South Asian people don’t like pets.
This is a bit of generalization, but I’m confident it’s mostly true.
Specifically, people from the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), are often nervous to the point of being afraid of dogs and cats.
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I’m not a sociologist (assuming that’s the right person to answer this question), and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night. However my parents are from Pakistan, I’ve traveled there many times (though I’m overdue for a visit), and have spent a good chunk of time around people who are from there or whose families are from there.
Pakistan is a developed country — it has nuclear weapons after all — but it has has extremes of poverty (and other things) that we do not see in the United States on a routine basis.
Feeding and taking care of an animal when struggling to take care of yourself and your children and extended family is a luxury most cannot fathom. Or put another way, spending time, money, space, and energy feeding a dog or cat may not be a good idea when you are still fulfilling the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The cats in Pakistan are generally roaming the streets looking for food, and they are not the type you walk up to and start petting.
It’s less common to see a dog in Pakistan, which may be a result of the semi-prohibition of dogs in Islam. The latter topic is semi-controversial, as many Muslims believe dogs should not be kept as pets (read more here, but do not consider this authoritative or the final word, and I am not a religious scholar).
It seems a bit more common to have parakeets and canaries as pets. Also interesting is that many families, even the equivalent of “middle class” families (who have FAR less money than any middle class family in the US), have a cook, driver, and house cleaner.
I’ve suggested to my wife we should pay someone just to drive the kids to activities etc. or pick them up from daycare/school — three kids and two working parents (and me with odd hours) means handling family logistics is a bit difficult.
That suggestion never went anywhere, but if I wanted to buy a dog I’m fairly sure she would have a designer Labracockadoodledooapoodleterrier from a breeder sitting in our living room before I could finish my sentence.
Nero — Emperor of the House
So I was surprised when my parents agreed to let us get a cat — my older brother was in college, I was in high school, and my younger brother was 6 years old.
My older brother went to a pet store with one of his friends, and came home with a little orange ball of fuzz. He was cantankerous and liked to claw things.
We named him Nero — he was a bit wild, but nowhere near as crazy as his namesake.
I moved away for college a few years later, and my senior year of college, living with two roomates and a giant Siberian Huskie named Pele, I decided to get a cat of my own.
A Streaking Ball of Fur
Through a friend I ended up at a house where someone had a litter of kittens to give away. Most of them were clamoring for attention from visitors in the house. One of them kept running around, doing her own thing, then ran off to play in another room.
I immediately picked her, and I named her Tez — the urdu word for “fast.”
I kept her upstairs in our duplex, separated from Pele via a baby gate. While my roommate assured me Pele was good with cats, we felt it best to keep them as separated as possible.
Pele was about 25% larger than the average Siberian Huskie — supposedly part wolf. He was great with his owner, but not exactly friendly towards us roommates.
It worked — for a few days.
Tear Down That Wall
One Friday evening, watching a movie with my roommates and a friend (I had an amazing college social ilfe), we noticed Pele sitting at the bottom of the stairs, staring up. Then he took off running up the stairs.
Tez had climbed the baby gate and had fallen onto the top step, and Pele wasted no time going after her.
In the few seconds it took for us to get there he had picked her up in his mouth and was shaking her.
Being a big dog in attack mode, my friend decided to throw whatever he had at him to get his attention. So he threw his chocolate pudding cup at Pele, mostly covering the stairs and walls with pudding.
Eventually with yelling and grabbing, Pele dropped Tez.
I grabbed her and ran into my room with her — she had her mouth open and was panting, and I assumed she was mortally wounded. I had owned her such a short time I did not have a vet picked out, and had no idea what to do.
I went to college in a town with a large vet school and animal hospital, but I had forgotten that existed. The serenity I’ve now achieved in the ER had not quite been fully achieved.
It was 2001 — I had internet access in my room but I opened the Yellow Pages and started flipping through, trying to find a vet.
I found one — it was called Noah’s Ark, certainly a good sign. I left a very calm and composed voicemail, and a short time later the vet called me back.
His first question was asking if I wanted to do anything. I was a bit dumbfounded — after all, why else would I be calling for help — but I assume he thought from my description Tez was about to die and there was nothing to be done.
But he agreed to meet us at his clinic — my friend drove while I held Tez (in a padded shoebox).
Meet the Vet
Tez was calm by the time we met the vet, who was also quite calm when he met her.
Being able to handle all types of emergencies makes me feel more like a “doctor” and is probably part of why I chose my speciality, but working in the ER for awhile I realize how often I rely on colleagues from other specialties to provide the best possible care.
He took her into a treatment area, came back a bit later and said she would be fine. She had a broken femur but should recover.
A few days later I picked her up — she was in a kitten body splint/cast. It covered her leg and entire upper body. It was the most pathetic thing you can imagine, though undeniably cute, watching her limp/run around in it for weeks. Unfortunately, pictures of her in it are lost or buried in a box somewhere.
She completely recovered. For awhile she had kitten PTSD — every time she heard Pele’s collar jingle from downstairs she would get frightened and hide.
Eventually she got over it, and a couple months later, with proper supervision, she would taunt Pele by hiding under tables and out of his reach. She survived until graduation when my roommates and I dispersed.
A few years later, going into my third year of medical school, Tez went to live with my parents. My latest roommates were dispersing and I was moving into a place that wouldn’t let me have a pet.
My parents semi-adopted her — she already had come home several times, where she and Nero had developed a hate/indifferent relationship (imagine an older brother with an annoying younger sister).
It was also at this time I discovered that I was allergic to cats, so while I loved Tez, I wasn’t in a mad rush to bring her back to my apartment.
She moved in to my parents house, and never moved out. Tez become my parents first grandkitten/grandkid — I don’t think they used that term, but they certainly loved her presence as much as anyone.
I ended up with a step-cat — I married my wife right after graduating med school, and she had gotten a kitten of her own before I graduated. So Tez stayed behind with my parents while I moved away for residency with my wife/cat (and I’ve been taking an anti-histamine every day for 11 years).
Unlike her cantankerous older brother Nero, Tez was friendly to everyone, especially with people who don’t like cats (such as the many family friends that are from Pakistan that would visit to my parents house). She was especially uninterested in overactive toddlers who would harass her during nap time.
Tez, like many older humans, eventually developed health problems. She developed diabetes and needed insulin.
My mother, being the person I know who is most like Mother Theresa, began giving her insulin injections and saline infusions. It sounds extreme, but she (and my younger brother) had already done the same for Nero.
Father Time Comes for Everyone
Unfortunately, time catches up to everyone, including pets. Tez did okay for a short time, but passed away a few weeks ago.
Even though I haven’t lived with her or regularly taken care of Tez for a long time, I cried when she died. I don’t cry often — it only happens once every couple years. I am more likely to utter a string of curse words when stressed.
However I know my parents feel the loss more than anyone — the last human kid left their house almost 10 years ago, so Tez has been their daily companion ever since. We buried her in their backyard, close to where we buried Nero. Also close to where we buried multiple hamsters (our childhood pets).
I don’t when our current cat will pass away — she has a general dislike for me, so she will probably live another 25 years just to make me keep taking allergy medicine.
My wife keeps insisting I’m a dog person and don’t know it; Rogue One and Two keep begging for a dog (our cat doesn’t really like them either). I keep insisting I’m not a dog person and don’t want a fourth child. We’ll see what happens.
What are your experiences with the joys and sorrows of pet ownership? Feel free to share below. J.Money from Rockstar Finance is encouraging people to give money for some worthy cause or person — in honor of Tez I am donating $25 to a local animal rescue. Consider a donation to some cause of your own this holiday.