Where dogs and cats are chicken soup for the soul

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I know people spend hours at cafes on laptops, ipads and other gadgets for work and leisure, but it is not my usual cup of tea.

But there are two cafes in Ho Chi Minh City that have succeeded in keeping me there for hours in recent months.

Their winning formula is: cats and dogs.

The Ailu Cat House Café and the Dogi Café in Phu Nhuan District are natural attractions for me. I have always loved watching and playing with dogs and cats.

Another personally heartening similarity about these coffee shops is that they have been opened by young women in their 20s who came to HCMC from other places.

    A group of young women play with dogs at the Dogi Café

Located on the third floor of the Yuri House, a Korean restaurant run by a Korean woman who it is named after, the Dogi Café charges VND70,000 for one person, for one beverage from the menu and the pleasure of playing with the canine residents for as long as one wishes. 

The first time I arrived at the third floor, I took off my shoes (required), put them on a rack and pushed the door open. At least three dogs began a volley of barking, and I was slightly scared and worried about how friendly they are going to be.

Once inside, I found they were very easy to befriend. 

Long desks and benches make the place look more like a classroom than a coffee shop. But customers are free to push or pull those tables and chairs around every which way as long as there is enough room for them to sit or stand when playing with the dogs. 

The place is divided into two separate areas. The dogs that are not quarrelsome are in one area and the rest, temperamentally different, are confined to another, where they co-exist peacefully.

The Dogi Café is home to many different types of gods including the Golden Retriever, Miniature Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Siberian Husky and Yorkshire Terrier, all reportedly brought from Korea when they were still puppies.

I noticed that the dogs that were more territorial were also more passive.  They seemed to prefer to lie in one spot and doze. When I went near them, they did not even bother to look at me, but when I bent down and stroked them, they were not just receptive, the got up and demanded more. Some even lay down with their heads in my lap and let me hug them.

The dogs "outside" were more active, running all over the place, climbing on chairs and playing with each other as well as with customers. They greeted customers as though they'd known for them for long, and were adept at getting attention, not to mention hinting they would appreciate getting something to eat

The three times I have been to the coffee shop so far, I have ended up staying for four to five hours, something I have never done anywhere else.

Guests are not allowed to disturb the dogs when they are sleeping or eating. They are only allowed to feed the dogs with food available at the shop, and it was really cute that when I got some, the dogs quickly gathered around me and waited to eat from my palm.

The other café gets its name from the word "Ailuros", a ghost in Greek mythology whose has the appearance of a cat. 

   A girl plays with a cat at Ailu Cat House

Located on the second floor of a large apartment complex, this shop does not charge an entrance fee.

And unlike the Dogi Café, this place looks more like a coffee shop with low tables and chairs placed against the wall, leaving space in the middle of the room for some kind of wooden shelf and an artificial tree that probably serves as a scratching post for the felines. 

The shop offers a wide variety of beverages including smoothies and different kinds of coffee at VND45,000-50,000.

A very fat, furry cat was at the head of the stairs on my maiden trip to Ailu café.  Inside there were more such specimens lying all over the place. 

Some people say cats are haughty creature, and that seems to be somewhat true of those at Ailu. They seemed generally indifferent to the guests and had no inclination to hang around them, unlike the dogs.

ADDRESS

Ailu Cat House Café
284C Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District

Dogi Café
3rd Floor, Yuri House, 72B Le Van Sy St., Ward 11, Phu Nhuan District

When I stroked them, they stayed still and showed they were okay with it, but when I tried to hug them, they looked annoyed and looked to escape from my arms. It took them a while to get acquainted and play with me, but they still seemed self-contained creatures, preferring to stay in their own spaces.

Although it does seem somewhat strange to go to a coffee shop to spend time with cats or dogs, it has worked for me. Playing with them, receiving their affection and appreciation, or even just watching them play with each other makes my day.

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