MAIN STORY: What is it about our furry friends that capture our heart at the mere sight of them? What is it about their button-like nose and cotton candy fur that draws us?
The thing is, the answers could be anything starting from the comfort, protection, companion, a friend to play with, and to confide one’s darkest and deepest secrets.
Thimphu is one such place where people are getting crazy about pet culture. Call it a fad, love for dogs, or for good breed, but keeping pet dogs and cats and spending time, energy and money on these furry creatures are picking up.
There are men, women and children walking around the capital with teeny-tiny dogs to the gigantic ones. Mostly, these fur balls are bought from a pet shop abroad. There are also many who are bought from locals.
Yeshey Choden, 24, owns three dogs and a cat. She owns a Japanese Spitz called Princess, a Border collie mix named Dobby, and a Labrador called as Ziggy. Her cat, named Tshumpi, is a local breed.
Her Instagram photos and Facebook page is filled with the pictures of her and family members with her pets.
One might be overwhelmed with the number and expenses that go into caring these fur balls, but not Yeshey Choden. For her, the more pets she owns, the better.
“I don’t have to spend much on them since we give them chicken and bones cooked with rice. Food come from restaurants too,” Yeshey Choden said. “I only spend around Nu 1,500 a month on their food.”
Pet culture in Bhutan has been there for a long time, but now it has picked up and has become more a trend these days, Yeshey Choden said.
“Keeping a pet is like having a small family of your own; you bring one home, care for it and you get the same love back. It’s like any other family,” she said. “I have seen people who are genuine animal lovers and also who keep pets just for show.”
While the reasons could vary, Yeshey Choden cautions pet owners, especially those living in Thimphu.
“There are cases where people have lost pets. I have lost two dogs myself. It’s very disheartening,” she said. “I hope people will stop stealing pets and keep more pets instead.”
Namgyel Rangdol, another dog owner, can’t help but praise his dog, Daisy, a mixed breed of Labrador and Golden Retriever. Even in his Facebook page, an album is dedicated to his beloved dog.
Daisy is a friendly, active and smart dog. Sometimes she even pretends to have her head stuck in the gate so that she can run free in the garden when we open it, Namgyel Rangdol said. “It amazes me how smart she is.”
Namgyel Rangdol spends about Nu 1,000 every day in buying treats and other dog food, which he mixes them with rice and feeds Daisy and the four other dogs.
Domchum, a two-year-old Bjobchi was brought from the highlands, a perfect breed to guard the house. Rosy and Snickers are terriers while Nakum is a local breed.
Namgyel Rangdol has his hands full when he gets home from work. The dogs are eagerly waiting for him since they know that he always brings them food and loves the attention he showers on them. “I get the satisfaction and happiness looking after them,” he said. “They are my family and it’s my responsibility to look after them.”
While his cousins gifted the others, Namgyel Rangdol bought Daisy from a friend and paid Nu 8,500. “I don’t mind spending on them because they are like my children and we are very close.”
When Namgyel was growing up, he was told that keeping dogs at homes would repel bad luck and curses. “I don’t know how true is it but dogs are lucky. It goes to show that it’s good to keep a pet in the house.”
In the capital, variety of dog food and grooming items are also increasingly found in the stores. One can find doghouses, nail clippers, dog shampoos, soaps, clothes and dog perfumes among others.
City pharmacy pet care product is one such shop where these products can be found. One can even find dog food in huge sacks waiting to be gobbled by the gigantic dogs.
PS Shada of the pet care shop said that customers come in daily to the shop. “The most common products bought are the dog food other than the delicious treats,” he said. “These pet products are increasingly becoming popular. We try to put in as various pet products as possible.”
Because of growing demand, the number of pet shop is growing in the capital.
In 2008, in commemoration of the centenary celebrations, a book called ‘Dasho Khamtu – The Royal Spaniel’ was released. It was written by Choden W Namgyal. The story is about a dog called Khamtu, the favourite pet of late Third King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. From the story one can understand Khamtu’s pride, feel his loyalty and love to his master. A stamp was also released in his name in the 1970.
Rinxin Wangchuk own two adorable dogs. He considers them his prized possession and treats them as his family. Rinxin Wangchuk owns a mixed breed of Dalmatian and German Shepherd called Messi, and the other one known as Refugee, is a local breed from highlands.
“They’re part of the family. They guard the house as well as provide companionship. Messi is very sheltered and we rarely take her outside. We leave Refugee outside most of the time and he gets along well with other people,” Rinxin Wangchuk said.
Rinxin feeds them two meals a day, which is prepared with rice cooked in pressure cooker with meat and vegetables.
“Grooming has never been a problem for us. They’re pretty low maintenance and all we need is a brush to get them cleaned and some shampoo,” he said.
By Thinley Zangmo