When in far away Paris my daughter added a dog to her household, it was a culture shock to me. Never an animal lover, I had deflected her persistent demands for a dog in all the years she was growing up. My refrain to her was always ‘First let me bring you up!’
As she grew, I had resisted by telling her ‘you keep a dog when you are capable of keeping it yourself, and will be responsible for it.’ The truth is when she actually acted on that it was a real shock to me. To my own surprise, I was rather upset with her decision. It did not actually impact me because the dog in an apartment more than 9000 kms away was simply an image on the phone.
My son in law comes from a dog loving and dog keeping family so for him it was the return of the prodigal, and he took up the chore of taking him out at unearthly hours in the cold Paris nights cheerfully.
Suddenly our conversations mostly veered around the dog, and if we were not talking about it, my daughter was distracted on the phone. Busy playing with the dog while talking to me. It irritated me immensely. Walking the dog, making the apartment dog proof, playing with him and taking him for vaccinations became the primary occupation in the children’s lives. And they were doing it all happily.
As I observed the latent parent emerge from both the young people, another worry began to nag me. Would the young couple decide, like so many others, to become dog parents? And abandon the possibility of actual progeny! Already they were referring to each other as the ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ of the dog. ‘Simba’ as he was christened was giving them a flavor of both the joys and the pain of parenthood! They had sleepless nights, his welfare was paramount, and the days activities revolved around Simba’s routine.
A long distance away in Delhi, my husband and I wondered at this outpouring of unconditional love for the dog. It was something we both could not comprehend. We have never had a pet, and don’t intend to have one either. How would we manage if we visited them in Paris as we are planning to do next year in summer? The arrival of Simba had raised so many issues and questions for us. The arrival of a pet in families is a big upheaval – both for the family that brings them in, and for those connected to them.
Simba’s arrival in their life is another step in our journey of letting go. The children have taken a decision, and they have to navigate its outcomes along the way. Much like other things that is what it simply is. That realization has brought me a lot of peace.
“He is such a joy Ma. I forget all the stresses of office when I go home and he comes wagging his tail” – this is what she tells me nearly everyday. As I see their radiant faces these days some of the apprehensions and doubts seem to dissipate. ‘You will love him when you come here. I know that” She declares to me every day. There is hope in her whole demeanor.
As I see images of Simba sprawled around the house daily, I wonder if that was true. Will my misgivings disappear once I am there? That only time will tell. But love him? I may not, but accept him I will. He brings so much joy to my kid, and for me that is most important!