Malaysian fashion stylist Peter Lum is a familiar face, thanks to TV shows like One In A Million and So You Think You Can Dance. He made a significant life choice recently when Dindi, a sweet toy poodle, entered his life.
“When I first told my family I was thinking of getting a dog, they were totally against it,” Peter shares. “My mum said, ‘No pets for you, I’m babysitting your tortoises already!’ But I researched secretly, talked to friends and learned what it would take to be a good dog daddy without causing trouble to myself or family.”
Peter spent a lot of time reading up on everything from toilet training to the types of diets that are popular. Being new to dogs, it wasn’t an easy task but he believes it was the foundation for his relationship with Dindi. “I wasn’t like, ‘This is cute, let’s buy it’. This was for keeps.”
Thankfully, the tortoises went to a friend who’s crazy about them. What is equally wonderful is that Dindi and Peter fell in love at first sight.
“Life in public relations can be hyper-intensive,” Peter admits. “It’s crazy! So at the end of the day, when I come home and I want to just lie down for a few minutes on the sofa to recover, Dindi is with me.
“When I’m asleep, she wakes me by gently pawing my shoulder. Then she just lies down with me, curled up against me.
“If I’m on my back, she lies on my chest, just watching me. The second I open my eyes, she’s licking my chin. She doesn’t make a sound! She just gives me love. It’s assuring. On stressful days, Dindi’s kind of love makes me feel that nothing can be that bad.”
Curiously, living with the toy poodle has changed Peter a little bit, too. “Dindi’s love makes me a better person. In a world where there’s less love, I’m more tolerant, less likely to snap.”
And there’s a practical application. “I have Dindi’s picture on my phone. When I’m having a tough day, I look and say to myself, ‘At the end of the day, I go home, Dindi and I will play together and everything will be OK. It gives me an incredible sense of peace.”
Peter quite deliberately sought out a loving pet companion to enrich his life but he wasn’t expecting Dindi to act as a health monitor, too.
“I’ve been diabetic since I was 17,” Peter shares. “When my blood sugar is low, like a 3 when it should be 6.6, my energy levels go down. I don’t always know, especially if I’m asleep.
“One morning, Dindi was fussing, refusing to be quiet, and I was like, ‘Let daddy sleep’ but she was determined to get me up. It was quite unlike her. I got up, realised what was wrong and as soon as it registered, Dindi was all quiet again.”
Peter is a practical person, and at first he thought he was imagining it. “You hear of dogs being trained but Dindi isn’t. But this didn’t happen once; it happened again and again and again! When my sugar drops, Dindi will start fussing. It’s not her normal sounds, either. It’s different.”
Peter believes that Dindi doesn’t understand exactly what’s wrong, and she doesn’t know what diabetes is, but he thinks she’s sensing something about his body is changing and therefore “wrong”.
“I’ve no way of knowing exactly what she senses but Dindi is with me all the time, she knows me very well, and dogs have well-developed senses. She’s smelling something. I don’t claim Dindi is 100% accurate. There are days when she misses but then again, she’s not trained.”
They are certainly close. Dindi is a typical young toy poodle: energetic, into everything and super-bright. She’s friendly with everyone she meets, too, but when she looks at Peter, there’s a special softness in her eyes. Together they’re the poster couple for happy dog ownership.
However, Peter cautions that being a pet owner isn’t all sunshine and roses.
“Dindi can be a handful. Sometimes when I’m packing, she’s jumping around, stealing things, and when I’m tidying, she’s busy messing things up. I’ll shout, ‘Hey! Stop that!’ but the affection she gives me is overwhelming. I would never want to be without her.”