They say a dog is man’s best friend. Dogs are loyal, trustworthy, guarantee you lasting companionship and would follow you over a cliff. It is for this reason that today more than ever, Nairobians are adopting pets into their homes and welcoming them as wonderful additions to their families.
They spend money buying and maintaining these pets and some even confess to being so attached to them that if anything happened to them, they would be devastated.
Catherine Macharia calls her dog ‘my little son’. Christened Flappy because of his sizeable ears, the three- year-old white and brown terrier spitz is joined at the hip with his mistress Catherine, who takes him with her everywhere she goes.
“I grew up in a family that loved dogs. Flappy was a gift from my nieces,” she says “Since I am alone, I am not married and I have no children, I thought why not? A dog would be great company. I wanted to take care of something in my life. In my heart, I was longing for a puppy,”
According to Catherine, Flappy has provided companionship and given her more joy than she could ever imagine. It is for this reason that she would do what it takes to make sure her worthy company is well taken care of, at any cost.
“Besides the usual wash, I take Flappy for grooming every two weeks for a thorough wash, haircut and clipping of claws. I actually pamper my dog. This costs me about Sh1, 000 per session,” she says.
Flappy, also goes for deworming every three months and has a rabies jab once, annually. He sees the veterinarian every three months for a routine medical check-up, besides every other time he falls sick.
Catherine is so serious about Flappy’s health that she actually keeps a special file for him that includes all his documents such as veterinary invoices.
“Normally, a single veterinary consultation costs Sh1,500. The medical bills are usually dependent on what he is ailing from. But the last time we were at the veterinary, I spent Sh5,000. Thank God Flappy is not a sickly dog,” says Catherine.
Flappy’s diet usually includes dog ugali, dog rice and boiled meat, which Catherine prepares in her kitchen and stores it in the freezer to be given in small bits.
He eats once a day at around 6pm, although Catherine gives him several treats throughout the day such as dog biscuits, water and milk. A two-kilo bag of dog flour costs Sh300 and a similar bag of rice Sh200.
Flappy’s monthly diet budget is roughly Sh3,000. Besides the dog food, Flappy is fed on vitamin supplements to keep his fur coat soft.
Catherine admits that she is attached to Flappy mostly because of the difference he has made in her life. Besides the company, Flappy is also a recreational partner as the two companions walk around their estate every evening.
“We are tight,” says Catherine, “He filled a gap in my life. He is not my everything but he is something in my life. He loves to play, and wants to play all the time and playing together has given me so much joy. I honestly don’t know what I would do if Flappy was taken away from me,” she says.
So deep is their friendship, that Catherine, a TV producer, takes her dog with her to work. Her colleagues not only love her dog, but also offer to take him for walks in the afternoons when Flappy needs to stretch.
“He is very well-behaved in the office. Dogs love to sleep so when he is not playing, he is sound asleep under my desk,” she adds.
Like a good companion, Flappy is especially protective of his mistress, and anyone who approaches Catherine with ‘bad energy’ will get a rare dress down in the form of endless barking.
“He gets violent if he feels I am threatened. Dogs work with energy and can I tell if somebody has bad energy depending on how Flappy reacts,” she says.
Many people might find Catherine’s relationship with her pet a little awkward; given the hassle she has to go to make him comfortable.
But she insists that Flappy is not only worth her while, but every effort geared to making him comfortable does not go unappreciated by the pet.
“It is fun to have a dog. People who don’t own dogs would not understand. Dogs are not difficult to care for, I have seen with Flappy, who is independent and loves his space so that he can sleep,” she says.
Dr Anderson Gitari, a veterinary doctor at The Andy’s Vet Clinic says that a good number of middle-class and upper class Kenyans are increasingly adopting pets and spending a lot of money maintaining them.
These families not only keep pet dogs, but also horses, cats and other animals and invest a lot of time and money in ensuring their comfort.