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January 25, 2021 Monday 11:30:32 AM IST

The Psychotherapist with Fur and Four Legs!

Guest Column

The other day I got a call from my friend Michael as I was getting ready for office and he sounded worried. "My child Rockie is going to school today for the first time." You may wonder why as the schools are yet to open. Rockie is their 2-months old pet dog, a Beagle-- a new addition to their family. His wife Sarah was also worried about how their new 'child' will spend the next 30 days without seeing them. Why 30? "It is showing aggression and having emotional problems biting and shredding to pieces footwear, cloth, small electronic gadgets, newspaper or whatever it could grind its teeth on and also not obeying our commands," Sarah said. It was to be taken to a Dog training school where a certified trainer who also trains police dogs will use behavioural therapy to bring him back to normal. The trainer believed that too much pampering also spoilt Rockie!

As I visited their home that evening, I could sense a pall of gloom. Rockie's metal cage lay vacant and sadness was writ large on Michael’s face. He did not have any food returning from office while Sarah also sported a worried look. Now they felt a vacuum in their lives even as the pet was with them for hardly a month. "Is our Rockie being subjected to punishment? Is he being properly fed there? Why don't we bring him back tomorrow?"  Michael was more concerned than the rest. His children Rohan and Teena couldn’t conceal their surprise as their father never appeared worried or anxious when both them were ill or when teachers complained about their behavioural problems at school!

I remember until recently Michael was scared of dogs as he had a nasty experience in childhood of being bitten by a stray dog while playing in the open. Most importantly he was also scared to visit our house which is known as a ‘Dog House’ in our neighbourhood. That is another story.
My Dog House

When my wife Aswathy is away for two or three days, she calls every morning specifically to know whether we have fed our daughters Lucy, Roshe and Zoe' or whether they have been untied and allowed to go in front of the house. Lucy (Labrador), Roshe (Mongrel, I think Rosamma was a more apt name) and Zoe' (Daschund) appear more important to her than our own children Darshan and Diyah. "She is not worried about whether we ate our food but concerned only about these canines," my kids used to lament. And she would retort, "you can tell your problems or worries to your Dad when I am away but what about these dumb animals who can’t speak?" Every time someone asks why keep so many dogs my wife has this answer. “Every time I come back home it shows unconditional love by jumping upon me and not bothered whether I am late or brought anything for it.”
At one point of time, we had 4 of them. The fourth being a female Golden Retriever named Jazz which was kept for sale in a nearby pet shop. Since the owner failed to feed it properly, it failed to attract buyers. Knowing my wife and kids love for the furry creature, the pet shop owner suggested we take care of it for some time. But it was taken away recently by the owner himself as it grew into a stocky creature and appeared like a real Retriever.

The other day we had to take our Zoe’ to a nearby Vet’s house for vaccination and on the way back, we stopped briefly at my friendAnjana’s house. Initially Zoe’ growled at everybody but reluctantly I saw her husband Robert take courage and started gently patting her while their 5-year old son Andrew was also curious to know more about Zoe’. “Papa let’s have a pet dog like this, I am so bored of being at home and this online classes,” Andrew pleaded. We took leave of them quickly as Zoe’ was showing restlessness due to pain from two injections.

A few days later I got a call from Anjana and said there was a surprise news. A new member was added to their family- a cream coloured 2-month oldGolden Retriever and they named it Toby which they bought for Rs 25000!  “Robert and Andrew and my mother-in-law who was scared of canines are now all the time patting and playing with him!” And ofcourse, she wanted the help of my wife and daughter to get tips on how to take care of the new member.
Love Me Love my Dog
I always wonder how some children have a natural inclination to love animals. After the arrival of Zoe’ five years ago, the other two came in quick succession. Roshe was a stray dog spotted by Diyah near the Nehru International Stadium here in Kochi and brought home. Her fondness for stray dogs has scared me. Three years ago, while she was attending a sub junior Taekwondo Competition in a panchayat association auditorium in rural Ernakulam, she spotted a stray dog which was limping and also had wounds all over its body. During breaks in the competition, she came out and patted it, gave biscuits and water we had with us and suggested why don’t we take this one also home. Possibly a Maneka Gandhi in the making!

Last month, the editor of a leading children’s magazine Balarama in Malayalam informed that they have started a new column on taking care of pet dogs which was written by a renowned veterinarian specialised in canines and felines. I told him he could have very well consulted my wife and daughter who have become experts in dog psychology!

Meanwhile, there is news about people buying more pet dogs as the pandemic induced lockdown brought loneliness and boredom in their lives and more importantly tussles, fights and frequent quarrels at home between couples and children. May be for their current emotional problems, the best psychotherapist is not the one with a doctorate in Psychology or an MD in Psychiatry but someone which has fur and four legs!

(Photo Caption: Lucy (Right extreme), Zoe’ (Left) and Roshi)

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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