About 8 or 9 years ago, I was in a conversation that resulted in my being ridiculed for the strong feelings I had towards the care and protection of all #animals but more importantly for #domesticated pets. I have a special place in my heart for dogs and cats.
No, I am not a vegetarian / vegan but I believe that even animals kept for food should be treated with such care as to not put them through torture and unnecessary pain. I think beasts of burden should be fed well, provided proper care for any injuries suffered and NEVER caused pain or harm to make them work harder or faster. I believe that if a person cannot afford to feed or care for a domestic animal then they should not have the ownership of a domestic animal. I think that if anyone causes harm or deliberately injures a domesticated animal, theirs or belonging to someone else, they should face some consequences.
But beyond basic care and protection, my pets are loved. I make sure they are well fed and warm, I try to keep them safe, I have worked out arrangements where they get medical care and immunisations. Because of my current unemployed status, I have made sure that no matter what they will be fed and provided medical care, and this by regularly volunteering my professional skills to a veterinary care and animal rescue organisation.
I have created friendships and connections such that if I’m unable to take care of my pets, feed them, walk Guillermo etc then one of my (their) friends would avail themselves to do so. But if I couldn’t provide such care, it would be better to give them up to someone who would love and care for them.
I feel that the topics surrounding animal care and pets in Africa are almost political. During that conversation 8 or 9 years ago, I tried to broach the subject that perhaps how we feel about animals is tied to historical wounds we don’t even know we have. Derision drips behind common sayings like kuosha mbwa ya mzungu. But the feeling behind it is the hurt from #colonial masters treating their pets better than they treated their native servants.
The lady who helps clean my house feels that I am wasting money when I feed my pets. #Poverty and #inequity are other obvious issues related to pet care. While I don’t feed my dog with choice beef cuts, his meals still cost something, which Mama J compares to what she needs to buy a meal for her kids. A previous cleaning lady was so upset about my affection for Guillermo that she collected all his toys and redistributed them to her children. She never came back to work after that.
I’ve been accused of having too much time on my hands, been pointed in the direction of ‘you should give birth to a child instead of wasting time with cats and dogs’. I almost froth at the mouth trying to explain how different and NOT INTERCHANGEABLE the two experiences are, raising a human child, and raising a pet.
While most will be dismissive about my love and concern for animals and pets, I WILL JUDGE people based on their love for or lack for concern of animals and pets. Many will point out at this time that the world’s cruelest villains had pets. Its true. But once I am done assessing intelligence, love for books, honesty, empathy and a sense of justice, I’ll also check whether you might be prone to kick animals.
I have had neighbours attempt to kill my pets. Three of my beautiful babies have been stolen. My puppy Esperanza was fed a substance that made her so ill I had to euthanize her. My girl cat Samantha had her back broken and died in my arms. Guillermo was once shot by an arrow while he was inside our compound. I have since made it my business to keep my pets safe. But it truly bothers me that my neighbours are so capable of causing pain and killing animals that have not caused them harm. Is it just part of our violent nature?
I am reminded of the debatable phenomena often used to point at psychopaths – lighting fires, killing animals, bed wetting. Are you people breeding serial murderers?
As a person living with chronic illness, pets – my dog Guillermo, Cat Fluffy and a fluctuating number of temporary foster animals – form part of care and therapy. My pets have kept me company during the long hours I have to be home alone, made me move even when I would have preferred to curl up and die from chronic pain, helped me make unexpected connections, opened up my eyes to situations that would otherwise have passed me by and kept me warm on tough July days when Nairobi winter and #Lupus have joined forces to crush my bones.
I’ve been trying to write an article about pets and how much they can help people living with chronic illness. I had to run into the issues above first, so I’d love to hear what you think. Please tell me about your relationship with animals.