My cat is the best dog I’ve ever had (4)

Part IV: Our Family – putting the fun in dysfunctional

Our nuclear family consists of myself, Ema, Dukie and Eddie.

Ema is a stereotypical dad. She doesn’t do any of the actual child-rearing like bathing, doctor’s visits, etc. Instead, she comes home from work with treats for Dukie and Eddie and wins their affection through her purchasing power.

Dukie is daddy’s little girl. Whatever she wants, she gets from Ema. Ema happily obliges and then disappears to watch the telly, leaving me to trail Dukie to rub antiseptic onto her wounds.

Eddie, on the other hand, is a complete mama’s boy. I’ve stuck his neck in the cone of shame for days, forced antibiotic syrups down his throat, even castrated him – no matter, Eddie still loves me the most.

Poor Ema is a cat person and resents this. Ema does everything to make Eddie love her. She lets him suckle on her clothes, gives him expensive treats – she (even literally) lets Eddie walk all over her. When she finally coaxes him onto her lap and gets him to fall asleep like that, she’s in pure bliss.

Then I come home.

When Eddie gets a whiff of me, he wakes up, walks over Ema like she’s kitty litter and comes to me. I subject him to all sorts of over-affectionate abuse, throwing him around like a rag doll, poking him, squeezing him – doesn’t matter, he’ll just shake himself off and jump right back onto my lap.

Ema can’t stand this.

The problem is: Ema is a cat person. I am a dog person.

But:

Eddie loves me. I pine after Dukie. Dukie loves Ema. Ema pines after Eddie.

 

stick figures

We are all unhappy.

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My cat is the best dog I’ve ever had (Part 3)

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.

doggo love me
“Doggo? Please love me.”

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.

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Those eyes are definitely not looking in the same direction

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.

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Am I too clingy?

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…

 

up
The cone of shame

 

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.

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How I see us

 

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How Dukie sees us

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.


Read Part II: How to name a dog

Read Part I: How to name a cat

FAQs – Funeral Edition

I know people mean well when they ask these questions at a funeral. I know it’s a weird combination of genuine concern, not knowing what to say but needing to express care somehow, that ends up in a cocktail of awkwardness and discomfort for everyone. But really, it’s harder being on the other side of the question, the receiving end. The grieving party is still socially conditioned to be more sensitive to the person asking the question than to their own emotions, so you just swallow your bubbling cocktail of grief-anger-resentment-helplessness and respond mechanically, trying not to break.

So I dealt with the pain of managing visitors as I do with everything in life – with a salty sense of dark humour. I wrote down the most frequently asked questions and made notes of what my mind said but my mouth didn’t. I’ve generalized most of the questions and answers so it serves as a Funeral FAQ for all. Hope it gives some insight into what to/not to say and do when approaching a grieving party as snarky as me.


What happened?
S/he died. Did you miss the memo?

I meant, how did s/he die?
Why are you asking me? What do you hope to get out of this question? Stop making us relive the horror of what happened over and over again just for your information. There’s heaps of people around at the wake, ask them before you ask the immediate family.

Was it sudden?
Does it matter? No, of course not. It hurts all the same. So stop making us place some arbitrary value on the timing of it.

Are you ok?
Are you serious? Of course not. Only people who have been with us through the pain of ups and downs and final loss can ask this because they’re asking on the spectrum of how we have been as they’ve stood by us every day.

Were you there when he passed? 
Oh my f–
Really?? I mean, what if I wasn’t? What if I’m now dealing with the unbearable sorrow of not being able to hold his hand as his heart beat its last? Or if I was there and I felt his life ebb away from him, away from me, and I couldn’t let go of the last time I’d have his hand in mine.
Well, were you there when he passed? No? Cool, didn’t think so. Thanks for coming to see his corpse and not him.

Was he in any pain at all?
I’m not sure, would you like to ask my fist?

How’s mum? 
Oh she’s dandy, it’s not every day you get to lose a lifelong partner so she’s celebrating that milestone by throwing this wake.

