Saturday, May 2, 2009

'Paw'ever Friends

I have pets in my house. Technically, that qualifies me as a pet owner but I feel otherwise.

Let me explain.

Firstly, I am referring to two cats who were not brought home by me and for that reason, I probably can say that they are not my pets. Secondly, I am not really a pet person for I am wary of the heavy responsibility that comes along with owning one. Finally, and most importantly, one can never, ever, own cats. They own you!

Having said that, I do love animals.

Stories on animal smuggling and cruelty to them annoy me. A few weeks ago, it was reported that the Indonesia's illegal orangutan trade is on the rise and many of those captured orangutans were sold as pets. I think these people really get the idea of pet-keeping awfully wrong.

Inspiring stories about animals appeal to me (not that I am not moved by a good human story). Somehow, when you know that these animals are, presumably not of an equal status as the human kind in the animal kingdom, you tend to find some of their life stories alluring.

I bought "Marley & Me" a couple of years back, long before it became a top selling novel and way before the crowd discovered it when it was subsequently adapted into a movie. The book tells a story about how a young couple make their way through life with the help of a neurotic dog. Just like the movie "
Departure", Marley's story brings both laughter and tears. It is insightful to look at the meaning of life through the love and loyalty of Marley, even though he is a complete mess.

When president Barack Obama got a Portuguese water dog for his daughters last month, the media chased after the story as if the dog were a star. The First dog, Bo, was an instant hit and the media have been working hard to quench the curiosity of the public. Over here, the Straits Times was also quick to report that there are three licenced Portuguese water dogs, affectionately aka 'Porties', in Singpoare.

A few months ago, Obama announced his promise to get his daughters a dog in exchange for his long absence on the campaign trail. Since then, a Washington publisher had already started work on a book about the dog. Now that Bo is finally here, they are ready, after some touch-ups, to publish the book "Bo: America's Commander in Leash" soon. The book, aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 10 is now available for pre-release order.

The publisher is well aware that people love stories about animals, especially dogs, and better still, the First dog.

A few weeks ago, a colleague reminded me of Faith, a dog I came across some time back. Even though it was not my first encounter with Faith, her amazing and heartwarming story still pulled my heartstrings.

Faith is a bipedal dog. She suffered birth defects and only has two healthy hind legs. She could have died because even her own mom could not accept her. However, she was lucky to be adopted by Jude Stringfellow, who later taught her how to walk, and even hop on her hind legs. Watch how Faith does it, walking on her two legs, just like us!

Faith's story is so inspiring that her owner has been going to places to conduct talks. Jude also wrote two books, "With A Little Faith" and "Faith Alone: Stories of an Amazing Dog" to encourage people with what Faith can do. Even Oprah Winfrey ran a story about Faith. At this moment, a movie on Faith's story is being prepared and I can't wait to see it hit the big screen.

I have come across touching stories of people who are handicapped by birth defects. They put me to shame with the way they conduct their lives as if I was the handicap one. Their stories give me the encouragement and remind me to count my blessing.

Faith's story gives me a different punch to such encouragement because she is a dog. And because she is a dog, I cannot hear what she has to say. Her beady eyes sparkle with so much cheers and there is no sign that she is complaining. Not that she has to.

You can follow Faith's story in her official website and on the Twitter. There are also several fan groups in the Facebook.

As I am writing this, one of our cats is lying next to me. I wonder what she is thinking. Among other things, I supposed she would be thinking that:

"I have a safe shelter and I am luckier than the strays out there

"I will never be as famous as Bo because I don't live in the White House (ever heard of the First cat?)"
"I may not be as inspiring as Faith but I hope to spread the same message that all animals deserve the most basic interest, just like the human beings."

Ya, kitty, you are right.

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