The year 2020 has been like no other. It has given us things that we could only dream of, like working at our own space, starting the day without feeling the need to reach somewhere, precious moments with our loved ones, time to introspect and to contemplate our future. This is something we all needed to do but were procrastinating on it. 2020 left us with no option at all. We embarked on a different journey this year discovering and re-discovering ourselves figuring out that there’s more to us than just helping corporates reach new pinnacles of capitalism. While future does seem a little hazy, but the year has given us enough time to think about our personal journey and dreams.
We all have envisioned a way to lead our lives inspired by advertising and marketing campaigns. A few common components include a stable job, spacious house, latest vehicle, spouse, kids and a pet. Most of us strive towards achieving all of that assuming that’s the ideal life. 2020 gave me an opportunity to ponder on the way I want to spend my life, whether it’ll be dictated by the ideas given by others or by my own life experiences and learnings. Out of all the components mentioned above, having a pet was something that I always dreamed of. Movies and media subconsciously made me believe I can be a good pet owner but alas 2020 was when I realized I no longer have the zeal to have a pet in my life.
The pandemic showed us the true meaning of freedom. Forced to lock ourselves inside, at one point we all craved to be free and venture out in the open. It gave us a perspective of how it feels to be locked up in a confined space. It has also crushed our arrogance of being the most advanced species where we disrespect nature daily. We feel the earth revolves around our way of living without considering the cruelty we bestow on our fellow living species. We have started owning them giving no consideration for their freedom. Domestication and slaughtering of animals has become a thriving industry for which there is little to no accountability.
I spent 2020 in my hometown where I befriended a few street dogs and some cows. My interaction with them throughout 9 months had a significant impact on my dream. Unlike humans, animals haven’t been conditioned to live in closed spaces since they don’t have a defined source of food and must venture out in the open to get it. Interaction with humans forms an easy source of food for them and this has led to their abuse both physically and psychologically. During my short interaction with these lovely undomesticated animals, I came to realize that just like nature they aren’t dependent on humans for survival. They can very well live off without human support of food and comfort. It gives them the freedom to act on their instincts rather than follow commands of humans who have limited knowledge of their senses.
There were many instances that affirmed my above beliefs. On occasions the street dogs refused the food I offered simply because it didn’t meet their standards, or it was different from their usual diet. Our petting sessions were often cut short whenever they found any distractions whether it be some source of food or any rival pack of dogs venturing in their territory. While allowing them to be inside my house to rest, I observed they weren’t comfortable in being caged inside 4 walls. After some time, they would cry or point towards the door indicating the need to go out and would storm off once the gates were opened. This act was repeated multiple times suggesting that the need to roam about freely is the inherent need for every living being. I had always thought street animals lived a burdened life while the life of a pet seems comforting, but all the above and other small instances made me question the idea of having a pet that I always fantasized about. These lovely creatures taught me that for some freedom is precious than comfort.
I had to address the conflict caused and some part of me still wanted to cling onto my dream. Maybe these creatures are like that because they haven’t been trained or they haven’t been in human company since they were young. A pup may adapt to the idea of comfort if it starts staying with humans. A sweet surprise awaited me as I was closing in on the riddle.
One of the female dogs in the pack gave birth to a litter of puppies which gave me a chance to interact with the little ones. Even though I was close to their mother she wouldn’t allow anyone to be near her dear ones. With time I managed to sneak close to pet them but they would squander off at the mere sight of me. We started a sort of cat and mouse chase amongst us. It took me a month to be able to pet one of the five pups while the others still seem to be scared with my presence. Any form of bribe wouldn’t work on them and I started questioning my petting skills. The puppies were pretty much comfortable playing with other street dogs but ran off whenever a human approached. They were curious about everything around them and approached with caution. They were exploring the world based on their instincts and chose to remain close to one of their own unless forced otherwise.
Every species loves to be with someone of their kind who can understand their language, share their inhibitions and have the same senses as them. As the dominant species we humans fail to understand this and force creatures to spend their lives as per our will and command. We get pets separating them from their own kind and robbing them of their freedom. We project this horrific behavior as philanthropy but it’s cruelty of the highest order forcing a creature to be in an unnatural environment where no one can understand their language, emotions and their needs. Imagine a human baby going through the same process of living its life as per the wish and commands of another species. That would be horrific, but we treat others the same way we don’t want our species to be treated.
The above experience shattered the concept of ‘pet’ for me. Why is there a need to ‘own’ another creature? Why can’t we respect their space, try to understand their behavior and live together freely. My friendly street dogs made me understand what actual freedom looks like since there wasn’t any obligation between us. I connected a lot with those lovely creatures and had a lovely relationship with them. It was beautiful. The time spend with them can be compressed in some lines from Naruto
‘A friend of the heart provides peace of mind, no matter the species. Souls are like reflecting water. People often speak or act opposite of their true feelings. But essentially the heart wishes to connect with and accept each other. Even with beasts’
All views expressed in the article are that of the author.