Your Pet & You
A Dog is for Life!
By Shwetali Mulik
A dog is a man's best friend - This has echoed through centuries! So how can a man be a dog's best friend?
As a child, I always wished to have more than a dozen dogs around me. Little did I know at that time, my wish would be fulfilled!
Any amount of outburst was insufficient to convince my parents to get me a dog. Being Doggie-Parents, they were fully aware of the responsibility and commitment that's required towards a dog and were of the opinion that I could do so when I was an adult. Well, it was a big ask as we do not grow into an adult overnight, do we?! So until then, I kept my passion for dogs fuelled up by petting stray dogs, friends' dogs and educating myself on them.
After studying the breed, obedience and house-breaking training, consulting a veterinarian and even meeting the canine parents, I was confident and prepared for my first experience at Doggie-Parenthood! The litter of a dozen puppies was a mix of yellow and black Labrador Retrievers, named after the 12 months of the year. After an hour of being nipped, chased, licked, rolled on the ground, with 48 paws and 12 tails, I still was indecisive on who to choose. Puppies being puppies, 9 of them fell asleep playing, and May, June, December were still at it, untiring. Finally, May perched himself on my lap and refused to budge! Then and there I had my first canine child, May chose me.
May was renamed Lui. He was an ideal dog and heavily pampered. Being a fussy eater, he was hand-fed. Like us, dogs are creatures of habits. I decided to break his habit so as to avoid any inconvenience to him or me. For the next 3 days, Lui refused his meals for not being hand-fed. Heart-broken, I also starved. Finally, on the 4th day, Lui gave in and ate on his own.
We continued to forge ahead in making our human-canine bond amiable, one of mutual love by many such and other incidents.
"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
Figo, my second canine kid met me at a vacation resort, scavenging for food and water. It was mutual love at first sight. His hazel eyes, windows of his chaste soul, melted my firm resolve of not having a second dog for fear of my love for Lui, going biased. But I guess dogs are like chips, you cannot stop at just one!
Figo was acclimatised to a life of abandon for 2 years as he was dumped by his previous 'owners', when their initial excitement of him being a fuzzy puppy wore off. Unavailability of proper food and water had turned him into a food-aggressive dog. Toilet habits were off schedule, territory marking was heightened and he had dominion issues as well. To add to the woes, he was malnourished, with extreme skin issues. He was insecure and angry because of his betrayal by humans. Lui and I had a taxing task on hand of settling Figo. We took a month to do so, with the tune of the theme song of Mission Impossible playing in our heads, on a loop! Figo was now assured that he will not only avail the apt diet and quality medical care, but also be a part of our human-canine family. His trust in love and in humans was restored anew. We gave him a second chance at life and he transformed himself into a handsome Golden Retriever, set to become a heartthrob of millions of human and canine girls alike.
We need to include dogs in the day-to-day routines of the family. Lui and I had travelled extensively on road trips, but Figo was not an avid traveller. This made me wonder of Doggie-Parents who want to but could not travel with their dogs because of lack of pet-friendly resorts or travel-phobic dogs or lack of quality kennels. And thus conceptualised BARK-iNN, a home-stay for dogs when their parents travelled for vacations or otherwise. I gladly forego my career in animation to substitute it with a profession which involved my passion and my love...DOGS!
At BARK-iNN, we have a meeting with the dog and the parents, before the stay is approved to assess the behaviour of the dog. Such meetings also help me understand the connection the Doggie-Parents share with their dogs, and bond with the guest dogs in a better way.
On his first stay, Leo came with a ripped nail and needed regular dressing and medicines and was tended to as required. Leo never forgot this sensitivity towards him. After a couple of more stays with us, at the mere mention of my name, Leo would be ready to exit his home, to visit me and even refused meals if he was not sent here! His 'mother' indulges in long walks to the woods and farms, in Germany, where they currently reside. She delights in watching Leo gather branches and twigs, from the woods and carry them home or pursue a squirrel.
"I go crazy with happiness when my mother says, 'Shwetali'! I am very happy there, not at all sad. I have friends like Figo and Bourbon and so many others. I get yummy food and many toys to play! BARK-iNN is my home away from home."- Leo Mukherjee
Hugo's owners have not dismissed their relationship with him just because they have a human infant now. They realise that their canine relationship will not only help increase their infant's immunity, but also inculcate immense value of compassion and love, in Zyaana.
People and dogs have become increasingly assimilated and implicated in each other's lives, to the point where the relationship has become essential to the health and well-being of both people and dogs. Normal behaviours such as barking, lack of bite-inhibition because of insufficient early pup-pup and pup-mother socialisations, mounting, olfactory preoccupation, toilet habits, territory marking, fur-shedding and medical issues are discussed at length by Doggie-Parents with me for correction or solutions.
A balanced human-dog relationship has resulted in such adorable dogs.
"Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen."
Dogs are extremely attentive and acclimatise to our body language, eye contact, the tone of our voices and even our psychological predicament. "Who did this?" is often offered contrition from the dog responsible for improper behaviour, judging the annoyance in my tone. They quickly know from my gestures if they will be served their meals or be sent for their walks. If the tone of a visitor is raised, even unconsciously, the dogs get into an alert mode and assume the role of my protection, as they accept me as the Alpha of their pack. Many a times, an occasional growl or a bark is reciprocated in the same way by me. Probably, soon I may start walking on my fours too! And yes, they also help me keep fit with all the physical play.
Gundumani, my friendly neighbour dog, never lost the affection of his owners even after the arrival of two human infants, and still continues the privilege of being their first son. When his owner was pregnant, she was advised scans to ensure the safety of the unborn baby. When in her 28th week, she was all set up to go for the regular scan, Gundumani refused to let her leave the house alone, blocking the doorway and in his own demeanour imposing on her to have a human accompany with her. With the scan results showing few complications, she needed to be hospitalised for immediate observations and rest and due to her dog's intervention, had her mother along for her care.
Like any other human relationship, a human-dog relationship also has its highs and lows. The deep negative impact on ours was with Lui's death to cancer. Figo was in complete denial for a while, but our mutual adoration helped us yet again to move on and now with Bourbon, my pretty Golden-Labrador Cross girl, who too came as a rescued puppy and stayed back as family, they are a naughty, inseparable team.
On inference from my canine relationships, the human-dog relationship avails of not only utilitarian benefits such as protection and detection but also of psychological and physical benefits, and a true companionship of unflinching, unconditional, undying love.
We need to accept that a dog is a commitment, a dog is for life. And this is how...
"A man can be a dog's best friend too!"
Also known as 'Crazy, Dog Lady!,' the writer is the Conceptualiser & Founder of BARK-iNN