I contributed this article to Eleven Asia, and the article is reproduced below.
As my children were growing up, I had a beautiful golden retriever called Jerry.
Jerry was a devoted family member.
He used to seek attention from me, and my children, who were toddlers then. As I returned home from work, with the children running towards me to welcome me home, there was also Jerry, clumsily knocking my toddlers down, in love with me and behaving just like an eager child. Torn between scolding him and yet loving him for his display of unconditional love – Jerry taught me to treat him as a human and see the qualities of a child in him, innocent and pure.
In his later years, as he mellowed down, he became my pillar of strength as I walked the journey of divorce.
Having the children away from me with their Dad was difficult. The memories of how we were once a family came flooding back and I had Jerry, my dog and companion, to comfort me. Seeking solace in him when I teared as my children were split apart living in separate households, his state of acceptance and just being still and calm, gave me the strength that “this too shall pass.”
With time, wounds healed, I adjusted and moved along the path of forgiveness and made peace with the divorce.
As my dog became older, inevitably nearing his time of departure at the ripe old age of 15 years, he started developing health problems and the vet said that it was time for him to go. I refused to let go and held on and tried to prolong his life, for selfish reasons. My dear friend told me that it was cruel of me to let him suffer as Jerry, being unconditionally loving, will wait until I accept his demise, even when he was suffering.
As he heaved his last breath, I heard his relief and felt his peace. Even in his suffering, Jerry still loved wholeheartedly and patiently waited for me to come to terms with his demise, in my own terms.
He taught me about unconditional love, even at the expense of his own suffering. A wonderful teacher he was and I still miss him until today.
Soon after Loki, a mongrel dog with an abusive past came along and shocked me with his behaviour. He was just 6 months old but was extremely energetic and aggressive. Biting the wooden table, sofa set, shoes, wallets and delicate undergarments, he was a menace at home with his rowdy behaviour. There were times I regretted adopting him and yet when he sleeps, he looks like an angel and I persevered to be more patient with him.
After trying the usual disciplinary methods of scolding and punishing, which did not work, I resorted to hiring dog trainers to teach me how to handle Loki. After having Jerry for 15 years, I never thought that I would resort to being trained to handle a dog. Not just by one dog trainer but three!
While it was so easy to give up on a dog due to his aggressive behaviour, I stayed true to my intention that when I adopt, I will keep him for his entire life. This gave me the determination to continue to learn on training Loki. I understood more about him, his nervous personality and how the trauma he had gone through in his earlier months. They certainly did not go away that easily.
He taught me patience and faith that things will improve.
It slowly did and now he welcomes people into my home, first with barking and then with his paw and his face settling on the person’s lap.
Came along another dog, Jester, a blind and deaf Cocker Spaniel who is 15 years old. A very easy-going personality with lots of determination, to the point of being extremely stubborn. As he is partially blind, he would persistently knock his head into walls and corners. Despite all the knocks, he continued exploring the place and became comfortable and felt at home in the new environment.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? I could not toilet train him to pee on paper but he learnt to use his paw to swap the railing to be released from the place he was toilet trained. Despite his blindness, he used his sense of smell to steal food whenever he can. Determined he certainly was, to learn what he wanted to learn.
He taught me that perseverance pays but comes with its own knocks and hits.
My latest addition is Kayla, my joyful puppy who is 9 months old. A delightful girl filled with sunshine energy. If she had a Facebook account, she would like everything. She simply adores everyone who comes to visit me, licking them and showing them the utmost affection. Sometimes so much that it can be overwhelming, and people have to keep her at bay. She still keeps on being her cheerful self, undeterred by people’s reaction.