One day in any “dog lover's” life will make you realize how incomplete you are without those four-legged fur balls. I was never an exceptional dog - lover, not at least till I met my neighbor; read on to break the suspense.
At my age, I can only imagine how lonely my life would've been without my dog. When you're a grandmother in a typical modern family where everyone is busy and happy in their lives, one still needs a companion, a person whom you can take your heart out. I know they do love me and care about me but somehow I still feel disconnected from the world but I would really thank my family members for giving me this column, to share my life with all of you. I wouldn't have ever considered getting a pet and I don't know how she convinced me but now, I'm happy I gave in.
One fine day, somebody moved into the vacant house next door. A Sikh family of four, no make that 5; the grandparents, their daughter and granddaughter Ishleen with Baghira the dog. Ishleen was the one who turned me. At 17 years of age, she was more mature and self-less than I ever was and she was an avid animal-lover. Mostly out on the road doing ‘field-work', Ishleen started taking care of neighborhood dogs when she was around 14, the first time she got an opportunity after seeing stray puppies and their mother in the market opposite her house. She started by feeding them and can still recall how difficult it was leaving them in someone else's care when her family moved to Gurgaon from Delhi and it can't be imagined how difficult it would've been for those dogs to lose her. She went to meet them but not much because of the distance and still regrets leaving them because shortly after, they were taken for sterilization by the MCD and never returned! A guilt she can't let go of, no matter what. But why so much love for creatures that can't talk back? Why did that bother her and still does every single day?
The reason, the pure, unconditional love, trust and protection they gave in return for her love was unspeakably painful for her to leave behind, the worst of it, breaking their trust when they had given themselves to her completely. It all left a deep hole in her heart.
Her pet dog “Baghira” had come into her life, right after her 12th board exams because her family thought if she likes dogs she should have one at home and not take care of stray dogs because of the risk of infection (which now they agree was a lame misconception). But of course, Baghira's entry did not make her love any less for those stray dogs. I used to see her every day. Walking Baghira, grooming him and – she found stray dogs here in our locality to take care of, not because of the resentment of what was left behind, but because those dogs deserved love too according to her. A few months later, her mother, another animal-lover rescued a puppy. She was run-over by an irresponsible driver. After trying for her adoption, she decided the puppy christened “Shanti”, was too cute to be given away and adopted her. Then “Mowgli” came along, another road-accident case whose leg had to be amputated after it was crushed by a car. He had been rescued by her friend.
I always felt that it must be unhygienic touching so many dogs all day, God knows which all dogs takes to the vet in her car, giving them medicines by hand. The first time I saw her opening a dog's mouth and pushing a tablet down its throat with her bare hands, I nearly fainted! But she explained, it was the best way to ensure the medicines went down. It was heartbreaking at times because she faced so much trouble with the locality residents who thought the dogs were a menace even though they were amazingly intelligent and never bothered anyone. They used to insult her in public and threaten her. It was sad but the way she used to handle them and still gave me confidence and strength.
After spending months with her, talking to her and being pestered by her to adopt a dog, I gave in after all because she convinced me it would make my life better and I would have a very faithful companion.
So the day she told me about an abandoned 4-month old mixed breed with a fractured leg that she found in the market and sent to Animal Hospital for treatment, I decided to adopt that dog when it came back, though I was afraid I wouldn't be able to care for it since I had no experience with dogs or any kinds of pets for that matter but she promised me she would help me through it.
And now, I can't thank her enough for showing me a reason to look forward to every new day. Having a dog in the house has not only driven away my loneliness, but shown a different kind of love - pure, unconditional love. Anyone can have pets but not everyone understands the joy they can bring. Bringing home a dog is not the same as bringing home a toy which most people treat them like, it is a great big responsibility. They are a lot like small kids that never grow up; they need to be taken care of always.
They grow and behave just like their owner teaches them to and if people face problems with their pets or complain about them, it's always majorly their fault for not being there and correcting their dogs in an appropriate manner. I know people who hit their dogs and think that's the way to teach them something, but all that really teaches them is fear.
If you watch this show called “The Dog Whisperer”, you will know what goes wrong in most houses. I might have sound a bit offensive above but I think now; when I own a dog I can relate to them or feel really empathetic. Grooming dogs or upbringing them has become an emotional issue for me as well. Dogs have a natural need to protect. Their way of expressing love is different but can't go unnoticed. Don't get grossed out when they lick you or put their toys in your lap or on your sofa, your grown up kids won't be waiting for you at the door if you're out, not at least to show they missed you, but your dog will always wait for you to come back and welcome you in the warmest way possible.
Genuine dog lovers have longer lives because of the regular walks a dog needs (but sadly, most people with pets send their dogs with servants). The best therapy for any depression or anxiety is a dog's love. They will trust you with all their hearts, love you no matter how you look, what you own or what position you have in the society. And they will never break that trust. You only have to open your heart to them and they will treasure it forever. There are dogs specially trained for therapy, dogs to guide the blind and even ones who take care of differently-abled people.
If you don't believe me, ask any “dog lover” not pet owner, read the story of Hachiko, the dog in Japan who waited for 9 years at the train station for his master who had died at work and never returned, or maybe, just adopt a dog like I did because life is indeed incomplete without a “woof”.
Commonly adopted dogs are Pugs, Labrador, Retrievers and German Shepherds, due to their temperament, intelligence, versatility, size, and availability, although various other breeds are also used.
Dogs have an amazing sixth sense; every dog owner will have at least a story to tell you on this subject. Have you heard about popular fable of Saint Bernard? A dog is indeed man's best friend. It is unfortunate these beautiful and such kind animals do not get the care, love and respect they deserve and are treated as mere annoyance on our streets living on dustbins for food.
In words of Ben Williams, “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” Dear friends, welcome a dog into your life and it will change forever. And remember, “Everything Tastes better with Dog Hair in it!”