Shitika Anand volunteers for dog-walking on a warm Saturday morning with K9 Friends, and makes two new furry pals in the process
Anyone who has walked their four-legged pal past me in the 27 years of my existence will have witnessed my indescribable obsession with dogs. Little hairless wonder good enough to fit in a handbag, or massive bullmastiff, I’ve never discriminated when it comes to how much of my love I give to these beautiful creatures.
So when fellow Time Outter Matt Fortune and I were en route to K9 Friends’ shelter in Jebel Ali to spend our day with some of their rescue dogs, naturally I had my head out of the car window, tongue wagging in joyous anticipation of the cuddles that were to follow.
But my dreams are somewhat shattered when we find ourselves driving around in a loopy pattern through Dubai Investments Park and Jebel Ali. Turns out, K9 Friends Dubai is doing everything in its power to stay unlisted on Google Maps. Why?
“We don’t want people dumping their dogs on us when they decide to leave the city or get bored of being a pet owner,” one of the volunteers explains to us when we arrive at the discreet location.
K9 Friends is a non-profit shelter that rescues abandoned dogs and helps them find new homes. And for those unable to adopt, the organisation’s volunteer dog walking programme is perfect for canine-lovers.
The process is swift and great for a family day out – all you have to do is book an appointment at the shelter and you’ll be given a dog for the day. After discussing the animals’ behavioural patterns, personality nuances and how they are around cats and children, you’ll be handed the leash, emblazoned with “Adopt Me”, so you can take the dog to your car and then to a lush green dog-walking destination – K9 Friends’ shelter is located in an industrial area not conducive to dog-walking activities.
When we arrive, we spot Kenzo, a ridiculously handsome eight-year-old desert dog, patiently waiting to greet us. The volunteer handing him over to us tells us that he’s wearing a special doggy aftershave for the occasion. I’m smitten.
Kenzo was rescued from a warehouse earlier this year, where he was left abandoned by his owners. While I’m not emotionally ready for this sad background story pre-coffee and dog cuddles on a Saturday morning, this is the kind of truth you have to come prepared for when you commit to a day of volunteering at the shelter. Every dog here is rescued, and each one of them needs a loving home.
I instantly attack Kenzo with my bowwow version of baby talk and he abruptly finds refuge under Matt’s knees. Okay then (you hide now Kenzo, but I will find you for hugs later). We’re joined by friends from Dubai Eye radio station, and upon arrival, presenter Stef Burgon asks if we can take another dog for a walk. Our wish, their command. We’re given the world’s coolest and calmest dog, Moon Pie. This beautiful grey-eyed salt and pepper puppy is only three years old, and I’m convinced he’s hardcore into meditation. How can a puppy his age be this mellow?
We get the dogs into our two cars and head to the lush gardens in The Greens. The dogs leap out and have a jolly time playing in the grass, jumping on shrieking kids (who love them), throwing shade at stray cats and panting their way to the coffee shop.
Both Kenzo and Moon Pie are incredibly disciplined – neither one of them lets out an unnecessary bark and there’s no pulling on the leash. Even though rescued and loved at K9 Friends’ shelter, these kennel mates know how to behave in a public space.
We pause for coffee, give water to the pooches and then continue our walk, when I finally get my moment for cuddles with Kenzo. He gets me now. It only took him two hours to warm up to me, but isn’t this how great relationships start?
As we realise it's time to take the dogs back to the shelter, a sadness clouds over me. If Kenzo and Moon Pie have the power to connect with my soul in just a couple of hours, imagine what they could do if you had them for life…
For adoption, fostering, dog walking and volunteering information, contact K9 Friends. Open Sat-Thu 9am-1pm, www.k9friends.com (04 887 8739).
Four to try
Playtime spots for pets in Dubai
This dedicated park in The Greens development by Emaar is free for all pet owners to use and is open 24 hours a day. As such, it’s a popular spot, so expect there to be a lot of dog traffic during peak hours of play time.
Street 6, The Greens (04 457 4854).
This centre offers pet-sitting services complete with overnight accommodation for your dog if you’re planning on leaving town for a few nights. For Dhs95 a night, your pooch will get food, play time, a bath, a mani-pedi, ear cleaning and unlimited cuddles.
Street 8, Al Quoz Industrial Area, www.woofdubai.ae (050 378 7486).
My second home Dubai
This is the world’s largest indoor dog park with indoor and outdoor pools for puppies to have a splash about when in their home away from home. This luxury pet resort and spa also offers overnight suites for pets.
Dubai Investments Park 2, www.mysecondhomedubai.com (04 881 8002).
Urban tails pet resort
All dog suites at this pet resort come equipped with plasma TVs and play soothing tunes on the Bose surround sound system. Leave your pets here when going on a holiday, see if they miss you at all.
Dubai Investments Park 2, www.urbantailsdubai.com (04 884 8847).