The story of an adopter
At first Upepo was nervous of cars, bikes, loud noises and people, but by taking her out of the compound for short intervals on a harness once she had settled in, and again by giving her lots of cheese treats while out walking, she’s now the one pulling me along. Even matatus no longer scare her.
It’s not all been an easy ride however. With her new-found confidence other behaviours we don’t like have emerged. She jumps up, and thinks the sofas are hers to climb onto (not good with wet, mud caked paws) but we are trying to teach her she only gets attention from us if she’s sitting or has four feet on the ground. This is definitely work in progress.
Her mouthing too sometimes hurts. She has lots of energy and nips when she wants to play. We have realised the worst thing to do is to scream and wave the nipped body part around – because she thinks that’s a continuation of the game. So, I’ve told the children to try (as hard as it is) not to yell and to stand still, to turn away and to wrap their arms around themselves. When she’s calm – they pet her. She doesn’t get any attention for behaviours we don’t like.
Upepo was sterilised. We don’t need to add to the problem of unwanted pets in Nairobi by having puppies (Fonzie is already sterilised but I’ve heard other dogs can easily find a way in to the compound if one is on heat inside).
I’m also worried about the number of stolen dogs in Nairobi – usually used for breeding – so I’ve had her dog tag engraved with the words ‘I’ve been sterilised’ along with my phone number, just in case an unsavoury type thinks she’d be a good addition for their puppy mill.
She has been a lot of hard work, but with continual training she will be a wonderful pet. We adore her and the whole experience has been extremely fulfilling. I know we have given a loving home to a dog that would otherwise have had an awful life on the streets and we can’t imagine being here – or anywhere else in the world for that matter – without her.
My one bit of advice to anyone thinking of getting a dog is to make sure that you get good advice about training from someone who uses positive reinforcement. It works wonders and your dog will love you all the more for it. A fearful dog is not a happy dog. Oh and make sure you train the whole family – it won’t be just the dog who benefits from it.