GAZA: When Talia Thabit decided to raise a guard dog following a theft at her family home, she did not know that she would become the first dog trainer in the Gaza Strip.
Thabit, 33, a psychologist, lives in Nussirat camp in the center of the strip, where dog breeding and training are not common. But recently, there has been a growth in dog ownership among young people.
“My family decided to raise a guard dog after we were repeatedly targeted by thieves,” Thabit said.
“At first I had no knowledge of how to deal with dogs, but my mother’s death has made me retire from public life and spend most of my time with the dog.”
She added: “I was not content with one dog, so I now have a number of them. I make sure to wake up early to train, feed and reassure them.
“They have helped me get back to life and remove negative emotions.”
Thabit became the first dog trainer in Gaza and a reference for kennel enthusiasts, who ask her for advice through a Facebook page.
“Dog breeding needs a lot of attention, especially in terms of health and hygiene, in order to get the best qualities, the most important of which is innate guarding,” she added.
But training dogs is harder than raising them. Training is based on understanding the dog’s psychology and the way they think.
“I joined groups on Facebook selling dogs during my journey to find my second dog, which is a German Shepherd,” she said. “I was gradually gaining knowledge of breeds, behavior and attributes.
Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is high among youth and reaches 90 percent among young women, according to UN statistics.
Thabit now has the ability to train dogs in guarding and searching for weapons and explosives.
Though she has become famous in Gaza, Thabit does not see herself as a professional and hopes to deliver a training course on the psychological and military aspects of dog training.
She is concerned about the lack of veterinary laboratories and animal medicine in Gaza, and hopes that there will be a surge to change this. “We suffer a lot when dogs, our loyal friends, are sick and many die from the wrong medication,” she said.
Thabit went to international organizations concerned with animals and their rights, asking them to send veterinarians to Gaza “instead of turning our animals into an experimental field for different types of medicines and antibiotics.”
The Four Paws Association normally transports animals from the Gaza Strip to Jordan, South Africa and Israel as zoo owners are unable to care for them.
Dog breeders in Gaza say they have to use human laboratories to analyze urine and blood samples and try human medicines on their dogs because of the lack of veterinary laboratories and animal medicines.
Thabit advises anyone to research before deciding to acquire a dog, so that they can be properly reared according to their physical and psychological needs.
She has a lot of support from her family and neighbors, and is proud that as a girl her name has become associated with breeding and training dogs.
“Even street children stop me to ask me about dogs, they ask me to watch my training, and I teach them the culture of dealing with animals,” she said.