Today I learned that my pups, Yahoo and Perdita, whined and whimpered after I stepped out the gate for an errand.
Upon my return over an hour later, I was told about the two's reactions moments after I left, and boy, did that give me a thrill. When you see that your pets aren't that attached to you, and then you learn about something like this, of course you're going to be elated even for just a few seconds. After all, I had already accepted long ago that I am not these two little canines' favorite person in our home; our helper -- kind and affectionate -- is the apple of their eye. Plus, she's the one who prepares and gives them two meals (I take care of breakfast) everyday and who keeps them company day in and day out.
Loyalty issues aside, Yahoo and Perdita's lack of an adoring attitude toward me have afforded me many opportunities to feel humbled. Sigh. My previous dog, Sabrina, was immensely loving toward me so I'm not accustomed to having a pet who doesn't act as if its world revolved around me.
Taking care of pets can be truly enriching -- this I realized after I was asked to write about my experience growing up with pets at home. The article has finally come out! It's in the March issue of Baby Magazine, and it's even got the photo there on the right accompanying what I wrote!
Let me share with you my musings on just what having pet animals over the years has done for me (below is the complete version; the published one is slightly shorter).
How does owning pet animals enrich one’s life? Probably the same way that meeting more people and getting involved in more activities do – they enable one to experience a lot more. Whether or not such experiences benefit the person is really up to him. In my case, having dogs at home provided interesting experiences that, now on hindsight, have influenced the way I regard otherwise ordinary things.
Take the case of watching some of our dogs give birth. For some reason, the deliveries often happened at night, and since the dog house was pitch black during those nocturnal happenings, my older brother and I would come armed with kerosene lamps (and later, rechargeable lamps) for the big events.
I’m not sure how my life would be different had I not witnessed Beauty, Carla and several of our pet dogs giving birth, but there is certainly something about seeing newborn pups in all their helplessness – and the way their mother cared for them during those first few hours and days of their life – that brings about a renewed sense of wonder in a child.
I also learned that some canine mothers need assistance during labor as I watched my brother tear the membrane (which, to me then, looked like plastic bags I saw around the house, only they were grayish) the newborn German Shepherds were wrapped in. I’m not sure why but Carla, the mother, was passive during the whole thing. Of course before seeing the newborns, I also learned that some waiting had to be done, which could be quite uncomfortable as it involved crouching or sitting on foot stools for at least half an hour before sighting the first pup.
Playing with pups, feeding them, making sure they have fresh water in their bowls every day, watching as they get their shots, treating them with gentleness when they’re seriously ill or injured and waiting patiently till they get well… all these were enriching for a child while growing up. Ironically, excluded from the learnings – in my case – was how to deal with the situation when a pet apparently does not have that much fondness for you. In other words, when your affections are unreciprocated. (This I learned as an adult, but then for a child who encounters this situation, there is much opportunity to hone patience and humility)
Probably the most vital lesson that caring for pets has taught me is that we humans are really made for great things. While many times I “envied” Beauty, Tootsie, King Kong and our other furry friends for having the whole day to play and for not having to do homework and study for tests, watching them do nothing much besides eat, sleep and play helped me understand that I was given much more in life. A dog’s life may be all fun and games, but their “happiness,” too, remains shallow. We, on the other hand, have greater things in store for us. And it took my four-legged friends at home to help me learn this over the years.
So, every time I watch my pups gobble down their meal from their bowls, it’s like a neon sign for me that reads: “You are made for greater things.”