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Top 5 Things You will Learn About Pet Parenting

The whole of my formative years, I was always surrounded by pets—either cats or dogs, domesticated cows etc. When we turned into a nuclear family, we had dogs living with us. So being around pets is not new to me, except I never got involved while raising them. I would just be there when things were beautiful and not when they turned ugly, including pet's nature call or sickness. My mother or sister would always be around to take care of them. 

In 2020 when I decided to become a pet parent, what did I choose as my pet?

Guinea pigs! Yes, I bought two male guinea pigs in the middle of a pandemic from a breeder in September 2020. I was so kicked about the idea of having them in my new space—it was only 2 weeks since I moved in. I bought the pair from the breeder, and I named both Ollie and Milo. Unfortunately, Milo didn't survive the 48 hours since his arrival at my place. He had developed a gastrointestinal disease while he was transported to my home. The 48 hours was very taxing for me. I hadn't eaten, and the guilt of losing one pet was eating me up. I recollect that day very vividly; I started blaming myself and cursing under my breath for being such a flop pet parent already. My friend suggested that I calm down and look at the problem from a different perspective. It's common for pets to fall sick; they are animals and not advanced like humans to communicate their issues. The breeder got me another guinea pig, and I named him Orbit. An ode to Milo for leaving me and orbiting back to my life again. 

I lost Ollie in April 2021 because he developed breathing issues. It was so sudden, and I couldn't reach out for help to save him. I cried my heart out because I did not expect it. This time I didn't blame myself. I just mourned his death for a while. I miss him whenever I look at Orbit. Orbit is well and busy stuffing himself with timothy hay and pellets every day! Days before Ollie's death, both the piggies got some floor time and boy, they were so happy. After a few weeks of Ollie's passing, I adopted a stray female pup rescued by a colleague. A friend of mine had a gut feeling that I would get a dog home, and I cannot disagree because I had wished for a dog, but understanding the amount of commitment it takes, I brushed the idea aside. The evening of summer of April 2021, I had a pup, barely two weeks old, inside my home, in my arms. 

I informed my friends and family, and all were so elated hearing the new update! They were equally surprised, I must admit. Rune's arrival changed my life upside down; raising a pup and raising guinea pigs is not the same. So, what are the top things I learned about being a pet parent till now? Let me share them with you.

1. Pet parenting is all about being present

This definitely had to top the charts because as the adage goes in Hindi, नज़र हटी, दुर्घटना घटी (the moment you lose your sight, unfortunate events occur). I keep my pets in my living room; I will be around them, obviously. One day, while I was busy in the washroom, a foul smell wafted into my home. It was unbearable; I was unable to understand what caused such a sudden turn of events. After a brief second of trying to locate it, I came across a disposable bag in the kitchen, torn and ransacked. Rune had entered into the kitchen, smelt the rotten chicken in the bag and pounced to feast. While feasting, she dirtied the kitchen. Lesson learnt! Now I had my book trunk as a barricade that stops Rune from entering the kitchen. 

There was a day when I observed Orbit. He was very silent. I knew he would be mingling in some nasty business. I went near his cage and found him chewing plastic to munch on some extra pellets! I quickly removed the bag full of pellets. Luckily, Orbit had just started chewing so, I didn't have to panic. Phew!

2. Pet parenting means you are always on your toes

Your pets will always keep you on your toes. Guinea pigs are susceptible to dust and filth, which means you have to keep cleaning their cage every once in two days. You will have to feed them twice a day, fill fresh water so they are well hydrated, and you need to be around if you want to bond well with them. Ollie would never agree to have food from my hand. He would snatch it. Orbit takes food and lets me scratch him but not for too long. He is yet to completely warm up even though it is already 9 months since his arrival. 

Rune, on the other hand, needs constant care. She is a baby and demands my attention most of the time. I am lucky that my friend agreed to co-parent with me. We both ensure she has her daily routine. The vet suggested that we do not take her out as yet. She cannot come in contact with other street dogs until she is over six months old. So, we take her to the terrace in our building and make her run and walk her. We also have to feed her with our hands when she throws tantrums. Also, poop scooping and pee cleaning are now in my KRAs of pet parenting duties. Hehe.

3. Pet parenting is NOT pet ownership (Read it again and again)

I don't own or show ownership of my pets. I ensure I am involved with them daily. I have seen many instances where people would get pets and leave them on their own. There is no interaction. It feels as if they got pets for a status symbol. Many abandon them owing to too much responsibility. If you cannot, do not abandon them. Instead, let someone adopt. Abandoning your pets would lead them to much stress and unfortunate incidents. When Rune was rescued, she had scars on her head and neck. She has anxiety issues and is not comfortable around unfamiliar faces. I have observed my pets very closely. Orbit understands my movement in the house. He squeaks for his breakfast when I wake up in the morning. He knows I am up and about to enter the living room from my bedroom when he hears the washroom door getting locked. Rune wakes up even if she is in her deep slumber when my friend steps down to the second floor. Her ears stand up just like an antenna and scratch the door to demand the door is opened so she can run towards my friend. You should see the speed of her wagging tail. It's a treat to watch. Treat your pets like your own baby, and see how unconditionally they love you back. It's a cycle; the more you love your pet, the more they love you back, and you end up loving them even more. 

4. Pet parenting makes you patient

Before becoming a pet parent, I lacked patience. Now I feel I have become patient; I ensure I do not let my bad mood reflect on them. When Rune constantly whines for more attention and does not let me work and go about my daily house chores, I just give up on her demands. I let her be until she calms down. I only raise my voice when I need to discipline her. I hit her when she chews on stuff or bites my friend or me. My friend is very lenient with her and ended up having scratches and bite marks. I, instead, do not have such marks because Rune knows the consequences. When Ollie would fall sick, I had to be very patient with him. I would wait patiently to recover from breathing issues and ensure his well-being and recovery by giving him extra care. Orbit is very naughty, and that piggy just knows how to squeak his lung out just when I am about to chop coriander or bell peppers. He will not stop until I give him his favourite food. When Orbit and Ollie were just warming up to my home, I could not touch them. They would have anxiety pangs kicking in whenever I would move inside my own home. I am still waiting for the day when Orbit doesn't mind me touch him and caressing him without running away from me. 

When Rune throws tantrums while having food, my friend just stands near her (Rune's) food bowl and waits there until Rune gives up on being silly and laps up her favourite semolina-egg broth or meat-millet soup.

5. Pet parenting makes you compassionate

You don't just worry for your pet, but also other animals you come across. When your pet gets hurt, that pins your heart because they cannot communicate how they feel. They just endure it, and you do everything to ensure the pain is less. So when you see other pet sufferings, your heart reaches out to them. When Rune was a bit off in her behaviour today, I got worried. While I was nursing her and administering the medicines, I wondered how my mother put up with my brother and me. We are twins, so it was challenging to raise us and meet our demands. For the first time, I felt her pain and discomfort when she saw one of us sick. Rune loves being a lap dog, and I let her be. She is already growing big, and I cannot hold myself back. I am overwhelmed when I remember her scars. Why would anyone do that to her? She is just a baby, and how is it possible for anyone to not have a heart and beat her up so badly! I feel the lockdown was less blue this time with Orbit, Ollie ( I miss you, my little one), and Rune around. 

If you are still thinking about being a pet parent, think through and if your gut says to go ahead, then go for it. It's a life-changing experience. What are your learnings from being a pet parent? Do share it in the comment section, would love to know your story and journey so far. 


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