By Saba Poonawala*

We are truly blessed being able to have it all! Humans have a superb gift – a gift of being able to communicate via speech. But animals don’t. They can’t speak a language

 I have grown up with animals. I have had close to 70 animals till date. As such, a life without animals for me is incomplete. I adopted an abused Labrador Retriever about 10 years ago. I remember someone calling me up and telling me that I had about 5 minutes to decide whether I wanted to keep him and also that his owners did not want him. There was a high possibility of him being abused again. So in the blink of an eye and amidst a crazy day at work, I decided to bring him home. It took me 6 years to gain his trust. Imagine bringing home a hyper vigilant and hyperactive dog who was scared of humans. Imagine bringing home a Labrador Retriever who didn’t want to retrieve. It took me 6 years to build his trust and thereafter we never looked back. Because of the challenges I faced with Diego, I began to study the Labrador breed to the best of my ability. It then caught my interest and I began to read and study the breed more. It got me interested in training dogs as well. After a few years, I decided to bring home another Labrador Retriever. After a thorough study of ethical breeders I found one that suited my requirements. That’s how Theodore came into my life. Theo, with his good looks and charm always finds a way around everything. He knows that he can get anything he wants with those puppy eyes and celebrity look!  Both my dogs are extremely well trained. Theodore knows over 40 commands and is also perhaps the only dog known to many who can paint. Yes you read this correctly, he paints!! 

I enjoy spending time with both of them and making them learn how to do new tricks. We love going together for vacations, trekking, and camping! 

When I speak about Theodore painting, it took me a very long time to teach him how to do this. It began with luring the dog towards paintbrush, then teaching him how to pick it up. The next command was the ‘touch’ command. The dog had to learn how to pick up the paint brush and touch an object, in this case the object was the painting sheet. The entire process took me about six months to complete. Besides this, Theo also knows how to clean his room. This is a fun game that we play. In this game, his toys are placed all over the room. He is then told to clean up his room for which he goes and collect the toys and put them into his toy basket. Theo also knows how to open the cabinet and get me my bottle of water. The best part of all of this is that both dogs really enjoy working along with me. 

Speaking about how well trained they both are, it’s safe to say that they are a delight around guests as well. While Diego is the entertainer, Theo loves children and loves taking them piggyback around the garden. It truly is a sight to remember. Over the last few years, both of my dogs have won almost every competition there is for pet lovers. Whenever we go for a vacation to a place with a water body, such as Mulshi, I know that the dogs are going to have a better time than me. It is simply amazing to see them jump into ponds, lakes, and streams. However, it’s not amazing to see them return covered in algae or smelling like fish!!!  They are a delight to be with and they tend to become the stars of the show!  

As they say, you don’t choose your dog; it’s your dog that chooses you! I couldn’t be happier that both of them chose me. I think I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world.  I urge everyone out there to adopt an animal in need. Yes, it may be challenging. Yes, you may have set backs. Yes, you may go through a rough patch trying to connect with them. But in the end, it’s worth every bit. And if I were asked whether I’d do this again, I’d say yes, in the blink of an eye, without a shadow of doubt! 

*Author is a celebrity hair and makeup artist and an educator. Her love for dogs inspired her to become a canine behavourist and trainer as well.

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