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CommunityMeet Livehealthy’s much-loved pets

The research is stacked up: owning pets is a clearly a very healthy thing to do. From reducing stress, lowering depression, loneliness, anxiety and cholesterol; boosting serotonin and, in the case of dogs, increasing activity levels — even a longer life span — the benefits are many and well-documented. We know this at Livehealthy, where the entire editorial team are pet-lovers. Meet our menagerie. A black desert cat Ann Marie McQueen, editor I was adamant that...
Ann Marie McQueenJune 14, 202120 min
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The research is stacked up: owning pets is a clearly a very healthy thing to do. From reducing stress, lowering depression, loneliness, anxiety and cholesterol; boosting serotonin and, in the case of dogs, increasing activity levels — even a longer life span — the benefits are many and well-documented. We know this at Livehealthy, where the entire editorial team are pet-lovers. Meet our menagerie.

A black desert cat

Ann Marie McQueen, editor

Ninja Jr
Ninja Jr

I was adamant that I wouldn’t have another cat, no matter how much I love them. I wanted to be free: to travel for weeks at a time and to pick up and move if the mood struck me. But my friend’s daughter had other plans. She rescued a feral cat who almost died in a pesticide spray, and was caught up in nursing her back to health when a planned trip to Hong Kong arose. Then they asked if I’d take care of the cat – already named Ninja Jr – while they were gone.

I knew it was a ploy. But I was backed into a corner, wanting to help this very special cat the whole family had rallied around. For the first week she wouldn’t even look at me, or come near me. Then I read up about how best to get her to trust me: don’t look her in the eye, just let her come to me. Slowly she came closer and closer; then she curled up close by. I got a lump in my throat the first time she let me pet her and then when she crawled on my lap for the first time. And by the time my friends came back from vacation, there was no question whose cat this really was.

Ninja Jr has kept me company on my darkest of nights; if I’m upset she’ll sit right up on my chest purring, like she knows. Whenever I make a triangle shape by bending one of my legs, that’s where she likes to sit. She’ll tap my legs until I make it for her now. She gets me up in the morning with gentle bites and meows. Even while I’m petting her, five years later, she yanks her head back and forth; loving it, but also clearly fighting long-held memories of terrible things. She’s earned her name, too, because I can rarely pick her up – it once took five tries to get her to the vet. She’s my very best buddy, and saying yes to taking care of her has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Fred the French Bulldog

pets bulldog
Fred the French Bulldog

Alexa Mena, social media editor

With 5 kids, my family chooses to settle decisions democratically. We rarely reach a unanimous consensus — we’re an opinionated bunch. But when it came to naming our then six-month old puppy, we actually did. However, Fred was not the name we chose. In a house upset, our vote was overturned by our parents. I no longer remember whatever silly name we siblings had agreed on – it might have been Scooby. Fred ended up being the perfect name for our snoozing, sun-loving, and occasionally cantankerous pup.
Fred is a French Bulldog, a companion breed that’s known to have a delicate digestion system. Fred doesn’t know this. He tries to eat everything from the grass along his walk, to whatever fall on the floor in the kitchen. He’s really earned his gourmand status — his bowl is shaped like a maze to assure he doesn’t inhale everything in one go. His passion is not only reserved for food — be prepared to be attacked with affection when you walk through our door.
I no longer live with Fred, but he’s as involved in my weekly family Zooms as any of my siblings — licking and snorting at the screen with the same excitement as when I walk over the threshold (if I even make it that far). His love of food, our family, and this one damned squeaky chicken toy aside, Fred is a calm dog. There is a spot next to one of our chaises that gets a perfect Fred-sized square of sunlight where he often spends his day snoozing away, when he’s not otherwise laying directly on top of our feet, of course.

