He is just a dog!

The tittle of this blog exemplifies the general mindset of many in this world who believe a dog is just a ‘thing’ or a play object. Many believe, a dog, is just another hobby and do not even realize the bond the parent and the dog share. Just because we humans consider ourselves to be the superior species does not give us the right to dictate the existence of any other species. While everyone may not share the same love many of us share for animals, especially dogs; their indifference towards our babies is at times very naïve, and to a large extent, even annoying.

Buying or adopting a dog is more serious than having a baby. At some point, the baby will grow up to be an adult which essentially means fend for himself, and, live his own life. Your dog will remain your puppy all his life; you may have many friends and social acquaintances, and places to go to – for your dog, you and you alone are his universe. He will never be able to feed itself on its own, and will wait endlessly for you to return home. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from getting a dog into their lives. Infact, what I am truly trying to convey is – if you really want a dog – Get a dog! Do not compromise that void with the general principles set by mankind by having kids and later repenting not having got a furry friend. I am not against having kids. I love children and dream to have a child of my own. But my dog is no less of a kid to me, and this is something that perplexes many people who keep saying – “HE IS JUST A DOG!” They so miserably fail to see he is my baby, my child, my son.

Raising dogs was a choice I made; although accidentally, I did become a dog mom, and a parent does not differentiate between their children. In the process of raising Casper and Junior I had to give up things, went without doing many things, and, honesty, I regret nothing. My life was, is, and will always be, for my dogs, no matter how big or old they get. They didn’t ruin my life; they gave me unconditional love and a totally new view of the meaning of my life. I live alone and have raised my dogs all by myself; there have been times when I couldn’t go out for parties or social functions because it clashed with the timings of feeding my dogs or walking them. In those times, people have told me, “you are stuck” or “you are ruining your life because of your dogs.” What people don’t realize is, I am missing out on nothing. If a child has to be fed or walked, then that is what a responsible parent does, and I reiterate, a baby is a baby, the species does not matter!

Junior Shah

Even today, there are some people who keep advising me to give up my dog for adoption, as they believe it will be hard for me to find a man to marry, as no man who will accept me with a dog. First of all, I do not need to be accepted by a man. If that is the scenario, I would rather be single. Love is a two way street. Love is an intense feeling of deep affection. It is not just going on fancy dates, buying gifts, or applying conditions like “if you have a dog, I will not marry you.” Yes, there are people who are not dog lovers and that is absolutely fine. When I married my husband, I knew he was a dog lover and I was petrified of dogs at that time. But I never put any conditions on him to abandon his dog or to give them up for adoption if he wanted to marry me. I loved my husband so much, that I accepted his love for dogs and started preparing myself for the same. A dog is not an object of play to be given away – A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. I will always choose, and keep choosing my dogs over any man – If someone comes along who is a dog lover, it would be an icing over the cake.

There are some who say, “If we come to your house, you will have to tie your dog up or put him in another room.” Please understand, I will be more than happy to not have you at my house; My dog lives here, and this is his house! He is a child and totally harmless; he merely gets excited seeing people and his only intention is to play with you. I can understand there are people who are scared of dogs; but he is domesticated animal not a lion! You do not necessarily have to pet him, but, at the same time you do not get to dictate to get him locked up in another room!

I have also heard people say that you can’t love a dog as much as a child, which may be true. Although I do know that looking at a dog can give you the same rush of emotion as looking at a baby, thanks to the hormone Oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” and released during breast-feeding and loving physical contact. Scientists at Azabu University in Japan have recently discovered that dog owners experience a rush of this feel-good hormone when they interact with their dogs – just like the mothers of babies. Love from dogs is unconditional. And as it’s said, a dog is the most loyal living being on Earth and a man’s best friend. My dogs have never broken my heart, never betrayed my trust, and never deceived me like a man. Very little they ask for in their short life. Just feed them, play with them, give them a clean and cosy place to sleep and love them. We have family and friends, but for a dog, you are their only family.

I am very content in life. I have a small dream of having my own little loving family where my child would be raised in the presence of a dog. There are some benefits of that. Kids can practice motor skills by feeding and grooming their dog. Not to mention, a dog can help your kids develop a stronger immune system and prevent sickness. Kids who grow up around dogs are less prone to allergies and asthma than those who grow up without a dog. Most important, kids learn to care for and love every living being. They grow up to be more compassionate, humane and warm-hearted. When I was happily married, I wanted to have a child in the presence of Casper. But life took an ugly turn, and neither did I stay married nor do I have Casper. But it’s not the end and if God is kind on me, I will have my family and a child while Junior is still there. 

Jon Katz (American Journalist) famously wrote, “Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What’s one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.”  More often, people also tell me he is “just a dog.” Even four years after my Caspu passed away, I still can’t bear to talk about him without a tear in my eye. Yet, he is just a dog. I come across an old picture of him playing and my heart sinks. Yet, he is just a dog. After a long and mentally draining day, when I come home and hug Junior, all my tiredness is gone. Yet, he is just a dog. When I am down and depressed, Junior cuddles with me and does not let me sink in. Yet, he is just a dog. Those who have never owned a pet will never get it. These dogs are my friends, my cuddle buddies, exercise partner, play mate, anxiety reliever, alarm clock, guard dog…etc. and yet, Just a dog, right? For many, it’s just a dog. For me, it’s my world. From time to time, people also tell me, “That’s a lot of money you are spending on your dog.” They really don’t get it and it makes me laugh now; he is my child – if he needs something, I will spend on it. Your spending on your child is not any more normal or somehow more ethically justified, than me spending on my dog, only because yours is a human and mine is not.

Jerome K. Jerome (19th century writer) famously said and I quote “Dogs never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation.” Some of my proudest moments have come about with my babies. Many hours I have spent alone with my dogs and they have never let me down. They haven’t left my side once, and are more than eager to just sit by me and even listen even if means me blabbering about mindless things!  Even during this pandemic and lockdown, my Junior or let me say “just a dog” has kept me sane and lively. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. He makes my life complete.

If you too, think it’s “just a dog”, you will probably understand the phrases like “just a friend”, “just a sunrise” or “just a promise.” My dogs bought into my life the very essence of friendship, trust and pure unbundled joy. They bought compassion and patience that made me a better person. M.K. Clinton (American author) has said, “world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” For me or people like me, it’s not “just a dog”, it’s an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories and the pure joy of the moments. I hope that someday people can understand that it’s not “just a dog”, it’s something that gives us humanity and keeps us going. Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the centre of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. So the next time you hear someone say this, “why you do so much for a dog”, just smile because they “just don’t understand.”

If the kindest souls were rewarded with the longest lives, dogs would outlive us all!

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