That Time I… got my first pet


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A white toy poodle prancing in a field while the sun sets.

By Nanette Nkolomoni, Opinion Columnist

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was six years old when I got my first pet.

My brother and I spent years begging and bugging our mother for a dog. She would refuse: “Who will take care of it?,” “Neither of you are responsible,” “It’ll make a mess!” 

We stayed persistent. “We’ll take care of it, we’ll walk it after school, please please please” we would say. 

The funny part of this all is that I was terrified of dogs. I found them cute to look at but most times whenever I encountered one, I would either run behind my brother, mother or any person near me. I would only pet a dog if the owner agreed to hold its head facing the opposite direction of me. 

One day, my father took my brother to get a haircut and I tagged along. While we were in the barbershop, I was using my brother’s phone to play games when suddenly my mom called. 

“Hey, I got you two a dog,” she said. 

I screamed “What?!” Then I looked at my brother and told him the news, “Mom got us a dog!” 

We were ecstatic. My father had a very confused look on his face, you could tell he was thinking that there’s no way she would agree to this. 

I come from an African household. If you know anything about that then you know that a lot of us don’t do the whole owning pets thing. It’s rare.

On our way home from the barbershop, I called my mom and I asked her to hold the dog before we came in. 

We entered the house and there he was. The tiniest whitest harmless toy poodle stared me in the face as my mom was holding him. I was in complete awe.

I asked my mom, “Where did you get him from and what will we name him?”

She got the dog from her co-worker and we decided that we would name him Chico. 

She finally put Chico on the floor, and I immediately got tense. Every step he took closer to me I would move farther away. “You asked for him and now you’re scared?” my mom said.

“He’s a small puppy, he won’t do anything to you,” my brother said.

I refused to get too close to Chico and hid in my room. 

“You know he’s gonna be staying in here right?” my mom told me. I cried. 

At the time, my brother and I slept in bunk beds. I was on the bottom bunk, and he was on the top bunk. I made him switch with me in fear of Chico climbing into my bed.  

I told myself I would have to get over this fear eventually. He’s living with me, I begged for him and now I have to deal with it. It didn’t take too long until I fell in love with him.

He was the most energetic dog ever. Frequently jumping on top of me whenever I would get out of bed, Chico became my best friend and walking him to the park was one of my favorite things to do. 

In no time, the entire household grew fond of him. He was part of the family. 

My grandmother had a special bond with him, and although she would never say it, I knew she loved him. She would often sneak him food and treats. So many times when I would look for him in the house, I would find him sitting right next to her. Sometimes, when my brother and I weren’t giving Chico enough attention, my mother would threaten to give him away and my grandmother would be the first one to oppose. 

Chico remained with us for 11 years before dying of old age. It was hard for us to process his death at first but thinking of all the memorable moments and happiness he brought into our lives made things easier. 

Forever ingrained in my mind and heart, I will never forget the day I got my first pet and the happiness he brought into my life.