Blaise the dog

Blaise, formerly Blaze
Tion Kwa, executive editor and general manager of Syndication Bureau, the parent company of Livehealthy
“Blaise” may be a male name, but “Blaze,” as she was baptized by the shelter from which we adopted her, didn’t sit well. Too much like a Saturday morning children’s TV show. So Blaise it is — had to be — even if perhaps a tad gender-bending. We can live with that. (I mean, there’s a woman out there named Paris, I’m told. But still, what parents name their child after history’s first human trafficker?)
Blaise has some Saluki in her DNA. That’s clear enough. But what else is in there, and there most certainly is, who can tell? Frankly, who cares? She was found pregnant in a construction yard in Sharjah, and taken to K-9 Friends in Dubai. She had her litter while being fostered, and her pups, we were told, were all adopted. So, good.
When we first met, she managed to scrunch herself into the tiniest ball; a futile attempt at invisibility. Futile, because she is blacker than any black dog I’ve ever seen, like a cosmic Black Hole with fur and pointy ears. It took several weeks of reassurances for Blaise to stretch out to full size, and many more after until she stopped being scared of cars, barrier-gate arms, buses, loud noises… well, everything.
Now, she loves car rides, long walks and croissants. And in the latter is a caution. Blaise can, and has, leaped up — the Saluki bit coming forth — on the dining table and kitchen counter in pursuit of pastry. Her favorite food group, however, is cat, we suspect. So far, it hasn’t entered her diet, at least with us — and long may it remain that way.

Two turtles

turtles pets
Lina Elmusa’s turtles Gumball and Mbappe

Lina Elmusa, Livehealthy social media online specialist

I have two pet turtles, Gumball and Mbappe, and they’re two and a half years old each. My friend got them in our senior year at university and she had to leave the UAE after graduation. Since then, they have been with me. Turtles have a lot of personality and I often sit down and watch them try to eat, swim around, or lounge under sun light.
Every day, they climb up their little ramp to sunbathe under their UV light, and Mbappe climbs on top of Gumball and they both sit there for hours, as long as they go undisturbed, and that pose always makes me smile.

Sparky the spaniel

Sparky pets
Anna Pukas, copy editor

When I first moved to Abu Dhabi in 2016, Sparky, my cocker spaniel, stayed home in the UK with my husband and I missed him terribly. When I moved here again in 2019, this time with my husband, Sparky came too. There was simply no question of leaving him behind with family.

Having a dog in Abu Dhabi is certainly challenging, but they are adaptable creatures. Walks are now very early in the morning and well after sunset and always on the leash, but Sparky doesn’t mind. Any time is a good time for a walk.
We weren’t to know it when we first got here, but having a dog during the confinement imposed by Covid-19 was a real blessing. Dogs are the masters of acceptance. They’ll take whatever we give them. You can see it in the way that even animals rescued from horrific abuse are still willing to trust humans.
Having a dog has many bonuses, but if I had to boil it down, I’d say these three are paramount:
1. It gets you out of the house every single day, because a dog has to be walked, whatever the weather.
2. A dog makes you less selfish. You have to think about something other than yourself and your own needs, which is a good thing generally.
3  A dog will make you laugh every single day, guaranteed. They are just natural comedians and completely unself-conscious about it.
Dogs are life-enhancers. They live in the moment, which is a lesson we could all learn. While I might complain (and I do) about the general dog-unfriendliness of Abu Dhabi, Sparky just gets on with being a dog.

Robin the toy poodle 


Issa Salem, multimedia editor 

Everything comes to an end. And that includes our relationships with our furry friends. Two weeks ago, it was time to say goodbye to our Toy Poodle Robin, our companion for about 16 years. 

When he was lying down in his final moments, I broke down as I quickly mapped out the outline of our life together. Although I didn’t spend much time with him, he was always somehow there. From graduating high school and college, starting my career, introducing him to new friends, through good times and bad, his barks could always be heard from my sister’s room upstairs.

The house is far more silent without him and I realize how I may have taken those sounds for granted, as well as the hair shed all over the furniture and even the occasional food theft. I’ll miss it all.

Robin came to us when I was nine years old; I’m now 25.  He was a six-month old puppy we picked up from a pet store and was just slightly larger than a kitten. We’ve grown up together. Sixteen years is a good age for a dog. Most of the time, it’s their whole life span.  Meanwhile we have far more to go and are surrounded by other life events and obstacles. So, before you forego spending some more time with your dog, remember that they are just a small part of our hectic lives, but for them, we are their entire life.

Ann Marie McQueen

Ann Marie McQueen is a journalist with 20 years of experience working in North America and the UAE, much of it as a writer, editor and columnist focusing on the areas of physical and mental wellness...

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