Who let the dogs out?

Dogs are not regular pets in Pakistan. They are a a wagging tail symbol of dirtiness, second only to pigs.

Meiryum Ali December 20, 2011
The puppy is six weeks old. She has black fur all round except for a little white mark on her neck. She likes to drop her food on the ground before attempting to eat it. If she likes you, she will bite your foot.

Her owner, my friend, is madly in love with her new pet. I spent the evening at her house playing fetch with her Rottweiler puppy and went inside to wash my hands. And that’s when she says: “You should probably do wuzu (ablution) you know.”

The tap water is running, I have soap in one hand. “Sorry?” I said.

Because of the dog?

“It’s what my Nani says,” she said and shrugged as if that was the final word.

And in some ways it was. Play all you want with doggie dearest, so it seems, but remember a dog is not a cat. It is not remotely a normal pet. It is an anathema, a furry, wagging tail symbol of dirtiness.

I have been hearing the dog arguments for as long as I can remember. “You cannot pray in a corner where a dog hair has fallen,” said the elder aunt. “Dogs are dirty, didn’t you know? Second only to pigs and look at them.”

That we don’t eat dogs has nothing do with it. Dogs are not a part of our culture, end of story.

I have been trying to figure out the dog problem for a while now. People do not seem to like dogs and yet they do. How much of it has to with religion and how much of it has to with where we live? So you hear the story of the couple who bought a St Bernard, and then had to construct an air-conditioned room for it to live in, because the St Bernard couldn’t stand the heat in Lahore.

You hear of how sections of the house are cordoned off - the dog can stay in the garden but not enter the house. No, the dog can enter the house but only the downstairs portion. .

“I don’t think it has anything to do with dogs,” said a friend sagely. “I think we are just not a pet-loving society.”

She may have a point. Only a precious few own pets, let alone dogs.

Around 80 per cent of cat owners are usually people who have simply become accustomed to ‘billi’ making a corner for herself on the roof. When all else fails, there are the colourful chicks in little cages sold on the roadside. (I owned one at age nine and it died after I accidently fed it biryani). Type in ‘dogs in Pakistan” in Google and the first few links are about dog fights. “Entire families base their social esteem on the results of such bloody confrontations,” said one link. Perhaps dogs do hold a place in our society, in a disturbing way. Ah well. As the puppy puts her paw into my hand, I wonder, when she grows up, will she be a feared Rottweiler, or a reviled Rottweiler? What is the fate of a pet in this land anyway? Someone pointed out (as high school children will), that non-Pakistani universities have animals for mascots, and yes, at times, dogs. “Can you imagine that happening here?” said the puppy’s owner. “The first thing anyone would ask is why is our mascot a kutta?”

With those connotations, the poor Rottweiler will never be anything but a dirty kutta.
Meiryum Ali A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Faheem | 12 years ago | Reply thanks dear! @TENNIS:
Cautious | 12 years ago | Reply When Muslims visit they initially shy away from my Golden Retriever but by the time they leave they are best friends and the first thing they ask about when they call is whether the dog is doing fine. Go figure.
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