We just got a new pet dog. For me, it's the first time in 38 years to have one. My last experience with owning a dog wasn't good. I had promised to look after it and take full responsibility. My father actually took me at my word and dumped a puppy on me that he'd picked up at a pound.
It was a black, ugly mongrel, but I loved him with all my heart. We lived on the fourth floor of a four storey building near Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay. We had just one neighbor and so had the roof mostly to ourselves, which was great for Bobby, the dog. The adjoining building had a similar roof and a low wall separated the two.
As part of a strictly vegetarian family, Bobby had to eat lentils and rice and chapatti, along with milk. I loved the stuff and couldn't understand why Bobby wouldn't eat much and why he was thriving on so little food. The reason was revealed when I spotted the neighbor sheepishly feeding him fish one afternoon. It was our little secret and my mom never found out. My mom went on and on about how good 'ol vegetarian food is what every creature could thrive on. If the phrase had existed then, I would've said, "yeah, right."
Bobby was soon spending more time next doors than with us, which was fine by my mom, who never liked him in the house anyway. My little brother and I were spending a lot of time at the neighbors' as well. My mom's only concern was that we might be eating forbidden food, like chicken, which my brother, in fact, was, and with relish. I would've told on him, but didn't for fear he'd spill the beans on what Bobby was eating.
In those days neighbors kept their doors open and kids would run in and out of each others' homes. Our neighbor was a kindly lady who had six daughters. The husband was a sailor and mostly away. He'd always return with exotic toys from far-away lands, like Taiwan. Even though these toys weren't strictly for us, my brother and I would happily play with them, unless they were dolls. Well, allright, we played with the dolls too, but Hey! we turned out OK (didn't we?)
Anyway, no one really knew how to look after a dog properly and Bobby was soon crawling with ticks. Consequently, he was banned from both houses and the neighbor girls stopped playing with him. My brother and I were the only ones that still cared. The neighbor stopped feeding him.
As Bobby got thinner and weaker, I convinced my mom to at least mix in some scrambled eggs with his rice and she reluctantly agreed. Even in his weakened state, Bobby would just pick the eggs and leave the rice. Eventually, when he got big enough, he just jumped over to the adjoining roof and disappeared. He probably figured he had a better chance of finding edible food on the streets. My mom felt guilty (my brother and I made sure of that) and we missed him dearly.
So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to get a dog.
Abia swore she'd take full responsibility, which meant that Wa would be doing all the work, so I told Abia she'd have to convince her mom. Wa would have none of it, even after Abia spent weeks doing the dishes and dusting. Yet, somehow we found ourselves at a pet shop checking prices for Golden Retrievers. They were too expensive, and, besides, would grow to be too big and produce huge dollops of poop that Abia said she'd be happy to clean up.
No dice, said Wa.
The next weekend, we mysteriously found ourselves at a flea market where sellers brought whatever they wanted to sell, paying 50 baht to rent a three by four plot. There were people selling rabbits, hamsters, garden veggies, home-made pottery, etc. We stopped at a stall selling goldfish in little jam jars. I could see Wa was thinking: 'fish are easy to care for, they wag their tails, they're pets too...'
The girls and I quickly steered her to the next booth where a lady was selling a cute, but sad-looking little puppy. I picked up the pup and put it into Wa's arms. Wa's maternal instincts instantly kicked in, and her face softened to look just as it did when she first gazed upon the faces of Abia & Gigi at the hospital.
All calculations about cost of feeding and the work to care for the mutt for the next thirteen years evaporated. She was sold, but a bit too soon; I hadn't had the chance to bargain the price yet and Wa was already asking about detailed care instructions.
I walked away angrily, saying there was not gonna be any dog. "Buy a fish" I said. The girls were aghast at this turn of events; the most difficult hurdle (Mommy) had been miraculously crossed and now Papa turns on us.
Meanwhile, eager to begin nurturing, Wa was fishing for her wallet. Fortunately, she didn't have enough cash and turned to me. I seized the opportunity and got us a 300 baht discount. It wasn't much, but look at what I had to work with; I was the only one among us with my wits about me.
We asked what kind of dog she was.
"American Hawker" said the lady. Not knowing anything about dogs, I went home and googled (at Yahoo) 'American Hawker'
Not discouraged, I googled on for another half hour, found some porn, moved on (after a while), till I discovered that what we'd brought home was in fact an American Cocker Spaniel.
The Vet we took her to told us that she wasn't a pure-bred but appeared to be from good stock, and, in any case, was healthy and would be ready for her shots soon.
Of course, everyone was already in love with her and didn't care that she might be a mutt.
So we have new baby in the family, one who's got us all by the heartstrings. And Wa? You'll find her in the pets section of the supermarket.