Monday, April 11, 2011

Nigerians and their pets - Part 1

Long post. Hopefully it will be worth the read.

From comments on the last post, I thought maybe I tell you all some experiences I had working as a Vet in Nigeria. Yep I was a vet in another life and I soldiered on for 2 years after graduation despite the evil low pay just cause of my love for animals but love doesn’t pay the bills.
So first…contrary to what most of us think. Nigerian pet owners do love their pets and it cuts across all spectrums (what I can see that limits their use of veterinary services is education and the income). For some the pets have been there for so long they are counted as family members (dogs especially, cats are generally maligned as witches …don’t look at me. I love cats).

I have seen grown men yes you heard me grown-ass Nigerian men break down and cry at the death of their pet. I have seen men take days off from work because their dog was sick or cause they couldn’t cope with work after a pet’s death. Yep full blooded macho men! Let me start you off with this story….

Dog vs wife!
Mr. H’s 10 year old his Alsatian ate some poisoned food and was put under intensive care. It was touch and go for some days and Dog B was mostly unconscious. This guy faithfully visited his dog every afternoon. During his visits he regaled us with his bachelor day adventures with Dog B. How Dog B had been with him through hard times and now good times. He would just sit down and rub his back or hold his paws. A grown ass married man. The wife came one of the days and was bitterly complaining like’ haba Mr. H should just let you people euthanize this dog and buy a new one. This dog has lived long enough’. Hopefully she never said it to him in the face cos I don’t think she understands that this dog was there before she and Mr. H got married. Mrs. H just didn’t understand. In fact deep inside we suspected she might be the poisoner.
Dog B recovered. The first time he came out of unconsciousness was in response to his Master’s voice as he persistently called him by his pet name. He opened his eyes and gave one soft woof and a tail thump. Note The dog had  a ‘pet’ name after its regular name. I think that was one of my most touching hospital scenes.

Grass to grace!
Dr. Zee had six Alsatian puppies up for sale. The first three got sold but alas the last three had no takers. And the owner technically abandoned the dogs. Now the thing about selling dogs in Nigeria is people prefer to buy puppies so they can train them. Also buying older dogs comes with its hazards in case they were badly trained or allowed to grow defiant of human authority. So these three doggies remained with us growing older by the day. Dr Zee was loathe to name them cause he didn’t want them getting used to names that new owners mightn’t like. He was also very careless with their food. Remnants from the nearest Tantalizers was their fare (think The Lady and the Tramp)-in case you think that’s cool NO it isn’t. Dogs need clean balanced food too. So the three dogs were not well fed nor were the attendants giving them good care.
Anywho at 5 months one day, a Brit expat walks into the clinic and says he needs security dogs. We showed him the dogs and after inspecting them plus some good sales spiel he bought them. Then went on to do some doggy shopping. From the best dog halters, to combs and brushes, to bags of imported dog food, to dog chews (snack) and toys - these dogs were an amazing grass to grace story.
Sometimes I use it as a prayer God if you could do it for these dogs, you can do it for me!!

