The World Needs To Be Kinder To People Who Are Kind To Animals
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
I write this exhausted, angry, but mainly disappointed.
My very senior dog, one of my two, who is the love of my life, has just had a bout of incessant cough from her progressing congenital heart failure, I’m having a stressful week at work, the household chores are piling up well into a Sisyphean task and my landlord has served me a final eviction notice on account of “neighbour complaints”.
I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. The Indian landlord must be the only person in this economy who treats his “customers” like slaves. He takes the money from you and yet has you hanging at his mercy at any point. When you live in a rented house with dogs, there’s no coming out of the doghouse, if you will.
Cut to almost 11 years ago. Fresh out of college, time on my hands and growing compassion in my heart, I found a couple of puppies in the house next door that belonged to a breeder. The puppies were holed up in a metal cage, they were separated from their mother at an illegally young age, mired in their own excreta, and ran the risk of contracting a serious disease or not making it at all. Having just lost my dog a couple of months ago, I was feeling the void of a pet, and these howling puppies seemed like they were just calling out to me. Little did I know that a decade later, when left exclusively to my care, having dogs would become my biggest blessing, but also my biggest curse.
From their increasingly frequent vet visits to their growing separation anxiety that makes it near impossible for me to leave them alone for even a few hours, having dogs has come with challenges, the least of which is a hostile society that treats pet-parents like an abomination.
The milk of kindness society reserves in abundance for human mothers turns into a pot of venom against us “mothers of furry babies’.
While mothers get treated to ample benevolence from the society, complete with having seats reserved for them on buses, we pet-parents would be lucky if we can get an auto-rickshaw with double the fare with dogs in tow.
You can be a homicidal psychopath, a drug dealer who could put Walter White to shame or the epicenter of a filth-explosion, but finding a house if you have pets is more challenging than finding life on Mars. Even if you get so lucky as to find that Unicorn Pet Friendly house, there's no getting away from the neighbours from hell. Mark Zuckerberg could afford to and he did buy both the houses next to his because hey you can’t have bad neighbours if you’re the neighbour. But you can ill afford to rent a sprawling house with a roof or a garden, (@ a 'dog tax' premium) when you factor in the costs of feeding, bathing and vet visits of your dogs.
There's this unsaid "neighbourhood rule" in Indian societies. Litter the road with as many Lay’s packets and Coke bottles, but if my dog’s accidental poop, organic and non-environment harming as it is, comes so much into your peripheral vision, it's war. Ask the 70 year old who ran after me with a cane stick while sputtering the choicest expletives at me, when he spotted my 10-year-old having a badly-timed bowel moment 10 meters away from his house, which I was going to pick up with a large leaf, the only way I know to clean after my dogs, without harming the environment.
A baby’s laughter and his crying, cacophonous as it might be to others, is mellifluous sounds signifying fertility, good omen and happy tidings all around. A dog’s excited bark or a cautionary growl that seeks to protect its owners and the neighbourhood is a call to the police.
If I only I could take a photo of the disgusted look some people sport on their faces as a dog tries to approach them for a friendly ask for pets, as opposed to lighting up like a 100watt bulb when a kid comes to them for candy.
Talking of kids, ever notice how kids that naturally tend to like animals and instinctively treat them kindly are forced to fear and loathe them by their parents and society. "Haww, don't go near that dog. It'll bite you.", "Chi, don't touch that dog, it's dirty", thus perpetuating that vicious cycle of cruelty across generations and breeding a culture of fearing and treating animals badly.
The abject lack of empathy for pet parents and pet parents sadly isn’t limited to landlords and neighbours alone. The world, in all its compassion, has found innumerable ways to help humans, even if your noble cause is to get yourself a foreign trip, the world converges together to get you there. But getting the bare minimum funds to cover the cost of treatment of a starving, maggot-infested and often dying dog might be akin to asking for someone’s firstborn in sacrifice. Ask the countless dog rescuers in the city that struggle to cover the expenses every single time they go out of their way to help a pet in need, and eventually are forced to give up when the funds dry up faster than the tears of the sympathizers.
It pains one to hear stories of people that shelter dogs in their own house evicted by their owners, or well-meaning dog feeders in the area who have been rebuked, man-handled and even violently beaten by unruly neighbours. Their crime? Feeding the stray dogs of the colony that somehow a nuisance to the neighbourhood. Does a street dog who dies a “Kutte ke Maut” deserve a good life?
This world is unkind to animals--cue the horrific images of the lady setting a litter of pups on fire alive, or that viral video of a man tossing a dog down from his terrace-- but India as a country is even unkinder to people who are. The fact that the laws are heavily skewed against any real protection against animal abuse doesn't help. Last checked, the fine for a case of animal cruelty was a laughable 50 rupees. There are countless stories of Indian residential societies harassing and creating a hostile environment for pet owners so much so that the Animal Welfare Board of India had to publicly issue guidelines that protect a pet owner's rights to stay in the apartment.
Be that as it may, don't let this baleful discourse lead you into believing that I regret having dogs or that it's all doom and gloom. Heck, I’d go to hell and back to lead this stressful life, fight the most hostile neighbours, stand up to the most asinine landlords to get those cuddles, to get that unconditional love, and to clutch on the last bit of all that's pure left in this world. I think part of the appeal of having pets comes from overcoming the challenges of having one as would the millions of pet-parents and pet-friends around the country would attest to. If hell and heaven exist, I'm pretty sure the doors to the latter are a little bit more open to the ones that fight this good fight. Or at least that's what I like to tell myself to go on.
It might be a while where we have a fair world that treats animals well, but a good start would be a society that serves a little compassion and empathy to the people who do.