Pets are the most affectionate family members, and they are indeed great companions. And when pet parent shares their real-life experience with their pets, it acts as a narrative, and we can relate most of the time with them.
So recently we got an opportunity to interview Liam, a pet expert, and an animal care advocate. Liam’s days are eventful as a pet parent of puffy ball Coco and a ton of ornamental fish. As a working parent, he has a practical story behind adopting Coco, and the story is shedding light on how pets can be a mentor for kids in the modern-day lifestyle.
The interview is a memoir of working parents and plush toy Coco, who helped them align a work-life balance and mentored the kids in their behavior patterns. Besides, Liam’s expert tips on keeping ornamental fish as pets is insightful and can guide the new pet parents. Let’s drill deep and experience Liam’s journey with Coco- the pup with the most enchanting hair locks and the fish with vibrant colors.
Q: How did your pet(s) become part of your family?
A: We have an exciting story behind adopting our pet dog Coco, a Shih Tzu breed dog; we adopted him from a nearby shelter when he was two months old, and I think most working parents will be able to relate to our narrative of making Coco our furry companion.
Sometimes, as working parents, me and my wife Emma, we are unable to spend quality time together with our kids due to our hectic schedule. And we’ve noticed a changed behavior in them, primarily increasing gadget dependency, which, as parents, we found problematic. However, we were not in favor of abruptly prohibiting them from using devices because it makes the kids deceptive in specific scenarios. We were searching for measures to offer them companionship so that they could get engaged in their free time. After having a precise discussion, my wife Emma suggested adopting a pet dog. And I find the idea intriguing. The decision behind adopting a pet is more like our effort to reduce device usage and motivate the kids for constructive behaviors such as empathy, friendliness, and kindness.
We have researched many dog breeds, talked to our neighbors who are also pet parents, and consulted a nearby shelter house and a vet before adopting the pet. Lastly, my wife and I have decided to adopt a Shih Tzu breed as they are affectionate house dogs who love to follow their parents from room to room, especially a breed that sheds less hair.
We have considered all factors such as our lifestyle, budget, home space before bringing Coco home. We visited the nearby shelter home and found an adorable pup. He is now the most pampered member of our family, and kids are his best friends, and so does Coco to them. And that’s how we bought Coco home, and his impact on our kids is immense.
I believe that pets are a great way to improve kids’ behavior patterns. Also, they help uplift your child’s social skills, kids become respectful towards all living creatures and become kind and compassionate, most importantly. So yeah, Coco is like a mentor for them!!
And Coco is the most obedient member, I must say, he is so gentle with the kids. Since we live in an apartment, the Shih Tzu breed is the perfect fit because they can adapt to the apartment living, join you on the couch for cuddles, and you know they can shower you with unconditional love. So here there’s the whole “Coco-the most lovable pup story.”
Apart from Coco, we also have freshwater ornamental fishes, which we have bought from a nearby aquarium shop. I must say fish gives relaxation of mind and also it helps the kids develop a sense of attachment with nature.
Q: How many pets do you have, and what are their names?
A: We have a dog, Coco, and lots of ornamental fishes that we have had with us for the last ten years. We’ve got two freshwater tanks to keep ornamental fish like parrotfish, polar parrotfish, tinfoil barbs, and several other varieties of barbs.
Q: If you have multiple pets, do they get along with each other?
A: As a pet dog, we’ve only Coco with us, and he is least bothered about the fishes in the house.
But in terms of choosing fish that gets along is a challenging task. We sought advice from the vet to understand the combination of fish and the relative factors to determine fish compatibility. Most fish require space; the more they have space, the better day they get along. Fish become more agitated when the tank is crowded and have quarrels with the tank mates.
Besides territorial fish like Parrotfish require even more space. I am also focusing on tank decoration; it helps immensely fish compatibility. Because some of the fish need a place to call their own, they define their personal areas by physical boundaries. Rocks, caves, driftwood, and other decorations help define territories for territorial fish like parrotfish and schooling fish like barb; tall bushy plants provide habitat.
So that is how we ensure that pets, mainly the fish, get along with each other.
Q: What does a typical day with your pets look like?
A: Coco is an extremely playful dog. Hence each day with him is pretty eventful. His day starts with his favorite breakfast of chicken-based meals. Once he is done with it, he’ll take a short power nap below couches or beds. During dinner, he loves his dry pedigree branded food, and at night he dozes off below any bed in the house. Coco never likes to be alone, even when he is sleeping.
