Living alone with my dog and cat

Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.

– Honoré de Balzac, French novelist

When I go home after work at night, Cookie and Mimi are waiting for me. Cookie, my pet dog, waits for me in the car porch while Mimi, my pet cat, sometimes waits for me along the lane leading to my house. Both are local breeds.

Until the end of February this year, besides Cookie and Mimi, my mother also waited for me. Then the old lady died and is gone forever but not from my heart.

Living alone initially, albeit with a cat and a dog, is not easy. I miss the noise that comes from a big family and big groups of people sitting together for meals. Yes, I came from a big family. The second eldest child in my family, I have an elder sister, two younger brothers and two younger sisters. Until a few years ago, nephews and nieces used to live with me, too.

A big family is a noisy one. Yes, there were times then when I wished I lived alone and had more privacy.  But now that this wish has come true, I find living alone is not that fun.

Thank God, I am still working, so I have a healthy work-life balance. When I am working, I concentrate fully on my job and when I am home, I focus on household chores and on Cookie and Mimi.

Never mind that there’s no else at home with me except for my dog and cat. I can video call my sisters and my friends anytime I want and talk about everything under the sun with them. Although we are hundreds of miles apart, we are just a phone call away — thanks to modern technology.

But when you live alone, it is hard to cook for one person. Hence, I am always happy to bring extra food to the office and share it with friends.

It is also not fun to eat alone. Good food is even nicer if it is enjoyed together with family members or a group of friends. I am told that some people avoid eating alone because they are not brought up that way. Eating is considered a social activity in most cultures and you may be considered to be anti-social or even greedy or selfish if you eat good food alone without inviting others.

When you live alone, it is not fun to be sick. There is no one to fuss over you by bringing you porridge or a cup of hot milk or medicine. When you live alone, you have to take care of yourself when you are sick.

“I don’t want to live alone,” a friend once told me. But what if you are forced by circumstances to live alone? Since we are born alone and we die alone, I think we have to be prepared at some stages of our lives to live alone. We must love our own company so we can live alone and live well

A nephew, who was quarantined for two weeks in a local hotel after coming back from official duty in Malaya, told me about a girl in quarantine who cried every night in her hotel room. The girl apparently had never lived alone or stayed alone.

To be quarantined in a hotel room for at least 10 days while waiting for the second swab test to be negative can be very distressful for many people. My younger sister’s friend was quarantined in a hotel room with her husband when she returned to Sarawak after visiting her son in Johor Bahru.

She was so bored with just eating and sleeping after a few days that she took over the job of cleaning her hotel room from the housekeeping team.   

I have no problems living alone or sleeping alone. As a former staff correspondent of the once weekly Brunei–based Borneo Bulletin, I had my fair share of travelling to Iban and Kenyah longhouses in Sarawak. These trips often began and ended with short stays in hotel rooms.

Nevertheless, I thank God for Cookie and Mimi. With them around, I never feel lonely. To me, they are more than a dog and a cat. They are my friends in life. 

I am lucky to live in a busy neighbourhood. Before I sleep at night, I make sure I lock the gate and if there’s any strangers lurking around, Cookie will bark loudly and keep me safe.

So, my friends, if you feel you are lonely, keep a cat or a dog. They will keep you company and keep you busy.