On Sunday afternoon, East Coast Park went to the dogs–big and small, long- and short-haired, purebreds and strays alike. They, as well as their owners and dog lovers hailing from all walks of life, came together for the fourth Singapore Specials Dog Run. Organised this year by Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), the run was held in commemoration of the stray dogs of Singapore–affectionately referred to by some as ‘Singapore Specials’–and the struggle they go through to eke out an existence on the streets. Their efforts certainly paid off, for they managed to break the Singapore Book of Records for the Largest Dog Run and raise $20,000 for their cause.
The seething mass of two-legged and four-legged ones who had gathered for the race was visible from far off as we approached the start line. There was a festive mood in the air as dogs exchanged greetings in sniffs and licks, owners swapped banter about the nitty-gritty of dog-raising, and announcements blared from the booths to the side of the track. Shortly after we arrived, it was time for the first Buddy Race. As soon as the signal to go was fired the grey track was overwhelmed by a colourful surge of paws and running shoes. Tiny Chihuahuas trotted gamely to catch up to the wide strides of their Golden Retriever cousins, while some of the stockier runners who couldn’t keep up completed the run in their owners’ arms. Whichever group they belonged to, however, the returning runners were greeted with applause. The loudest of cheers of all were reserved for one little Treasure–a dog with a severed spine who, with the assistance of human attendants, managed to propel himself on his forelegs back to the finish.
The camaraderie of the community was palpable in the many owners I spoke to, all who had contributed to making this run a celebration of the spirit of dogs and their people from all over the island.
Angeline, Ansel & Happy (3-yr-old Singapore Special)
Angeline: “We adopted Happy from SOSD–Save our Street Dogs. He’s a very shy dog so we think he might have been abused before. He’s 3 years old, but you can see he already has a few grey hairs. The scar on his ear is from fights with more dominant dogs. I adopted him because I think it’s good to be supporting a good cause, and not puppy mills. Actually it’s the mongrels that can be more well-trained than the purebreds; the purebreds are the ones that make the most noise. As a child I owned all sorts of dogs, both purebred and mixed-breed; I used to have a Poodle and a Doberman.
Ansel: “We have an uncontrollable dog!”
“Yes we also have a brown Labrador in our house, bigger than this one. Happy is the gentle one.”
“Her sister also has a dog and she’s here too! You know, I had a vision of her dogs–“
“He’s seen pictures of them in my house.”
“You know, when the construction workers have no food they eat and they find a dog, they just–“
Nessa & Odin (2-yr-old Singapore Special)
“I adopted him from SOSD. I was the one who decided to adopt him, but my mum’s here too. My favourite thing about him are these brown parts around his ears.”
Paul & Starbucks (1 1/2-yr-old Singapore Special)
“I named him for the coffee because his fur is like that colour. I adopted him from SOSD; decided to pick him up because… he was cute. He runs with me a lot; good to have a running companion. These kinds of dogs don’t really have a history, because most times SOSD just picks them up. The dog’s temperament depends not on their breed, but how they’re trained. If they’re trained to be a guard dog then they’ll behave like one. But you can’t choose a Poodle–size matters, of course! He’s very gentle. Doesn’t bite. Can’t bite, lah. My favourite thing about him would have to be his closeness… how he likes to cuddle up.”
Lindy (6-yr-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi)
“She doesn’t want to walk–only walked a little bit then she’s tired. I don’t know why I got her–we just got her. She’s actually a picky eater; only eats home-cooked food. Vegetables. Meat. A bit of rice. She plays a lot at home. And she can be a bit… Stubborn. But she’s nice, lah. Sweet dog.”
Guiness (5-yr-old Singapore Special) & Ototo (5+ -yr-old spitz)
“You’d think that Guiness is the rough one because of his looks, but actually Ototo is the snappish one. He bites; has bitten people before. And then after he bites people, I and he have to sort it out!”
“My dad saw Guiness as a puppy at a construction site and just brought him home. Had him since he was 5, 6 months old. I named him after the drink, because he’s like that colour. He’s very sweet; doesn’t bite people.”
Mr, Mrs. and Meng (5-yr-old Swiss Shepard) Tang
Mr Tang: “You noticed the dog? So did you notice me too? You didn’t!?… Uh no okay it’s fine.
“Meng’s a Swiss Shepard. There are only about five or six of them in Singapore. We got him from Australia. He’s a very gentle dog. Actually how we joined the run is that we were bringing Meng here for a swim when the organisers came over and recruited us. That was two months ago.”
I asked if they were a couple.
“Well, I pretend to be her husband. We pretend to be a couple. I pretend to feed Meng. I pretend to be a Singaporean–but I have a red passport; I was born here. You know the song ‘The Great Pretenders’? Like that.”
“He’s just lying! I am his wife.”