Our friends the dogs

The author says although dogs often try their owners’ patience, they are mostly trustworthy, reliable and faithful. Picture: WWW.INTERMOUNTAINPET.COM

Dogs are loyal, brave, mostly clever, trustworthy, reliable and faithful. We equally loyal and faithful dog owners are mostly the same. People who are not should not own pets. They don’t deserve them. But sometimes your friends the dogs try your patience.

Take, for instance, last week when a skinny little runt of a girl dog was apparently appealing to all the boys in the neighbourhood. Quite honestly I don’t think she was enjoying the attention. However there is apparently no canine harassment code to which she could appeal.

I see Animals Fiji was running its worthy campaign to neuter dogs so all this frenzied running around would not result in yet another batch of unwanted puppies. Many are left, some with their mothers, to starve on the streets. Stop giving them to us, we have enough problem at the moment.

A couple of years ago or so someone sent an elderly male dog up to our verandah. He was a charming chap with a sunny personality, but in bad shape. It couldn’t hurt to give him a nice dinner, we thought. He really didn’t look a if he would last the night anyway.

However it is amazing what a spot of leftovers or a bit of tin fish and rice will do for a dog whose only real poor health condition is starvation. He was not only still alive in the morning but bounding with energy, hale and hearty.

We always neuter our dogs as we have no more room for puppies and it is a responsible thing for male dog owners as well as owners of female dogs to do. You don’t want to be meeting a dog who looks so much like your own but who is making a nuisance of itself in the neighbourhood.

The problem with our new friend, the dog, was that he appeared to have been a street dog for so long he didn’t respond to overtures of friendship. There was no patting or petting or putting a collar on him for a long time. There was certainly no putting him in the car for a quick run to the vet for neutering.

Not that he was in any way aggressive or bitey. He had very few teeth left, for a start, but was not inclined to bite anything. Although he can put up a solid warning bark at people he doesn’t know. This was an animal we came to know well and love. We gave him full verandah privileges and decent food.

He came to delight in leftover dhal on rice, as befits an animal that gets lots of such nourishing leftovers. Eventually we even gave him a name. The youngest in the human family got the chance to make the choice. He decided it should be named Bear.

We did point out it was a dog, and he pointed out that Salman Rushdie had named a dog in one of his books as ‘Bear . (Although the boy reads well enough now, of course as a preschooler he didn’t take to books by Rushdie; others in the household were fans).

He lives amicably with the humans in the household and takes a well-deserved wary approach to the other young dog. This animal too had suffered in her short life by being abandoned in a beer carton on Pacific Harbour beach with her three sisters.

I pause here to point out that like our verandah, Pacific Harbour area, including and especially the beach, is not a dumping ground for the pathetic remnants of unwanted dog families. Such persons, if caught, should be sentenced to three days without anything to eat while imprisoned in a cardboard carton the size of a washing machine.

People could give it a kick on the way past. I suppose people put the pups in cartons to prevent the wee dogs from running after them. Although they may have known nothing but abuse and perhaps brutish behaviour from the people where they had the misfortune to be born, they will insist on being their loyal and trusty friends. Yet dogs are not stupid.

They learn quickly how dangerous the big bad world out there is. I understand how desperate people get about squads of puppies being launched in their compound. Most people really don’t want to be brutal to small, defenceless animals.

But if you choose to have a pet dog you need to care for it properly. This means not just feeding and giving it a dry place to sleep, but playing with it and teaching it to be a companion who will sit or go outside when told and be a guard on your doorstep.

Bear was a lovely old boy in all respects. Until dog mating season struck our neighbourhood. There was lots of running around and barking. Serious dog fights drew crowds of excited canine onlookers and people trying to sleep shouting at them.

Bear had by this time permitted us to pat him, even to bath him under the hose (big step forward) but in no way would he enter a car. There was no way of getting him to the SPCA for what some call ‘the unkindest cut of all’.

There followed a rowdy week and fruitless call his name and banging his food dish on the verandah railing. Finally Bear struggled home to collapse on the doorstep and sprinkle around rather a lot of blood. He had a torn up ear and a large flap of skin torn from the top of his head.

Very nasty, we all agreed. Our visiting aunt thought it served him right. Our home doctor bought enough pharmaceuticals to stock a store. She poured antiseptic on everything that had hair and still moved.

Bear and the beach rescue dog got me to understand they want all dogs to be treated with care and love; and if you can’t give it, take the dog to the SPCA or Animals Fiji or some other similar place.

More Stories