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Pet Aggravations

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Pet AggravationsOur dog Shyama was with us for fourteen years, before falling ill for a single day and passing away. The most dignified and endearing pet, she never failed to win the hearts of anyone who came to our home to stay or visit. My children grew up always accustomed to her black and beige shape somewhere in the vicinity – now and then coming forward for a pat.

But life with Shyama was not all roses and wine, as anyone who has kept a pet will know first hand. There were many aggravating moments, when strangling her seemed a sweet prospect…

Picture this. A young mother of two, weighed down by many bags, has just succeeded in getting her children ready for an outing and is just waiting with key and lock in hand, to close the front door and flee. The reason she is waiting is that the family dog has chosen just a few seconds earlier, to run down the stairs into the garden, where she is currently sniffing at some bushes. ‘Shyama!’ I would yell. No response. Her delicate nose movements would become a little more aloof, and detached. ‘Stupid dog! Come up and get into the house!’ I would add to my call, the sweat beginning to form pools under my eyes and fog up my glasses. From the corner of my eye, I would be able to spot my two-year-old son open the gate and wander on to the road. Not able to keep the bags down, worried about my children, and irritated beyond measure by my recalcitrant pet, I would finally yell a ‘SHYAMA!!’ that usually brought her up the stairs at a nice trot, to have the door locked finally on her retreating behind.

The above scene was enacted many times over in our lives, and one wonders why such an otherwise well-behaved dog deliberately troubled me each time we were going out. But Shyama was only living out an obvious truth about having pets – each of them comes with some quirky, irritating habits that can turn into our pet aggravations. In fact, Shyama had relatively few bad habits. Her successor, Megha, who has been with me for the last nine summers, has a whole encyclopedia of them. She is an expert stealer of food – she has stolen from us on many occasions (particularly cakes and bakery products in white cardboard cartons), from our cats, the tortoise we once had, the crows we used to try and feed on our kitchen window-sill– my daughter had her certified as having stolen from every species! She has also developed in recent years such a violent fear of thunderstorms that she entered the closed room where I was sleeping a few nights ago and landed heavily near my face as I lay on the floor! She can open doors, dig up perfectly neat beds, and whine uncontrollably every time she is tied up (which means that she never is). Megha’s aggravations far outnumber Shyama’s.

In addition, we have the cats to account for – with their talent for wanting to be on the other side of every door that is shut, and demanding that we open the door in answer to their loud ‘miaows’. Both my two present cats love to sit on my lap as I work on the computer…and take a walk on the keyboard every once in a while, leaving me with a whole row of unwanted ttttttttttttttttttttts.

With such a long and impressive record of pet aggravations, many readers may wonder why I, or any one else, bother to keep pets at all. Some reasons that come to my mind are:

  • I am never more than a few feet away from a source of pure affection, and anytime during the day or night, can draw comfort from a cuddle.
  • Even when I’m just crying softly in front of the TV screen, a small feline face will come up close to mine and sniff enquiringly at my tears, while Megha wags her tail similarly at my feet.
  • I can face my pets in any clothes, mood, or condition, and always get instant recognition.
  • I return home from a day’s work, an hour’s walk, or a shopping expedition – to a hero’s welcome! Even the fish in my fish tank used to come forward to greet me when I put on the lights and headed towards them, in the days when I kept fish.

Aggravations there may be many, but when it comes to pets, you just have to balance them against the very real rewards.

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