A Matter of Sugar, Spice and Salt – Confessions of a Dog Owner


By Rajpal Singh

Oxygen

Oxygen

I am Oxygen’s Daddy. Oxygen is my pet dog, which I adopted from the SPCA or rather from the RSPCA, as it was then known. However, the decision to keep a pet dog was not an easy one for me. The first thing was clarifying our motives for wanting to keep a dog, or rather my motives as Oxygen’s future Mummy was dead against the whole idea. Before she married Oxygen’s Daddy, she had gone through several dogs in her own family and knew in practical terms what a big responsibility pet ownership entailed.

On the other hand, my understanding of responsibility for pets was mainly theoretical, as I had never really kept a pet before. So, while I thought in terms of play, companionship and a security alarm, my wife gave me the cold facts. In fact, she smothered my enthusiasm with a pretty wet towel! She lectured me that dogs are not all sugar and spice. They need care, and they need caring.

In her inimitable long-winded way, she waxed hysterical – they need time, exercise, medical care, regular meals, annual dog licences, routine visits to the vet, they have to be kenneled during holidays, they need regular baths, they mean more expenses… the list was a mile long. I swore that I would do all that but of course she knew me better than to trust my promises! The crux of her argument was that I lacked the discipline and staying power to maintain any sort of long-term relationship! My enthusiasm would just fizzle out she said.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – though man disposes, what God proposes will prevail. My wife, soon to be Oxygen’s Mummy agreed! The way I look at it, Oxygen was fated for us and nothing is willed by the gods without a way already prepared for it. In retrospect, I think our squabbles were actually a blessing in disguise as we were able to talk through the issues with regards to keeping a pet.

The next thing we had to decide was the breed, the gender, the age and from where to source the dog. Stubborn as usual, the wife was sure she wanted a female dog which she claimed were more homely or protective of the hearth, besides being more discreet and environment friendly when doing their toiletries. To me she was just trying to tilt the balance of power against me in the house. Anyway, gender politics aside, a female dog was okay by me and the added expense of neutering was not an issue. Lose the battle, win the war!

Next, we both wanted a mongrel. We were sure we did not want a pedigree dog as being simple folks ourselves we thought it wouldn’t do to saddle ourselves with a creature way above our own station in life! Also, our pre-conception was that mixed-breed dogs are a hardier lot. Perhaps, they were not so prone to ailments. Then too, we thought it wise to take in a puppy so that we wouldn’t have to reckon with an older dog with pre-conceived ideas. Best to start with a clean slate!

Finally, we wanted a dog from the RSPCA and from nowhere else because their dogs needed a home. We knew that the RSPCA’s dogs are screened for their fitness for adoption, and that they come with a signed responsibility to care or else…! I did not balk at the challenge but welcomed it, including the spot check that RSPCA Inspectors would make on the welfare of the pet. Little did we know then that we were in for infinitely more than we could imagine! But more of that later.

We made several trips to the RSPCA over a period of about 2-3 months. At that time the SPCA was located in Fettes Park. Our intention was not to return home with a pet but to see for ourselves what was on offer and to consult with the Administrator regarding terms and procedures. Having already resolved to keep a pet dog, we kept the actual adoption on the back burner. In between visits, we read up on dog books, particularly on caring for puppies, vaccinations, booster doses, toilet training, how to settle in a dog in a new environment and how to properly take a puppy back to its new home in the car. We must have done a pretty good job of it as Oxygen’s biggest passion in life is car rides!

One fine day, we visited the pound to take another look at a litter of pups we had seen on a previous visit. One of them in that kennel stood out from the rest, full of spirit, clamoring for attention and nominating herself for adoption! The feelings were mutual. The wife seconded the nomination and the rest is family history. It was love at last after many visits to the RSPCA.

Though all dogs are worthy of love, I believe that fate had a hand in our choice. I call it karma. As it turned out, this one was meant for us. I signed the adoption papers, paid the fee and listened to the advise from the Administrator. With formalities over, we packed the two month old pup in the back seat with her new Mummy keeping an eye on her adopted daughter who behaved herself all the way home. I named her Oxygen for her zest and spirit. It is now 13 years since that fateful day. Oxygen has aged gracefully over the years and (touch wood) is still sprightly at the age of 13. She is our best friend and confidante.

Oxygen has enriched our lives with her love, empathy and friendship. On our part, through cultivating understanding, close interaction and respect for her, we have forged a bond with Oxygen that we cherish as among the most precious experiences in our lives. We had not reckoned that our small intention of keeping a pet would be reciprocated in such big measure. Happily, we were in for more than we had imagined.

She has given us insights, awed us with her prescience, amused us with her quirks, touched us with her patience and humbled us with her intelligence. It is a relationship that cannot be adequately communicated through words but one that has to be experienced to be appreciated. And we know that there are so many dog lovers out there who have their own wonderful testimonies to relate of their own beloved four-footed friends.

In that respect, though Oxygen is very special to us, she is by no means unique. Many dog owners who share a caring relationship with their pets would tell you of the blessings that the canines have brought into their homes and lives. As for me, Oxygen is my inspiration for which I thank God. And I also give thanks for the SPCA, other animal welfare organizations as well as concerned individuals around the world who are doing their bit to care for all creatures, big and small.