Most of Coco’s daily schedule is about sleeping; he spends around 50% of his day sleeping. Usually, dogs’ sleeping regime is irregular, so they require much more sleep than us. Another 30% of his day went into playing and roaming around the house. Whenever Coco does not get the necessary sleep, he gets cranky. We, therefore, have consulted a vet for a healthy nutrition plan and a daily routine with some activities. Besides, on weekends his daily routine sometimes has activities such as jogging, playing, etc.
Shih Tzu breeds usually do not require long runs or tons of exercise, as they adapt well to apartment life. But Coco definitely needs and loves playtime doses of activity to expend his little energy.
As soon as we adopted Coco, we ensured to get a schedule to adjust with the family easily. We have planned mealtime as well as potty breaks for him. Especially keeping a regular schedule of potty breaks is important during house training to keep accidents to a minimum.
Besides, when my wife and I have free time, we try to go for a walk with him around the neighborhood or socialize with friends. Keeping him healthy and happy is the ultimate goal!
In terms of the ornamental fish, we opt for routine fish tank maintenance to keep the habitat healthy and keep the tank environment safe. Daily, we do a quick visual check of the fish tank to ensure that the filter is running correctly, lights are functioning, or all the equipment is running. We also check for the temperature if it is in the proper range.
While we feed the fish, we usually count them and look out if they are healthy. Feeding time is good to check out as it is easy to observe. Also, I sometimes examine the tank to see if uneaten food remains on the bottom once they are done with the food. Whenever I notice any uneaten food left after ten minutes, I cut back on the volume of food at each feeding. And we also ensure to remove uneaten food from the tank. A routine check on the tank helps assess the tank environment and the fish health and it is important.
Q: What do you feed your pets?
A: We offer Coco Pedigree Dry, chicken, and home-cooked food like rice with veggies. We have consulted a vet to discuss what food we can offer him. Because a dog’s digestive system differs from a human’s, some food that may be safe for us is harmful to the pets.
Chicken sticks are Coco’s favorite treat. We also feed him home-cooked turkey and keep it plain and unseasoned. Turkey is an excellent source of protein; however, we remove the fat, and sometimes, too much fat can cause pancreas issues in dogs.
Interestingly enough, Coco loves bananas. But we keep that as an occasional treat due to the high sugar content. In terms of green veggies, we offer him cucumbers. cucumber is safe, and we started to give him cucumber when he became overweight. It was low-calories-snack for him that we now provide him as a snack. We also add green beans to his diet; however, we avoid seasoning and chop up the beans first to prevent choking.
Certain foods such as avocado, cherries, chocolate, coffee, and caffeine are a big no. We have taught our kids not to feed him any chocolates or raisins and grapes or any citrus food as well.
For the fish, we mostly stick to dry food. Dry fish food also comes in granules and pellets, sinking, and floating varieties; you can choose food for specific species. However, dry fish food can be lower in fiber, so sometimes, we add plant-based foods to the diet to reduce the risk of swim bladder disorders and bloating for vegetarian species. We bring vegetables-based food for the nearby pet store such as sheets of dried spirulina or nori algae. These are great food options for the herbivorous fish to nibble on.
Q: What are your pet’s favorite treats?
A: Coco is fond of chicken sticks. We try to add chicken sticks in his diet in a balanced proportion. When we add a chicken meal, chicken, turkey, and eggs to his diet, we literally can see how delighted he is.
Q: What is your one favorite thing about your pet?
A: Coco is the adorable, intensely loyal, affectionate, cuddle baby. He is family-friendly, and I bet you if you don’t fall in love with the little lion’s gorgeous locks. These are just enchanting.
Coco is a pro snuggler and champion lap dog. He loves to stay close, follow us from room to room, and when you give him a chance, he’ll quickly curl up beside you. You cannot say no to this little creature as that looks and feels like a living plush toy.
And his activities are just adorable. Coco is not a watchdog, but he tries to show that he is angry at anyone who rings the bell due to his instincts. He barks, and as soon as anyone enters the house, he will start wagging his tail. At his core, he is full of love and eager to share it with anyone, and he expects nothing but the same in return!
Usually, Shih Tzu gets prickly if they’re being teased or harassed by children. But Coco is exceptionally patient with kids and has never been very angry with them, even if they have been a little rough with him. Who does not fall in love with this frisky puff-ball?
