"I NEVER KNEW that buying a puppy would inspire me to open a pet shop”, thus declared father of one and owner of PAWS Soweto Pet Shop, Vusi Mazibuko at the SHAP Stadium in Mofolo.
Mazibuko, an entrepreneur trained and knowledgeable about pet care, was speaking at the first ever Soweto Dog Show held to educate the community about responsible pet ownership.
Whilst working for a media firm, a Road to Damascus moment descended upon his immediate state of being when he bought his then 4 year old son a Jack Russell puppy.
That set off a chain of events which had him dabbling in designing a store logo, pitching his vision to companies, quitting his job and thereafter, with the active encouragement of his wife, Tumi – pooling his resources in opening the one and only pet shop in Soweto, in Rockville.
In an interview with the media, Mazibuko passionately described his business as a mall for pets and a place where they can feel at home; the first outlet to sell Royal Canin products in Soweto and at a reasonable price, more so!
Elsewhere, 9 year old Charlie wasn’t feeling so well as he laid, with a morose expression, outside the entrance to the show, with minder, Simphiwe Ntshangase watching over him.
He had been brought to the event along with 5 months young Browny and 5 year old Rover – who were kept on leashes by Simphiwe’s daughter, 14 year old Nobuhle and sister, Mbali.
Having been brought by their owner Violet, Charlie wouldn’t join the others as he had to be taken to the nearby PDSA to get treatment for an inflamed right paw. Asked about their motivation in making the trek to the occasion, Simphiwe pointed out that it offered an opportunity for dogs to see other dogs and wanted to make the most of the free vaccination offered.
They were also there to learn about the fact that there was more to dogs being acquired to merely guarding yards – when owners had to know their diets and regularly walking them.
The trio was just a few of numerous dog breeds and owners who descended on the event in their numbers at an event also billed on distributed pamphlets as a fun day.
A 5-in-1 vaccination which combats the Parvo virus in puppies, as well as an injection for rabies, was freely offered; dog dipping kept volunteer wet and excited and de-worming was also available.
An enthusiastic helper educated on the point that a distinction had to be drawn on dips for bigger dogs and puppies – in addition to dips for cats and dogs. This was crucial since misusage would result in toxic syndromes for puppies.
At the head of a winding queue, University of Pretoria veterinary science student Megan Gibbs had a tough time attempting to administer a vaccination on a developing puppy which bared its fangs and wiggled uncontrollably in its minders arms whilst trying to fend off whatever it was that ‘humans were trying to visit upon its person’. Elsewhere, a representative of the organizers quipped, “responsible owner”, as she spotted a particular breed with a muzzle around its mouth.
Amidst the hive of activities, Corporate Affairs Director at Mars Africa Tumi Masekela took time off to spell out the event organizers’ vision of understanding and connecting with township consumers; instilling owners understanding of nutrition for their pets; how varying weather conditions affect the creatures.
Describing Sowetans’ as a community which loved its pets, Masekela offered that for them, the day served as an opportunity to connect with people.
Although described as a dog show, she was quick to point out that her company also catered for cats – with one of their portfolio brands Whiskas stall visible in the vicinity as she spoke. Proceeds from the R10 entrance fee, she added, would be channeled in recognition of work done by the Soweto Animal Rescue and Advisory Council – which was represented at the show by Jerry Selwane.
A fun day it was with food stalls and a face-painting station available.
Both visitors were treated to a dog parade which had members of the South African Police Services showing off some of their intrepid breeds – as well as other owners parading the likes of the American Bentley and the more familiar Rottweiler.
When a police officer paraded an Alsatian around, a Royal Canin representative described it as a herding breed and emphasized [in a serious tone] that humans had to allow them to do what they were meant to do.
Her intonation was horse-whisperer stuff along the lines that owners had to appreciate the synergy of nature – and was even more so resonant against the context of the breed being more synonymous with law-enforcement.
Declaring her satisfaction with the impressive turnout and whilst purring at how healthy the four-legged visitors appeared, Masekela expressed the hope of making the event she deemed as a test-and-learn – an annual affair.