During my growing up days in the Batu 21 estate, Bagan Dato, my family had a succession of dogs. They were never leashed, spayed nor pampered, they roamed the village but stayed close to home. The dogs assisted my dad to catch chickens and monitor lizards and kept watch on our roost. They were mongrels and were fed 3 times a day and bathed weekly once. The dogs were smart and a delight to be with.
Nowadays, people either buy dogs from pet shops or get them from breeders and friends whose dogs give birth – very few people adopt dogs from pet shelters and every day, thousands of dogs and cats die needlessly because of humans’ reckless ephemeral pleasures.
This post is not aimed at those Malaysian Indian households who see their pet dogs as one of their family member and take good care of them. This post is more to ‘siapa makan cili, dia rasa pedas.’
How some Malaysian Indian households treat their pet dogs
In the estate where I grew up and in the village where my grandparents reside, the dogs were working dogs – they herd livestock and keep watch over the cows and our homes. The dogs don’t come into the house – they sleep at the veranda. But, they were loyal, obedient and very protective. We fed them well and kept them clean although they weren’t allowed in the house – well, the dogs never showed any inclination to come into the house. They were never chained too. That was a different scenario.
Today, in suburb and urban residential areas, I have seen how some Malaysian Indian households mistreat their dogs and be grossly irresponsible pet owners.
I have seen, dogs chained up, left to bake under the scorching Malaysian sun and get completely soaked in the chilling Malaysian monsoons, all day and all night. Their masters don’t bother to provide a basic shelter for the dogs. At least unchain the dogs so that they can take refuge where there is some kind of shelter but such people don’t even have that presence of mind.
One particularly pitiful and indelible transpiration happened when I was in my late teen years. I had a pet dog myself then. My Indian neighbour brought 2 puppies – both were female, one, a white, blue eyed Spitz and another one, a black and brown adorable mutt. My neighbour kept both dogs with them until the dogs hit puberty – they then banished both dogs to a shed they built at the heath bush where they planted banana, coconut trees and other agricultural plants on the pretext that they began menstruating. My mom planted brinjals, ladies finger, sorrel leaves, etc at the piece of heath clearing too.
Days passed and the female Spitz (Aishu) gave birth to puppies which were given away by my neighbour after weaning. Aishu then died because of sepsis at her genitalia and inflamed mammary glands as the result of giving birth at a very non hygienic place – it was contaminated by her own urine and feces and she was not properly cared and fed as well. The black and brown mutt (Neelambari) was chained up behind the shed and she struggled so much to escape her heavy metal restrain, the chain got so twisted, she couldn’t move much. And, then, Neelambari was starved after Aishu escaped her misery at long last, for good. My neighbour just willed the existence of Neelambari away – they didn’t even put clean water for Neelambari to drink, what more feed her..
I did everything in my power to ease the suffering of both the girls. But, as a school girl, I couldn’t do much and neither I had the support from anyone to reverse the fate of the girls. I’d feed the leftovers of my dog’s food to an emaciated Neelambari, cook large batches of rice or instant noodles minus the seasoning with small amounts of fish or meat thrown in for her whenever I could and provide her with clean water. My mother would scold me, saying,”Nee tha pombele Karnan, yellatheyum dhanam panniru,” I’d just keep quiet and do what I think as right, being silently stubborn. I tried to untwist Neelambari’s chain but rust had set in, I couldn’t make the chain budge. I tried telling my neighbour to just release Neelambari from her prison but my plea fell on deaf ears – Aishu was so sick, she couldn’t eat. I’d push a bowl of water near to Aishu’s muzzle and she’d lick the water feebly, tail wagging as I stroke her head.. She couldn’t even get up and she’d whine because of her untold pain.. Oh my.. Tears..
One day, my cousin brother came over to our house and I told him about Neelambari. He took with him his tools set and used pliers and wire cutters to cut Neelambari’s chain off, freeing her. I implored to my mother to let us keep Neelambari but my mom wouldn’t hear of it and Neelambari got included into the stray dogs statistics.
Stray dogs don’t recruit themselves – irresponsible pet owners recruit stray dogs. Numerous Malaysian Indians households adopt dogs and cats (dogs mostly) when they are cute and little only to abandon them later when they are not so cute and little anymore. They seem oblivious to the fact that puppies grow into dogs. The lamest and the most ludicrous excuse given by Malaysian Indian households to justify abandoning their dogs is,”Athe yaaravuthu vecchi valathukuvangge..” Enekeh vayileh nalla varuthu.. @#$%. That is a self convincing and self pleasing reasoning – most stray dogs end up as road kill or being caught by town hall council workers and later, euthanized, especially if they are mongrels, pit bull type and not pure bred – they don’t get adopted, you mangosteens!
Still some Malaysian Indian households don’t take their pets along when moving into a new house. Do you have any idea how terrifying it is for your pets, especially for dogs? You are their entire world – their lives revolve around you and when you leave them just like that, the world, as they know it will crumble.
Many Malaysian Indian households don’t spay their dogs and this too contributes to stray dog population. Kudumba kattu padu manushan ku mattum illeh. It should be performed on dogs too if you don’t want extra fitting pets.
And, please, don’t feed your dogs saambar saatham, rasam saatham, puli saatham or tairu saatham; give them dog food or plain boiled rice with meat and veggies in correct proportions. You can also treat your dogs with unsalted corn on cob, carrots and papaya. My dog loved all three and it facilitates bowel movements as well. A BIG NO for chocolate.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility and some people don’t know that – It’s a lifetime commitment. The lifespan of dogs is approx 15 years and small dogs live even longer. If you have the tiniest doubt whether you can commit yourself for such a time span, drop the idea of getting a dog. Our Malaysian Indians households need a wake up call right NOW. Do research and do your homework and know exactly what you would be dealing with before getting a pet. Abandoning your pets will result in strays and overbreeding and the animals suffer the same fate too. Euthanasia. It is a vicious cycle but it can be stopped. Be a responsible pet owner. Animals are not meant to be disposable so if you don’t have the resources or the ability to love your pet as a part of your family, PLEASE DON’T GET ANY PET FOR THAT MATTER. The animals will thank you for not meddling with their lives for your ephemeral pleasure.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that a country’s physical and moral development can be gauged by the way they treat the animals there.
I rest my case.