I first met Ildiko when she was managing Petsville, a day care and boarding facility in the UAE. At that time Petsville was fostering a beautiful blind rescued dog called Rose. Ildiko was very fond of Rose and was her caregiver. Together we celebrated Rose’s first birthday and took her to a veterinary ophthalmologist. There was something about Ildiko that made me assume that she must have her own dogs too. And here’s Ildiko’s Human + Dog Story of three rescues and a human kid. Their story made me laugh, cry and think, some stories are like that.
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Tell us about your four-legged fur kids.
Ildiko: We have three four-legged fur kids, two rescued dogs and a cat.
Six years ago on Valentine’s Day, I rescued a young dog from a Jebel Ali factory junkyard. He was afraid of the leash, so I carried him in my arms for one kilometre to the shelter where I was working at the time. We decided to call him Valentino – Tino is his nickname – and he is seven years young now.
Soon we started feeling as if Tino needed company and in came Monaco or Mona who is approximately six years old now. I adopted Mona from a shelter that brought her from a desert farm with another female dog and 13 puppies between the two of them. Unfortunately, they all had Parvo virus and the puppies passed away after a few weeks. Mona and the other momma dog survived. But she still carries the emotional scar of losing her babies.
Fluffy is our five years old male ginger domestic cat. He moved into our garden four years ago and refused to leave. He must have been dumped in our area as he was neutered and microchipped but not registered. Fluffy is extremely loving and used to humans. He felt comfortable with us, and we were happy to adopt him and make him part of our family. We moved house twice since and he has never gone missing or lost once. He gets along well with Mona, but not so much with Tino because he still doesn’t understand why we need a cat at home.
Did it take a while for Tino and Mona to settle in?
Ildiko: Tino came home from the shelter on March 20, 2016, one day after the fatal crash of a Flydubai flight in Russia. I remember as my ex-colleagues were crew on that flight. Even though I was scheduled to bring Tino home on 19th, I couldn’t due to the tragedy. He was a bit shy at first and would never jump up on the bed or sofa. It only took him a few weeks to gain confidence and now he claims our bed as his own.
Mona was very nervous when she came home on October 14, 2017. Tino met her for the first time outside our garage and they took one look at each other and became the best of siblings. Even though Mona was shy and nervous at first, she adapted very smoothly and fast with Tino as her guide.
Was there any dominance issue between Tino and Mona?
Ildiko: They never had any dominance issues, never fought or got jealous of each other. Tino and Mona have always been eating right next to each other, and even share the bowls sometimes. They both love running and wrestling so they play well together. It is a match made in heaven! However, I must add that before Mona arrived home, we made sure to pick up Tino’s food bowl and toys to avoid jealousy. We also arranged for them to meet outside the house or garden for the very first time so Tino wouldn’t feel threatened in his territory. But it all went off very smoothly.
What are their goofiest traits?
Ildiko: The dogs would do anything and everything for cheese, so we teach them tricks using cheese. Tino gives a kiss on command if he gets asked to go for a walk. Mona sits on our laps if she feels “neglected” to get some extra attention. They both beg for food but differently. Tino is the leader, and he pokes us in the arm or leg and barks at us to give him food. Mona just lays under the table or next to us and waits. She knows if Tino gets something so will she. Fluffy loves to sleep in the weirdest places like the bathroom sinks or the diaper changing table. They are all sweet and friendly, goofy all the time.
What do you do to keep them healthy?
Ildiko: We only feed them premium dog/cat food and limit human food consumption as much as possible. Walk them a lot regularly to give them the necessary exercise. Take them to their annual check-up and vaccination and always take them to a vet if we suspect anything is wrong.
Have you ever had to deal with an accident or illness related to three of them?
Ildiko: We have never had any accidents with them, but they did have a few injuries and illnesses. Tino had a severe kidney infection two years ago and was hospitalised for a week. He fully recovered thanks to our beloved and trusted vet. Mona has regular allergies and ear infections; we know now so we can deal with them. Fluffy likes to fight with other cats around the neighbourhood, so over the years he had a few more serious fight related injuries. And parts of his left ear are missing. He has also had eye and ear injuries and a few deeper scars. We usually treat him at home but depending on the injury we visit the vet if he needs doctor’s treatment. The key is to find the right vet, and always seek professional advice if we are not sure what to do.
How did they adjust to the arrival of their human sibling?
Ildiko: I find it very important to mention that we had to integrate Serafina, the baby human into our pets’ lives. They were here first, and we have never ever thought of giving any of them away due to us having a baby. We immediately started introducing Serafina gradual to all our pets but under supervision. When you have pets at home, it’s extremely important to not hide or shield a baby from them. If you do that, the baby becomes a mysterious creature “to be investigated” instead of “just another human.” The pets should have all the love and attention (almost all!) that they did before and should never be banished away just because of the baby. We are still their entire world, and they crave our love just as much as before.
Our pets were extremely accepting of Sera who is 16 months old now. Even Fluffy took to her. Tino was a bit confused in the beginning as he didn’t understand what Sera really was. Mona was a real mother right away and looked over Sera non-stop, accompanied us everywhere in the house. Now that Sera is bigger and interactive with them, we need to look out for any unwanted behaviour from her side. We have to teach her to love, be kind and respect animals. And we have been treating them as siblings from the beginning, so Sera turns to them with a lot of affection and love. She is just a bit clumsy sometimes. Sera loves to feed them whenever she has any snacks or meals, which all pets adore. She also loves to run around with them in the garden and help Mona dig holes in the sand.
What does their everyday look like now?
Ildiko: They usually wake up whenever we wake up, anywhere between 8 and 10 am. Go to the garden for a quick pee and have some kibbles for breakfast while we have our breakfast. Then all of us go for a walk, including Serafina. Depending on the weather it can be anything between 30 mins and 90 mins. They are typical salukis, love to snooze on the sofa most of the day. So, they are very chilled dogs at home. We also go for a longer walk during the afternoon/early evening. We have some good friends with dogs, and we often arrange playdates and walks together. They do not like water so if we take them to the beach they usually just run in the sand.
How have your pets changed your life?
Ildiko: I believe all pets change their human’s lives for the better. They teach us patience, unconditional love, companionship, kindness and to live life day by day, as if only today existed. Pets are always there for us and bring joy even at the worst phases of life. Tino, Mona and Fluffy were with us while I was fighting cancer and won, and even while we were struggling with infertility issues. They were our support and our best friends.
If they could speak, what would they tell you?
Ildiko: Tino would definitely ask us why the hell did we need that weird cat to live with us and maybe ask for more cheese in general. Mona would tell us that she loves us 10,000 times a day and would also ask for cheese. Fluffy would just give us orders and the chance to thank him that he chose us to serve him.
[Ildiko Söderberg (Ónódy) lives in Dubai, UAE with her two dogs, one cat, husband and a human baby girl]