… well, at least not the human ones anyway.
One day long long time ago, pre-human kids, Will and I brought home different kind of a baby. A black and white one with silky soft fur and hazel-coloured eyes. He was only 8 weeks old; so small that he would sit in the palm of a hand, and so cute that he melted our hearts. All those around us who saw him fell in love at first sight.
We named him Kimchee.
He was scared and unsure as he took his first steps in the house. It took us a week to get familiar with each other, and another couple to adjust to a new routine. Will and I read up all about raising Lhasa Apsos as I stocked the fridge with fresh mince and puppy food.
There was a painful period of trying to make him understand that he was not to do his dirty business inside the house, which was followed by some fun times teaching him cool tricks. After a while we knew to look forward to our walks together in the evenings and he looked forward even more to making new friends around the neighbourhood.
All in all, that was a beautiful time for all of us as we started to form the initial nuclear family.
Then, fast forward one year, along came the first human baby. It was a confusing time for Kimchee and our routine was disrupted. We were no longer able to go for long walks and he was disturbed by the constant crying due to his acute sense of hearing. Nevertheless we all adapted, including Kimchee, and he eventually got used to, and was even protective of, the baby.
Then along came baby two. And his routine was even more disrupted. Walks were becoming scarce. But he did not complain and often times would just wait expectantly for his turn. And it was around those times that he started getting unwell. A lot. At first it was recurring ear infections and itchy paws. After many tests, we finally realised that he was allergic to various elements in the environment. They developed a vaccine just for him which we have to inject into his back every three weeks over a three-year period. Then as he was starting to get better, a darker period emerged where we saw him retreating a lot to his bed and there he would lie all day, unable to move and eventually unable to even eat. That was when he was diagnosed with Intervetebral Disc Degeneration (IVDD) and a back surgery was to follow. Since then he has had several recurring episodes, but at least now we are better equipped with experience and information to know what to do when the symptoms return and what restrictions we need to place on his day-to-day activities.
Needless to say, that was a very stressful period. I was at the vet’s more often than all of our human doctors’ visitations combined. Financially it also wasn’t pretty. We would have spent at least $6,000 in vet bills over a period of two years, all of which was un-budgeted for.
But even after all that, giving Kimchee up was never an option. And we would still fork out another couple of thousands to treat him if we have to. Kimchee is very much a part of the family; we love him and the kids had not known a day without their dog.
But if you ask me today if this was what I thought dog ownership would be like six years ago, definitely not. With those cute puppy eyes and droopy ears you would think that it was all fun and warm and fuzzy as long as you feed him well and walk him with the occasional visits to the vet’s. But no, dog ownership is serious business and a life-long commitment. If I had known back then what I know today about raising a dog – the time, the effort, the stress, the money, the guilt of having to place your children first before him, I would have thought twice before bringing him home.
Because at the end of the day it is not just a matter of what we want, it is also a matter of what is fair to the dog. A dog is God’s gift to us as the perfect companions but we have to ask ourselves, even with all the best intentions in the world, are we able to keep to our end of the bargain?
[This post was inspired by this article from news.com.au]