God created us as relational beings in need of companionship and when there is less socialisation and companionship, it takes a toll on us. That is why isolation is the highest form of punishment given to high calibre criminals and the lockdown presents a similar scenario.
While some are lucky to have family, for some, the isolation bites hard and matters worsened when obituaries were commonplace. That is where pets come in because they are certainly great for companionship. Even when they cannot talk back, knowing that they are there is soothing enough. “Particularly for those who stay alone or do not have large families, these pets limit episodes of boredom and feelings of loneliness,” Henry Jabo, a pet lover says. To know that there is a living thing that you can snuggle and be with is comforting enough.
Ronnie Habasa, a pet lover shares that they are also great for stress relieving. “With all the depression and loneliness around us, these animals and birds come in handy. In fact, people going through depression have been advised to get a pet. So get yourself a Maltese puppy or kitten just for that soothing effect,” he says.
Children at home are accustomed to a certain routine or programme but are now without class or school and that is stressful. “Without activity, trying to keep them off the TV or phone all day long is a battle. However, having a pet will help keep them busy with say feeding the rabbit, cleaning the bird cage or bathing the dog. In all that, they are keeping busy, gaining more responsibility and are learning several life lessons,” Habasa shares.
After a long day indoors, a walk or jogging with your pet is rewarding. “People now have more time to exercise and in most suburbs, you will find them walking with their dogs as they go about their exercise or fitness regimen. Even children can benefit as they run all over the place trying to catch, say the dog as it leaves the kennel or chasing after the cat. Breaking a sweat is rewarding with a companion,” Jabo shares.
With a leaning to the dogs, Gidi Amahoro, a dog breeder, says in these times where people’s income has reduced, some have resorted to theft. “Therefore, with these pets, you might just foil a theft plan,” he says.
As more people seek for dogs for security purposes or for the purposes indicated above, Jabo says they can be a source of side income for those who happen to get puppies.
However, despite all the above benefits, these pets must be taken care of. With most pet owners leaning to canines, here are some grooming tips for dogs;
Habitat: Before one can look at grooming our pets, we need to ensure where they are staying is cleaned at least once a day. Only then will the grooming make sense. Habasa says, “It is important to ensure your pet is in a clean place by cleaning the kennel of food droppings and every form of excreta, as well as giving it a thorough scrub to ensure no parasites make it a home. The scrub will also rid it of any foul smell,” says Habasa.
Jabo adds that kennels should be wide to allow the dog to move freely within. “If one has enough space, it is better to adopt the practice of having a run or a fenced area where the dog will stay without being kennelled up the whole day,” he wonders.
Shampoo, bathing and cleaning –Jabo notes that pets ought to be bathed at least once a week to help fight fleas and ticks, keep them fresh and eliminate odours. “There are various dog shampoos with different advantages; some are medicated thus dealing fleas and all sorts of parasites, while there are those that are scented to get rid of any foul smell,” he says.
Brushing and combing – For breeds with a heavy coat, Amahoro advises that the owner combs their fur twice a day. “You need to invest in combs and brushes to comb the fur. On the other hand, you can cut off the fur tips on a weekly basis to prevent it from getting tangled,” he advises.
Habasa emphasises that pets are a great responsibility and one should not get one if they are not ready to put in the work because it is now under your care and you are responsible for its entire wellbeing. “For example, you cannot feed your dog on scraps from your table, there has got to be a feeding plan for it. So if you have eaten matooke and groundnuts yet dogs do not eat any of that, will they starve that day?”
Feeding is very important and these pet lovers are emphatic that you should not feed them what you cannot eat. “In the case of dogs, many of us cook for them but in the fast-paced world, many use pellets and there are several brands, which are also available here. However, you need to look out for the local ones, some of which are not up-to-standard and can poison your dog,” Habasa says.
He says if you cook, while mukene is great because of its nutrients, posho is not because these are canines thus survive on flesh. “In my case, with more than six dogs, there is someone who supplies me, on a daily basis, with fresh chicken heads and feet at about Shs2,500 per kilo which is reasonable. With that many dogs, I have also invested in a caretaker to help with the feeding, cleaning and so much more,” Habasa shares.
Rather than posho, Amahoro suggests you give your dogs rice and advises that canines are given raw rather than cooked meat. “The concept that giving them raw meat will make them bite you is wrong. The only thing you need to check out is the source of the meat because if it is not hygienic, your pet may get brucellosis. Additionally, do not feed them with salt, pepper and any other spies as over time, this causes cancer,” adds Amahoro.
Jabo adds that while most adult dogs can get by with one meal a day, if possible one should feed them the right portions, twice a day. “
To avoid possibilities of infection from contaminated food, it is better to feed your canines with human grade food,” says Jabo.
He also advises dog owners to avoid posho and grains as these can potentially contain aflatoxins if not well stored.
Additional pet care
Choosing the right pet – Habasa says this is very crucial as the pet must be one you can handle. “For example, you need not get a dog that does not meet your family settings (space) and temperament. You must consider the breed as some breeds are full of energy and will need space such as a Doberman; it will need to run around. Locking it up will stress you up and will end up digging up your flowers, chewing on the car tyres which will leave you very stressed,” he advises.
Vet and health medical services –Every pet owner must have a good vet on hand and Jabo says it is advisable to have one who is competent and qualified. “Many people masquerade as vets and yet are not qualified. It’s akin to being treated for ailments by someone who is not a qualified and licensed doctor,” he intimates.
Habasa says a standby vet is crucial and reminisces about an incident two months ago when a snake bit one of his dogs. “While the dogs fought it off, it managed to bite one of them and having a vet we could access easily saved the day as he took care of the situation in a timely manner.”
Jabo adds that pet owners should maintain a good relationship with the vet for it comes in handy in emergency cases when one may not readily be able to settle the bill.