Last year in July, when its peak summer in the UAE, a dog was left in the car for several hours. Gross oversight, utter negligence of the day care centre cost the dog’s life. That day less than two years old Albi crossed the rainbow bridge. Two days before this tragic incident Albi had enjoyed a lovely day out at a dog-friendly café. As her humans prepared her for day care that morning, they had no idea that it would be the last time that they would see their “blue eyed girl.” Losing a pet is soul destroying.
It has taken Albi’s humans Lauren and Kareem a long time to even come to terms with their unimaginable, irreparable loss. The shock, the sadness and the emptiness are perhaps hard to understand or explain. However, a person who has ever loved and lost a beloved pet will also tell you that it’s hard to go through life without a pet. Even if losing a pet is soul destroying, indeed. Lauren and Kareem’s story isn’t much different, except that it made me sob several times as I sat to edit this piece. I’ll be honest, I can’t imagine how one can bear to go through such a massive heartbreak. Just how!
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A brief backstory
Lauren and Kareem Kerry moved to the UAE for work. While Lauren is a nursery teacher, Kareem is a chef. They met and got married in Dubai, and I wouldn’t be totally wrong in assuming that their love for dogs helped them bond. “We both grew up with pets back in our home countries. Even though I’m allergic to dogs, my parents gave in to my whining and pleading for a dog. A Labrador who I named Simba. My earliest memory of having dogs was coming home from school to a very small Simba in a makeshift dog bed. His unbearable cuteness made me cry. Kareem too had a German Shepherd back home.”
“Not long after we met in Dubai, we decided to adopt Albi. It was a crazy decision but one of the best ones we made. After Albi passed it took a while for us to be ready but after around six months, Big Zeus unexpectedly busted his way into our lives.”
How did you cope with losing your beloved pet Albi?
Lauren: We’ve not been able to cope with Albi’s loss yet. Losing Albi in such an awful and unexpected way was the worst thing we have ever been through. We spent days not knowing what to do with ourselves, we kept up what could be seen as weird habits like saying hello to Albi every time we opened our front door despite knowing she wasn’t there. Lighting a candle every night where her bed used to be. Although people often commended our resilience, aside from a few select ones, they never really saw us behind closed doors.
It is still hard, even with Zeus around now, especially on holidays, gotcha days, birthdays. It hits us hard when we least expect it. One day we remember all the good time and the next we wake up and it hits us all over again (just like responding to this question did). I eventually got myself back out there and did quite a bit of volunteering at RAK Animal Welfare Centre. Then I started engaging with the Dog Parent in Dubai community with help from Chelsee, the founder. She asked me to work alongside her before handing over the reins to Zeus & I.
Do you notice similarities between Albi and Zeus?
Lauren: With both Zeus and Albi, we can/could tell what they are both thinking just by looking at their eyes. Albi was and Zeus is very mischievous but in their own ways. Albi was sassy and Zeus is very dramatic. Both very independent dogs who don’t like to be cuddled or bothered unless it’s on their terms. But when they do want attention, they will make it known.
What does your everyday look like with a rescued dog?
Lauren: With Zeus every day is an adventure, full of learnings. We don’t know Zeus’ background, as he was brought to us after being found wandering through traffic. He had nowhere else to go, so we agreed to look after and foster him but after only a few days. But then we realised that it was too hard to let him go. Zeus has terrible separation anxiety (looking at him, this big serious dog you wouldn’t think it!). So, we really struggled with going to work etc. Especially after Albi, we struggled to trust another day care. But we eventually found one with whom we have built great trust and Zeus loves to go there too. On days we’re not working, we typically get up early for a long walk to tire him out for the day. Zeus loves to meet new dogs and people, but his size can sometimes be off putting for humans of smaller dogs. We do a lot of brain training with Zeus with snuffle and licky mats.
How has Zeus helped you heal?
Lauren: Zeus has helped to kind of stick together those pieces of broken heart after Albi passed. Of course, she will never be replaced but he has brought the happiness back into our home that only a doggo can. Having a dog is a huge responsibility, but it also helps us lead a more stable life and have set routines in place which I think everyone needs. Especially when you are away from close family back home. I certainly think a dog can heal you. In our case it has helped, albeit not completely. Anyone who’s ever lost a dog will tell you the same. Having a dog helps us to look back at happy memories and laugh about similarities and differences rather than dwell on what happened or what could have been.
What is the craziest thing you’ve done for the love of dogs?
Lauren: Honestly, sometimes even I think I’m crazy let alone anyone looking from the outside-in or anyone who doesn’t have a fur baby. From hand feeding kibble to enjoying a coffee in the crate by myself to dissecting chicken hearts, there’s not a lot we wouldn’t do for Zeus or any other dog.
[Lauren and Kareem Kerry, Dubai, UAE]