Marcel Lennartz has lived in Vietnam since 1995, nearly twenty years, which is quite an achievement and also been witness to many changes in this country. Most importantly for our readers is his account of the changing attitudes and social responsibilities towards pet ownership in Vietnam, especially in regards to dogs. Marcel had a memorable childhood filled with pets in Europe and like most Expats who decide to have pets in Vietnam had to adapt quickly to the questionable ‘trade’ of pets and the controversial practices of local Veterinarians. Marcel shares with you his passions in life, his family and experiences of pet ownership abroad and in Vietnam.Q.
Briefly tell our readers your experiences of owning pets where you were born and raised?
A.I started having pets when I was living overseas in Hi, my name is Marcel Lennartz, 43 years old and an electrical / electronics engineer from The Netherlands, and a sports fanatic. My love for Vietnam started in my country, where many of my friends were Vietnamese and Chinese. This motivated me to visit Vietnam in 1992 for a one month holiday, and then returned to Vietnam in 1995.
The smile on Vietnamese people’s faces, the culture, the food, the weather and of course the daily strange things that “happen only in Vietnam” kept me here. Now, 19 years later, I still live in Vietnam and love every single day of it. In 1998 I was married after 3 years being together with my future Vietnamese wife. Our son was born in 2010 and is now beginning to speak three languages and creatively mixing them to the delight of all!
Since my arrival I worked in various positions at Vietnam Brewery, Conenco Constructors SEA, and Atlas Industries (9 years). I am currently the General Director of WA-Projects, a British Architectural company.
Until I was six years I lived in the Netherlands and then until 14 years of age I lived in Stolzenau, Germany. In Holland we had a dog called Nita and 2 cats (Blacky & Miets). My parents always told me that I must respect all animals and never should hurt them as they have feelings like you and me. If you ever hit an animal, you are also capable of hurting a child. They all loved animals. When we moved to Germany, Nita and the cats came with us. One cat died of cancer but it didn’t take long before another cat came to knock on the door asking if he could live in our house. Most holidays the dog came with us and the cats were taken care of by our neighbours. For our cats we had a special cat-door with a sensor. If our cat would come home they put their heads through the small door and the sensor would trigger that the door would automatically open (only for our cat, not for other cats). Our dog lived to 15 years of age, one of the cats reached 18 years, and the other cat, we are not sure, probably lived to about 15 years.Q
When did you decide to include a pet in your life in Vietnam?
AWhen I moved to Vietnam I wanted to have a pet but the first few years I lived in a guesthouse so that was not possible. When I got married in 1998 I immediately bought “Lulu” from the street. A lovely little dog but died very fast due to various illnesses. We then bought another dog called “Boy”. He looked healthy and strong and I decided that he needed a friend. I bought another dog, ‘Puppy” from the street. She was crippled, had two toes too many and was a bit ugly. The dog seller wanted to sell me some nice dogs but I insisted that I wanted to have that poor little puppy that was cramped into a cage. They thought “crazy nuoc ngoai”. Soon after I took Puppy home she became very sick and we thought that she would not survive. She infected the other dog, Boy, which died quickly, but against all odds, Puppy survived!
Right now I would never buy a puppy from street trade again. At that time I didn’t know better but unfortunately most street trade dogs lead a poor life, since they are born and raised for money without the owner caring about the dog’s welfare. The traders often hit their dogs, keeping them alive with minimum effort and resources. I gave Puppy a wonderful life, but by buying her it also meant that I contributed to keeping the selling of the street trade of dogs alive, which is wrong.
When Puppy was sick, the local Veterinarian visited and gave my poor dog a “vitamin” injection which was far too big for such a small animal. A huge injection which you wouldn’t even give to an human adult! Since then, I have learned that most local vets really only give a ‘cocktail of vitamins’ and other unknown medicines without actually knowing how much they should give, what it does or what it doesn’t to the animal!