|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
28 March - 3 April 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
My friend Paul loves animals. He always fantasises about having a pet on which to lavish his affection. On the other hand I suspect he is rather attached to his daily routine. I often wondered if that was the reason why he could not keep a cat or dog for long. He is a fortunate man, however, because every time he is ready to tear his hair out in misery inflicted on him by his newly acquired animal, he finds someone willing to relieve him of the burden. Recently, he picked up a stray kitten that seemed to want nothing more than a warm house and a secure daily meal. She meowed and cajoled until he finally let her in. For a fortnight they had a perfect relationship. The kitten ate and slept. Paul was happy. That was exactly what he was looking for: a minimum of bother and a loving ball of fur to come home to.
Unfortunately the kitten, now pampered, became demanding. She needed to be caressed but only at certain times and in special ways known only to her. She couldn't care less if her master was cooking his dinner or trying to read the newspapers when she needed attention. She wanted it instantly, and when he did not comply she bit and scratched him. She also objected to his sleeping habits, which extended throughout the night. At around 3.00am she was ready to play, and engaged him by suddenly jumping on his stomach and almost giving him several heart attacks.
Paul knew that he had to make up his mind whether he really wanted to keep her. He could not decide, but one morning, he opened the balcony door and let the cat out into the garden. She shot up a tree and has since refused to return into the house, although he finds her sitting on the doorstep waiting for her evening meal when he comes home. "I guess she did not like being a house cat after all," Paul said a little sadly. "Besides, I think I prefer dogs," he added, rather spitefully, after a while. "Get one then," I advised. But Paul is not so sure. The last time he owned a dog cannot be described as a success story: Several years ago in Paris, a friend approached him and offered to give him the most adorable apricot toy poodle that ever walked the Champs Elysées. Paul was reluctant: he was just doing up his apartment, he really did not have time to walk a dog. Finally the friend gave the poodle to her parents and Paul passed up the chance of acquiring a real gem.
A few weeks later Paul ran into another friend who also had a dog up for adoption. "What kind of dog?" asked Paul. "The most adorable apricot toy poodle you have ever laid eyes on," his friend replied. Paul thought that he should not deny fate twice and, after making sure that the dog was house-trained, he felt ready to make the leap. "His name is Rambo," the friend informed him casually as he handed him the leash. Paul liked the idea of the tiny creature being called Rambo. He didn't think then that there was a hidden reason for selecting that particular name.
They walked home together, tiny poodle and tall master, stopping beside every tree on the way. Rambo sniffed with disdain and pulled on his leash, as if to say, "come on, I don't need to go just now." They arrived home and, as soon as Rambo smelt the freshly painted walls, he went on a rampage. He relieved himself at least ten times before his new master, aghast at the sight of his dripping parquet, could stop him. It did not matter anyway, because this became Rambo's normal way of behaving. "I should have known, when my friend assured me that Rambo was house- trained, that he meant trained to go in the house," says Paul.
From day one, Rambo devoted himself completely to Paul. His love was exclusive and fierce. If his master met a friend in the street and stopped to exchange a few niceties, Rambo barked all the time. If the conversation lingered, he would simply go for the ankles of his rival. When Paul went to work, Rambo howled pitifully until his master came home. The neighbours complained and then threatened. If Paul removed an item of clothing or left his attaché case unattended, Rambo stood guard, growling and showing his teeth to anyone who even casually cast a glance at his master's possessions. It became out of the question for Paul to have company at home. His friends shunned him; his girlfriend stopped returning his calls. Previously, he had enjoyed a buoyant social life. Now he could not even take time for a drink after work for fear the police would have been called to deal with his guest's lament.
Every evening he came home and, instead of relaxing or watching television, cleaned the floors, since the little dog, intent on vindicating himself for the long hours of solitude, left his mark in every corner of the house. Paul was torn between his love for Rambo and his desire to return to his carefree bachelor life. He had been housebound for over two years and was beginning to show signs of deep depression.
Luckily, one weekend, he took his charge to visit friends in the country. Their children fell in love with Rambo and he with them. Paul saw his chance. Having made two children and a dog happy, he sauntered off into the night. He would not have to wipe the floors when he went home. But who was going home? Paris beckoned, and he was free to follow his whim. The next day his friends called. Rambo had bitten the parents hard, a sign that he liked them, and was marvelous with the children. He also enjoyed the garden immensely. And there was that little dog next door... "But you don't feel too lonely?" they inquired with false solicitude.
"You know," muses Paul, "I would be lying if I claimed I did not miss the scoundrel for a long time. Maybe this is why I am only attracted to problem pets."
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