Tag Archive | Dogs

Christmas at the SOSD Adoption Drive

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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’)!”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

Christmas at the Open Farm Community Market

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The first time I visited the Open Farm Community (OFC) Market last year, vendors were selling their wares out of the boots of their cars. The informal, leisurely atmosphere hadn’t diminished when I visited again–though the cars were this time replaced by multi-coloured tents and an entirely new variety of home-grown goods on the 3rd of December for the market’s Christmas edition. Despite the Open Farm Community being tucked away beyond a swathe of trees along Minden Road, it had managed to attract a sizeable crowd, some even with families in tow to enjoy this lively collection of independent stallholders.

Besides two of the OFC’s gardeners having a stall on-site selling gardening tools, the regular fixtures of other small stallholders selling locally-grown vegetables, seafood and other natural goods was testament to the site’s goal to promote the incorporation of sustainable living into an urban landscape. “Most of the food we grow goes to the kitchen,” one of the gardeners told me, referring to the restaurant standing next to the vegetable garden on the grounds. Though space and volunteering constraints limits the amount of food that can be grown for the kitchens, the gardeners are hoping to expand their operations. “We also have five chickens,” he added. “We got them four months ago, just to run around and keep the soil fertile.” 

But before I would visit the grounds’ resident poultry, I decided to explore the other goods on offer. In the spirit of community, the market was also a place where small business-owners could advertise their wares with more conviviality than competition. Tall white racks stood heavily-laden with leafy greens and seed packs. Two guys selling mead (flavoured with hops or navel oranges) hawked their goods in between a woman selling thick colourful cubes of artisanal marshmallows, and a couple with dainty pastries for display (the first offering that caught my eye was their ‘Brinjal Cake’–an odd ingredient for a dessert!). A beekeeper invited me to come closer to observe sting-less (and two sting-bearing) bees flitting around tubes of honey made from trees in the Malaysian rainforest: ranging from light amber (cinnamon) to a deep golden-brown (tea tree), from sugary-sweet to mildly tangy.

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A pair of Apis cerana attracted to the scent of their own honey at the Nutrinest stall. One of the staff, Xavier, gave me handy tips on how best to photograph them. “I also have an interest in photography”, he explained.

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A small showcase of the variety of products that can be made from the hard work of a bee and the bounties of tropical rainforest trees. Xavier explained that they took care to ensure the bees produced honey in an environment that had not been poluted by herbicides or agrochemicals.

 

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A corkboard displays the variety of foods that can be spiced up by the addition of nut butter, from muesli to milkshakes. “We tried making all of these ourselves,” the owner, Ming, said. Unable to sample any of his goods due to my nut allergy, we settled for a conversation instead. “The best thing is to do something you like. If you want to be a music composer, you know that you might not be earning a lot of salary. But there are composers out there who can become famous, like Liang Wenfu.”

I threaded my way among them, holding back the temptation to buy everything I saw, to find out what motivated some of the stall-owners to venture into the niche position of selling home-made artisanal goods. I couldn’t resist stopping by when I saw Wholesome Paws’ doggie treats, enamoured by the unique flavour combinations (their dog cookies were made of gazpacho flour, banana and coconut, among other ingredients).

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“The three dogs on the packaging are actually my own dogs. The black one is the one with the yeast problem. I picked her up from Tuas. She has only three legs. But apart from her allergies, she’s doing okay. I adopted the other two from SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs) as puppies, but not the black one. Human’s intestines are like,” and here the owner made a squiggly gesture with one finger, “but dogs’ intestines are straight, so they can’t really digest gluten well. My grandmother used to feed him bread all the time–eat one bite, then throw–until one day we noticed he started to smell. I ended up starting the bakery because my dogs can’t eat the commercially-produced treats.”

Actually, apart from the allergies, I don’t think strays are particularly unpredictable. The allergies are because they didn’t get enough nutrition from their mothers, as puppies. It’s just like the difference between you and me. There are many different dogs at the shelter. Of course there will be one or two that have some trauma or sheng jing bing (Chinese slang for ‘mental problem’) but most of them are okay.”

By the time I’d traversed most of the shops, the mid-noon sun had begun to wear on me. The last stall I stopped by was run by a young woman selling coconut water concoctions, gaily coloured with various tropical fruits and flowers. The storefront itself was a chromatic array of glass bottles, which were mixed and matched to produce equally psychedelic drinks. Though the vivid indigo of their blue pea flower flavour was tempting, I opted for the owner’s personal recommendation of rose-and-dragonfruit. The watery crunch of dragonfruit flesh, coupled with the snap of minute dragonfruit seeds and the subtle fragrance of rose petals dropped into a cup of cold coconut water, made for a surprisingly refreshing combination.

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“This is the first time we’re trying this,” she said. “We wanted to try something new. You can normally find us at Maxwell Road Food Centre.” 

At this point, my attention was diverted to a squirming black bunch of fur tethered to the edge of the stall with a leash. “His name is Bubba! He’s ten weeks old.” Though, she also admitted, she found Rottweilers adorable. What was stopping her from getting one, I asked? She giggled and pointed at Bubba.

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Bubba amid a crowd of admirers.

And before I left, I crept round to the back of the garden to check on the aforementioned chickens in the coop. There were three massive roosters and a pair of hens, one of whom was already sitting on a clutch of eggs. I couldn’t help but feel a burst of excitement at the newest additions to the garden, and maybe the thought of newer additions to come once those eggs hatched into tiny chicks.

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At the end of the day, I came home trudging under the weight of two glass bottles of coconut smoothie and a bag of dog treats, the aromas of dragonfruit and rose still pleasantly tingling on my palate. The murmur of friendly chatter died away behind me, and I pondered how this market didn’t just gather a group of business-owners, but also a chance to partake of a common philosophy for the spirit of an open community.

The Singapore Specials Dog Run

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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.

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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–“

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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.”

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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.”

The dog was fine.

The dog was fine.

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.”

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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.”

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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.”