By Huzan Tata Feb. 20, 2020
Dogs and I have never gotten along, whether it was a goofy labrador or a ferocious German shepherd. Even so, I had to vow to take my husband – and his 10-year-old Beagle – in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
In a world full of cute dog videos and grumpy cat memes, my deepest, darkest secret is that I’ve never really been an “animal person”. All I’ve ever received when confessing this is a look of horror and disgust, always making me wonder whether I had sprouted devil horns and a forked tail.
There was a time I would cringe in fear when any animal even brushed past me, whether it was a family friend’s goofy labrador or my neighbour’s ferocious-looking German shepherd. I was very content to live my life giving a wide berth to all creatures great and small, and hoping that they would afford me the same treatment. That is, until I met my husband, Kaiwan.
Even before our first date, it was made clear to me that his dog, Venus, was the most important part of his life. He brought her home when she was a mere two months old, and she’d ruled his life ever since; some healthy social media stalking brought up pictures solely with his pup, and I knew then that if I dated this man, I’d be dating his animal sidekick as well. In our first WhatsApp interaction, I was told that the girl in his display picture (that’s right, it was Venus), was the “love of his life”, and it would remain that way forever.
Love does make you do things you hadn’t imagined doing before.
So I trod forth with caution, taking it one date at a time. But soon came the day when I was walking up the stairs to his home, to come face-to-face with one of my greatest fears. To my relief, the tiny little “Veenie”, as everyone affectionately calls her, was one of the most docile and calm dogs I’d ever met. She just circled me, took a few sniffs, and on confirming I wasn’t here to rob or murder her entire family, walked back to her bed to finish her nap. “She has a big attitude, she’s not going to bother you if you don’t have food to entice her with,” my then-boyfriend explained. This I could deal with – having a dog in the room but one that doesn’t bother me at all. And I did well enough, adjusting to the occasional sniff or her jumping up on my knees when I’d enter the house, knowing that it would make Kaiwan happy if his two favourite girls got along.
But things reached a make-or-break point last December, when I had to vow to take my husband and his 10-year-old Beagle in sickness and in health – and with dog hair on everything we own – until death do us part.
Love does make you do things you hadn’t imagined doing before. People give up careers, some move across countries and even continents, some change food habits, and some, like me, have to learn the difference between how a dog sits when she’s peeing and when she’s defecating. My family and friends were shocked when they learnt that I’d be Venus’ primary caregiver, because my husband and I live by ourselves and don’t have full-time help. However, when I took on the responsibility, I thought taking care of a dog just meant taking them for a walk or two and putting a bowl of food in front of them every day. (To be fair, Kaiwan warned me that it’s not a cakewalk, but who takes their husband seriously?)
Here’s a PSA for all dog lovers who’ve never had pets but are thinking of adopting one – living with an animal is MUCH more than just playing with them occasionally and talking to them in a squeaky, baby voice.
In the last two-and-a-half months, I’ve had to learn how to make Venus swallow medicines without getting my hand bitten off, clean her paws and privates every time we return from a walk, measure an appropriate amount of food for each meal so as to not have turn her into a dog-Hulk, take her for vet visits and keep her calm enough so she doesn’t jump off the doctor’s table, train her to sleep on her own bed because there isn’t place for three on ours, and figure which bark means “feed me now, human” and which one means “I’m in the mood to play but in two minutes I’ll be asleep again.” Most of all, getting used to tiny strands of dog hair on sofas, on the bed, on every item of clothing ever (yes, including underwear), all over the car, and on anything in the wake of your little furball isn’t an easy task if you have an OCD and cleanliness is your best friend.
But hair all over the house is a small price to pay for what I get in return.
But hair all over the house is a small price to pay for what I get in return. These few months with my dog-baby have taught me the real meaning of patience. From her refusing to move even two steps out of the house if my husband isn’t with us, to her now happily prancing with me to my mother-in-law’s house 15 minutes away (just 10 if the dog doesn’t need to poop), we’ve come a long way.
She taught me what a mother’s love is, when two weeks ago I left her alone at home to run some errands and heard her high-pitched wails all the way till the ground floor. My maa-ka-pyaar-filled heart couldn’t take it, and made me rush back up to the third floor to calm my furry baby, waiting till she fell asleep before leaving again. She’s made me laugh at her antics – whether it be waking up from deep sleep to just walk across the room and immediately go back to snoring in the span of ten seconds, or trying to drink water falling from the jet spray instead of the bowl that’s been filled right in front of her. Though pulling me in the opposite direction just to smell other dogs’ stale poop lying on the road – I still don’t understand that one.
Sure, I do have to plan my day’s schedule around her feeding and walking times, but that’s all part and parcel of being a dog mommy. I call myself that now, especially after the day she melted my heart when she refused to go for a walk with my husband, barking for me to join them. This once-dog-fearing girl, who now willingly pets (tiny) pooches sometimes, is now known as Mother Of Beagle, Taker Of Too Many Dog Videos, Ignorer Of Hubby When Puppy Is Being Cute.
I can say I’m a dog person — almost. I still walk past the park full of German Shepherds during our evening strolls, never daring to enter. Learning to love one dog is enough for me, for now.
Huzan Tata is a part-time homemaker, part-time freelance writer and full-time introvert who probably won't talk to you unless you offer her some chocolate or French fries. When not reading books about Mughals, historical fiction, and Harry Potter, she can be found binge-watching Friends or making mental notes about people around her for her future book.