Feature: Lebanese find solace in companion dogs amid economic meltdown-Xinhua

Feature: Lebanese find solace in companion dogs amid economic meltdown

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2022-05-03 23:48:15

By Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Hanan Awwad, a university student from southern Lebanon, finds moments of relaxation each day when she walks her dog in the evening along the Hasbani highway.

Her dog is a loyal companion who "shares my joy and sadness," Awwad told Xinhua, adding that she is attentive to the health and comfort of her canine friend.

"We share our food with him in addition to his special food which is mainly imported," she said.

Despite the unprecedented financial crisis, people walking their dogs has become a common scene in Lebanese cities and villages.

With the unabated jobless rate, the collapse of the local currency, and shrinking incomes, a segment of the Lebanese population decided to forget this bitter reality by spending sums of money on caring for their pets.

People tend to keep a pet dog when they want to escape from painful reality and to alleviate their pain, said Lebanese psychologist Jouhaina Daher.

In the same vein, pet training centers, vet clinics, and stores selling dog foods, fashion, and toys are mushrooming in southeastern Lebanon.

Veterinarian Jalal Chamoun told Xinhua he is surprised at this phenomenon in a country compounded with crises.

"I received more than 25 dog owners daily asking for comprehensive veterinary examinations," Chamoun said in his clinic in the southern city of Nabatieh.

Chamoun charges 75,000 Lebanese pounds (around 3 U.S. dollars on the black market) for the dog examination while vaccines are priced at 200,000-500,000 pounds according to their quality.

He also charges between 25,000 and 50,000 pounds for grooming services, based on the local currency's black market rate.

Faten Hmeidan, a young woman who had spent around 50-75 U.S. dollars on dog toothpaste and accessories, conceded the cost of owning a dog is too high, but she is unable to give him up.

"I consider him a member of my family now," she told Xinhua.

Statistics from the Lebanese Veterinary Medical Syndicate reveal that 15 percent of the Lebanese population keeps dogs, according to Chamoun.

To help reduce the cost of owning a dog, a veterinary medical team working with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) offers periodic examinations, lab tests, vaccination, and free medicines to help local farmers and pet dog owners reduce their costs.

"Around 500 dogs get tested by this team, which reduces about 50 percent of the cost for citizens," Chandan Singh, head of the vet team, told Xinhua.

Ihab Munzer, a Lebanese man in his 20s, said he takes 70 U.S. dollars out of the 300 dollars he received each month from his brother who works in the gulf to buy food, clothes, vaccines, and deworming pills for his dog.

"We feel great affection for him," he said.