Dubai's lost dog: Why the Dh100,000 reward did not bite me

Musings on everyday life


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Thu 8 Feb 2024, 7:06 PM

First a confession: There's blood on my hand.

Back in the day, chasing away stray dogs was one of our after-school activities. We were a vigilante who ensured no mad dog entered our hamlet and threatened humans and domestic animals, including our own canine population. We were able to identify local dogs by their barks. All of them were peace loving, er... lazy — unless they were provoked — except for the Pomeranian that my uncle brought from Bangalore and the Dachshund imported by a Ceylon returnee.

So, the pooch community had a jolly good time. They just ate, slept, chased a few chickens while they were awake, and wagged their tails if the need for a show of solidarity arose. It was like every dog in our neighbourhood had its day — every day. In essence, there was a role reversal: Humans ended up safeguarding their own sentinels.

So, we chased, and even killed and buried, any demented dog. This was much before Maneka Gandhi's 'reincarnation' as an animal rights activist and judicial activism came into existence. There was no legislation defining the rules of endearment between man and animals. We were not born cruel; it's just that there wasn't much awareness about animal rights. We are sorry.

And sometime after I grew up, remorse began to grow all over me, eventually transforming me to an animal lover. I wanted to keep a dog, but soon realised that keeping wasn't enough, or just ‘keeping’ wasn't what a dog was looking for. It needs your attention, your love and care, and your emotional support. A dog wants you to spend time with it so that it can invest a fortune of trust in you and your family.

I learned all this in the hardest way possible. Once, when it was raining cats and dogs in Singapore, I was faced with this dogged dilemma. I was waiting for any family member to come back home and take care of our pet dog, June. We called her June because she came to us in the month of June. I was getting late for the office, and no one seemed to make it home in the thunderstorm. And I wasn't ready to leave June alone at home as she quivered in fear and hid under the couch every time clouds clashed above our building.

I weighed the option of calling in sick for the day but was reminded of a heap of editorial work waiting for me. And June seemed to be begging not to be left alone in the mayhem.

"June, forgive me. I have no choice. I need to go, and you have to take care of yourself. Nothing will happen." June stared into my eyes, and I could see the depth of disappointment in hers.

A mélange of emotions, from guilt — and fear to shame and helplessness — fogged my eyes as I drove through the downpour. It was a trial of my preparedness to be a master. I was faced with a swathe of questions from my inner self:

"Are you a true animal lover?"

"Are you aware of the pros and cons of keeping a pet?"

"Are you committed enough to the welfare of pets?"

"If it were your own baby, would you have left it alone at home?"

"Do you know life is dear to animals as it is to humans?"

"Do you know all creatures are children of God and equal in His eyes?"

Wifey called in the thick of work, much after the rain died down.

"How much did you say you paid for the full-leather sofa?"

"Four grand. Why?"

"Your new child has bitten half of it into pieces." She banged the phone.

A human child is conceived through the meeting of two willing minds and hearts. It happens when they commit themselves to bringing up the child to the best of their abilities. The case of having a pet isn't any different. The cheque of love you write would bounce if any one member of the family hasn't signed on it. That's what holds my son from having a pet in his life. That's what stops me from having one in my Dubai life too.

My daughter, who was lucky to bring up a Beagle in her Chennai home, says Chester would always be her first baby. My son loved June. It offered him a support system in the midst of medical studies. Images of the pug resting its head on his lap are still fresh in our memories.

I did make another attempt to convince wifey to bring a pet into our empty nest after the children moved out. It didn't work as I was slapped with a tough choice.

"Wife or dog. You can't have both. I end up doing all the dirty clean-up."

As I write the last para of the column, she let out a shriek of astonishment at the breakfast counter.

"Did you see this? Dh100,000 reward for safe return of a missing dog. Crazy, isn't?"

"You would offer your life if your baby had gone missing, wouldn't you?" I wanted to ask before closing the column. Some things are better left unsaid.

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