Photography by Hayssam Samir Photography by Hayssam Samir

Dog on Board

Wed, Sep. 13, 2017
Cairo – 13 September 2017: Come summertime we are all left wondering whether the beach house we rented is pet-friendly or if we need to start making calls and beg to find someone to dog-sit. Until last January we took our 10-year-old golden retriever, Suski, with us everywhere; we even made our car-purchasing decisions based on whether Suski would fit there.

But a family trip to a non-pet-friendly hotel in Luxor meant we had to find somewhere to leave our dog. One of the more established kennels where we had left Suski a couple of times before on trips abroad was our top option—but we were in for a shock when they told us they wouldn’t take the dog because “he’s old.” After a series of social media rage storms about the too old-to-board kennel a friend suggested Kelabi and we instantly fell in love. The owners laughed when we asked whether they board older dogs and told us that his age doesn’t matter, so long as he’s in good health, vaccinated and has caring and engaged owners.

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At Kelabi, Suski is transformed from a dog who can’t bear to be away from us and who spends most of his days lazing about from one rug to the other, to an energetic, young pup who loves to play with the resident pack and becomes instantly excited at the sight of his now-second home. In fact, Suski loved Kelabi so much that we agreed to send him over for weekends every now and then to energize and refresh.

Sally Adly, Kelabi co-founder and manager, explains that the key principle at Kelabi is to give one-on-one care to a small number of dogs to be able to guarantee a personalized experience where the dog will feel at home and get plenty of play time and socialization with other dogs.

Adly and her husband Mahmoud Tarif left the corporate world behind to pursue their dream of working with animals. Adly had been working with the Swiss Embassy in Egypt on economic development projects in parallel with her animal-rescuing activities. “By the third year, I wanted to do something more serious in the dog world and wanted my work to be related to dogs,” Adly says.

Tarif and Adly had been working with stray dogs for three years; rescuing puppies and older dogs, vaccinating and fostering them and then finding adopters here and abroad. “We always took them to our place and put them in a spare room until we found a home for them,” Adly explains, adding that they would bring six dogs at a time to their home. The couple also volunteered at a local shelter.
“This shelter relocated, so we found it an opportunity and rented their place to make it a home for all the dogs we fostered and couldn’t find a home for,” says Adly, adding that she quit her job and Tarif put his on hold for six months to launch Kelabi. “It is not a rescue place, but we have our seven rescued resident pack and turned the place into a dog hotel.”

Adly is now a full-time manager of Kelabi and Tarif shuffles between the dog hotel and his job as a designer.

In parallel with dog boarding, Adly and Tarif also help rehabilitate baladi (local stray dog breed) dogs and help their owners. “Taking in a baladi dog doesn’t happen very often here, so we offer discounted rates and help them with some training,” says Adly. “Baladi dogs have a very particular nature, they’re very sensitive, extra smart, most of the time they come with a traumatic history, so they normally have a tough life and this is combined with a new parent; so the experience is challenging for the dog owners.” Being familiar with the nature and complexities of baladi dogs, the Kelabi founders decided to focus on extending their knowledge to other baladi owners to get over fears and insecurities developed from their time on the streets.

The Kelabi formula
From the moment you take your dog in for the interview, you instantly realize that Kelabi is not the typical commercial kennel. It’s a closely-run operation with two owners who are so hands-on that one or the other is always there on the facility to play with the dogs and monitor everything in person.

When the dog comes in, the owners instantly assess him to see whether they have any aggression issues they have to address, assess his personality and needs and then match him with one of the seven resident dogs. Once he’s matched with a resident dog, they become play mates during his stay and the matching is based on each dog’s personality, age, physical condition and needs. “It’s not enough for the dog to play, they need to play with other dogs, so they befriend our resident dogs and they show them a good time,” explains Adly. She adds that their pack is a mix of ages, genders and personalities to meet a variety of temperaments.

Instead of the usual hour or two of playtime dogs get at most boarding facilities, Kelabi has a policy that dogs stay outdoors all day long and should only stay in their kennels for eating and sleeping. That means we are guaranteed our dog is playing outside for more than 10 hours every day. “It is always playtime with some training, playing with toys and other dogs; but the dog is never locked up,” Adly explains.

What also impressed us was the fact that we were sent photos and videos of Suski every day during his time there. We were always kept in the loop of which new friends he made, what resident dog he liked the most and what he had for lunch. Suski would come home nice and clean, despite getting muddy there playing with his new friends, and sometimes even smelling of Kelabi’s homemade, all-natural insect repellent.

Kelabi was established in May 2016 and started off with seven kennels. Today they have 19, a number the founders feel comfortable with. “We’re happy with it being small because the point is to make each dog your own throughout the time he’s boarded with us,” says Adly. “There’s a lot of one-on-one attention with the dog and Mahmoud [Tarif] and I are there all the time.”

The resident pack of seven dogs have become part of the Kelabi team, they live there and help Adly and Tarif with the boarding dogs. “They work with us, helping us to teach other dogs to socialize because most dogs coming don’t know how to socialize, have never even seen a dog before or had a bad history with dogs who attacked them and so on,” explains Adly. “So we help rehabilitate these dogs and train them to become more balanced.”

Kelabi • Sakkara Road, intersection of Mariouteya and Mansoureya Canal, after Cataract Hotel • Visits are by appointment only • Telephone: +2 (012) 0302-1779 • Fees are LE 115 a night, excluding food.

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