One of the hardest things about relocating is saying goodbye to friends. Making a dinner date with my neighbour Kim was especially difficult as she was Tic Tac's rescuer.
Kim is not a rescuer, except she usually has a doggy that's between homes. Like Kenzo, the Husky who howled me out of bed at midnight a year ago, who went to a wonderful forever home. By all accounts, he is having a grand time and making many friends.
So when I crossed the street, I wasn't surprised that Polo, her Malamute, was flanked by a little Maltese and a big Dachshund.
Polo rules her home with a firm paw, and she is the one who greets visitors. So while Gucci, the Maltese, and Wizkey, the sausage dog, held back and woofed nervously, Polo stepped up and accepted an ear rub gracefully.
Reassured, Gucci came closer but Polo gave her a hard stare, and the little furry backed off. Wizkey didn't even try. He seemed tense and as many rescue dogs have been treated badly, I simply nodded hello to him.
Kim got me caught up on their history in the car – it's the usual story of owners buying a puppy on impulse and then dumping, but what interested me was that Polo's usual generous spirit was low.
Malamutes are huge. They were bred to pull sleds loaded with freight across the Arctic Circle, and if she wanted to, Polo could eat those two puppers in a heartbeat. Actually, she could eat me in a heartbeat!
But Polo has accepted dog after dog in her home with grace. OK, the occasional growl, but even the nicest girl has the grumps sometimes.
So I was surprised that Polo was cold towards Gucci during the drive. No growling or anything, just a bit of a grumpf.
I put it down to a bad mood; dogs have their ups and downs just like us, but when we reached the cafe, Polo refused to exit.
Big dogs can be slow, so I went inside with Gucci and Wizkey.
Gucci approached me nervously, sniffed, was intrigued by the sprinkling of cat hair that always decorates my wardrobe, and decided I was a friend. He hopped up on my lap, and sat there, enjoying his ear squizzles.
Glancing out the big window, Kim cajoled but Polo sat on the back seat, paws firm and pretending not to hear. If you've ever seen a sulky toddler or teen, you'd have recognised the look.
Kim tried. Dewi, her cafe manager tried. And at one point, I went out and asked too. But Polo gave us all the cold shoulder.
You can pick up a terrier, you can wrestle a retriever, but moving 35kg Polo would take a squad of commandos. As the 69 Commando (an elite multi-tasking special forces unit of the Royal Malaysia Police) were not on hand, we left her in the car.
It baffled me, until Kim shared that Polo was jealous.
Kim's manager, Dewi, has a pampered little white fluff called Princess. When Gucci arrived and hit it off instantly with Princess, Polo wasn't fussed. But when the two furries started hanging out together with Dewi, Polo felt sidelined.
Polo was having a massive snit. As it was dry, overcast, and cool, we let her stay and we watched from the window.
We thought that pretending to be OK with the situation would turn the big dog around. But she sat there, solid and unmoving.
Passers-by stopped to admire, but Polo ignored them. Then a dog walked by, and Polo barely glanced at it.
It began to get to me. I wondered if she were unwell. With big dogs, it can be hard to tell. But Kim said she was eating well, drinking properly and as Polo is meticulously groomed and also petted constantly, there were no skin issues or sore spots.
Silence is an excellent weapon because it works. As Polo sat unmoving, our tension rose.
As the clock ticked on, we considered we might be wrong. We were just wondering if she had arthritis – she is six and a large girl – when Polo stood up and smiled. Her friend, the car jockey who sometimes walks her, had arrived.
Seeing him, Polo bounced out of the car and loped off, tongue hanging out and prancing joyfully. Fifteen minutes later, she joined us, ears up, tail wagging, and acting as if nothing had happened.
Polo greeted her friends and admirers in the cafe, and finally nosed me in a friendly way. But as we chatted, she side-eyed Gucci on my lap. Thankfully, the Maltese was sensible, lying down and pretending to be invisible.
When we had finished rubbing ears, scritching tailbones, and running hands over her spine – Polo's favourite petting spots – she lay down by the counter.
It's an ace position as anyone passing by can see her. Polo isn't daft; she pretended not to notice, but as passersby stopped to gawk and admire, Polo preened secretly.
Seeing her, I had to laugh. Malamutes are often portrayed as rough and tough working dogs but Polo is clearly a sensitive soul. Or, as Kim observed with an eye roll, a diva.
At home, Polo will have to share a little with Gucci and maybe Wizkey too for now. Happily, Polo and her mum were invited to the SPCA Selangor World Animal Day party.
Surrounded by admirers, it was crystal clear that Polo was in her element. She smiled, and posed nonchalantly for the cameras.
With her pristine white fur, large expressive eyes, and sweet black nose, she looked every inch the star. There wasn’t a hint of diva; Polo had assumed her rightful position: A shining sun in the centre of attention.