By Devraj Singh Kalsi
Pet owners consider themselves blessed and share enriching stories. It sounds like the credit goes to the pet for awakening the fine human that had been dormant, in hiding, till the advent of the creature. Those who live without a pet are not supposed to be caring. To be recognised as sensitive, they should be seen petting a dog or a cat, making a pout, or blowing kisses for a feline or a canine. Even if they are highly insensitive towards fellow human beings, the presence of a pet in life helps build the image of being gentle and compassionate. A boss returns home after sacking a dozen employees and cuddles his pet Labrador – to assure himself that he still retains the softer side.
Many pet owners feel offended if their pet is called a dog. They want pets to be accorded respect. It appears it has become a mission in life to ensure respect for pets. Most of the dogs have fancy foreign names difficult to pronounce. I have not managed to be as generous as the householder who yells at the domestic help, and his pet amplifies his scolding with a high-pitched bark.
Pet owners spend liberally on their upkeep. The pet is served branded food purchased from a supermarket for balanced nutrition. The allocated budget for the pet is much higher than the monthly spending on the domestic help who gets non-branded food to eat.
Frankly speaking, I have never been fond of pets. Preparing chicken or mutton is ruled out in my vegetarian household. It would be an additional responsibility to take the pet out for a fleshy treat during the weekends. And if the pet turned vegetarian because of lack of choice, it would grow weak and lose the aggressive approach while fobbing off salespersons, beggars, and monkeys.
A dog would never feel inclined to bark inside my house as it would be listening to meditative music all the time. Since I prefer spiritual shows on television, the dog would also develop spiritual leanings to prepare for a better next life. The lack of wholesome entertainment in the house would make the pet feel bored, forcing the poor fellow to hang around the entrance gate to seek friendship with stray dogs roaming on the street.
The pet would also be upset if I did not take it out for a leisurely stroll in the park, to ogle at beauties and seek their caresses with a cute wink. I cannot indulge in such flirtatious acts and get away with it without getting lynched in the era of instant justice. The freedom the pet enjoys with girls and women is what I envy the most. Holding a leash and keeping pace with the agile dog would be another cardio exercise for me. It would be plain silly to be its guardian and silently suffer while the pet relished the attention of lissome women around and left me with the job of collecting all those flying kisses on its behalf.
Pets are supposed to protect householders from burglars. When it comes to performing after dark, many pets fail to live up to the expectations. A neighbour’s burly dog fell asleep after consuming drugged cookies offered by burglars who decamped with cash and ornaments. Dozing off on a critical night when burglars break in and barking at the moon the whole night for almost the entire year is simply a case of dismal performance that calls for dismissal.
I have no idea how to keep dogs happy and satisfied. Cuddling them, pampering them, or chatting with them to vent frustration is not my cup of tea. I count myself as incompetent to understand the feelings of others. For such a person, understanding the psychology of dogs is tougher than clearing a competitive test. Any pet of any lineage would like to get rid of me within a few months of living together. It is downright selfish to torture the poor soul only to improve my sensitivity quotient.
I have never believed in competition, but the presence of a pet would make me reverse that. The dog trainer would like the pet to participate in various games and tournaments, to win medals and trophies, to outsmart the owner who managed to win nothing big in his career.
A pet in my bed is something I dread. I do not want that casual pawing, no scratches on the back to make the partner think there is another woman in my life. It depends on the temperament and mood of the pet, whether I am spared or mauled. Serious damage followed by an apology from the pet would be useless. Hence, all that is precious should be held away from the reach of the dog. If the pet suffers any accidental injury at home, animal welfare associations are likely to pounce on me. I need to safeguard my interest as the pet would play the victim card. The best way out is to keep it out of my life.
I am accused of showing my wicked side instead of the sensitive side to animals when I chase away stray dogs and cats instead of indulging them with leftovers. Once encouraged, they become regular visitors and it is transactional. I give something and they follow me in the hope of further benevolence. When I do not feed them anything, they are least bothered to visit me or find out how I am doing.
Nowadays, stray dogs bark at me in the lane before looking away morosely. Recently, a dog tried to grab my fleshy leg for a quick bite but I managed to escape unhurt. After this episode, they look miffed as I chase them away with a stick. They climb the boundary wall to protest and bark, drawing the attention of other human beings in the neighbourhood. But the stray brethren of the locality know I am a peace-loving person who loves to co-exist. They have every right to live and enjoy life just like me. I am in full support of saving them from high decibels and firecrackers. I want a dignified life for them with no ill-treatment at all. So they should appreciate my sentiments and reciprocate by staying out of my way instead of bumping into me. I have no intent to derive pleasure or happiness from any animal source whatsoever.
I am not comfortable with the idea of a dog sitting next to me or on my lap while I am eating food or reading. I do not want the pet to scratch my CD collection if lunch gets late or tear my manuscript pages for brunch. Many writers and poets get stirred when a cat or a dog sits in front of them on the window-sill, busy with a pack of biscuits or a bowl of milk. I am not one of those creative types and the emotional enrichment theory is not applicable in my case. I avoid trips to the doctor for myself and I am not keen to visit the vet with the pet for vaccination schedules from time to time.
I do not want to drive the car with a dog in the backseat. I do not want the people travelling in an e-rickshaw or public bus to feel inferior when the dog peeps out of the car window. The person feels this dog has a better fortune and prays for such a privileged life. I would save that space and drop some passengers to their destinations in the car.
There are deaths in the families all the time and grief management is a big issue. The death of a pet in the family adds to this burden as the pet owner has to cope with another tragedy. I wish to avoid such negative setbacks and block the avoidable sources of grief.
A friend once told me I would have been a better writer if I had been a pet lover. I agreed with that because most good writers are pet lovers. If this piece fails to grab your attention, consider it the outcome of not living with a pet.
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
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