Freedom of Pets (As published in Creature Companion magazine)

Ceasar, the black Labrador pup was the first to be picked in his litter by Mr. Kohli, the rich industrialist after the swanky new farmhouse was completed at Chattarpur. Of course it was through a breeder’s ad in in Times Of India that Sunday. After all Mrs. Kohli had been shopping at designer lifestyle boutiques the weeks that preceded the move into the new farmhouse. Now the boys were also pestering for a dog as papa had promised and how can a house be complete without a pedigreed pup!

Ceasar arrived on a Tuesday evening at 5 PM in the Range Rover and was welcomed by the kids in the lawn. The adorable little thing ran around for about half an hour while the kids passed him in between themselves from time to time. Mrs. Kohli also came out on the porch and smiled at him once, though Mr. Kohli had to rush for a meeting. The servants were briefed on his feeding schedule by the breeder’s assistance, who had escorted Ceasar to his new home.

Soon tired of his exciting meeting with his new family, Ceasar was struggling to keep awake. Feeding time arriving soon he was carried away to the servants kitchen. Of course, you can’t keep a dog inside your own house! The instructions to the servants from Mrs. Kohli were clear. The kids were also briefed on their new plaything, “you can indulge after school but not inside the family living spaces”.

The week made its way to Saturday evening, the evening for the house-warming dinner. At least 50 people were expected that evening and the household was abuzz with the preparations. There would be drinks and canapés on the undulating green lawns and dinner would be under the Shamiana. The guests began to arrive by 9 PM and the Kohlis took turns to walk their friends across the palatial accommodations and well manicured lawns. The tour of course passed via the back porch where there was another attraction: Ceasar, the new pedigreed pup whose grandparents and parents were Show Winners at every major canine show in the city. Soon he would join their ranks too and win a few trophies of his own it was speculated amongst the “oh how cute” and “wow” musings.

Six months passed from that summer evening. Ceasar is a big dog now, there is a servant in the household who runs him across the farm and sometimes outside in the by-lanes too, always on a leash. He is then brought back and tied inside his kennel at the end of the lawn. Food and water arrive there. As for visits from the family, those are quite rare. He is no longer shown off to the guests either. Poor boy has developed a bad temper and keeps barking. And who wants to approach a barking dog after all.

The story of Ceasar is not one of its kind. There are hundreds of pets, mainly dogs, which are adopted each year by the affluent set of our society and consigned to live a life on the leash. For days and nights for years to come till they pass (to definitely a better place). With the fancy houses and cars come fancy pets sadly. The more exotic the pet, the more in demand. I have seen St. Bernards and Huskies, meant for much colder climates sold off to people living in mansions and farm houses in Indian cities, tied to single posts on the gate with only the security guard for company. Even worse, dogs, which need a good run are tied behind moving vehicles and taken for a jog by servants who have the task to exercise them but are too lazy to run along. If this does not amount to cruelty to animals then what does?! Not to mention the dogs being tugged on leashes across streets by household help who are too eager to get the job done and too careless to even glance if the poor pet at any point has decided to stop and actually do his job! Yet it will be continued to be tugged and taken home at the end of the allocated time slot, which of course is interspersed by convenient stops for servant bonding and gossip. The poor animal may just go home without the job done all too often and then would be naturally relieving itself at home much to the dismay of its owners who would then be consulting the vet for this odd behavior and in some cases would lead to a beating for bad behavior. All this is much too shocking when you read but true in nine out of ten cases.

Then of course there is the more convenient pet scenario. A lot people who cant commit themselves to the daily chores of walking their pets or providing the much needed freedom to roam in given parameters of their homes, choose to take home birds in cages and fish in a bowl. Seriously think about how you would feel confined to a cage or a small water bowl when all you wanted was to roam free with every inch of your being. By all means adopt these fish or birds, but only if you can provide them with larger spaces as in outdoor large areas or ponds. Freedom is everyone’s birthright and most of these animals are born to be in the wild. The best you should be able to do if you want to love them is provide as close to their natural habitat as possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, bringing a pet home is like adopting a human child. Irresponsible parents should not be allowed to take a pet home. They are not social status symbols or your children’s play things, they are babies that need your love if you decide to bring them home. So think it through carefully before you decide to take on this huge responsibility. Are you willing to give your pets freedom and love that you would to your own children? They are as responsive and in most cases actually more, capable of giving unconditional love.

The world would be a much more beautiful place if all of us just believed in the principle of ‘live and let live!’

(The author can be found on Twitter @RoasieA)