You know you’ll need to be strong for your mum, right?
Oh! Gosh you’re right, that didn’t occur to me. All this time I thought pixies would take care of her. But thanks for flagging this: swallowing my own emotional needs to take care of others is definitely the healthy way to go.

*hug*/My sincerest condolences. Is there anything I can do to help?
Thank you. Yes. Ask this question genuinely and if called upon, fulfil the request. It means the world when unexpected people offer support and mean it.

So did the funeral directors do everything or did you have to do anything? I need to prepare too, sadly.
… I’m out.

My cat is the best dog I’ve ever had (Part 2)

Part II: How to name a dog

Duke is the dog every affectionate family dreams of having. Loving and obedient to his owners, ferocious – despite his diminutive size – to outside threats, and soft and cuddly to boot. He had eyes that you could read and communicate with. When he was afraid, I’d hold his little face in my hands, stroke his cheeks and I could see his pupils visibly relax, knowing he could trust my love for him. He didn’t know to sit, stay, or fetch, but he’d bound up to us when we came home, wagging his tail so furiously that his little body wagged along with it. Always patient with us and a caring older brother of our other pets, Duke was always there with his unconditional love to make the world feel ok again.

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This is not Duke

My brother and I adopted the dog above to replace Duke when he died. Duke’s death took a real toll on our family. Ammi and thathi refused to love again, saying they could not bear to go through the cycle of inevitable heartbreak again. As impetuous children will do, my brother and I disregarded their wishes, thinking we knew better, and surprised them with an adopted puppy.

They came around pretty fast though, my mother soon cuddling the pup like a baby and not letting her go.

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We let my parents choose a new name for her. They wanted to name her in honour of Duke ‘but it’s a girl, so it should be a female name,’ observed my father.

I started: ‘So Duch-,’

‘Dukie,’ my father continued with finality. I bit my tongue and affirmed, ‘Dukie it is.’

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This is Dukie

Read Part I: How to name a cat

Read Part III: Rejection

Church bells

She runs down the cobblestone street, hand reaching blindly forward, the other clutching the copious tulle of her gown. Blackened tears streak her face, joining freckle-dots as they flow towards the corner of her reddened lips. Daisies and yellow dahlias line the streets, her hand grazing the stone wall and she runs.

That is how you picture her when she ran away from you. Like you want her to be hurt the way it hurt you.

There are church bells in your memory, from some long-ago. You were there once, almost.

 

(from an experimental exercise with Jason Beckman)

Parents vs. Skype

My parents are well into their sixties and make do with technology by asking my brother (a total techie) and myself (more technologically inept than my parents) to help them set up Wi-Fi, show them pictures on Facebook, and so on. While my 84-year-old great-uncle marvels at his Uber application and the paradigm shift in economy that such apps are causing, my parents still struggle to sign into Gmail. It’s frustrating at times but mostly endearing. 
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Kids on a train: or Why I still hate children

As a Sri Lankan woman, I am doubly obliged to like kids. I feel like South Asians give white women a tacit waiver, accepting that many of them ‘choose’ not to have children but of course ‘regret it when their maternal instinct kicks in’ or ‘when they’re 40 and alone and miserable and their husband hates them because they are barren, pau aneh’. Yeesh. As a Sri Lankan woman of course, when something whose age is still counted in months is carried into the room, I am expected to goo and gah over it. If I stand away continuing to talk politics with the men, I feel as though I’ve let someone down. So I walk over, pretend to be interested for as long as other women appear to be, and try not to commit too far to this baby-loving persona in case I accidentally touch the thing and set it screaming. Continue reading

Airport Discrimination

(1)
After enjoying a week’s holiday with my best friend in Tasmania, I was driven to Hobart airport to return home. I walked in and met pristine white walls and floors with a few, perhaps 8, conveyor belts at the opposite end that were the only barrier between your entry to the airport and exit into the plane. The belts scanned the luggage you were taking and appeared to be the only security circuit available, or rather necessary, at Hobart airport. And that makes sense, I mean, who wants to bomb Hobart airport?

Apparently I did.

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