The high life

Many Vietnamese pets enjoy a standard of living that some people could only dream of.

By Le Diem. on April 06,2015 10:23 AM

The high life

With half-closed eyes, Sam looked relaxed as his skin and hair were massaged after a bath. As he lay back, he imagined his brothers and sisters would be jealous at how his master takes him for a massage on a regular basis. They may also worry more than he ever does about finishing up on a plate, given the dining habits of Vietnamese people. If you haven’t guessed already, Sam is a dog.

At pet centres in big cities such as Hanoi, HCMC and Danang are many cats and dogs enjoying the same level of service as Sam.

Besides baths and massages, the little customers can also get medical treatment such as vaccinations, X-rays, and ultrasounds, from advanced technology, just like humans. ‘Pets are the same as people,’ Sam’s owner said. “Besides food and shelter, they also need good healthcare and some relaxation.’

Some owners even indulge their pets in beauty treatment, which is why such services have become more easily found.

Photo: Le Diem
Photo: Le Diem

Minh Thuy usually gets the bath and hairstyling package for Jen, her poodle. After her hair (or fur) is trimmed, Jen takes on a totally new look, with shorter hair and some highlights, this time some red around her ears.

Hairstyles, according to Nguyen Dzung, the owner of Pet Shop and Café in Hanoi, should be appropriate to the pet’s appearance and hair colour, just like for people. Hair dyeing requires a professional technique and selection of the best colour for the pet, so they look chic and fashionable. There are different packages for hair cuts and styling, depending on the type and size of the pet, at an average cost of VND700,000.

Another popular beauty service for pets is nail work, Ms Dzung said. After their nails are cleaned and trimmed, some colourful decorations or even fake nails can be added. As a regular customer, Thuy said ‘Jen is like my child. I’m happy to help her more become beautiful and fashionable. I think she also feels happy after a bath and feels prettier from the hairstyling and nail grooming. I feel proud to go out with her, where she gets a lot of attention and comments over her cool appearance.’

Jen’s boost in self-esteem costs Thuy about VND1 million for bathing, hairstyling and nails. Each week she takes her to get one of the services and each month she gets the whole package. She’s lost track of how much she’s also spent on Jen’s outfits, necklaces and ribbons.

Fashion shops for pet’s clothes and accessories have also appeared in greater numbers, for owners who don’t hesitate to reach into their pockets to beautify their pets. There’s a large range of styles and materials to choose from.

Beyond the beauty care, healthcare and stylish outfits, these pampered pets can also stay in special luxury ‘hotels’ especially designed to cater to their every need, at a price that matches four- or five-star hotels designed for mere humans.

The high life

The Cat & Dog Hotel One, the first of its kind in Hanoi, is where many pets are taken when their owners go away. With a five-storey building and large yard, the hotel offers different rooms, ranging between VND200,000-500,000 at the Standard level and VND1-1.5 million for the VIP suite, with services such as feeding, walking, and bathing. Each room is air-conditioned, with hot water, a TV, and some toys, with a closed-circuit TV keeping an eye on them.

Ngoc Trang, the owner of a Persian cat, is a regular customer of the hotel as she travels quite often. The price, she said, is not cheap but the services and the facilities are so good she doesn’t mind paying. ‘I can’t leave my cat home alone while I’m away,’ she said. ‘I can’t send him to someone else either. So the hotel is a good choice. It gives me peace of mind, knowing he’s being fed and taken care of.’

The services they provide are key to these hotels getting return customers. Bao Sinh, who owns such a hotel, said that, like people, animals have different personalities. At home they may be quiet and well-behaved, but in a strange environment they may refuse to eat or become ill. Some don’t like the dark and bark when the lights are turned off, some prefer solitude while others feel better in a group, some need more heat than others, and there are even those who seem addicted to the smell of cigarettes, if their owners smoke, and bark until their carer lights up. So running a pet hotel requires a lot of experience, he said, to understand the pets’ personalities and give them what they need.

After living the good life, these lucky little companions are also farewelled into the afterlife in some style. Prayer and funeral services for pets have become something of a boom industry, with both burial and cremation on offer. Burial is more expensive, at VND8 million plus VND500,000-1 million for three years afterwards to tend to their grave, while cremation is cheaper, at VND1-3 million, depending upon weight.

At pet cemeteries are hundreds of gravestones with a name, birthday and date of death, and a picture. On weekends or the first or fifteenth day of the lunar month, cemeteries are full of people paying their respects to their dearly-departed pets, burning incense, laying flowers, and presenting offerings of the pet’s favourite food.

One such owner, Huyen Anh, said that many people criticised her for spending a not unsubstantial sum on her dog’s beauty treatment when she was alive and for then arranging the burial service when she died. ‘They asked me why I didn’t give the money to a charity, rather than spend in on a dog,’ she said. ‘But I don’t agree. My dog lived with us for more than ten years. She was always by my side when I was small and my parents were not at home. She was more than a friend; she was a member of the family. I loved her so much. Why shouldn’t I do something great for her just because she was a dog?’

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