I was five-years-old when I met Rover—a mongrel I picked outside my house in New Road— for the first time. Beige in color and with the most adorable black nose. He did not come with a name tag but I named it after our Land Rover. After a couple of days, my uncle, who didn’t want a dog in the house, took Rover to our factory. Rover died of food poisoning a couple of weeks later.
With time, my love for dogs has only grown. I talk to dogs, be it at my friend’s place or on the street. I have had five dogs of my own till date: Rover, Shimpu, Zimbu, Pasa Precious, all now resting in peace, and Ba:la Princess, who lives with me right now. All through my life, the veterinarians have had issues with how I pamper and spoil my dogs. Dr. Pranav Joshi from Vet for Pets Clinic warned me that I was not only allowing Ba:la Princess to get on my head but also letting her do jumping jacks. That said, he appreciates how I love her like my own daughter. Dr. Joshi keeps repeating a mantra to all his dog owners. If you don’t have three things, don’t get a dog: money, time and space.
By money, I don’t mean you should have enough to purchase a St Bernard or a Rottweiler. When we bring a pooch home, it comes with an expense. Even if you are a vegetarian, let’s accept that dogs need a large portion of meat in their diet, after all, they are pure carnivores. If you have a big dog, their basic food intake is equivalent to that of three adult humans. An adult German Shepard or a Labrador Retriever needs 300-500 grams of meat a day. It is a big misconception that dogs like bones. Chewing a bone is an activity and they do it to alleviate boredom and to satisfy the innate urge to chew. They need toys to keep themselves busy and like toddlers they also get easily bored with their toys. Bones definitely are a good option but not the only one.
If you have noticed a dog eat, they do not chew but swallow the food. They do the same with bones mixed with their food. Those bones can get stuck in their intestines and might rupture organs. A good vet will recommend you avoid giving bones, especially chicken bones, to your dogs as they have sharp ends. It will be unfair to feed your dogs just leftovers from your kitchen, even though it is a regular practice in Nepal. You need to have a good budget to give a good life to your four-legged companion. We don’t compromise with the needs of our children, do we?
Dogs are from the wolf family. They live and move in packs. That is why when dogs are domesticated they believe the family they are living with is their pack. So when they are left alone they suffer from separation anxiety. A lot of times we hear people complain about dog’s destructive behavior when left alone, and their relative calmness when they see their family. As we keep dogs for companionship, it is also vice-versa. They too need companions. In Kathmandu, I see people spend thousands to buy a dog as a status symbol and later it spends 99 percent of its time with the caretaker or helper.
When we speak of space, we talk about two spaces. The first is the space where a dog can run, play and exercise. When they consume a large amount of meat protein, they need to burn it. So the larger the dog, the more space you need to have for them to exercise. I understand the sentiment and desire to keep a big dog in an apartment, but then you need to make it sweat and exercise. There should be a committed time you make for your dog. They need to walk or run to burn the energy or else they are again extremely destructive. A tired dog is a disciplined dog.
The second kind of space is the space to poop. The streets outside your house is not a place for your pooch to poop. It is a pretty normal practice in Nepal to let the dog outside on the streets in the morning or at night for their disposal and pretend you didn’t see them poop. There should be a proper arrangement of their daily disposals. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City is coming up with a strict rule to control such behaviors and is planning to register dogs in ward offices. How effective it is going to be, only time will tell.
I strongly believe having a dog is the best thing that can happen to me. They understand my vibes, they love me unconditionally, they are my antidepressants and they are always around. Their memory is worse than a goldfish’s. I yell at Ba:la Princess for five minutes and send her out of the room. Ten seconds later I call her and she is back wagging her tail and in love with me like never before. Lastly, I try not to be too judgmental about people, but if they say they don't like dogs I question their existence. I don’t trust a person if dogs don’t trust them.