Folake Odebode is a dog lover who is so familiar with dogs since the 1960s. In this interview with DAYO EMMANUEL, she relays her experience with her dogs and advises the government on necessary regulations that were in place in those days which are no more. She also advises dog owners who do not have time for their dogs to desist from owning pets. She also told the story of how she refused a buyer’s N150,000 for her expiring slant back Alsatian. Excerpts:
What do you think is special about dogs?
I like dogs because they are kind, loyal lovely, caring, they live their lives to please you and so many other things I may not be able to express. There are so many beautiful things about dogs. I don’t raise aggressive dogs, I don’t like dogs as guard but as pets, members of the family.
I like children and I find out that dogs are like children, what they do, their behaviors, especially when they love you and they are trying to entertain you. They have a sense of humour, they are just like a little person in their own way. I used to have a dog called Flappy, if it’s in a sad condition, no matter what you do to it, it just gives you a look like ‘you that you didn’t do this for me why are you calling me?’ They have moods and it’s just funny because I like to be around them. I just love dogs and I know that dogs respond to love, they know when you are fake, they know when you are real, they can relate with you. Some people say a lot of spiritual things about dogs, I don’t believe all of that, I believe whatever you give to a dog it gives back to you. If you give dog aggression it returns same to you, if you give a dog some love, it returns same to you, which is my understanding of how a relationship with dog works.
Can you relay any touching experience you had with any of your dogs?
So many experiences. I had a dog I named Jacky. He was such a wonderful Alsatian, a full Alsatian. He knew everything about me, he knew when I was in a bad mood, when I was happy, it could really read me. This dog was by my side always, it loves to go out with me. It was just one of those unique special dogs you bond with. I actually bonded with it. I remember when the dog was tired and old, I remember someone offered me N150,000 to sell the dog because it was a slant back Alsatian which was one of the rare species around then, that was 15 years ago. I couldn’t do that. Anyway, when it passed, I was devastated. I didn’t know that the death of a dog cold be like that. I cried and cried. I missed that dog and that was when I realised that they are not just pets but part of the family, part of our lives; sharing beautiful moments. Well, all I can say is that when you have a dog as a pet, its part of the family and you share beautiful moments with that dog.
Have you had any bad experience with your dogs?
Years ago I had a dog called Jack, I just finished bathing it, I left it on a leash and left it in front of my house for the fur to dry out a bit before bringing it in. To my surprise, before going to bring it in, the dog had gone! I was worried, we were living at the Ikeja Air Force Base then. I went to report. As I was returning, I met a friend and explained, she said there is a place by airport road that they sell dogs in those days. He said he heard someone looking for her dog and found the dog there. Immediately I turned the car and headed to the place she described and lo and behold, I got there it was my dog. It was beaten and I saw traces of blood on it, as it saw me, it was barking and I went there, unleashed it and asked who brought this dog here. They said someone just brought it and left, of course, the way the dog was happy to see me made them realise it was my dog. So I unleashed the dog and took it to a vet and I heard the police was going to prosecute the people but eventually I realised it was my house help, a young man working with me then who the dog was familiar with, he was the one that took the dog to them and I got my dog back. I was even petting it, but it was the one now petting me. It was so uncomfortable for me, I was crying seeing my dog in such a state but I thank God it ended well. I don’t allow people around my dog, I don’t allow abuse, I treat my dogs as members of my family, apart from that, I don’t have any bad experience.
It appears you have had several dogs at different times, can you remember how many dogs you have owned?
I have had like six dogs that stayed very long with me. I grew up with dogs, one was called Ceaser, the other one Princess, those ones I can’t remember how long they lived but they usually live till old age; till they have grey hairs. But after that I got married things changed because my husband does not like dogs at home. Eventually I had my way and I had Jack. It lived I think seven years and it had skin infection, it could not eat, it was terrible and I actually helped to put that dog to sleep in line with doctor’s advice because it was really suffering and I couldn’t help it. The next one was Jacky, it was a lovely dog, it lived for about 13 years. I think she died of old age too, then Flappy, it died too of old age, I think it had internal issues because I kept going to the vet. It spent about 14 years also. Then I got Joy who was the last dog I had. I had to leave the house to attend to an issue and I had to give her to a friend who had little children who I knew could take care of it. I got a good place for it, it’s still alive and happy. Usually I don’t keep dogs for a certain period; I keep them for a lifetime. They are there for you and you are there for them. I keep them till they are old, tired and weak.
Between keeping dogs in those days and now, what can you say has changed and how do you advise the government and pet owners on pet ownership?
I remember growing up in the 60s then, you get to register your dog, you get a tag, veterinary services were available and we had people who would pick up stray dogs and you had to pay to collect your dog. You have to register your dog and I don’t know if that practice is still on but obviously not regulated. My advice to the government is if they can get a whole ministry under the Ministry of Agriculture for pets, different kinds of pets, they will have a data and probably have a data on a dog; its history and breed, all these things need to be in place because we have so many dangerous breeds. I think the government is not doing enough in this regard. Being that they are animals, there are different practices and if there is government involvement, some of these practices will be eradicated or brought to barest minimum, also this is good revenue for the government because we have millions of dogs in Lagos State alone and the advantages of the dogs, we can have a training school for dogs. I remember the police used to train dogs for a little fee then and it’s a whole new areas that can be examined if government is involved, it will be controlled and minimise abuse in that area and of course ensure good practice. But all of these are subject to how people treat their pets too. I will also like to advise dog owners, if you know you don’t have time to take care of the dog because having a dog is like having a baby, if you don’t have time, dogs are very dependent, they depend on you for everything. They cannot talk and they cannot express themselves, you have to take care of them, they are like little children, from the start, don’t even think of taking on a pet if you know you wouldn’t have time for all of that and if you have a pet and you see its time consuming and you don’t have that time, why don’t you look for a home? So we have respect for these animals and we teach our young ones and family members to respect them because it offers so much in return.