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The third presence


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The Third PresenceRomances and relationships that BENEFIT from a “third presence”? Surely not. We’ve all heard about the dreaded interfering in-law casting a shadow on a young couple starting out on their common journey.

No, this is quite a different matter altogether….we’re talking about the amazingly magical effect a pet can have on a relationship and on a home. It infuses moments of hilarity, tenderness, wonder and friendship…while creating a deep down bonding and caring that lays an ideal foundation for all the other relationships and responsibilities that may follow.

Take Shanker and Shivani. While she brought in a much-needed contribution of attractive furniture and artefacts that made their home really cosy, he brought in a rowdy, rambunctious labrador named Sam. At first Shivani was fazed at the prospect of taking on such a large and …well…hairy child so early on in her marriage. But each day, while Shanker was away at work, Shivani would find her hours filled by the presence of this friendly, loyal creature who would lay his head on her lap and offer her his unconditional love.

Then came the first Big Fight. What started off as an off-mood in Shanker after a long day at work turned into a nasty row, as Shivani wanted some attention after hours of housework and drudgery. Soon there were raised voices and insults flying around the house, when suddenly they heard a loud, incessant barking which went on and on and on. Sam had rushed into the room and every time one of them tried to say something, he would just bark so loud, the words would get drowned out. In the middle of all the heat and anger, both Shanker and Shivani realised Sam was scolding them and not allowing them to continue fighting. Unable to control themselves, both of them collapsed on the sofa sharing peals of laughter as Sam came up and wagged his tail in approval as if to say “Good children. Don’t do that again”. To this day, he outshouts them in any fight and once they even decided to lock themselves in their bedroom to “fight in peace”. The moment they shut the door after themselves, they realised how utterly ridiculous they were behaving, and the laughter soon took over!

But that’s not all. When Shanker had to start travelling, Shivani had a warm, loving companion who fetched things for her (okay sometimes he fetched a horrid looking chewed up old toy when she asked for the paper, but who was being fussy?), and on days when Shanker wanted to work off his stress, he had a willing companion to take on a long and joyful run (which friend will come for a jog at 5 minutes’ notice?).

The one thing both Shanker and Shivani were wary of was the big R word. Responsibility. That was what was holding them back from starting a family. But when, one dark day, Sam was hit by a passing car, without thinking twice, both of them were cancelling work and get-togethers to take him to the vet…to take it in turns to sit by his side, tending his wounds, making him comfortable, praying he would recover. And recover he did…by which time responsibility was no longer a bugbear but a willing acceptance of a purpose larger than one’s selfish needs. Needless to add, they soon realised they were more than ready to start a family..which they soon did, with their loyal nanny to guard over the baby and warn off strangers.

To quote a few of the many couples whose relationships have been enriched by their pets:

“Even when my husband walks in after a really bad day at work, wearing a scowl, all our spaniel Coco has to do is throw herself at him and give him a thorough licking and within about 5 minutes his mood has lightened and the scowl turned to a big smile – she really knows how to chase away the blues!!” – Meera, a graphic designer.

“Danny our lab shows us such unconditional love that we really become better people because of him” says Mini, a housewife with varied interests.

“Our cat, Tiger, has taught us how to laugh” says Sunil. “It’s impossible to stay angry or too serious while he starts acting like a clown to amuse us, clambering up the curtains or trying to catch beetles.

“Tiggie, our pet lab has taught us unconditional love – it’s as simple as that” says Usha, wife of a busy city doctor. “It’s impossible not to be inspired by her selflessness and loyalty…the ideal ingredients for a perfect relationship!”

There’s more to keeping a pet than even the friendship. Many animals become so close to their owners that they sense illness and provide a warning system – dogs are known to exhibit strange behaviour before an epileptic owner is about to have a seizure. With experience, owners learn to go to a safe place prior to an attack, and their spouses become immensely dependent on the pets for their warnings. And of course, stories in which pets have warned of fires and earthquakes, and saved their owners’ lives, are numerous.

At the end of the day, as many pet owners have admitted, we are better people thanks to our animals. More loving, more caring, more relaxed (it is impossible to feel stressed with a tiny little kitten curled up asleep on your lap…try it!). The kind of acceptance we receive, minus criticism, is a wonderful boost to an ego often battered at the workplace, and the nature of a human-animal relationship is true-blue honest and straight. It becomes impossible NOT to continue to be the kind of person you need to be for your pet…and of course, by the time the stork visits, let’s face it, you are a qualified, certified parent with excellent credentials!!

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