My little dachshund was called Ladoo. Over the years, I’ve come to accept, albeit grudgingly, that not everyone will love Ladoo as whole-heartedly as I do. Still, I never saw what was coming one afternoon in July 2006. I was on the telephone when someone rang my doorbell. I put the call on hold and answered the door. It was my neighbour (I still don’t know her name. So I’ve named her Saw Phan Nee). She shouted at me then stormed off to her flat. Stunned, I closed my door, ended the phone call and went outside to speak with her.
What brought this on? Everything had been fine so far.
When I rang her doorbell, she answered the door, but kept the grille between us locked, thereby, making it obvious that I was not to enter her flat.
“What is wrong? Why are you so angry?”
Phan Nee hesitated before saying, “Your dog barks.”
I frowned at her. What did she expect my dog to do? It was a dog. Dogs bark. I was tempted to ask if she expected Ladoo to talk to her in English.
“You must take your dog to a specialist.” It was a statement, not a request.
“Why are you so angry with my dog? You are always complaining that security is bad. With this dog, there is more security.”
“I don’t care. Your dog has problems. You have to take it to the specialist.”
“But why? What do you mean?”
“You take to the doctor. He can … you know, cut.” She lifted her chin and pointed to her throat.
I gasped. “Are you telling me to have my dog’s vocal cords cut?”
Phan Nee shrugged before responding confidently, “Many people do it, what?”
I didn’t say a word. Instead, I listened as she continued to complain about Ladoo. Had she really been keeping all this anger to herself for all these months?
Then, she said this: “I’ve told management to shoot your dog.”
“You went to the management?” I gasped.
As though she’d revealed a prized secret to me, she took a step back and said, “I’m warning you Aneeta.” She wagged her stubby finger at me and shut the door in my face.
Ten minutes later, at the management office, I demanded to speak with the manager. She was a lady who appeared to be harassed by the fact she had to work at all offered me a seat at a table. She introduced herself as the manager and, with an air of arrogance, confirmed that a complaint had been made against my dog. The management would be taking action. She recited the provision in the by-laws which prohibit residents from keeping pets in the house. I listened for a while longer before I lost my temper.
“Your by-laws say people cannot keep pets, yes? The word is ‘pets’, yes?”
She nodded, startled by my harsh tone.
“I swear, if you take action against me, I will go knocking on every single flat in this property and tell them that they have to get rid of all their pets. This includes every single cat, fish, bird, cicak and biawak. And I will say that this is because of you and that neighbour.”
“Sabar, Cik Aneeta. Sabar.”
I put my hand up to stop her talking. “Don’t tell me to have patience. If you touch my licensed dog, I’ll sue you, I’ll sue the management and I will that stupid neighbour.” And I walked out.
I spent the rest of the day pacing in my flat. In my paranoid state, I wondered if my neighbour was capable of enticing Ladoo to the front door, prising it open and, thereafter, harming my baby. I talked the matter over with my parents and friends. We came up with a plan, which didn’t seem to make sense at the time, but would do the trick of keeping Ladoo away from the door.
The next morning, I bought a child safety gate and planned just how and when I was going to install it. For one, I knew that if I did not make a big hue and cry about installing this child safety gate, my neighbour would give me even more trouble. I also knew that she left her flat every afternoon at about 2.30 p.m. to pick up her children.
So, I asked the management if they would allow one of their staff members to help me install this gate. One kindly Malay man arrived about 2.15 p.m. Throughout the 45 minutes it took for him to install the child safety gate, Ladoo did not bark at all except when my neighbour walked past.
5 days later, I received a formal notice of complaint from the manager. She also told me that my neighbour made complaints at the drop of a hat and asked me to forgive her. Tongue-in-cheek, the manager attempted humour by saying that my neighbour was probably going through menopause. I stared at the manager then left without a word.
When the door to the lift opened on my floor and I stepped out, I could see my neighbour cooking in her outdoor kitchen which faces the corridor. Unable to resist a confrontation, I stood outside my flat and said, “I want to talk to you.”
She pretended to ignore me. I called out to her again. Above the hiss of water being added to a hot wok, she responded with, “What you want? I very bee-see one, you know.”
I lifted my left eyebrow. “You’re not busy enough to complain to management. Why did you do it? You saw me putting that barrier so that the dog doesn’t come near the door.”
Phan Nee placed a plate next to the stove and dumped all the contents of the wok on it. Some of what looked like black bean sauce splashed on her housecoat. Picking up a cloth from the sink, she raised her voice and said, “You cannot keep dogs, you know.”
“The dog is not going to come near you. So, what do you want now?”
Still rubbing the black bean sauce off her clothes, she repeated what was now a mantra, “I don’t care. You’re not supposed to keep dogs.”
“Why are you so bothered about my dog? There is another dog on the other side of this corridor. It barks more than my dog. Why are you complaining only about my dog?”
Phan Nee threw the cloth into the sink and looked directly at me. Pointing in the direction of the other flat, she said, “That dog is O.K. That dog is Chinese.”
I stared at her for quite a while. Then, I turned away and entered my flat. I sat on the sofa trying to digest what my neighbour said.
Soon, Ladoo was at my feet and I saw the confusion on her face – she could not understand why I was laughing so hard. How was I supposed to explain to her that my neighbour’s hatred for her was because, in her eyes, Ladoo was an Indian dog?
(This story is a modified excerpt from my book, ‘Ladoo Dog’)