By Hannah Jo Uy
I’ve been a dog lover for as long as I can remember. Like many expats in Dubai, the hectic lifestyle, constant travels and…overall questionable pet-friendliness around the UAE made me hesitant to jump from dog voyeur, sharing cute videos on Instagram to whoever would give me the time of day, to an actual dog mom.
A little over six months ago, that changed and being a pet mom for some time now to two naughty little corgi brothers have had its ups and downs. While I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world, I do think that before making the decision, potential pet owners need to sit down and ask themselves these questions….
Do I have the time for it?
Or, perhaps the better question is, am I ready to make time for it? Taking care of dogs takes a lot of time. While I can’t speak for what it takes to care for a cat, hamster or Komodo dragon. I know no matter what kind of pet you have, it will require your time from the moment you wake up to the time that you fall asleep. You need to think of how you can adjust your work routine to their needs, whether for feeding or walking them to make sure they get their proper exercise. You have to make time for cleaning or grooming them. Even if you take them somewhere, coordinate the pickup, and drop off, doing your due diligence, it’s not easy.
Are you ready for fussy barks in the background of your virtual meetings when working from home? Or not being able to take spontaneous weekend trips without taking them into consideration? Having a dog isn’t just about fun Sunday strolls on the beach (though there is THAT) It’s about making sure you’re willing to take time out of your day to pick up after them, clean them, spend time with them, train them and any other thing you might expect from inviting a living soul into your home….except they don’t pay the bills.
This brings me to the next thing you should ask yourself…
Am I willing to make room for my budget?
Pets are not cheap. I’m not simply talking about the additional trip to the grocery to buy kibble or the occasional squeaky toy or cute harness. I’m talking about the veterinary trips. In the UAE, Vet bills can reach eye-watering amounts in a snap of your finger. From regular vaccine appointments to unforeseen sicknesses and accidents that may require greater medical attention, it would not be a stretch to potentially fork out AED 15,000-20,000. While this isn’t the norm, it is a big possibility if you choose to embark on this life – and one you must be ready for, because, dogs will be dogs they play, get injured, get sick, get tumours, upset stomachs and all of the above.
There is also the cost of pet boarding and hotels or doggy daycare for when a particularly hectic work week makes you unable to give your fur buddy the ample time he or she requires or when you go on a business trip or personal vacation.
Perhaps the other most underrated issue, particularly for expats, is whether you're willing to bear the cost of bringing the pet to your home country if and when you decide to leave. Many stray dogs and animals found abandoned, undernourished and wandering the streets across the UAE are a result of owners that have left them because they are unwilling or unable to bear the cost of bringing their pets with them. While the airlines have a long way to go to make pet repatriation more reasonable cost-wise, remember that when these pets come into your life, they are your family; they are not accessories or toys. Would you leave your family in the desert with nothing but a bowl of water in the middle of the desert?
Am I ready to say goodbye to ever having an Instagram-worthy apartment?
A variation of this could be, “am I ok if potentially expensive furniture becomes chew toys?” because they will. I promise you, they will. So if you have an expensive rug, an antique dresser, or an heirloom chair…Count their days.
Or just put them out of reach.
Am I willing to work and live around people who may hate dogs?
Not everyone likes dogs. Hard to believe, but yes, crazy people do exist. Not everyone likes cats or whatever other animal you have decided to welcome into your life. Perhaps friends might not feel comfortable visiting you anymore, or neighbours (even those in pet—friendly apartments) get irritated when they hear barking. When you walk your dog, you may have people that come up to you to pet your buddy, but you also have those that try to shield their child as if they are protecting them from a bear on a leash.
There are restaurant-friendly places where the waiters give your pet a little treat, there are open terraces where they scream in a panic, asking you to leave. At the end of the day, the best part of living in the UAE is that the community is filled with different people from different cultures, beliefs, and personal philosophies towards animals. And when confronted by those who show discomfort, you need to be humble because there are more than enough places to welcome you and your furry friend with open arms.
Do I have the mental and emotional capacity to care for a four-legged soul?
At the end of the long and exhausting day –the type where nothing went right – and your mental and emotional capacity is at a zero, the last thing you probably want to do is pick up poop. Yet, if you have a dog, long days will end with doing just that.
Days when you are dealing with something, and you need to get up from bed to feed them. Days when all you want is a quiet day to get your head together, and you must deal with incessant barking. Not all dogs are created equal either, your friend might have a calm, relaxed dog, while you have one that always seems to have drank 5 litres of caffeine. And you won't know what you get until you live with them. They can't change who they are any more than we can decide to stop being lactose intolerant. So, are you ready for that?
Perhaps the most important question that trumps all the above is, are you ready for unconditional love and adoration?
At the end of those no-good, awful days, while you have to drag yourself to feed them, nothing feels better than having this furry soul stare at you with a look of total love and adoration. Dogs don’t care what you did, what you didn’t do. About your work, your title, or what you’re wearing. They love you, wholly and completely, just because you are. They want to play with you, lick you, and cuddle next to you because that’s the only way they show you they love you. And they do, they truly do. And that’s what makes everything worth it.
So, let me leave you with one last question: do you have enough room on your phone for all the cute photos you will take?