#classpets #kindness #loveanimals

As a child, stray animals were never my fancy. Trips to the zoo meant aw-ing and oo-ing at animals but more importantly, spending time with friends and eating out. I loved dogs; so much so that I got my besties’ Pomeranian to chase my little brother because he was being a pest. Before you judge me, I was only 6 and he unfortunately, 3.

The better half has a slightly different history. He was an ardent dog lover. Pardon me if I declare his love for animals as extremism. 2 bites and 28 pricks later, he was still, typically your bring home the strays sort; the kind that reminds me of Maneka Gandhi and her Sterilisation Programme. If he didn’t take the academic route, hubby was sure to find alternative employment somewhere under Maneka’s wing. A day came when his love for the barking breed went over the moon and my father-in-law gave in to his madness and brought home a Pomeranian, Appu, much against the wishes of his own wife. Turns out, hubby would feed, clean, walk, sleep with and love the dog more than anything else in the world. After his death, I have been a happy replacement, once again, much against the wishes of you know who. Smile on.

Now my 7-year-old is driving me up the wall to say the least. She has developed this crazy fascination for animals. Blame it on her genes. I always wonder why mine never show up at the right time. It all started with dogs. She declared she wants only a female Labrador for the simple reason, we buy only once but we get to make plenty of puppies. What a splendid idea! Next thing I know, my brain spirals out of control and I imagine myself in tattered clothes, rake in right hand, towel over left shoulder, with a hunched back and panda eyes, having a hundred dogs to feed after my husband and two kids. “Nooooo”, I almost shout out loud shuddering at the thought.

Until a few days ago, wafting her wag-tail love was a breeze. But the rate at which my 7-year-old is falling in love with one animal after another, I am afraid I will need to end up adopting the Singapore Zoo. 

I must say, rather grudgingly, I would love to blame her class teacher for this crazy affair. Right at the beginning of school year, Mr.Ho brought in three class pets – 2 crabs and 1 lobster. Don’t jump. I can see your face right now and I am laughing at your every raised eyebrow. Exactly my thoughts, ‘What was the teacher thinking?’ I mean crabs and lobsters? I am glad there are no snakes and scorpions. Because reptile love runs in the family. When my 11-year-old was 5, she even loved house lizards and wanted to feed them. I was in shock and confusion if she was actually my flesh and blood. Now, the 7-year-old fancies anything that moves, crawls, flies or even sits there staring at her as long as it isn’t human. 

Top this all up with the fact that the teacher has offered these pupils some carrot. The 3 most well behaved children get to bring home the pets at the end of school year, if they survive that long, that is. I drop a jaw, not because I am sure they will survive, but just because my little girl has been chosen as the class feeder to make sure the crabs and lobster have a full stomach on a daily basis. The teacher is smart to assign this duty to a vegetarian child knowing well most non-vegetarians may have been drooling at the prospect of bringing home some fresh and free seafood. Knowing my daughter, she will go hungry during recess but make sure the crab(her favourite) gets enough so that it can make it to the end of year and all the way to our living room. She makes daily notes of it’s habits, how it goes in and out of it’s tiny little house and sometimes gets a tad naughty and tries to climb out the jar, especially during English lessons. Looks like it has taste for literature. We will get along alright.

When I listen to my daughter narrating the tales of her little class pet with a twinkle in her eye, I cannot help but imagine that crab getting out of it’s jar, cat-walking in it’s crab-styled horizontal gait, all the way to my bedroom and perching on my forehead in the middle of the night with dogs howling and cats crying in the background, just to let me know how grateful it is for all the love received from my daughter. Good God! I need to stop imagining. I already have goosebumps.

Unfortunately, her love affair doesn’t stop at that crab. On the day of Chinese New Year, we go out on a picnic. It is a treat to watch squirrels play the game of catch on trees. And there goes my little munchkin, “Oh I want to bring that squirrel home!” 

The next day we visit a reservoir that is known to have monkeys around. And there goes my little munchkin again, “Oh I want to bring that monkey home!” 

On my date with daughters, the girls drag me to pet shops and the 7-year-old falls head over heels in love with every single animal on sale. We start with dogs. A Chihuahua, which I find overly ugly, move on to a Poodle that looks as though it is waxed in the wrong places, followed by a Pug, not my type either, onto a Pomeranian(too furry) and finally a Labrador(yay, I don’t mind getting that dog). And no, we are not done yet. 

There are fish tanks with brightly coloured fish and trust me I know nothing more of their variety than pomfrets, sharks, whales and dolphins. The first variety is relished by plenty of Indians and the other three fortunately cannot be kept home. 

Then there are hamsters that are a complete mess. Add to it the fowl aroma that could start a forest fire on the hair inside my nostrils. My nose twitches involuntarily at the very thought. Next up, we see sinfully pretty and colourful, almost surreal looking birds that I believe ought to be in the wild. They deserve a life. Last but not the least, we spot some lazy rabbits that look exactly like soft toys. Only I prefer the soft toys because I don’t need to feed them and I can wash them clean. Phew! Do I sound like some perfect, animal hating witch?

Coming back to my little animal lover, her biggest fancy is to feed giraffes. Happens each time we visit the zoo. I think the grassy patch below my building is perfect spot. It’s head will reach my bedroom window and it won’t dirty my house. We could even end up entertaining the neighbourhood. Bingo! That is viable.

I can only hope my little girl doesn’t develop any attraction towards crocodiles and snakes. Every single day, my girls pet the neighbour’s cat. They ask permission and touch every dog within reach. They fancy carrying a parrot on their shoulders. Although that reminds me of the one-legged pirate from Treasure Island shouting,”15 men on a dead man’s chest. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Rum”.

Her list is endless. I wonder if she has any Valentines Day plans for her pets. As a mother, the least I can do is purchase the annual membership of the zoo. Singapore Zoo, you are in luck.

P.S. I believe in kindness but petting, hmm, I seriously doubt. I am dreading the day when father and kids gang up against me to bring home another soul they so badly desire. Who said love was meant to be between humans only? Love is perfect wherever it blossoms. I stand a chance to undergo some change of heart in the near future.

Last week, I chanced upon the perfect book, ‘Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets’. Such a coincidence, the book is all about a 5th grader who loves animals just like my girls. We have been reading it together. Maybe you should too, if you have an animal lover at home just like me.