Little Friends at Home

I love having a pet. There’s something really special about having a creature in your home that you take care of, lovingly and diligently, and watching it go about its business. There’s nothing more therapeutic after a hard day’s work than just to stare at a pet doing whatever it is that it does.

SPOTT- small

Our current pet(s) – a pair of guinea pigs named Spott and Louie

My growing up years involved having a dog at home. I lived in a house, so we were able to keep larger dogs. My father always saw the dog as a guard, not so much a pet, hence we seemed to always keep fiercer black ones. We had a Boxer, then a Dobermann, and finally two Rottweilers in quick succession. The Boxer was mild, and stayed with us a long time. His name was Sargeant. The Dobermann was a little hyper, but still quite friendly. I forgot his name! And then we had a timid Rottweiler (!) named Bobby. And finally, a monster of Rottweiler, named Rocky.

The last of these was nasty – we had Bobby somehow escape from our house and never come back, so my dad went out and got a replacement at short notice. Right from the off, I knew something was wrong with the new one. He was very bad-tempered, and would threaten to bite us for no reason.


My fears were realised when we took it to the vet to get him immunized. My sister held his hind legs, while I held the front paws. Rocky, still not fully grown, stared at me with eyes full of fear. The vet stuck a needle in his ass, and he yelped in pain. He jumped up and bit me on the hip. Thankfully, the bite was more a reaction than an attempt to hurt me, and the teeth never got through my jeans. Since that day, Rocky and I never got along – he always stared at me warily, as though blaming me for that traumatic day. But the worst was yet to come.

This story is the most bizarre thing you’d probably read today. I came home from school one day and found a chicken wandering in my neighbour’s back yard. Yes. A chicken. In an urban neighbourhood. In Singapore. We had no idea where it came from. Presumably, neither did my neighbour, who must have decided to keep it awhile until he figured out what to do with it.

Problem was, our houses were separated by a metal fence with bars that were not very narrow. Dogs and people couldn’t cross through, but chickens could.

A couple of days later, we heard an almighty commotion from the backyard. My sister and I rushed out to look, and saw Rocky ripping the chicken to shreds. Either the chicken had crossed over by mistake, or had wandered near enough to the fence that Rocky had grabbed it by sticking his head between the bars. Either way, there was blood and feathers everywhere as the dog was killing the chicken.

My sister panicked, and did the worst possible thing she could have done – she rushed out and tried to pull the chicken away from Rocky. The dog, maddened by the taste of blood, turned and bit her on the hand. She screamed in pain, and my dad, who had by now also arrived, tried to help her, and got bitten as well, though not as deeply. We finally got my sister away to safety, and left Rocky to ravage the chicken.

My sister was losing blood from the hand wound and nearly passed out from the shock. We called an ambulance, and got my sister and my dad to the hospital. My sister needed stitches and a couple of injections – my dad’s injury was thankfully just a small scratch.

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We called the SPCA after that, to ask what to do with the dog. They advised us that the dog needed to be put down. After tasting human blood and attacking its owners, it was a danger to all of us. We were sad but knew that it had to be done.

From then on, we had no dog. My family, in particular my sister, were scarred by what happened.

Until several years later, a church friend asked if I wanted a puppy. Her dog had just given birth to a litter, and she was looking for anybody who wanted to adopt one. I was very eager, my dad not so. However, I managed to persuade him that this time, I would take care of the dog personally and raise it carefully. Plus, the dog was a Border Collie, known for its friendliness and intelligence. Dad agreed, and we had a dog again. This time, it was mine, not the family’s, and I took pains to train him properly.


Cobi turned out to be a great dog, and I loved him a lot. He stayed with us for almost 11 years. By the time he passed away, my wife and I had twin babies and had just begun living apart from my parents, so my family didn’t get any more dogs.

For a few years before we moved out, while we still lived in my parents’ house, I kept marine fish as well. It wasn’t inspired by the movie Nemo or anything. I had just stumbled across a marine fish shop one day and was totally fascinated by the fish, which looked so much more beautiful than the freshwater types like goldfish and guppies.


Clownfish, the most “famous” type of marine fish

For a few years, we had an expensive and elaborate setup to keep a 6-foot marine fish tank in our house. It was only when we had our twins that we decided to shut down the thing and sell all the fish and equipment, because we had no time to take care of it. But for the time we had it, we were absolutely in love with it.


Cleaner shrimp

flame angel

Flame Angel, the most beautiful fish I ever owned

Since we moved out, because we lived in a smaller house and had two frisky kids to worry about, we never really considered getting another pet. Until of course, the frisky kids started to grow older and began to ask for a pet. It didn’t help that they were watching movies like “Bolt” and cartoons like “Paw Patrol”.

Becky, in particular, wanted a puppy. Well actually, she wanted a cat, but I said no. I don’t like cats. They’re annoying and stuck-up, IMHO. Haha. So she said, can we have a dog instead.

My wife and I briefly considered it, but decided that a small dog which could live in apartments was a bit too difficult, plus we weren’t ready for a dog that would stay within the home, jumping on our beds and leaving hair everywhere. My own journey as a dog owner had always involved leaving the dog outdoors in our yard and driveway. There was ample space for the dog to run, and Singapore weather was not harsh like in temperate countries. With lots of shade and places to play, the dogs enjoyed it.

But now, having to keep a small dog indoors, we decided against it.

Instead, we got the girls a pair of guinea pigs. One each. And the love between them and the pigs is great. The pigs are still rather new to us, about four months here, so they aren’t ready yet for floor time or to be carried too much. But we’ll get there. In the meantime, my wife is having fun with them as well. She likes them a lot as well and keeps buying all manner of food, bedding and toys for them online.

So after everything, I’ve come full circle, back to being a pet owner, though now it is really my kids who are the ones playing with the pet(s). Someday, though, I wouldn’t mind getting a dog again. Border Collie or Beagle. That would be nice. In the meantime, it’s pigs for me.


Louie, curious as ever.

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