Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Pets Revolutionised Parenthood

I have seven children. And the number keeps growing. They are furry, always hungry, run on Duracell and masters in the art of emotional blackmail through expressive eyes. Yes I take dance class, but most often, I am found dancing to their ‘paw’ tips.

And I did all this without a guy! I guess the notion that you need a man to be a mother is passé. Welcome to the new kind of motherhood, parenthood. Interestingly, most often I don't adopt these babies - they adopt me. 

For years, Mum's been openly expressing her desire to see me married so I could give her grandchildren to play with. So the other day, I put a month-old homeless puppy in her hand and said, "Here. Your grandchild." While she stood deciding how to react, I told her that these were the only grandchildren that she would ever get out of me (as per my current belief). 

I look around me and realise that I am not alone. The number of people - single, unmarried couples, married couples and many more than I know of - who adopt animals and treat them as their own children is increasing. I'm not an expert on this nor have I conducted massive surveys to reach this conclusion. I just see so many social media posts and converse with like-minded people who are simply delighted to have four-legged babies and give them the same love and care that human babies usually receive.

My friend, Ammu lives in Bombay with her husband and their two canine children - Sheroo and Boltoo. She tells me that "Adopting our two furry babies are two of life's best decisions my husband and I have taken. We have both grown up with pets so we are animals lovers, but keeping pets in Mumbai can be a logistical nightmare. So when we adopted our first kid, it was really a compulsion to rescue her from the road. She is blind from one eye and would have found it difficult to survive. But when we adopted her, everything fell into place, we found a friendly neighbourhood, a house-help and could think of adopting our second child, who we got from World For All."

See, there are ways of working around it. It's like family planning and making similar arrangements. She goes on to say, "As a young working couple, having kids is not in our present scheme of things. But having pets is like bringing up kids, it's just that they remain a child all their lives and their world begins and ends with their human parents."

My children are seven dogs - two inside the house and five outside it. The rivalry between the two sides of the gate is fierce, but one thing is common - they adore me and I'm nuts about them. If the day's been a stinker, rubbing Pichku's round little belly which she openly displays to me after a meal is the high point for me. Then Bozo butts in with his large jealous head for a scratch to which he believes he is entitled. All this, while Ollie glaringly watches from inside the gate, waiting impatiently for me to come back inside and be 'his' again. If I knew doggie language, there'd be a lot of abuses being hurled at my gate everyday, between the two sides. Benny of course, the old grandpa drags himself to the scene and watches on curiously, occasionally throwing a bark at Ollie who he cannot stand for some reason. Dog politics man! Just like human children and their bickering. 

When I get home in the evening, either from dance class or a late night out, whatever the time, Ollie waits for me at the door with his ball. First, he peeps from the window and watches me drive in, and then strategically runs away with my socks to get me to chase him. So no matter how tired or dressed up I am, I have to sprint with him to the terrace and play ball with him, romp and run a little, till the little master is satisfied and had his "play time." Even Benny watches out for me with expectant eyes, even though he can't run anymore. The outside gang gives me a grand welcome at the gate and demand a pet or scratch before I can enter the house. It feels warm and fuzzy inside that in addition to my parents, there is a whole 'wagging' party waiting for me.

I guess Ammu and her husband's lives are no different. "Our two babies, Sheroo and Boltoo, have a huge influence on our lives - we don't carry work home, we are now morning people, we take our health seriously because they need us to be fit and they are such stress busters! The best ever company on any given day. I strongly believe that we don't rescue them; they rescue us. Imagine coming back home to two jumpy kids who have been waiting for you, to give you a grand welcome, every single day? A dog is proof that God loves us. Period."

Who is a mother? What does it take to be a parent? I guess only we can define this. So for my caring friends and distant relatives who'd love me to have babies one day, I have news for you - I stepped into motherhood long ago. And my pack, is ever growing.

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