Despite not being pet lovers, my family has had it’s fair share when it comes to the variety of creatures that have had the fate of crossing our paths. When the lohan fish with its big forehead and promises of prosperity rose to popularity years back, my eldest brother brought home one. An odd creature it was. Not particularly engaging, and not a crowd pleaser considering how it was neither cuddly nor furry.
When the fish grew tired (or when we grew tired of the fish), someone did something to get rid of it. I cannot remember if we gifted him to a particularly superstitious relative who believed it would bring good look, or if we let him go in a condominium fish pond. Either way, the fish left—it was meant to—one way or another.
The second animal that entered our family doors came in on two feet. It was infinite times furrier than its predecessor and received endless showers of love while it was a baby. Well, babies. We had four chicks. Two female and two male. But as they grew from tumbling yellow balls huddling under a book lamp for warmth into fully developed roosters and hen that cocked and laid eggs everyday, fate had it that they would, too leave us. It wasn’t just the complains from neighbours (who by the way, took our eggs) when the chickens roamed freely in our backyards during the day. Neither was it because one time, a female fell sick and the helper had to feed it human medication (diluted paracetamol). It was just that someone did something to get rid of them—I cannot remember who and I cannot remember how. I only know that one morning, the roosting stopped and so did the eggs.
In between, I had a heart-attack hamster and a tumour hamster, both of which did not last very long. Until one year, my brother came home with a cage so huge it was fit for a dog, but with no dog inside. Instead, a grey ball of fur huddled in the corner, scared out of his wits.
My parents were never supportive of pets. We were never responsible nor attentive enough to deserve one. Most of the animals that were fortunate enough to make their way into our homes entered with lies. A “birthday present” or a “forced gift”. But true to his character, my second brother dropped the cage squarely within our porch and proceeded to announce that he had adopted this bunny, because his owner (an acquaintance) was leaving the country.
Despite her vehement protests and continual efforts in trying to get rid of him, the bunny slowly crawled his way into my mother’s heart. So today, while he stood on the vet’s table shivering from fear, I wondered what life would be like if it didn’t have him in it anymore. During the four years we’ve had him, he’s only been to the vet twice. Today was the third and suddenly he seemed much older than I know.
Do bunnies have dreams? Does he ever wonder what it’s like to run unobstructed, through miles of green fields and have hundreds of females by his side? Was he trying to head somewhere when he left home the day we forgot to shut the gates tight? Did he return because he agrees that there’s no place like home? Sometimes I wonder what goes through his tiny bunny brain when he sits in the car enduring one hump after another. It must feel like a giant earthquake for his tiny bunny body right?
We always thought love would grow and blossom after time. We’re not pet people by nature, but we’re not heartless too. I have to admit, your lack of affection and inability to withstand cuddles and pick ups didn’t help build the rapport we needed, but in the end, we still learned how to live together. There’s no great love, but there’s familiarity. There’s no inseparable pet-owner relationship, but there’s comfort in knowing that every day, after the endless work hours and the tiresome commute, we’ll come home to your big orange cage and the sound of scuffling feet when you come begging for treats.
I think what I want to say is that as children, we’re doe-eyed and hopeful. We naively believe that love will magically grow when fluffy animals are brought into the game. But when we become adults, we understand that love is not something that can be forced. Time cannot build love if it is not meant to be. The good thing is, we also have the capacity to understand responsibility and take comfort in knowing that some things are not as great as love, but they’re pretty damn great in their own way too. The amount of familiarity, routine, and heartwarming constants a tiny bunny can provide, is in it’s own way, a different kind of love that at the end of the day, make the vet trips, the surgeries and the endless poop cleaning worth it.