Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Me and my dog Poppins always had this communication gap between the two of us. Having grown up in the company of dogs at home had always given me, this self styled pride that I knew about them more than they knew about their own selves. Therefore, when Poppins, an overgrown, white, male Lhasa Apso arrived at our house, I naturally took upon myself the seemingly easy task of turning him into an impeccably trained pet belonging to an Army officer.
The beginning was not very auspicious as I embarked upon the toilet training of the three month old puppy. Each time Poppins sprinkled on our precious carpet I would hold his nose to the spot and say- ‘Not Here’, rush him to the lawn and command again- ‘Do it Here’. Well, after umpteen such commands and demonstrations he understood, but not quite. He would still wet the same very precious carpet, rush out and sit in the lawn looking at me, wagging his tail for approval saying- I did exactly what you taught me, didn’t I ?
As Poppins grew, so did his area of operation in the house. His entry into the kitchen was barred by my wife since he found out, thanks to his exploratory nose that this is the place he should hang around the most to eke out a decent living. Every time he entered the kitchen, my wife would order- ‘Get Out’ and he would immediately make an exit. It however had a flip side. His mind processed the order as an act of crossing the door, therefore each time we wanted him to go out of the house we had to stand inside the house and say ‘Get Out’ and when we wanted him to enter the house we had to stand at the verandah and repeat- ‘Get out’ and he would walk in.
Another demonstration of obedience that I loved showing our guests was that I would take a non-veg snack from the plate in which they were served and keep it in front of Poppins with a command- ‘Baba naa bolechhe’(father said no) and Poppins would not touch it and keep barking till I told him to eat it. However. I got to learn the other side of the dog’s interpretation of our orders when one fine day I did not offer any such demonstration to the guests who had come home and after Poppins realized that it was taking an unusually long time for me to come to the point he quietly walked up to the table and to our shock and disbelief picked up a sausage, kept it down and started to bark- okay we can play the game now. I was still trying to convince my guest of that day that Poppins did not sit at the dining table with us and said his prayers before sharing his meal with us.
Poppins had a very doggy habit of charging at anyone who rang the door bell including me but excluding my wife. This didn’t go well with me since, in my opinion, it gave a poor impression of who the real master was. I shared my hurt with my wife and she accepted my request to take on this part of his training and re-instate my position in the household. She did a pretty good job of it as each time I came home I realized that he no longer charged at me and rather greeted me with proper decorum and respect befitting of a master. It was a great feeling to see that now Poppins knew the hierarchy and above all it re-installed my self-respect that I seemed to have lost.
One fine Sunday I was home and enjoying late morning browsing of the news paper in hope of finding something heartwarming to light-up the day when the gate leading to the lawn was opened by the sweeper. Poppins, like a bull in the ring, charged at the door howling his guts out. Surprised, I glanced at my wife who was bringing me a steaming cup of tea, with a suggestive, ’whatever happened to your training to this guy’? She handed me the cup of tea, walked calmly to the door and gave Poppins a hushed but firm command- ‘No Poppins, it is your Father’ and Poppins froze in his tracks.
Well, couple of months has passed since then and I am still coming to terms with the failure to understand the dynamics of training a dog in my own backyard. Will I have to be born as a dog to some loving and caring family to develop the empathy or will I crack it with some other species……or better still, mind my own businesss……….I wonder !!