Babasoji Awe is the quintessential dog lover! A few years ago, I came across a picture of his kennels on Facebook and I was wowed! At the time, I thought he was based in Ibadan, now I know he lives in Ekiti with his 18 dogs. Yes, you heard that right, 18 dogs!
Spoiler Alert: If you hate heart-warming stories; have no intention of laughing out loud or you are simply not in a mood to feel good and learn a few things, then go no further.
This interview is long but trust me when I say, it’s worth every minute you spend reading it.
So, let’s get into it!
How many dogs do you have at the moment and what are their names breeds, sex and ages?
I have about 18 dogs at the moment. I just downsized; I have given out all my female dogs. So, I have just male dogs- 18 of them. I used to have about 35 dogs before downsizing. The breeds include: Rottweiler; Caucasian; Doberman; Bull Mastiff; Great Dane; Lhasa Apso; French Mastiff; Bully Pit and Boerboel. The oldest is about 7 years or more and it’s a Bull Mastiff while the youngest is the Bully Pit and he is about 4 months.
How do you go about naming your dogs? Any particular naming system?
My kids name the dogs. When we get a new dog, I ask them what we should name the dog and they name them. It’s a kind of socializing method too and fosters bonding between the children and the dogs.
When did you discover your love for canines?
That was quite long ago. When I was very young, my dad used to have a dog. The dog was given to me when I was young and that’s where my love for dogs was discovered. It was a local dog and was with us for a long time. I started keeping and owning dogs throughout university- that was about 25 years ago. I have never been without dogs.
I went to NYSC camp with 2 dogs. Can you imagine? Two Alsatian dogs. It was a very interesting story. I put those 2 dogs in my car and went to camp. When I got to camp, I chained them beside my car. Fortunately, the camp commandant saw me and was so amused that I came to camp with dogs. I told him the dogs had to live with me. He asked me how I was going to cope and I told him that I would manage, that the dogs will be okay. Fortunately, he loved dogs. I was so lucky. He then told me to go keep them in his quarters. The dogs were there for the duration of the 3 weeks orientation. When camp was over, he didn’t want to part with the dogs anymore. I promised him a puppy and made sure that before I finished my service year, I gave him a puppy.
Other breeds you have had in the past?
Alsatians. I don’t keep them anymore. They are noisemakers. It gets to a point, the noise will not be too palatable for you especially when you’ve got so many things on your mind and you want to rest. They bark at everything, any slightest thing. I love them but for the noise.
I’m not sure I have one in particular but I think my Doberman is more intelligent than the other breeds I own.
Can Food or Kibble?
I have tried everything. Right now I prefer feeding with my concentrate, that is, my own formula.
Previously, I fed my dogs once daily but for the past 2 years, I noticed that feeding them twice is better. The same meal I used to give them once, now I divide into two and give them once in the morning and again at night. By so doing, the body makes use of all the nutrients in the food. So, it’s the same quantity of food given twice a day.
What type of kennels do you house your dogs in?
My kennels are made of concrete. They are built houses. Each dog has its own room. I don’t chain my dogs. The kennels are built in such a way that they have room for running.
Have you ever considered breeding? Do you think it is in your near future or that you will eventually evolve into being a professional breeder?
My dogs mate at times and most times I give out the puppies to people I know will take care of them. I don’t really breed for business, majorly for my pleasure. When I have puppies, I’m very invested in the homes my puppies go to. Even if you will be able to buy my puppies for 1 million naira but you aren’t the kind of person to take care of my puppies well, I won’t sell.
What would you say is the most amazing thing about having a dog?
Trustworthiness. You can trust your dog any day and anytime. About 4 or 5 years ago, something happened. I was sick and didn’t come out for about 3 days. My Rottweiler was trying to come in and my wife kept sending him back. It got to a stage that the Rottweiler refused to go back. My wife was so scared she had to let him in and he ran to my bedside and didn’t leave till I stood up. We did everything to send him out but he didn’t budge till I stood up, fed him and took him back to his kennel.
Last year, I went out with my car and while driving back home the car developed a fault and didn’t start. A friend of mine then brought me home. So, I came in through the pedestrian gate and got into another car to use that battery to jumpstart the faulty car. Lo and behold, my Doberman jumped over the cage, broke the car window and held my hand on the steering. He thought it was a thief trying to steal my car. He believed that I was out and just saw a man trying to start another car. On a good day, he will never leap over that cage but he did.
If you are coming to my house, my dogs will start barking right from the junction but if you are going to a neighbour’s they will be quiet. They recognise the honk of my horn; my voice; the children’s voice. They are just amazing!
What is the most difficult part of owning a canine?
Feeding. You must have a genuine passion for dogs. If you don’t, you will get fed up! This is because the money you spend on dogs you don’t even spend on kids. Except you don’t want to feed well. If you aim to feed well, you must be ready to spend a lot of money. Especially for those of us that are not keeping dogs for commercial purposes, it can get frustrating at times.
Pedigree Dogs or Not?
They must have standard, traceable history. I don’t buy dogs anyhow, there is no point. You must know if they have good mothers, if they lactate because it is what the parents are that the offspring will be. But if they have a traceable bloodline, history, you can know what a puppy will become. As a result, I don’t buy dogs anyhow. It’s a lot of money but I don’t mind. At the end of the day, I’ll enjoy my well-spent money.
If you buy a Rottweiler of fifty thousand naira and another one of two hundred and fifty thousand naira, let them start growing together, within 3 months you will see the difference. Then, you will regret going for the cheap/affordable one.
