Aneeta, who manages this website, has often remarked, “I can’t think of taking another dog yet. It’s so much responsibility. And I only had one. You have 40. Die!”
One dog? That’s nothing.
Over the years, as our dog population increased, there are a few rules and habits that I’ve stuck to. I compiled them several years ago and I’d like to share them here by re-telling a story I wrote. Please comment on or add to this list.
I may get into trouble for writing this but I have 4 pooches at home. Yes, a 12-year old Labrador named Cleopatra, a 12-year old Maltese named Cuddles, a 3-year old mini-Shitzu named Carmelo and a newly adopted 4-month old mix breed named DeNiro (oddly I didn’t realise I gave my boys Italian names). They are the most loving, obedient, well-behaved dogs you will ever meet. Not to blow my own horn, but it’s all because of me. I am a responsible pet owner.
I used to take Cleo and Cuddles to the park near my house every Friday morning. Cleo and I would play catch with her favorite tennis ball and Cuddles would just roam the park wilderness until she exhausted herself. Dogs need to run. Then MPSJ (the municipal council) decided to put up a sign declaring ‘No Dogs Allowed.’ So where am I supposed to take these lively animals too? Am I not a tax-payer as well? Do I not clean up after them? Where is the Love?!?
You don’t need to buy books and watch education programs to know that being a responsible pet owner benefits not just you but everyone else. So, in my attempt to encourage good pet ownership habits amongst us Malaysians, I have compiled this list:
1) Animals are living, breathing things just like us. Adopting an animal is very much like having a baby. You have to feed them the right food, get them vaccinated regularly and house-train them. Just like babies need nutrition, so does your puppy. Just like your baby needs her jabs, so does your puppy. And just like your baby will need to eventually stop using diapers and learn how to do their business, so will your puppy. Animals aren’t born knowing these things, so take the time to educate them. They are fast learners and it makes your life easier. Uneducated animals are only a sign of an uneducated owner.
2) Please DO NOT adopt a canine if you intend to use it as a guard system. They aren’t meant to be tied up all day, outside the house under the elements. If you want a guard system, invest in an alarm company.
3) Clean up after them when you take them for walks. In my neighborhood, most of my neighbours are Malay. Because I have trained the pooches to behave well in public, my neighbours have never been concerned about me taking them for their walks without their leashes. And most importantly, I make it a point to carry a pooper scooper and plastic bag with me to clean up after them. Not only is it sanitary, but my neighbors have come to appreciate that with this simple gesture, I’m showing them respect for their home and the area where they live.
4) Get them vaccinated regularly. Most dog owners overlook this very simple but life-saving duty. It costs you less than RM100 to get your dog vaccinated for a year, and could prevent serious diseases. My once a year trip to the vet is quite a sight. 3 dogs and 3 cats sitting in the back seat of my car as we drive to the vet. If you can spare the change, put them on daily vitamins. Animals can’t voice out when they are sick and a good way to keep them healthy longer is with a daily dose of minerals.
5) Spend some time every day playing with them. Just like humans need attention from loved ones, your pooches need some from you too. To them, you are their whole world. Remember that whenever they get playful and you’re too busy watching TV or working on your laptop. 5 minutes of loving playtime from you goes a long way to giving your pet the love and security it needs.
6) I am a huge advocate of pets being indoors. I hate the idea that some pet owners leave their pets outside at night to sleep alone. Why don’t you try sleeping outside for one night curled up on your hard, cold cement porch? One of the reasons I made sure my pets were house trained was so that I can leave them indoors all day and know that they are kept safe, cool and comfortable. And at night, everyone sleeps in my room. Cuddles has her rattan basket, Cleo has her blue cotton mat, Carmelo and DeNiro rotate between my head and my feet.
7) We need to set up more dog-friendly parks for people like me who actually educate our pets, and are responsible when it comes to taking them out to public places. Until that happens, remember dogs, especially big ones, need their exercise, or they will put on weight and get ill. It only takes 15 minutes a day to take them for a walk around the block. You could lose a few kilos yourself in the process.
Having a pet is not easy, but then again neither is getting married, working, or having your own children. Like any other life-changing decision, this too takes lots of time and consideration. Dogs aren’t here for our amusement; they are here to love and protect us just as much as we are here to do the same to them. They are incapable of understanding human cruelty and have no idea that you just had a bad day. So please, if you have pooches of your own, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Start being responsible to your community, and most of all, to your loyal four-legged friend. Trust me, and I speak from experience, the love of a dog will change your life forever.
(14 August 2020)
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