Part III: Rejection
Dukie is the greatest unrequited love story of my life.
I cannot communicate to you how much my happiness depends on the love of a dog. While I was overseas, missing my pets, I would fawn after dogs in public, savouring the few times I got to pat the doggos while pretending to be interested in their owner’s lives.
So imagine what it feels for me to be rejected by my own little one. The one I so carefully selected out of a foster home, making sure to get (a) an older pup and (b) a female, since these two categories are characteristically less adopted. She was the most conscientious decision I’ve made as a pet owner and she hates me.
She’s so sweet, even if a little bit wall-eyed.
All I want to do is love her and tell her she is safe with me. But because I have been the one to medicate her, bathe her, take her to the vet, trim her nails, do all the unpleasant work in caring for another life, she is frightened of what my presence means. So when I come near her, my heart bursting with the need to love and cuddle her, she is torn between excitement at seeing me and raw, unadulterated fear of what I might do to her next.
All this tension reached a climax when Dukie developed rashes on three of her legs.
We tried everything at home: ceased using soap, altered her diet, applied betadine. She would just lick the betadine off and it wouldn’t get better. So I took her to the vet, who prescribed a course of antibiotics, an antiseptic cream and…
The poor thing was so stressed by it but there was no alternative. Her wounds had to heal. And guess who had the honour of putting it on her every day?
After the week of medication had passed, she still associated me with the cone and would run away at the sight or smell of me.
To try and win back her trust, I left her alone completely, only interacting with her to give her pats, back scratches, and treats; in sum, positive reinforcement of my presence. To no avail. It’s been three months now and Dukie still runs away at the sight of me.
On the other hand, we have Dukie’s reaction to Ammi’s treatment of her wounds. Ammi used to ‘treat’ the dog’s wound with chilli powder, following a traditional treatment she had grown up with in her childhood village. She literally rubbed chilli in Dukie’s wounds.
But it’s me that Dukie hates.