The Osinaikes have been keeping dogs in their Ota, Ogun State home for about 14 years. The family of four has kept a total of six dogs over the period. In this interview, Gbenga Osinaike, erstwhile Assistant Editor at the Punch newspaper and Publisher of Church Times Nigeria, a Christian newspaper, told DAYO EMMANUEL about his dogs. Excerpts
You have kept dogs for some time. What can you say about them?
I have been keeping dogs for fourteen years now. They have been good allies. I remember the first dog we kept was called Doja. I think it was my son who named it if I remember well. It was with us for five or so years.
What breed was it?
It is a mixture of Alsatian and local breed. It was a terror in the community; very wild. My house then had no fence. We just moved in newly. It had its own house, so we used to chain it to the gate of its house. Nobody dared come close to our compound then. There were times we allowed it to roam the compound. There was an occasion some goats strayed into the compound and it killed one of them. Dogs are good allies, they sound the alarm when strangers come into the house and it gives a kind of confidence that nobody would invade the compound. It became old and we had to do away with it. It was so painful.
Did you attempt replacing it?
Yes. Later we had another one named Douglas, it was a full Alsatian breed but it didn’t stay long with us; it died because it had lower resistance. We had others after. There was one too that died. We traveled and we left it with a neighbor. They called us that it was sick. When we returned, we rushed it to the vet doctor. But it died. It had some infections. The one we have now is so wonderful but not wicked. Not as wicked as the first one. We had to name it Doja after the first one. It is so playful. It’s a jolly good fellow. It likes to come around and wants you to rub your hand on its head to feel good. If you don’t put your hand on its head, it won’t leave you. But it is violent at night. There are times it barks aggressively on people it had related well with.
Is it true that children who keep pets grow up to be compassionate?
Well, it is not empirical. I don’t know if there is any research that backs up that claim. But my children are very compassionate. I wouldn’t know whether it is because of the pets we keep but I know my daughter has a special likeness for dogs.
But what makes you feel that dogs are close allies?
It is because even when you beat them when they misbehave they don’t stop liking you. That is one interesting thing about dogs. Even if you almost kill them they will still come around you. But there are exceptions. One of my uncles had an Alsatian that attacked him. I guess it was a mental case. Some dogs do have mental issues. Sometimes when dogs grow old they could lose their memory and tend to attack known people.
Have you tried cats?
No, I don’t even like the sight of cats. I remember growing up my grandmother used to have a cat in the house.
How do you advise pet owners on keeping pets?
One thing about pet-keeping is that you have to create time to give them attention. Then you need a compound of your own, not a rented apartment because they can even attack other tenants.
What is the best food for dogs?
They eat normal food as they grow. When we had Douglas there was a canned food we used to buy. There is also a special kind of indomie noodles for dogs. It is only when they are puppies that they take milk. But as they grow they eat normal food.
How expensive is keeping dogs?
It is expensive if you don’t have a place where you can get free food. If you live very close to an eatery where you can get free food for them or you live close to places they do parties often you may not have problem. If you are on your own and you don’t eat at home, you don’t have left over it can be very expensive. You have to cook separately for them. When we cook we have to factor them in.
How many times do they eat or how many times is it advisable for them to eat daily?
They eat once. My own dogs eat one main meal. But when they are small they eat twice.
You’ll find out that most times most people don’t keep pets
Keeping pets is a way of adding value to the economy. If you don’t keep dogs for instance some vet doctors will not be in business. Though there are other things vets do but most veterinary doctors make money from those who keep pets. The dog market is big business. Vets would give them injection, treat them. In fact when you give dog an injection it’s not for the dog per see but for the person administering the injection because the money goes into the pocket the vet doctor who gives the injection. They have a special shampoor we use to bathe them. When you buy such shampoo you’re helping the economy. If you don’t keep dogs and everybody doesn’t, a sector of the economy suffers. That is the way I see it.
Many people don’t keep dogs again like before. Do you see a time dog population would drop and possibly face extinction in this part of the world?
Well, keeping dogs goes side by side the economy. The better the economy the more people keep resources for some other things. You know in developed countries you can’t just leave your dogs to stray around while you are not home. The laws for keeping pets are stringent. They don’t allow their pets to roam around. They give them ultimate care. You see them cloth their dogs, bathe them, walk them round on weekends. They have time for them. Here who cares? We reason that man has not eaten dog is eating. You have not slept a dog is snoring. I think if the economy is good, there would be leftovers for dogs. And you know we have dog eaters. They would rather eat dogs than keep it. The poorer the economy the more violence