The matriarch, the knight and the gentlemen
A proper reminiscence of my childhood would be incomplete without mentioning the dogs that gave all my siblings and me so much joy and sorrow during our formative years.
Some of them were given to us, some were born at our farm and some wandered in and decided to stay for good.
Possessive and attention-seeking with a domineering personality to match her hefty weight, Cabby takes the throne for being one of the most unforgettable pets that my family has ever kept.
All in all, we must have kept a succession of more than 20 dogs, mainly beloved mongrels.
Cabby, a dachshund, had a go-getter, Type-A sort of personality and lorded it over all our other dogs at that time, including Chi-Men and Or-Pee (who are featured below) despite her height, or rather, the lack of it.
Her daughter, Xiao-Bai, in fact was so terrified of her that she would immediately roll over submissively and lie on her back with her four legs up in the air whenever Cabby displayed the slightest disapproval.
Xiao-Bai, incidentally, was a slim, demure, black and tan dachshund, but we, in trying to be contrary like many children do, gave her a name which means “Little-White”.
At least we got the “Little” part right.
By virtue of Cabby’s ample girth, her natural affinity to seduce and charm Chi-Men and Or-Pee, both being full-blooded young males, possibly her seniority and very likely an overdose of compensatory pompousness as a result of her lack of height, she was unquestionably The Matriarch.
I hope that answers the question of who headed the pecking order.
Cabby kept a stern eye on her subjects, but she became a marshmallow amongst the two-legged ones.
She knew she had a special place and she demanded it.
She slept inside the house on a floor-mat which none other could lie down on, shaking her head and flapping her long ears every morning without fail as the household roused from slumber and birds began singing their dawn chorus.
When the weather got hot, she would move herself to the cool floor outside the bedroom door and enjoy the air-conditioning that escaped from the room from the tiny space between the door and the floor.
As predictable as the sun rises from the east every morning, Cabby had certain routines that she adhered to, like any good alpha female worth her salt.
Somehow, it was comforting to hear the flip-flapping of her long ears against her head every morning as we rubbed our bleary eyes and got ready for school.
I used to play a couple of cruel tricks on her.
One of them was this.
Knowing that she was nearby, I would call her name ever so tenderly and pleadingly and The Matriarch would, without fail, coyly amble up to receive affection of some sort.
I would continue calling for her as she came right up to me, without acknowledging her presence despite knowing that she was ready to receive some TLC.
I would continue to pretend not to notice her diminutive figure, quickly turning around in arcs and earnestly scanning the horizon for my dear little dog, and all the time continue calling for her beseechingly and somewhat desperately.
This was easy to achieve since, well, she was only as tall as my knee then, if I remember correctly.
And the poor girl would get more and more frustrated at my stupidity, turning in circles along with me while wagging her tail furiously.
Finally I would “accidentally” look downwards and spot her, give a huge exclamation of happiness and shower her with tons of love and affection to make up for the “loss of face” and suffering caused.
This melodrama was repeatedly played out many times, with slightly different variations but always with the same happy ending.
It was always a great success in terms of the emotions invested and happiness reaped by both willing parties.
Hmmm… Now I’m beginning to have doubts if Cabby was merely playing along with a silly child all the while back then.
My siblings and I used to imagine seeing black dots up in the sky, convincing ourselves that those were our dogs that had died and gone to heaven and were looking down at us.
Perhaps Cabby was indeed having the last laugh from up above.
As you can see, Cabby ruled her loyal four-legged subjects with an iron fist and loved her two-legged friends with all her mighty heart.
Oh yes, she is a one-of-a-kind dog and I think we will all remember her for life.
And of course there were also our dearly beloved mongrels.
Chi-Men, the strong and muscular, good-humoured knight in furry white armour with a funny pig-like curly tail who often took the lead in their many adventures.
And Or-Pee, with his dandy, laidback, gentlemanly demeanour, glad to stay in the background and charm us with his natural gracefulness.
Come to think of it, Chi-Men might have had a touch of Labrador in his blood. Whether he did or not, my favourite breed of dog remains the “fried-rice breed”, a.k.a. the mongrel which gets a bit of the best of everything from everyone, don’t they?
Of all the dogs that I have come across, mongrels are the smartest and hardiest type of dogs.
Anyway, I digress.
Chi-Men got his name a name from a popular movie (奇门遁甲 – Qi Men Dun Jia) which was showing in the cinemas when he came to us, while Or-Pee literally means “Black Nose” in Hokkien.
Although both Chi-Men and Or-Pee did succumb to Cabby’s irresistible enchantment, they never fought for her attention.
They were the best of friends who shared weal and woe together.
I miss them all, even if I didn’t know how to cherish them back then and now I know I should have given them better lives.
Every single one.
This entry first appeared on the Singapore Memory portal. Share your cherished memories of your pets with us today!