My family has always been dog people. We just love dogs, god damn it. We’ve tried other pets along the way, of course. Finches, fish, a mouse, a turtle I found in the garden (for about two days, anyway, before my grandfather set it free). After one of my sister’s school projects, we ended up with a chicken called Tok Tok, which faithfully laid us a double yolked egg every single day until we came home from school one afternoon to be told that Tok Tok had been taken to a farm to live out her retirement years. If memory serves correctly, we had roast chicken for dinner that night. There is no correlation between these two events, whatsoever. I once found a feral kitten in the gutter outside our house and somehow coerced it into my bedroom. I spent the entire night fighting the damn thing off my face.
We kept Kitty for a while, the entire family nursing cuts and bites and scratches for the duration, but Kitty was not meant for domesticity and after a couple of years she obviously found a better home and settled down with her new family (the only logical explanation for why she disappeared without a trace, and no further discussion on the matter is necessary).
But for the Stathopoulos family, our hearts have always belonged to dogs. I don’t think I need to point this out, but I will anyway. Dogs are special. Scientists have shown that dogs have a unique ability to love, not just human beings, but all other species (depending on how early they are exposed to them). When a dog looks into my eyes, or licks my hand lovingly, or lays it’s paw on my foot or even just leans against me – my heart explodes with love. If yours doesn’t, I’m afraid there must be something terribly wrong with you. Please go and see a doctor immediately.
Our first dog wasn’t even ours. Joshua was a farm dog from the property next to our holiday house in Cape Schanck, but over the years, he lovingly adopted us to (the bemusement of his farmer owner). He was our first taste of how loyal and loving and fun a dog could be.
Our family loved Joshua so much we decided to get a full time dog of our own and ended up with a Rhodesian Ridgeback St. Bernard cross called Duchess. She was a big, imposing dog, and she had a big heart to match. She was definitely our Dad’s dog, but she loved us all and we loved her back.
A few years after Duchess died, we braved another pet and got a beautiful pure-bred Doberman called Jessica. Her tail had already been cruelly clipped when we picked her out, but thankfully we got to her before they snipped her beautiful, velvety floppy ears. Despite looking like a very scary attack dog, Jessica was a gentle soul who would never hurt a fly. She could, however, turn on a deep, throaty growl when she felt it was necessary and she owned a bark that would scare off the most determined burglar. When Jessica died, our whole family was heartbroken and my parents decided that was it. No more Stathopoulos family pets. The loss was just too painful.
Both of my sisters, however, had been bitten by the doggy bug and about a year or so after Jessica died, they both adopted dogs of their own. Mari brought home an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Barnaby. And Pieta co-parented a Staffordshire called Subby with her best friend.
Sadly, Barnaby and Subby have moved onto the great kennel in the sky, but they were both very loved members of the Stathopoulos family. They are both buried in our Mum’s backyard now, which is perhaps a little weird (since the house is no longer ours) but also kinda wonderful that their final resting place is the family home.
Over the years, I’ve always felt a strong desire to add a puppy to my life but sadly, shift work isn’t really conducive to owning a pet, and neither is our tendency to travel as much as possible. My love of dogs runs deep but I am not so selfish as to subject an animal to a life of solitude in an apartment, interrupted only by regular visits to a kennel. The answer to my pet dilemma in Dubai has turned out to be K9 Friends, a doggie shelter in an industrial area, near the port of Dubai. K9 Friends is a non-profit organisation, founded more than 30 years ago, that rescues abandoned dogs (which is a huge problem in Dubai, sadly). K9 Friends’ ultimate goal is to re-home all the dogs they rescue, but sometimes dogs end up staying with them for years, which is so devastatingly sad. I do think what they do is amazing though, because if it wasn’t for them, most of these dogs would end up being euthanised.
Obviously, being a volunteer organisation, they rely on donations and the kindness of dog lovers who generously donate their time to looking after the dogs as well as taking care of the administration side of things. They tend to have about 120-130 dogs kenneled at any one time, so as you can imagine that’s a whole lot of work (as well as a whole lot of poop that needs to be regularly collected). If you love dogs and want to help, but aren’t able to adopt (or foster) a puppy there are a couple of other ways you can assist. You can directly sponsor a dog (or a kennel), and that’s something that David and I would like to get involved with. Each dog costs about 5000dhs a year to house (this includes vet costs, food, grooming etc). The shelter is happy to accept any amount donation, and every cent helps. Another way to help out is to take a dog out for the day, It really is the next best thing to taking a doggo home permanently.
K9’s walking programme has turned out to be perfect for David and me. In the last month we have taken three wonderful dogs out for the day. It’s been such a treat to once again have some canine love in our lives, and I’ve really enjoyed having dogs in the house for a few hours a day (even though they’re not all necessarily completely toilet trained). I also hope that the dogs have enjoyed a break from the shelter as well. It really is a win-win situation for everyone. If you live in Dubai and are a dog-lover, I would so highly recommend that you get involved with K9 Friends and take a beautiful, loving dog out for the day. You never know, you might just end up with a friend for life.