drown.”
Katie went on. “As for drowning, everything you may have heard is true. Do not leave them alone in the bath for any amount of time. They will drown.”
“Is soap a good idea?”
“Yeah, but remember—sensitive skin. We’ve got a couple of things here that work really well. ‘No More Huu Huus’ is the most popular one, and it’s cheaper than the vegan one. I’m not even really sure how shampoo can be ‘vegan’, anyway. Since Candy is pregnant, you may want to avoid the shock of an actual bath for now. I’d suggest a wet washcloth for her.”
Steve asked Katie about collars, and she took him to the self-serve engraving machine. “Not only are collars a good idea in case they get out, but fluffies tend to be really proud of their collars. It helps them to bond with their owners.”
On Katie’s recommendation, Steve picked up a few foal supplies. “I wouldn’t worry about vaccinations for the adults, but you’ve heard the saying about foals: ‘broken by all’. Two shots for each foal—one for distemper, and the other is a cocktail of several different vaccines.” She also set him up with some foal formula in case a mare couldn’t (or wouldn’t) nurse.
“Oh, and one more thing. A lot of breeders won’t do the elective surgeries—pillowing, dehorning, and that kind of stuff. I don’t know where you stand on that, but you’ll at least want to offer neutering and spaying. Neutering is easy: just grab your scalpel, make a small incision for each testicle, and pinch them off. A little bit of antibiotic salve, and they’re ready to go. Spaying can be really complicated, but the easiest thing to do is use the chemical treatment. As long as she’s stopped bleeding by day three, it was a success. But for God’s sake, do it when they’re just a few days old—before they can talk—otherwise they’ll be traumatized. And don’t let any of the other fluffies see you do it, because they’ll be traumatized. And neurotic fluffies don’t sell. Not for much, anyway.”
“Wow. Katie, you seem to really know what you’re talking about. Is that all part of FluffMart training?”
Katie shook her head. “Nah, my uncle was one of the first vets in Charlotte to take care of fluffies, and I’ve had a couple of my own. Not now, but when I was a kid.”
“When I was a kid”. That’s funny, because you’re—what—like, nineteen, twenty years old? “Thanks for your help…again. I’m amazed at how much there still is I don’t know about these things.”
“Hmm…well…between the vaccines, formula, surgical kit, and shampoo…let me see if I’ve still got that coupon. We’ve actually got a handy little breeder book that you might find useful—with the coupon it should be free,” Katie said. She walked over to the register and dug around in the drawer under the counter. “Ah, there’s one.” Katie walked over to the fluffy book shelf and grabbed a bright green book, the cover of which had a picture of a litter of foals playing in a safe room. In bold text, it read:
THE BREEDER’S MANUAL FOR CUSTOM FLUFFIES
“This will probably be a good read for you. Mascarpone is the authority on breeding for colors, races, and other traits.”
“Thanks, Katie. I’d better get over to WalMart for a washtub so I can get these fluffies clean.”
“Good to see you again, Steve. Do me a favor: when Candy has her foals, take some pictures?”
Steve checked out at the register and put his bags in the back of the 4Runner. A quick trip to Walmart later—no, seriously, he was only in the register line with his one item for half an hour—and he was back home in time for lunch. He spent the afternoon reading through the book Katie recommended and watching his fluffies play and talk to each other. He spent the entire time wondering which ones he should breed for the best combinations. All hell broke loose at bath time, as expected, but no one died. All in all, it was a pretty good day.