The Pet Problem
K S S Pillai
I belong to a generation that never thought of keeping a pet dog. The only pets that I had come across were parrots, kept by random households, who would proudly flaunt their skill in uttering certain words like their human masters. All the street dogs in our housing society were considered our collective pets. The residents of the society would feed them whatever leftover food was available. In return, the dogs used to drive away strangers who tried to enter the society.
Recently, my grandson was in a dilemma when he was offered a seat in a veterinary college. He had grown up hearing some people derisively referring to our friend veterinary doctor Nair as ‘Dog Nair’.
He was reluctant to become a vet despite the changes taking place everywhere, particularly in the west, where almost every household had a dog or a cat as a pet. As a consequence, there was an increasing demand for the services of veterinary doctors and also a booming pet-related business in many parts of the world. He was spared the agony of taking a decision when he got admission in another college.
My son Raj was bitten by the pet bug recently. One day he came home with a small dog belonging to the Labrador breed. It was well beyond the puppy stage. A gift from one of his friends, he said. The other members of the family were visibly uncomfortable at the sudden development.
Whenever the topic of keeping a pet was discussed in the past, Raj’s wife had washed her hands of the issue, declaring she had no time or energy to tend to a pet. We all knew Raj was too lazy to do anything worthwhile for a pet, which needed care like a child. It required special biscuits and other items of food that provided a balanced diet, frequent visits to the vet for vaccinations and periodical check-ups, its own soap, shampoo, brush, regular exercise, and toilet training.
The main reason Raj advanced for having a pet dog was security. However, our pet turned out to be too friendly with visitors and never barked at them. The first task, therefore, was to train it to bark at unwanted visitors. Sharma ji, the only dog-trainer in the town, was entrusted with the task.
The training took days, with the trainer beating the dog mildly with rolled newspapers when it didn’t bark, and rewarding it with biscuits when it did. He explained that the dog would understand the punishment-reward strategy. To his credit, the dog started barking at visitors after a long stint of training.
Another training involved the retrieval of newspapers. The dog used to tear up our morning newspaper as soon as the newspaper boy dropped it in our compound. Again, the training took many days, at the end of which the dog started behaving, and brought the paper to our door without damaging it.
The problems did not end there. As soon as the sun set, particularly in the winter season, the dog would rush inside the house and refuse to step out, leaving the compound free to potential intruders. We all woke up one night, hearing some loud sound. One of the houses in our neighbourhood had recently been burgled and we suspected that someone might have tried to enter our building. When we switched the lights on, and started to go downstairs, the pet was found sleeping soundly. Raj was so enraged that he cursed it vehemently before giving it a sound kick.
To the great relief of all, the problem was solved by an unexpected development. Raj was transferred to a distant place. Since the school-term of the children would end only after six months, he left alone. His wife told him point-blank that she had no time to look after the dog.
It was Sharma ji who came to our rescue by gladly accepting the dog as a gift.
(The author is a retired professor of English. He is a regular contributor to The Kashmir Vision. He can be contacted at: [email protected])