In terms of the ornamental fish, I just love their tranquility and the calming effect when you watch them glide serenely through the water. Their stunning, vibrant colors are mesmerizing; after a stressful day, it brings peace when you just observe them.
Q: If your pet gets hurt, what do you do? Do you contact your vet immediately or first try to address the injury yourself?
A: Whenever Coco gets hurt, we immediately connect with our vet. That’s why we keep the vet’s contact number handy. Keeping it in a place where kids can also approach, we have also trained them to connect with the vet.
Q: Do you have a dedicated vet? If so, why did you choose this particular one?
A: Yes, we have. The vet was recommended to us by a friend. We also chose him because the location is convenient; they also cater to most of Coco’s health needs. Besides, he shares ample knowledge with us, which is helping a lot in taking care of Coco. Most importantly, Coco also loves him.
The vet we have is an expert in his field; he also helps prepare dogs for several dog shows. You just bring your pet there; the diagnosis is proper, the facility is clean, and the staff is so friendly. Even during our scheduled first visit, we are impressed, and if you ask us now, we are impressed by their service every time we visit them.
Q: Does your primary veterinarian cater to all your specific needs and medical specialties?
A: Yes, the vet caters to all of the specific needs of Coco. For the fish, we have started with him as well.
Q: Do you have a ‘backup vet’ in case your primary one is not available?
A: No, to date, we don’t have a backup vet. But my wife and I are discussing opting for a backup vet. Because sometimes it is necessary to make a house call to examine an aquarium or pond, we are looking for a veterinarian who’s close to our location and can provide prompt service.
Q: How many vets have you had throughout your pet ownership?
A: We have only one vet throughout the pet ownership. Recently we have been condensing to have another one. The search is going on, it is in an initial stage, we are taking help of the online vet directories.
Q: Do you have a regularly scheduled check-up/care routine? Or do you schedule appointments on an ‘as-needed’ basis?
A: We opt for a pre-scheduled regular check-up. We both are working parents, so we have aligned the routine check-up with our work schedule. So we just take appointments as per our convenience and decide on a schedule. However, we are feeling a need for a vet to take up house calls. Because you can’t predict the future, we are just thinking of being prepared for any health care needs for pets.
Q: Have you ever needed emergency services for your pet?
A: Yes. When Coco was outside during his playtime, a stray dog suddenly bit him. It was the holiday season, and my wife and I were at home. We hurriedly took him to the facility and had to seek an emergency vet service.
The stray dog attacked him out of the blue, wounded. We cleaned the wound, tried to control the bleeding with a gauge, and rushed to the vet. The pet care clinic took prompt care and prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection.
Q: If so, were the emergency services performed by your primary vet or somewhere else, like a pet hospital?
A: The primary vet performs the emergency services. The facility is well equipped to care for emergencies, and this is one of the primary factors that we have considered while we did our initial research on finding a vet in the area.
Q: How do you schedule your appointments? Phone call, online, other?
A: We schedule the appointments via phone call. Calling him directly is convenient for us. We can check the vets’ availability and accordingly plan our schedule.
Q: If you could improve something about scheduling appointments with your vet, what would it be?
A: For working pet parents, having a vaccination tracker app will be good. And if the app can send reminders of the scheduled appointments, that will be a plus, because in our case, though we are very precise with Coco’s vaccination schedule, sometimes due to hectic work schedules, it goes out of our mind.
Besides, if the app can add contact information for the doctors who can do home visits for any emergency needs, that’ll be great.
Q: Can you share a story of how your veterinarian went above and beyond to care for you and your pet(s)?
A: None. The vet we visit is entirely professional in his service, and he is an expert in his area. He has been performing his duty as per standard protocol. Everything is so well maintained that he never had to do anything special to provide any extra card to our pet.
But he is compassionate and supportive as during the emergency when the stray dog bit Coco we were worried, his words gave us the confidence and assurance that our puffy-ball will be alright. At that time, those words act as a morale boost.
Q: Can you share a story of how your veterinarian came up short in caring for you and your pets?
A: No, we do not have such stories. But yes, he is helpful towards pet parents, and most importantly, he always shares extensive knowledge about pet care, which is something required when you have kids and pets at home. Besides, he listens to our quarries carefully, which is a ‘feel good factor’.