Owning an animal is an amazing feeling. Whether as a source of food either in whole, their products or for companionship. Our African culture does not necessarily appreciate pets the way developed countries do, some may argue. Many people do not fully agree with this. Today, there are many pet owners from cat owners to dog owners pride themselves in owning their pets. There are conversations social media platforms on particular pets. The discussions are wholly and inclusive of all that befits a specific pet. In the rural areas where there are domestic animals, the case is completely different. It’s a more resource based type of care. Affection for animals is not a top priority.
If you can be able to take care of and understand domestic animals, wild animals will not present any major challenge. One of my lecturers once said this. Animals are animals regardless of whether they are wild or domestic. The difference is in the domestication element. Domestic animals are able to live with human beings at peace. Yet, they still present a challenge when their WILD INSTINCTS take root.
Up until 2012, I never liked dogs. Meeting one even in the streets would freak me out as I tried as much as I could to not come in close contact with them. They were to be seen from a distance. Much like when you see a spider and you want to still see it but still keep the distance. But then, a white puppy came into my life. Casper was his name. If you have seen Casper the friendly ghost, this name fits him perfectly. He was so vulnerable and I, never owning a pet before, had no idea what to do with him. This is when my first year of university units began to make sense. ‘He needs food’, ‘he needs to keep warm’ among other concerns became top of the list. Over the next few months since his arrival, it was a battle just to keep Casper alive. I always consider him the first being I took care of. Casper grew a passion in me to take care of young animals and no matter what to never give up on their vulnerability. This also applies to children. Anyone who really identifies with me knows Casper either by mention or even meeting him.
Taking care of young animals was tested during my short stay at Mount Kenya Game Ranch. Here, taking care of orphaned animals was the norm. Although most of the orphaned animals I nurtured did not make it. This was possibly due to extreme trauma since most had been rescued from forest fires. With Casper’s experience, I was able to nurture them as far as their lives could allow. When we got another puppy, it was a breeze nurturing her to where she has reached now.
Casper robust statue, which is unique for Indian Spitz, always reminded me of wild dogs. Casper was always a tenacious hunter, not to eat what he had caught but to just play with it. He was a gentle soul. The statement that ‘a dog is a man’s best friend’ is completely true. His gentleness was seen whenever those he knew best were around. He was protective and did not tolerate anyone he did not like. Over time, we grew to know who to trust in the compound and who to watch closely whenever they were around.
Casper had many lives. He escaped poisoning, swallowing chicken bones and mites that had completely destroyed his beautiful coat at the time. These were some of the major health issues he overcame. This experience instilled a deep sense of veterinary care for any animal. At first, it always took a while before realising all is not well. But over the years, when he did not eat for one day, I knew something was completely wrong. Well, sometimes he was missing someone’s company. But in most cases, an illness was slowly building in his system. Today, I ensure that any pet I own or anyone I know owns one goes through the right veterinary care. This also includes other domestic animals such as cows and chickens. I’m forever grateful for my Personal Vet on Call for always offering a helping hand at any time.
Casper did play a part in making my degree journey more understandable. This is especially so for mammals, animal behaviour, genetics, parts of Pharmacology and care of wild animals. Casper had a habit of mimicking the Hadada Ibis call whenever they flew over. He did enjoy chasing and barking at Montane Nightjars, bats and sometimes owls at night. When the night was too quiet, it was always a sign of minimal nightlife in the area.
Everything that happens in one’s life always has a reason. Casper came into my life to show me that dogs are not to be feared. Today, I can walk peacefully when a dog approaches. I can even see the cues of whether a dog wants to attack or not. In some instances, I have even learnt to keep calm in the presence of wild animals.