Shizza Khan Aya, who is now a little over a year old, is vaccinated, microchipped and spayed, is good with other dogs, but not very good with cats. Image Credit: Shizza Khan

I had never understood my husband’s desire to own a pet. To me, animals belong in the wild; not in our homes, and certainly not in mine! My very clever husband proceeded to speak to my “socially conscious” side and said that many abandoned dogs were in desperate need of a home and that we could at least foster one.

So that’s how I ended up sifting through catalogues of dogs rescued by Middle East Animal Foundation (MEAF) with my husband, wondering just how he had managed to convince me to this. My husband wanted a medium-sized breed whilst I just wanted something low maintenance.

There was a dog walking around watching us with untrusting, but curious eyes. She seemed unhappy with our intrusion into “her territory”.

“I completely understand”, I wanted to say to her.

I then looked at her and did some sizing up of my own; she was a medium-sized, plain-looking dog. Nothing impressive, except for those strangely intelligent eyes.

No beautiful mane equals no mess, I thought to myself.

I enquired if this one was toilet-trained and it turned out she was. “Great” I thought!

I further learnt that this particular dog was called Aya, she was found in a dumpster as a three-month-old puppy. She was adopted by someone who then turned out not wanting her anymore and in turn surrendered her to MEAF.

Aya would be administered a painless death if she was unable to charm anyone into taking her home again. What a life was that to lead. I had made my mind up.

If we had to bring home a dog, it was going to be Aya. We were warned that she didn’t trust people easily. To me, that only reflected her intelligence further. I mean, who could blame her?

She must have thought of every place she was taken to as her permanent home and felt secure with her now family or “pack”, only to discover later that she was forsaken yet again.

The skills and tricks that she had learnt rendered useless to her since they were no longer valued by her owner. Her way of life suddenly in chaos, survival now a question.

“I like a dog with pride,” I heard myself say.

It turned out that bringing home a proud, intelligent dog wasn’t that easy. We had to first earn her trust but I thought she was worthy of that effort, since humans had taught her distrust in the first place, and I welcomed the challenge.

We went back to the shelter for a few more days and spent some time cautiously throwing treats at Aya from a safe distance. I felt I had trouble trusting her too; until one day, she did the dog equivalent of welcoming us graciously into her home — she jumped up and licked our faces!

She kept lifting her front paws and resting herself on my body like a child yearning to be picked up. It was such a beautiful, radical transformation from that fearful, untrusting dog who liked her space! It was time to take her home.

Once her walls were down, we discovered the delight that was Aya! We play tug-of-war, fetch and chase each other around the house. I can put my arm in her mouth and I know she’ll never hurt me. I guess you could say that my walls came down with hers. In my experience, having her is the equivalent of having a young toddler in the house. Her cries of self-pity when giving her the occasional bath are hillarious!

It is always a “special occasion” when dad comes home from work. We humans might sometimes forget to appreciate each other, but Aya’s here to always remind us how much worthy of love we are. Her intelligence never ceases to amaze me. She deviates from the staircase when we’re on the right floor, leads us to the right door and then steps back because she knows I must enter first. It is adorable to watch her try in vain to pull down the bedroom door handle with her paws. We had never taught her any of this.

She’s very quick to learn new commands and also what she is and isn’t allowed to do. I can see her drool at the food in her plate, but she waits for my command to eat. I have tried extending the wait and she’ll whine and plead sitting right in front of the food, but still not touch it until she hears “eat”! Everyone was amazed as she became more and more beautiful, with her fur turning a dazzling white and brown as we developed a healthy, diversified meal plan for her after some research.

Sometimes, we take her to an open space just to experience the joy of watching her run around with a swiftness that’s probably only rivaled by a cheetah. I could go on and on about the bundle of love, joy and fun that she is. And it so breaks our hearts that we’re not in a position to adopt her ourselves.

We have to leave UAE soon and we are desperately looking for a permanent home for our Aya, who is now 1.5 years old. Wild animals belong in the wild. But, a creature so loving and intelligent definitely belongs in a home! Thank you, Aya, for showing me that.

She is vaccinated, microchipped and spayed, good with other dogs, but not very good with cats. If you would like to adopt Aya please contact Shizza Khan shizza.khan@outlook.com