Any advice for a first time dog owner?
Start from somewhere. I’ll advise that you start from the Alsatian breed then you can gradually progress to more advanced breeds like Boerboels, Rottweilers and Mastiffs. I’m suggesting Alsatians because they are easy to handle same with toy breeds like Lhasa as compared with Rottweilers etc. There is no point getting aggressive dogs when you can’t control them. I keep saying this: we don’t have bad dogs just bad handlers- a lot of bad handlers.
On taking on the herculean task of rearing 6 puppies after mother died at birth
Last year, One of my bull mastiffs had 8 puppies and died immediately afterwards. That was about the last litter I had here. I’m not sure what happened. She was doing well and I didn’t sleep all night long, monitoring her progress. By morning, I thought to go shower and freshen up, then I slept off because I was so tired. By the time I came back, I met her dead with the puppies there crying. It was really bad. I left the puppies for about an hour, I couldn’t even touch them.
Later on that day, I went to buy feeding bottles, milk replacer etc. Before then, I put them on glucose and water till I got the milk replacer. I had to call someone from Owerri, Imo State, who came to help with the puppies, as I had to go to work the following day. He stayed with them for 8 weeks just nursing them (feeding and taking care of them). He billed me ten thousand naira per week. I didn’t mind, 5 of them survived. I retained 2 of those puppies- Treasure and Sankara.
One breed you can never own?
The breed I thought I can never own is the Bully Pit but now I have one. So, I’ve quit that rule. I broke that rule because I fell in love with the puppies that I saw. So, I decided to take up the challenge and see how I can train the dog so it won’t become a burden to me. So, now I have one already and he’s still young (4 months), I’m trying to socialise it as much as possible. I’m just praying that it works out.
Have you ever had to handle a dog fight, how did you go about it?
Oh yes! Especially when there is a mating. I don’t have female dogs anymore, they’ve all been fostered out as I don’t really have time anymore for that number of dogs. But when I had females, yes, I had to separate lots of fights between males competing for the females on heat. But I think I have some peace now.
I’ve never had any fight that got out of hand. This is because I keep my dogs from puppyhood. Each dog knows his place, cage e.t.c. They recognise me as the pack leader and don’t misbehave. I can walk my dogs in the market place and they wouldn’t touch a soul. Conversely, I can tell them to scatter the market and within a minute everything will be in disarray.
How do you socialize your dogs?
I socialise my dogs with the kids first. My dogs don’t get to the kennels till they are about 5-6 months. They stay in my house, move around in the corridors, the kitchen, living room and basically everywhere. So, during that time, they get used to the children.
I take them out with me in the car. We go on car trips. I socialise them from Day One. I make sure I domesticate them as much as possible before I introduce them to another dog. It is quite hectic but when you are passionate about dogs then…
Most importantly, I have a wife that didn’t initially love dogs but grew into loving them (because of my passion for them). She developed a passion for them along with me. She even loves them more than me now- I can say that. This makes it easier for me to integrate the dogs with the family. It would have been very difficult if she didn’t love dogs.
Have any of your dogs participated in dog shows/walks?
No, they haven’t. Even though, they have been invited many times but I don’t have the time and my dogs are mainly for my pleasure.
About Stud Services
I don’t offer stud services except the female is superb. If the female is of standard conformation, I can even offer free stud services. I do this to encourage people to get standard pure breeds of dogs.
Where do you buy your dogs from?
It depends. Russia, some are home-bred. I bought some of my bull mastiffs from Daffy Dogs. A Rottweiler from Lanre Hassan. I used to buy from South Africa but not anymore. I have to also add that sometimes I take out bank loans with compound interest just to buy dogs.
Any particular exercise routine for your dogs?
I walk them when I have the time. At any point in time, I have 6 dogs outside every night. They are usually rotated, set by set every night and the compound is big enough for them to run around. I don’t like to chain dogs; they are not prisoners.
How often do you take your dogs to the vet?
The vet visits every 2-3 months mainly for routine treatments and vaccinations. Although, honestly I don’t usually have crises because I maintain a clean environment and good hygiene. I don’t usually have ticks infestation and when I do (and even before that), I’m quick to fumigate my kennels and compound.
Your perception of veterinarians in Nigeria?
I don’t patronise many vets. Dr. Abiade of Petcare Animal Hospiatal, Lagos has been my vet for a long time. He comes once in 2 months or so. There are many quacks in Nigeria. Some vets here (Ekiti State) are used to poultry e.t.c and have not even seen some of these breeds. Nigerian vets need better exposure and tools, basic tools like ultrasonograph but we will get there.
Any bad vet experiences?
Well, I don’t want to blame it on the vet. I lost a dog. I called one of the vets here but I’m not sure about what happened and I don’t want to blame it on the vet. I don’t like shifting blames. I want to encourage vets to learn more and improve. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn.
Yes, with Parvovirus. Parvo showed me though that was quite long ago. I lost some dogs to Parvo.
Seeing as you love your dogs so much, can you leave your inheritance to your dogs?
Our culture in Nigeria will not allow that. Even if I do, how do I ensure that it will be followed through. I can leave a trust fund to take care of my dogs. But even when you travel and you leave money with your gateman to take care of your dogs, you aren’t dead yet o, you just travelled o, we all know what will happen…
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to interview this great cynophile. It’s a privilege I don’t take for granted when busy people take time out of their busy schedules to grant interviews. Thank you Barr. Babasoji Awe! I really enjoyed interviewing you and certainly learnt a couple of things.