10/03/2009 10:52 PM | By Huda Tabrez, Community Web Editor
Dubai: It's probably the best relationship you'll ever have - the love is unconditional, the commitment complete and there isn't much space for argument. According to Dr Monique Strange, a Dubai-based veterinarian, having a pet is often better than having a life partner.
On World Animal Day, celebrated every year on October 4 to recognise the importance of animals in our lives, Dr Strange spoke about her job and how she tries every day to provide a better life to pets and abandoned animals.
In depth: Arabian Wildlife
A veterinarian with over 16 years' experience, she worked with clinics and animal protection institutions in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia, before moving to the UAE five years ago.
Since then, she has observed a significant shift in people's attitude towards animals.
She said: "I think people are generally aware of the kindness, empathy and responsibility involved when they interact with animals, but most often do not deem it important enough."
However, Dr Strange underlined the importance animals merit, adding that recent studies have shown pet owners live longer.
"Stroking your pet can help lower your blood pressure and control your heart rate. So, while people might like to go out and socialise to de-stress after a long day at work, they might as well spend time with their pets. It's a healthier alternative."
Aisha Kelaif, a 43-year-old Emirati, will be spending this day with animals she has rescued over the past 10 years.
Her house in Al Barsha, Dubai, is home to 90-odd animals, most of which were brought from countries around the world by owners who later abandoned them.
She said: "The satisfaction I get from caring for these animals and the love they give me in return is so much more than any human being is capable of."
She has adopted animals as varied as maras, the fourth largest rodent in the world, chinchillas, smaller rodents that look like furry mice, llamas and ponies. These animals in return have become a significant part of Aisha's life, as two of her own children have grown up and now live in Australia.
Ursula Manvatkar, an Indian expatriate, who has been actively involved in rescuing abandoned animals, said: "I am no one to judge, but it makes sense to give importance to a race that shares the planet with us."
Manvatkar's first pet was a street cat, at the age of five. She says that she has come to understand the needs and behaviour of animals better, a connection that was missing when she was a child.
Origin: Common forum
World Animal Day was instituted in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence, Italy, as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species, according to the website dedicated to the day.
Worldanimalday.org.uk provides a forum for animal-lovers from around the world to organise events to raise awareness and help protect animal rights. This year's events include an animal fair in Malta [which includes a prize for the dog with the 'waggiest' tail, among many others] to a written test of school pupils in Mombasa, Kenya, on animal rights.
How do you intend to mark this day? What would be a creative way to raise awareness regarding the endangered species?