The spirit of giving extends not just to fellow humans, but also our four-legged friends. This was evidenced by the huge crowd that had gathered outside Paya Lebar Square on Sunday afternoon, all there to offer various forms of support to dogs still waiting for a home of their very own. There were dogs in brown, beige and black; feisty or greedy or shy; but what all of them needed that day was a chance at a new life.
Not a single dog I saw was lacking any measure of human attention. Even before I saw any dogs, I saw their supporters, bristling in a huge crowd at an open courtyard outside Paya Lebar Square. Each potential adoptee from Save our Street Dogs Singapore (SOSD) had a circle of volunteers, supporters, and potential adopters around them. Hands reached out to pet them, fingers extended dog treats, and voices were raised to praise them–or, in rare cases, issue warning shouts when any of the dogs got out of line. “They get very excited because there’s a lot of dogs and people around,” a volunteer confessed breathlessly, after having to break up a pair of puppies who had tried to snap at each other.
Everywhere, dogs were straining at their leashes, playfully nipping at fingers, jumping onto people, yapping at other dogs or jostling with them for crumbs. Yet in spite of the chaos and stress of having to deal with the large crowds, the shelter volunteers never seemed to skip a beat. Every sudden disturbance was met with a patient smile and a calm explanation, and in their tolerance it was easy to see the devotion they had towards the animals they were trying to save. Many of them talked as fondly of the dogs as if they were speaking about their own children. “They’re all very pretty. They’re all very cute. They’re all very smart. The boys are just big, big, dumb,” quipped one volunteer good-naturedly about the female puppies. Amid the good humour and laughter were more strident, deeper declarations of dog–an impulsive hug or a kiss from person to pooch, or a verbal testament to their hope for these canines’ new lives. “I heard the black dogs are the most unadoptable,” stated a lady who was looking for a dark-furred dog. “I think they should make all HDB owners have a dog. That would solve the problem,” she added firmly, referring to the spectre of homelessness that continues to plague many strays on the island today.
There were far too many dogs for me to learn about in that one afternoon. But I have tried to tease out the unique backgrounds of each dog I attempted to get to know. Animals cannot speak as we do, and it is up to their personalities and backgrounds–as well as the people who have worked with them, of course–to tell their story. Hopefully through this they and their furry friends may be able to reach out, too, to someone who might be able to change their fate for the better.
Fides (1.5 years old)
“We found him at Jurong Island. He has white hairs and also a white spot on his chest. He has two or three other siblings, but he’s the only one here. We have 50 dogs here, and our shelter can hold up to about 80.”
“He eats a lot, but he’s very strong!”
Baba (5.5 months old)
“Oh, he just wants to play with the other dogs. He was found on Jurong Island. We use a metal leash because he kept biting the plastic ones. He had a yeast infection, so we had to shave his tail to make it easier to apply the cream. He has another sister named Nana who’s also here.”
Falco (3.5 months)
“We don’t ask where they come from, because they’re for a new beginning. It’s another team that brings them in. He actually has another sister somewhere around here–yes, a lot of them are related. He’s quite big already; not HDB-approved. Waah, he’s so greedy.”
Hector (3.5 months old)
“The bare patches are the result of a skin condition. He’s on a normal diet, but I think it’s allergies caused from eating grass and things like these.”
Haely (3.5 months old)
“She’s actually not this calm most of the time. Usually she’s also very active. She’s not trained yet because she’s just arrived at the shelter; about a month ago.”
Kyoto (5.5 months old)
“Oh yeah, there are a lot of other ‘K’s too. We have a Kobe, a Katy… I think we’re going to run out of the thesaurus soon! Usually the people who find them get to name them. Yeah, he’s very playful. At least he’s food-motivated, so he’s easy to train.”
Scooby (2 years old)
“He’s not for adoption. We brought our dog here because we were here to collect something from the SOSD booth. He’s a stray but his legs are naturally like that; his mother was shorter actually. He can run around normally because he’s born with it, so he’s used to it.”
Bibi (4.5 months old)
“She was found on a nature reserve on Jurong–I think it was Sungei something, can’t remember. Her siblings are with another welfare group because the officers took pity on them and called the group. Another guy found her and contacted SOSD. I’m actually a fosterer; I have her and another dog. She’s trained on a pee pad, but likes to go on the grass. This one, she’s very greedy. She’s a chi huo (Mandarin for ‘foodie’)!”
Hannah (3 years old)
“I’m the volunteer; those two are her owners. We found her when she was one-and-a-half years old, in a factory. They had no parents; they were just running around. I wish I had pictures from back then but I don’t! Her coat is very wiry, isn’t it. Sometimes, you just need to come here for some puppy therapy.”
Dawn (1.5 years old)
“Her tail is between her legs all the time because she’s scared. Since there’s a lot of dogs and a lot of people here and she doesn’t like crowded places. It used to be worse; last time she would go hide in a corner. With other dogs she’s okay, but she takes a bit of time to warm up. Her siblings are all like her: shy, and they have the long body. She was found at a factory at Pasir Ris, actually, with four or five other siblings. This is our biggest adoption drive because it’s Christmas, and it’s the last one of the year. There are a lot of dogs we have here who still need a home. Oh, uh, you can touch her from the front. She gets nervous when you touch her from the back.”
Griffin (7.5 months old)
“He’s… a very unique dog. He can be very sweet, and very energetic. I ran 37 k with him yesterday. Normally we run 15 kilometres a day. He needs someone willing to exercise with him. He will go chase birds, and play with the dogs he’s familiar with. He’ll wake me up at 4.30 in the morning, and we go running at 5. He doesn’t open up easily to strangers and doesn’t like to be petted, but he will play with the other dogs that he knows around here. He doesn’t like to be in areas with a lot of other people and dogs, but he’s observing them. He and his siblings were found in a drain at Paya Lebar, all covered in mud. He squats the same way he did as a puppy. His two other siblings were more charming, so they got adopted before him. I raised him from when he was this small until now. Like I said, he’s very sweet, and he can be very energetic.”