What living with a dog means to me
Note that I use the term “live with a dog,” and not simply just “have one, because that is exactly what being with a dog is like for me and my family: it’s not as much as ownership, as it is really co-habitation. A pet is not just some furniture, or piece of property that you acquire. It is alive, sentient, and – although some pundits will disagree – it has emotions. Living with a dog is a big responsibility. It literally means placing the well-being of another living being in your hands. It’s just like living with another person, only that person is furry, walks on all four’s, and loves you unconditionally.
A dog around the house seems to lend itself to better heart health. I can vouch for this personally. Taking care of a dog – especially if it’s a particularly active breed – requires quite a bit of physical exertion, so you would have to maintain a certain modicum of fitness. Forget the treadmill. If you’re looking for the latest in home exercise equipment, you may want to consider something with four legs and a wagging tail.
The love that I receive from my dog also helps me to stay positive. Experts say that even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the “feel good” chemical, in the brain. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
Pepper my 3 year old labrador is our family’s little giant princess. We take turns feeding and training her – plus the occasional bit of spoilage! She is a very smart girl who loves attention. Whatever affection that we give to her, she gives back to us tenfold. When I step in the door after a long day at work, she welcomes me and treats me as if I’m Ryan Gosling!
Why should anyone bother with pets?
A pet can be just as relevant and important to your home as any member of the family. They become a part of your “tribe.” How we take care of them and value them helps improve the way we interact with other people.
I certainly have noticed Pepper’s positive impact on my kids. Somehow, she has helped them become more pro-social and responsible, not only towards the welfare of others but also towards addressing their own needs. Personally, I can say that our pet has helped me become more altruistic and compassionate.
But despite the widespread awareness on the beneficial effects of pets, animal cruelty is still rampant in many parts of the world – this includes irresponsible ownership. You inflict pain and suffering on your pet whenever you fail to look after its well-being, or worst, when you abandon it completely.
Dr. Nasser Lakhrebani Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Emirates Animal Welfare Society, mentioned in a statement that the Society will be doubling its efforts this year, as it aims to shed a greater light at animal welfare issues. He also encouraged all residents of the UAE to lend their voices in the call for the humane treatment of animals.
Before my family and I decided to adopt a dog, we had to ask ourselves the difficult questions: who will be responsible for feeding, training, walks, exercise, clean-up, vet visits and more? Are we financially prepared for a pet? Will we be able to care for the pet for her whole life? We knew what we were getting ourselves into – a dog would likely change our lives! We needed to be ready.
We are now on our 3rd year of having Pepper around, and despite the initial adjustments and minor incidents, we have no regrets whatsoever. We’ve entered into a whole new relationship with a living, breathing, very needy, and very loving animal. She’s the little daughter we never had.
Taking care of a pet is really just a matter of getting into the routine. In addition to her weekly baths, I also brush Pepper’s coat regularly. This minimizes shedding and allows me to assess her physical health. A dog can’t exactly walk up to you and tell you that she’s feeling a little off, so she relies on you to stay alert for any warning signs.
Food is not the only thing that a dog needs to survive. For us, that means exercising, socializing, and playing with Pepper whenever we could. We also take her out for long drives – sometimes as far as the next emirate. We have her vaccinated yearly and give her deworming tablets every 3 months. I give her raw hide to keep her busy, especially when I leave for work, and special treats to reward her for being a good girl.
Tips for choosing the right dog to live with
Just as you can’t live with just anybody, you also can’t live with just any dog. There is such a thing as a right human-to-dog match, and it’s important that you know exactly the type of dog that you and family will be compatible with.
Make a checklist. Yes, an actual list actually helps. Don’t spare yourself the tough questions. Do I have the time and energy to take care of a pet? Can I afford it? Will the landlord, facilities management, or homeowners’ association allow it? Make sure that you are ready for this big change.
Determine what size of dog is appropriate for your home. If you live in a studio apartment, then you probably shouldn’t bring home a Great Dane. If you are not a physically active person, then you probably shouldn’t bring home a Collie. Pick the dog that fits the way you live, so the transition is less strenuous – for you and the dog.
Train your dog. D ogs are pack animals, and pack animals require strong leadership. The lack thereof may lead to severe disobedience and even destructive behavior. You can have your dog trained professionally, but know that you will still need to dedicate your own time to work with her on a regular basis. Some dogs also need to be socialized from a young age, otherwise they will grow up shy or skittish.
Prepare for the added expenses. Did you know the cost of caring for a pet over its entire lifetime can cost as much as AED 60,000 or more? These costs range from veterinary visits for routine vaccines and teeth cleanings to unexpected illnesses and accidents. All the little things add up, too: microchipping, grooming, leashes, dog bowls, food, flea medication, toys, doggie doors etc. You might also need to hire a dog walker if you work long hours, or leave your dog in a kennel when you go out town. Make sure that you are equipped to shoulder these extra expenses.
Pick the right breed. This is easy enough to do with a bit of research. Again, take your lifestyle into consideration. Many factors may go into this decision, but the bottomline is that you and your dog should both be happy. There is no point in pursuing this new and exciting relationship if you cannot sustain it. Be truthful to yourself about your capacity to care for a dog. Love her and look after her as you would any member of your family. What you get in return is priceless.