Thursday, April 22, 2010

Its a dog's life....

...I finally have internet at home, the weather is great and I have not cooked for the last 3 days because of the numerous lunch/dinner invites I had…and you wonder why I call it a dog’s life….did I mention I was referring to a dog or dogs in Germany, dogs who sleep in mattresses that are most likely expensive than mine, with a choice of dog food that occupies a larger space than my cereal aisle in supermarkets and a selection of cat toys to play with (I have no similar analogy here since I am not one of those stuffed-toy-hugging-cho-chweet-saying girls).

I have never been an animal lover and I never will be. Lets say I have an I-stay-here-and-you-stay-there relationship with all animals. I always maintain a safe distance from all of them be it a cow or a bunny or a bull dog. I don’t pet them or ooh-aah at them but neither do I throw stones, I just mind my own business but that is very difficult to do in a place like Germany where you see more dogs than children.

It was my first month in Germany. I was in the bus and a man comes and sits across me. All was well until I suddenly saw his chest move, he was directly in front of me and I was totally psyched when I saw it. His chest still kept moving and while I was wondering if it was one of the WWF-Lex-Luger stunts (remember how he had those full size mirrors on the stage?), a tiny head came out of his jacket and my heart almost stopped. Only when I realized that it was his teeny tiny dog and he chose to keep it warm this way, my breathing became regular.

The concept of pets and the importance (exaggerated, in my view) given to them used to surprise me on a monthly or rather weekly basis, when I first came here. I have gaped at cat toys, chew toys for dogs, mouse toys for cats and even small trees that cats can climb! Then I learnt about all the vitamins and vaccines they needed. Then I saw the dog collars and bells that they used during different times of the day (the ones at night had a glowing light or a fluorescent strip) and in winter I learnt they had custom-made jackets and socks (is there another word??) to protect their paws. While I understood that the drastic changes in weather demand that the animals be treated with compassion, it was still overwhelming to see how much time, money and effort people spent on pets.

I grew up without any contact with animals whatsoever. I had lived in the city all my life in apartments, so I did not have the opportunity to see cows and goats grazing next door, birds chirping or bunnies in cages. But I have seen the scary stray dogs (that always seemed to follow me around wherever I went) and the herd of cows or buffaloes that looked timid while I was at a safe distance. In fact, in school I used to explicitly ask newcomers if they had dogs at home before I befriended them and those who did always knew that they should lock them up if they wanted me to visit them. And now I am in Germany, where I move around constantly in fear of being sniffed at and probably even licked by a variety of dogs…..this is probably God’s way of telling me to change my mind!

Actually dogs are the reason I never go running in the English Garden in Munich. I once saw a runner being chased by a snarling dog and as it was about to chew his tracks, the owner came whistling by around the corner on his bike, pointed to the dog and said with a huge smile 'he is harmless' and I thought 'adhu unakku theriyum, naiku theriyuma??' (You know that, but does the dog know too??)

The ironic moment came when I was waiting in front of the computer for an essay topic in my TOEFL exam and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the topic flash across the screen – “Should pets be treated as family”? Even more unbelievable was what I wrote – thanks to movies and books where the dog bounces over the fence to hug the hero or the cat purs on the heroine’s lap, I got a 6/6 score ! Of course I was not going to write what I have been writing so far in this post! I was pretty sure that the essay would be corrected by someone with 3 dogs and 2 cats and seeing my score, I probably guessed right! That was probably God’s way of preparing me for what I was going to see in Germany...only I missed the sign :D!

The best lesson is probably yet to come, in the form of my kids, who are going to end up being dog/cat/fish/hamster (and what-not) lovers !
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