Updated: January 11, 2022 03:21 PM
Created: January 11, 2022 03:15 PM
IRBIL, Iraq - Welcome to Irbil's pet hotel.
The brainchild of a Amal Amro, a Palestinian refugee, who has transformed her villa into a home from home for cats and dogs.
The canine and feline guests get a warm welcome and lots of cuddles.
Dogs have their own compartment (room) for naps. They can stay overnight or just for a day.
Amro says that pets are nervous in strange places and need reassurance.
"When an animal stays away from its owner, it has to be dealt with in a psychological way. The place (animals stay in) should not be a strange place. The accommodation must be well prepared in a way or another. It has to be well equipped so the animal won't find it weird and get upset. Sometimes, animals whether it was a cat or a dog, get upset when they don't find their owners. Sometimes, they stop eating and sometimes they try to run away," says Amro.
Dog grooming services are also offered to those who need a comb or a trim.
"I have a dog and I brought it to here to have a haircut and to be washed. There are few places like here which provide good services, knowing that now more people are interested in adopting pets, especially cats and dogs," says Bafrin Warti, dog owner and customer.
And regular customers benefit from personalised treatment.
"Now, this dog is scared. He was living with somebody else before, and he was beaten or abused. So, he is very scared. I can't even touch his paw. So, we deal with him with intensive care, to give him the feeling that he shouldn't be scared and comforting him," says Ali Sayfo, Amro's husband and business partner.
Each day is filled with a routine of activities for the animals, to keep them occupied, until their owners come back to pick them up.
Cats are kept in a separate area of the villa.
"We have a big villa. The surface is approximately 400 square metres. We also have a big garden in the back, but we don't take them out very often because of the rain. But we do take them out for a walk. We have activities and a daily program that are listed within the frame of hotel services, which include sleepover inside rooms, I mean it is indoor and not outdoor, and the rooms are furnished. There is carpet on the floor, toilet pads if the animals wanted to do something, and food and water," says Amro.
Reunions with owners are a time for cuddles, as Minky the cat demonstrates when reunited with his owner Laura.
"I bring him here because he likes this place it is like the second home, so he enjoys being here. So then, when I am away, I know he is like having a good time as well here," she says.
However Amro is struggling to find local people who are willing to train to work with them, despite the local demand. Her brother organises logistics and shipping.
"You can say it is a family business. It is me, my husband, and my brother working in the place. We couldn't find staff. Honestly, this is what I am struggling with. For example, I couldn't find people that are willing to do or to learn this job. Now, regarding myself, I didn't have any problems in learning this job because I love animals. Me and my husband do the cleaning for animals and sort out things for them, and we wash and sanitise the place on a daily basis," says Amro.
Amro plans to expand her business to include veterinary services for animals travelling with their owners, by providing necessary vaccines and documents needed in other countries, with the assistance of local vets.
Hotel rate starts from $10 for cat and $15 for dogs per night. They have also daycare services which is charged by the hour.
There is additional food cost between $2-$3 for cats and $5-$10 for dogs (depends on type of food the dog takes) wet food is expensive than dry food.
On average, 12 to 15 pets stay at the hotel.
Amro has been living in Irbil, in the Kurdish region of Iraq for seven years.
She was working in marketing in Irbil before losing her job by the end of 2020 as result of the pandemic, so she decided to pursue her childhood dream by opening the Soft Paws care center was opened in December 2020, followed by the hotel.
(Copyright 2022 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)