An advertisement for a day care facility posted on our gym’s notice board caught my attention last evening. It promised a long list of amenities – a nine thousand square feet playground, a three thousand square feet indoor play area with cheerful natural lighting, specially designed sleep areas with soothing music and custom-designed furniture, flat panel TVs, daily play and exercise sessions tailored to suit individual needs, nutrition experts to design healthy meal plans, professional grooming services – phew! There were probably some more but I can’t recall them now.
Wow, I thought, that sounds nice! One of my friends from the office is looking for a good babysitter or day care facility for her baby daughter. Must tell her about this one, I told myself, when the shocking words, ‘Both dogs and cats welcome!’ totally threw me off! Cats and dogs? This amazing day care was for cats and dogs? With special sleep areas, nutrition experts and flat panel TVs? Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against cats or dogs. Before you threaten to set Maneka Gandhi on my trail, let me clarify, I am all for decency towards animals and all that.
I am not too sure about cats but from a safe distance I find dogs quite lovable creatures actually. As long as they maintain a decent ten feet distance from me, I’m ever-willing to coo, ‘Oh, what a sweet little doggie!’ to every dog and dog-owner I meet. But while babies stay cooped up in a pokey five hundred square flat pretending to be a day care and most schools take turns renting the same playground a few days prior to their sports day back in my hometown in India, please forgive this poor little desi girl her few minutes of shock and dismay as she tries to digest the thought of a nine thousand square feet playground for cute little doggies to play in.
Several deep breaths later – Okay, I am fine now. I apologize for the momentary lapse in my political correctness. What is there to complain really? And who am I to complain? As long as the folks here have thirty dollars a day to spare for their pets’ day care and as long as they love their pets enough to spare them willingly and happily, what business is it of mine to grumble about things? Didn’t the Nawab of Junagadh house his eight hundred dogs in separate rooms complete with a telephone and a personal servant, dress them in formal evening suits and celebrate the wedding of his favorite dog with a grand feast and military guard of honor? When dogs can get so lucky in ‘developing nation’ India, who is to say how lucky their counterparts in the grand old US of A deserve to be?
Apart from the day care facilities, which I am still having trouble believing, there are special training schools for dogs, dog walking and exercising institutes and entire aisles in the supermarket devoted to dog products. Some of the cuter breeds, especially those belonging to cute little girls and sweet old ladies, are dressed in fancy frilly pink vests and caps and even have specially designed umbrella hats to protect them from the rain.
Let me confess I am not very fond of pets myself. I find some of them cute and have heard countless tales of their loyalty and friendship and how having a pet can be a fine lesson in care-giving as well as a great stress-buster for some. I am not about to argue with any of that. Maybe it’s all true, and more power to those who love and enjoy their pets. I am just terrified when they come close to me and want to lick or feel me. Aren’t some folks claustrophobic? I guess I am petophobic! (I googled this and discovered I am both cynophobic and agrizoophobic.)
The husband, who has of course taken a lifelong vow to have all his opinions contrary to mine, loves pets! His parents were not too keen to buy him one, so he picked them up (a cat and a dog) off the streets. He can’t resist fondling any unleashed dog he comes across here. And is forever threatening me that I shall have to eat my words and end up loving a dog someday – the dog he says we are going to have one day. Apparently we have had a premarital contract drawn up about it! Hmm, we shall see!
I’ll have one last word before I end my monologue on the feline and canine world. In ‘Paliv Prani’ (Domesticated Animals), one of his hilarious takes on the bizarre and the mundane, celebrated Marathi author Pu. La. Deshpande narrates his woeful experiences with dog owners who go on and on about their oh-so-intelligent pets and how they respond only when spoken to in English and recognize the caller from the phone ring and so on. At the end of it he says he’s recently got a wonderful new dog himself but sadly no one is able to appreciate his new pet’s brilliance and finally ends by wondering why his friends seem to run in the other direction on spotting him these days! Wonderful tongue-in-cheek humor! If you understand Marathi, I think you’ll enjoy listening to this, this and this.