When we asked Dubai-based trainer Anna Solanas about the craziest thing she would do for the love of dogs, here’s what she said. “I don’t think I can answer that question. But I can tell you what I’ve done so far. I’ve changed country, job and lifestyle. There’s no limit to what I’d do for the love of dogs, in this case Lucky our dog. In my field [training], you get to meet a lot of dogs and you see how different and special each one is. I get very attached to them, and I always try my best to help in any way I can. It gives me a lot of joy and fulfilment to work with these wonderful animals.
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Did you grow up with dogs? What are your earliest memories of having a pet at home?
Anna: No, not really. Lucky is my first dog. I grew up with birds though. Birds have always been a part of my life. I remember the first ones I had was a beautiful canary couple. Although I don’t remember much about them as I was quite young, the only thing I remember is spending hours sitting next to them and watching them. They were very beautiful.
What brought you to the UAE? How long have you been here?
Anna: We came to the UAE in 2015 for a training job in Abu Dhabi. The job was to build an exotic bird presentation. From Abu Dhabi we moved to Mumbai, India for a big project at a bird park (and more training, obviously!). Eventually in 2019 we decided to move back to Dubai. And it has been an amazing adventure so far.
Please tell us a bit about Lucky. How and where did you meet her?
Anna: We found Lucky in 2017 while we were working in Mumbai. It was a rainy day. We finished work quite late, and we were heading back home. Our place of work was a little island so every day we had to take a ferry ride to get home. On our way to the ferry, it was raining heavily, and we came across a very tiny puppy. Hiding under a car, she was whining. A policeman standing next to the car hit the puppy. We got really upset but that wasn’t the end of the story.
The policeman then went to the edge of a little bridge and was going to throw the puppy in the sea. We ran, took the puppy away from him, covered her in our uniform and brought her home. Extremely weak and exhausted she couldn’t even move properly. We took her to a vet and got everything she needed. It took her only a couple of days to start gaining strength. Her eyes started to become bright, and the tiny tail started to wag. We named her Lucky, because that fateful night to today we feel genuinely lucky to have found her.
On days you feel blah how does Lucky inspire you to get up and show up?
Anna: Lucky means everything to us. I went through a rough period and Lucky was one of the reasons I still got up every morning. Lucky has given us so much that I’m not even sure how to express it. I find it so amazing how dogs can say so much without actually speaking. Animals are very loyal, and far better than us. They love you no matter what. You can have a very bad day, but when you reach home and find your dog waiting for you it’s all worth it. There so many things to learn from dogs. The connection that someone can have with their dog is priceless. In my case, my connection with Lucky is worth everything.
You work with dogs and birds. Did you always aspire to be a trainer? Or did it happen by chance?
Anna: Yes, I’ve worked with birds and dogs as well as with dolphins and other mammals. But that’s not how it all started. I studied Translation and Interpretation at the University of Barcelona. But I wasn’t exactly passionate about pursuing a career in languages. At the same time, I didn’t have enough clarity of what I wanted to do. Most of my friends knew what they wanted to study and do in the future. So, obviously I felt completely lost.
Around 2009-10 I had two cockatiels at home, and I was doing research about breeding and decided to get them a nest and set up a breeding enclosure. They eventually had babies and I was ecstatic. My intention was to not interfere but there was a tiny little chick not getting enough food. He was the last one to hatch and because the other ones were bigger, he was struggling to eat. I started looking for information, researched a lot and took the challenge of taking care of him myself. At night I’d wake up every two hours to check on him and feed him and I was loving it. I was loving the fact that a tiny little cockatiel could get so attached to me and I could get so attached to him. And we made it!
His name is Sky, and he is 12 years old now. While caring for Sky I realised that I’d be happy working with animals. I’ve tried my best to get as much experience as possible and I’m still learning every day. My passion has taken me to work in many different countries including Spain, Indonesia, India and the UAE.
What do you like the most about your job?
Anna: I love everything about my job, because I love animals, especially birds and dogs. One of the things that amazes me every day is to see how science helps to modify behaviour when applied properly. As we always say, training is two-way communication. We give information and we receive information as well. Animals constantly communicate with us, and it is our job to try to understand and help them. It’s incredibly satisfying to see little changes in their behaviour. For example, a very shy dog becomes more confident day by day. It obviously requires time, patience and consistency. But it is well worth it when you see that you’ve helped and changed an animal’s life for the better.
Another thing that I love is medical and husbandry training, which means helping animals/dogs to cooperate with vets, groomers etc. This kind of training makes a huge difference not only in their confidence building, but also decreases their stress level. It is extremely beneficial.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Anna: I struggle the most when we’ve to change countries. Knowing that when you leave a country you might not see them [dogs and other animals] again. That breaks my heart. The animals we work with become part of our life, our daily routine and I get very attached to them and I’ve a really difficult time while relocating. I still try to keep in touch with them and continue helping even if it’s from far away. Every single one has a piece of my heart and I keep them very close to me.
Please share a message for our readers.
Anna: I’d like to say that having animals in our life is a blessing. But it’s also a huge responsibility. There will be good and bad days. For instance, while training a dog, sometimes it may seem as if the results are not showing. But they eventually do. The key is to have patience, be consistent and not to give up on them.