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Owning a Dog in Nigeria vs the West

Dog pictures: Unknown pet from Nigeria by David Ntul.

Just like many people out there, I struggled with getting the appropriate size of clothes and accessories for my first pet in the UK, a product that was durable and fit for purpose as well as considered safe to use and comfortable for my pet was a paramount concern.

 I hail from West Africa and in Nigeria where I was born, Dogs are kept differently purely because of weather, culture and individual circumstances. Growing up having a pet was what people did without much thought about all the things that are considered in the Western world i.e. insurance, registering pets to a Vet, microchipping, regular vaccination and flea and wormer treatment, clothing, dog grooming and care accessories, feeding and how to toilet train one's pet. Animals live freely and are allowed to leave and come as they please. Regardless of how you love and care for your pet, some things are indeed frowned upon. Things like sharing the owner's bed, bedding or towel were a no-no. There were often hutch, crates or pet spaces made outside the house if the owner could afford them. If not, the pet is happy to stay very close to the house by using the lobby or corridor. They often just took on space and that would be where they were most happy. Other matters about feeding pets a certain type of food or dietary concern weren’t a problem as they were fed what their owners ate and if the owner was comfortable then provision for good cuts of meat on the bone and probably some pet-thinned food would be provided as part of the pets feeding menu. Treats were bones or whatever the pet owner could afford to give the animal.

I felt so lonely, smiled at every dog walker I saw, reminisced over happy times with pets back in my parents house and wondered how it would have been perceived at the thought of keeping a dog in my room.

I come from a very animal-loving community and family, my parents could leave their children hungry for an afternoon or to make sure the pets were adequately fed and sometimes there was more than one dog in the house. Our Dog breeds varied at different times during my childhood. We went from having an Ekuka a group of Nigerian native dog breeds, to an Alsatian. One of the Alsatian dogs we once had as the alpha male of a pack was named “Gaddafi”. As a guard dog, he was as strong as his powerful bark aside from that, he was the sweetest dog you could ever ask for. He was no different from a family pet and he was not allowed to leave the house because such bread was kept at home.

Compared to the United Kingdom, keeping a pet is a very different ball game. When I arrived in the UK I wanted a dog right away, I felt so lonely, smiled at every dog walker I saw, reminisced over happy times with pets back in my parent's house and wondered how it would have been perceived at the thought of keeping a dog in my room as a student. I asked what my family would have made of it.  However, some things stood out to me, regular dog walking, constant interaction to stimulate dogs to help counter boredom, regular treats and how much time was invested in owning a dog or cat. It seemed excessive and expensive but it had its rewards humans derive much joy in doing those silly things as much as their pets do i.e. talking to their dogs or having a little dance with them, agility activities and obedient training gone wrong and another form of joyful interaction. All those things and more give a wealth of happiness, bonding and trust which money can not buy.

image: Tia-Rosey's first day home.

Fast forward years later, it was very much a huge learning curve, one full of challenges and joy while one navigated the part of being a fur parent and making sure to keep on the right side of the law.  

Having contemplated on what size of dog I wanted for a small pet because all the dogs my family had growing up as a kid were mostly huge dogs, I convinced my husband to get a Chihuahua with me. It was quite a deliberation being that he is a cat person. Eventually, he gave in when we first visited our nine-week-old Chi. She was so beautiful and delicate all I wanted to do was to go shopping. On that day while we were on our way back home we visited one of our local pet shops and I must say I bought things we didn’t need and haven’t made proper use of from the day they were bought.

When Tia-Rosey eventually came home at age 13 weeks I realised how tiny she was and that I would have to do more shopping but did not know how to begin. Then I turned to online shopping. It felt like I was plunged into a sea of catalogues with so many images with descriptions looking to entice as many customers as possible. It was impossible to tell the feel of the material, I had no clue how to measure my dog, and it was a conundrum. So I went on to buy accessories according to descriptions and reviews that were online but it was a waste of time and money as they were neither too big nor not fit for purpose. If I got lucky and got one that fits, it wouldn’t be of durable material. I could not return them because I thought it was too much of a hassle and pure waste of my energy on the return process with so much carbon footprint but then I ended up keeping things I would never get to use because my chihuahua size was too small. Either way, there was no way to win a sustainable fight on that front.

As time went on I caught up with the measurement guidelines. Using soft tape I could make sure it was the appropriate size before I purchased any item. But one problem persisted. The materials were what they were and I could not stomach them. I wanted better, more durable and affordable materials, products made of recycled or eco-friendly material and if need be for expensive material like real leather, then I would invest in it. I was fed up with throwing away products that were used twice and were unable to be maintained because it was broken. 


image: Tia-Rosey.

This problem was not a quick fix, it took me countless of time thinking and searching the internet. Making Tia-Rosey comfortable, safe and free to play outdoors in all weather became a challenge. She was such a diva, wet floors were a no-go and carrying her on a walk was not something I welcomed. A dog needs a walk and exercise no matter their body size, they look happier at the end of the activity.

Written by CB Hunt.


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