Grace to not so grace!
In another story there was Bianca and Tito(male). Two Alsatians bought off us by a certain Mr. D. Mr. D had to leave the country just after the purchase so the dogs remained in our care till he came to take them home for the first time. Now note this was a different vet clinic from the above. In fact let me advertise its Paws and Claws on Ogunlana drive, Surulere.
Dr T loves loves animals and it shows in her care of her patients. For the sake of economy, the doggies meals are homecooked (with the freshest ingredients meat, fish, bone, crayfish veggies, noodles, rice). I am yet to see a dog refuse our yummy food. So Tito and Bianca were on this fare for all of 3 months. They had their morning and evening runs when they get to play and interact with other pups. Tito and I especially got on like wild fire. I used to dress for that dog- cause he just had to bless me with his dusty paws every morning in greeting. No matter how many sharp ‘Tito down’ I said, he would just sneak up behind me jump on me then run around me with gleeful eyes and tongue. Naughty brat.
Anywho Owner finally came back and took them home. Six days after he called to say they were sick. No apetite, diarrhea etc.
We told him to bring them in. The speed with which those dogs ran outta of the car when he arrived belied his words. Tito ran around greeting all his old pals, cleared the plate of food we set before him and ran back into his kennel.
On further questioning, Mr. D explained that they were being taken care of by the Help. Then we understood. Diagnosis- Tito and Bianca had home sickness… lol.
So we had to explain all over again that dogs do need good care. These ones were used to good care. Leaving their care to Helps isn’t always good care.  He had to make an extra effort to supervise the Helps unless they can die on him (scare tactics). He had to bring in the Help to learn our recipe too…at least gradually break them in. The next time we saw him was 2 months later when they came for a vaccine shot. Still the same happy bunch but they knew their home now. They were doing just fine.

Princess has a new home
Mr Y is scared of dogs but needed one cause he and his family just moved into their new home which was sort of lonely. He felt a dog would help with security. We offered him the German shepherd we had available. They are big dogs but quite gentle with kids. You should have seen the way he led that puppy home. Even the puppy was not quite sure what to make of the owner. No pats, no hugs, in fact we had to help him lift the dog into the car. I was scared for the family cause I was like if Dad can’t handle dog, who can?
Answer: The kids can.
They had an appointment in two weeks time and I didn’t believe the confident, waggy dog that walked in with its proud owners- Two girls and a boy age range 5-9. Doggy had been named Princess. The lil madams were the ones giving instruction. No Dr. Ginger, don’t touch Princess there she doesn’t like it.  or ‘No do it like this not like that. She likes it that way’. Princess only eats this she doesn’t like that. I couldn’t complain. Little doggy has got a home!!


  1. aww the stories are really cute. it still amazes me how people get so attached to dogs. Its just so hard or me to like them cos i'm so scared of them. i've considered getting aa little poodle but i'm just too scared plus i know it comes with a lot of responsibilities :/

  2. awwww...lovely stories...and lol @ that ur doggy prayer, but yes, if God can do it for dogs, then He can, and WILL do it for us His children.

    I grew up with several dogs @ different times, cos my mum loves dogs...I only liked them when they wr still puppies though, and would play with them, feed them, give them milk, cuddle, etc...but as soon as they became big dogs, I just didn't like them any more...

    Never knew you are (or were) a Vet...nice to know.

  3. Now you're making me want to change my mind on pets in general and dogs in particular. maybe when the children come sha.

  4. @Kitkat - try Lhasas first please. Poodles as a breed have too many hair issues

    @Anoda Phase - thanks dear..... as soon as they became big dogs, I just didn't like them any too!! and that applies to human babies too!

    @Myne - Alleluia! A new convert:)!!

  5. awwwww, those were incredibly cute stories!
    I need your help adjusting to my family dog. I've been away from home for a while and came home to meet the dogs for 2 months one year, and 2 months another year. I think we got along well. I havent been back in a year. Do you think the dogs will still remember me?
    And my dad also got a new puppy (alsatian) that's growing really fast. How should I break them in and make them comfortable with me...I'm frightened of sharp alsatian teeth.

  6. Just to clarify, we now have a total of 3 family dogs.

  7. Hi Anyaposh. Wow 3 dogs. Who is the dog lover in the house??!! To answer your question - putting on my Vet cap :) - They should remember you. My BIL's dog only met me as a puppy for a month. The next time I was in that house was 18months later, his tail almost fell off wagging!!They do have good memories and remember smells and voices.

    The new one will probably take his cue from the other two to treat you like a friend. Alsies are usually friendly dogs. But take time to treat him especially different from the rest once in a while so he is assured that you recognise him as special too. Dogs get jealous too.

  8. *tears in my eyes*

    I love dogs! I grew up with dogs!! I miss them sooooooo much!

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