In these times of financial uncertainty, it is more important than ever to consider the long-term implications of pet ownership. And yet, when your little ones plead tearfully that they ‘really want a dog,’ it’s tough to dismiss their requests.
After all, just because your children live in another country, doesn’t mean they should forgo the pleasures and benefits of sensible pet ownership, right? Well, your current location does mean that owning a dog, with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, requires careful consideration.
Sofi Longhurst, a full-time volunteer at K9 Friends, Dubai’s non-profit dog rescue organisation, is passionate about rehoming her furry charges, but says people who become pet owners on a whim, even with the best of intentions, are a thorn in their side.
‘We joke that when you come to K9 Friends, we do our best to dissuade you from having a dog, because we want our animals to go to homes that won’t return them a fortnight later. Too often, people fall in love with a waggy tail, only to discover they don’t like fur over their furniture or their shoes chewed.’
Puppies can be a handful, so Sofi encourages the adoption of older dogs and stresses a household where everyone disappears out to work and school is not ideal. ‘Dogs need someone around in the day. They get distressed when shut in a house alone, and can get destructive and noisy as a result.’
Exercising a dog is a dedication that can soon become burdensome. ‘Dogs need an hour’s exercise a day, minimum. If you can’t offer that because of other commitments, then you should rethink your decision,’ she says. Education is high on K9’s agenda and the centre holds talks for schools on pet care and responsibility. Says Sofi, ‘Dogs do make amazing pets, but they also come with a great deal of responsibility, so we’re very happy to educate potential new owners before they take that step.’
Despite the hard work, dogs can be wonderful companions and are great for kids. Jan Errant has two rescue dogs who sleep outside her kids’ bedrooms. ‘My older son, who suffers from nightmares, will often wake up, see our labrador snoring away in the doorway, and drift off again because he feels safe. Having a pet teaches children from a very early age that they have to respect animals. It has been a very positive learning experience for both my children.’
So you think you want a dog?
Consider the following before taking the plunge
1 Dogs need people. If your maid is going to end up caring for the dog while you’re at work, make sure she’s happy with that and involve her in the adoption process.
2 Dogs need exercise; at least an hour of walking every day. They’ll drive you nuts if they don’t get it.
3 Dogs need space. Think about the size of the dog relative to your living space and check that your landlord permits pets.
4 Dogs can be destructive. Make sure you have a secure area where they can be kept when you go out. If you don’t secure the dog, you may come back to an over-turned kitchen bin and chewed valuables.
5 Dogs need regular inoculations. Yearly boosters and de-worming tablets are required and these can be pricey.
6 Are you or your kids allergic? Best to check beforehand.
7 What happens when you leave Dubai? If it’s not possible to take your dog with you, K9 Friends offers long-tem foster placements as an alternative to full ownership.
8 Older dogs are easier. If you really want a puppy, be prepared for a year of toilet training, lead training, obedience training and socialising your new pet. Oh, and make sure you chew-proof your house too.
9 All dogs adopted from K9 are neutered, vaccinated and micro-chipped. A donation is required to cover these costs. Dhs450 for crossbreeds, and Dhs850 for pedigrees.
For more information on pet care, visit www.k9friends.com.
Satisfy your kids’ Dr Doolittle tendencies with these alternatives.
Head down to the Jebel Ali kennels where you can take the pooches for a walk, which is great exercise for the dog – and for you too.
This cat charity cares for stray, domestic and abandoned animals and holds open days at least once a month at veterinary clinics, normally on a Saturday. They’re always looking for volunteers to raise funds, sell merchandise, or just make sure their cats have water and cuddles.
Animal Sanctuary and Petting Zoo
This friendly family farm allows kids to cuddle the rabbits, stroke the goats and feed the ducks. You can even admire the baby baboon and ride a pony. It’s all free, but it is a charity, so donations are welcome.
Exotic Pet Parties
Ever seen a face-painted rabbit or a chinchilla in a plant pot? We have, when we were guests at an Exotic Pet Party. Don’t worry though, the staff who arrive at your home with their creature convoy are well-trained and experienced in making sure all the animals – even mini homo sapiens – are safe and happy. From commoner-garden puppies, kittens, hamsters and guinea pigs, to the more unusual snakes, iguanas, hedgehogs and ducklings, the kids will have a blast and it’s a fantastic way for wee ones to get up close and personal with the sort of creatures they don’t usually come across, teaching them to respect and care for animals.