Information and our lives with animals

Information and our lives with animals

PhD student Niloofar Solhjoo loves pets. Recently, a spinal injury suffered by her dog Peter has confirmed in her mind just how special companion animals are in peoples’ lives. In this myView blog post, the Iran-based student explains how her experiences of living with and caring for pets inspired her PhD research project.

Hi I’m Niloo, a PhD student in Information Systems who is passionate about pets. The core idea of my PhD research emerged from my experience with companion animals who give so many of us unconditional love and support during our busy lives.

Niloofar Solhjoo is an Information specialist with experience in animal health information. She’s a distance student studying in Iran.

My background as an animal lover and Health Information specialist, and what I’ve found out about pet owners.

Before I started my PhD, I was an animal health information specialist at a veterinary clinic in my home country Iran. My job was to make sure clients knew where to go for up-to-date, reliable information on caring for their pets.

I noticed that pet owners would come to appointments with stacks of paper they’d printed off the internet, all containing information on the ‘best pet care’ practices. This made me realise just how important a role information plays in the care of our pets.

Where I am now, my dog Peter, and what I’m doing with my passion for animals.

I am studying by distance in my home country, Iran, and I live with my partner, our new dog Peter, and of course my PhD! Peter was recently diagnosed with a spine disorder, which changed my daily routines and responsibilities around caring for him. It took a while for the vets to provide me with the correct treatment for him because initial clinical examinations didn’t show any sign of disc injury in his back; he could walk normally, had minor physical symptoms, and could play and eat without much noticeable strain.

But I knew something was wrong. A childhood memory of our family dog, who also had a spinal injury, helped me understand that Peter was suffering. I insisted on further examination. Finally, through the use of medical imaging, the problem revealed itself in full.

Niloofar Solhjoo adopted Peter after she started her PhD at the University as an offshore student.

How this experience with Peter ties in with Information Systems and my doctoral research

My everyday information spaces are actively constructed by my interactions with people, animals, and things. This gives me the knowledge I need to live with and look after my dog. There were lots of clues that Peter was in pain.

He used to jump, bow, and raise his paw when he wanted attention or a treat. Now, due to his disability, we understand each other in a completely new way. He communicates more via eye contact and facial expression. When he wants something he can’t reach, instead of jumping, he now stares at it.  

In addition to our interactions at home, we also make social networks with other dogs and their owners. These social circles inform my pet care and management practices. At the dog park, I talked about my concerns about Peter, and much information about dogs experiencing back pain comes from informal sources.

My study on information surroundings of human-animal life will show how phenomena that are not considered to be information sources can, in fact, be informative and contribute to guardians building understanding about their pets. With this insight, information professionals will be better equipped to create information systems for pet guardians. It will also help animal healthcare providers and educational campaigns to obtain a clear understanding of the pet guardians information world and how to better connect with them.  

Niloofar Solhjoo is a recipient of a Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Doctoral Scholarship and is doing her PhD in Information Systems. She is currently a distance student based in Iran. 

Interested in sharing your experience? Read our submission guidelines and get in touch with your story ideas.