I have never been a pet person. Having gone through cats, dogs, fish, guinea pigs and rabbits at different points in my childhood made me realize I was not one who enjoyed looking after other animals.

When I moved in with my sisters nearly six years ago, we started out with a fighting fish named “Fishy” by my niece and nephew. After she passed on, we then acquired two turtles, named “Tortellini” and “Petrucchio” again by the kids. I was actually okay with those pets since they were not that demanding in terms of overall care. More importantly, I was not the one in general charge of making sure they were well-fed and kept in a clean tank of water all the time.

This is our Chihuahua named Jacky, who my sister acquired from our neighbor a few years ago. Life has not been the same since.

So imagine my surprise when one day after coming home from work almost three years ago, we had a Chihuahua named Jacky in our house. I soon found out that my eldest sister, who was always fond of dogs, had taken him from our neighbor who had mistreated him. Knowing the challenge dogs posed, I was naturally opposed to it at first but I reluctantly gave in after she promised to take care of his needs.

I knew how much attention and care dogs needed compared to many other pets, especially since I had plenty of experiences with dogs while I was growing up at our ancestral home. I was never good at taking care of animals in general, and my unfortunate experience with a wild guard dog my father later had soon made me fearful of canines in general. Just walking down the street and seeing a dog approach me was enough to get me more jumpy than a crack cocaine addict.

I then started thinking of what lay ahead for me. The incessant barking. The Lincoln Logs and golden pee scattered all over the floor. The extra tasks of bathing, feeding and looking after among others. The cost of getting dog food and other needed supplies. The constant concern of whether to leave him alone at home or take him along during the holidays.

But things changed when I came home one day from work and everyone was out. The house was the usual quiet place with almost no activity. But then, Jacky came running to me at the door and greeted me like a typical dog excitedly greeting his long gone master. I sat on the couch to watch TV later on before I planned to doze off, and he curled up on the couch beside me. Somehow, the sight and sound of the place had changed and I realized that having a dog around the house could actually work.

Jacky’s presence had a surprisingly therapeutic effect, as I was somehow able to unwind and lose my tensions faster with him around. To boot, I finally got over my paranoia with dogs and started to appreciate pets keeping me grounded in a way.

This has even sparked my interest in animal-related shows, which I would have skipped over just a few years ago. One strong favorite is the Animal Cops series, which focuses on the efforts of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to save animals from threats, natural or otherwise. Often, these officers answer calls to rescue animals from abusive or neglectful owners and bring them to court to hold them accountable for their action. In addition, they help animals get immediate medical attention and end up finding foster homes for these animals.

The other show keeping me glued to the TV would be the Dog Whisperer, which stars dog Mexican-American dog behavior expert Cesar Millan as he seeks to help rehabilitate troubled dogs and help their owners become more effective in the process. He is able to show results often within minutes of assessing the dog’s behavior and always gives valuable advice to help the owners keep up a healthy relationship with their pets.

But don’t count on me being an animal rights activist or pet person anytime soon. While I am strongly against the inhumane treatment of most animals, I doubt I’ll be giving up the meat in my diet anytime soon. Beef, pork, chicken, lamb and venison are still fair game to me at this time.

*****

Starting today, I have to practice my culture of selfishness.

The other Saturday, I had organized a batch reunion with my officemates celebrating our first anniversary in the Zynga account. And in a highly unfortunate twist of events, no one showed up. I stayed at the venue for a full four hours by myself, and despite sending text messages received no word from those who had promised to attend. I was in a foul mood for the rest of the night, but that was only part of my recent misery.

The following day, I was informed by one of my officemates that our schedules had been re-swapped without our knowledge and upon arriving at the office later on, I soon found that I was re-assigned to the night shift effective the following evening after I had been on the afternoon shift for only the past two weeks. Not only that, my days off was changed as well prompting me to make some last-minute changes to my plans for the month.

With my personal frustration at a high, I decided then and there that I would have to start being more selfish and reserve my selflessness for those who truly deserved it.

With that, I was scanning my News Feed on Facebook earlier this morning and I came across this classic quote from one of my all-time favorite books, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White:

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

It is a reminder that I can indeed strike the balance between selfishness and selflessness. I just have to remember who goes where and never mix them up again. After all, just like the Earth’s natural resources, what I give comes in limited quantities and should not go to waste ever.

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