For a year and a half, during the confinement linked to Covid-19, we counted each day, while waiting for our dog to be born, to reach its three months (the ideal moment to wean a puppy away from its mother and in a new environment) , and return home to Mumbai. It had to come from an ethical breeder in Kochi.
He finally did it in a month. But in just three days after it arrived, we considered dropping it.
Sitting across the hall from our 2-BHK house, my exhausted husband said to me, “I haven’t showered properly for three days and survived on barely four hours of sleep. Let’s give it, he said, a tear rolling down his left cheek.
That night, my husband and I slept with heavy hearts and empty stomachs while Khal Dogo (inspired by the name of a character in game of thrones series), paced the room, tried to jump on the bed, ate plants, barked frequently and urinated everywhere, trying to make sense of the new space and the humans.
The next morning, I decided to take a more active role in raising Khal and not give the little one away. Luckily my husband was also on board and we worked to make Khal, now 9 months old, part of our family.
The writer with Khal
(Courtesy of Riddhi Doshi)
But not everyone is ready or able to devote so much time and effort to their pet. Post-lockdown, as people returned to their hectic routines, this led to an almost 100% increase in cases of pet abandonment in Mumbai. “We typically receive seven abandoned pets each week,” says Priya Hebbar, co-founder of YODA (Youth Organization for Defense of Animals), a Mumbai-based NGO that rehabilitates abandoned animals. “But after the lockdown, the number went from 12 to 14. Sadly, this is a trend seen in Mumbai and other metropolitan cities in India.
Hebbar and his team found dogs, both purebred and independent, abandoned in garbage cans wrapped in a plastic bag, on the streets and outside their shelter in Khar. “Abandoning a dog is like abandoning a human baby, who would be frightened, confused, stressed and perish on unfamiliar and dangerous streets. They are not trained to find food and are often injured by territorial street dogs and even humans,” says Hebbar.
Bringing home a pet is like planning a child. According to veterinarian Deepa Katyal, financial, lifestyle and social aspects should be considered before deciding.
raise. Whether you are adopting a dog or buying one, you need to know why you want a dog and decide on the breed accordingly. Khal, our great hunting and athletic mastiff needs at least two hours of exercise every day. He helped us become more active in the outdoors, which we loved to do before confinement. He has a short coat, so he does not shed too much and he is also a robust dog.
Time. It’s crucial that you spend a lot of time with your puppy to bond with him. Getting a walker or hiring a full-time helper doesn’t do the trick. Add to that the time you spend preparing his food or taking him to the vet. “If you ask a dog to pet it for a few minutes in the morning and evening, don’t take one,” says Katyal.
finance. Make a list of everything you will need to spend including food, medical expenses, collar, leash, bed, toys, bowls, shampoo, dental sticks, treats, supplements, cash , car seat covers, feeding bowls, pet insurance, and more. Only if you manage to support him for the next 12-17 years, bring him home. We spend Rs. 5,000 on Khal’s food, supplements and medicine every month, excluding other expenses.
Family. Raising a pet is hard work, and you’ll need your family to help you take it for walks, watch it while you travel for work, or occasionally go out with friends. My husband’s parents’ baby often sits with Khal. But my parents are too afraid of dogs. So most of the time my husband and I take turns visiting them. “I’ve also come across cases where a husband wants a dog and his wife doesn’t and vice versa,” says Katyal. “The dog then becomes the cause of the couple’s resentment,” she adds.
All the hard work is worth it because it will net you plenty of licks and stares that will melt your heart.
(Courtesy of Riddhi Doshi)
Home and neighborhood. We live in a housing society that has many pets. Despite this, a few residents objected to Khal playing in one of the smallest gardens in our great society. To silence the haters, we had to spread the animal welfare mandate in our company’s Whatsapp group, which allows a pet to use all company spaces and amenities. But some companies make it very difficult for residents, especially those living on rent. Luckily for us, we also have a nearby dog park, several hiking sites, and a reserved wetland area in front of our building. Do you have access to open spaces around your neighborhood where a pet can play and run freely, even once or twice a week? Otherwise, don’t buy a dog that needs regular exercise.
Hygiene and cleaning. A dog will come home with dirty paws, salivate and molt, which means you’ll have to dust your house every day, sometimes twice a day, and sweep and sweep often too. Are you up for this?
Diet. Many dog owners I know only feed their dogs curd rice and khichdi. That’s a big no-no. You should consult your veterinarian or pet nutritionist about the right food for your dog. “Many vegetarians insist on giving their dogs plant-based food, even larger ones that crave meat,” says Katyal. “These dogs usually develop health issues and skin diseases,” Katyal says.
Coaching. Most people don’t take training seriously. By training a dog, you can communicate with it, set necessary boundaries, teach it to be friendly with other humans and dogs, and learn how to handle it well. “During my practice of over 15 years, I have seen 80% of clients abandon their dog because it developed behavioral issues,” says dog trainer Srinivas Jakkani. “Even a month’s basic training can prevent these problems and help establish a healthy relationship between dogs and their parents.” Of course, it comes at an additional cost, at least Rs. 25,000 per month, but I totally agree with Jakkani. In our case, we needed to find a trainer experienced in training large, high-energy dogs. For two months every Sunday morning we traveled about two hours from Kharghar to Gorai to Mumbai for this. But when Khal was back home, he was a calm, confident dog and very easy to manage.
Now, if you ask me if all that hard work is worth it, my answer is a big, resounding yes, because it’ll earn you plenty of licks and stares that will melt your heart. It will also give you a reason to finish your job in time as someone will always be waiting by the door, wagging their tails at 100 rpm when they see you.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based writer, Kathak student and first-time parent.