Remember Benji?

It was 2 years ago when we were first made aware of Benji, the Schnauzer. Pam, a neighbour to Benji's family, contacted us when she noticed a fast-growing mass on Benji's front leg. Benji's elderly caretakers, Uncle and Aunty Soh, who love him very much, did not have the means to take Benji to the vet, so Pam approached HOPE, hoping that we would be able to help. HOPE took Benji to the vet and helped with the bills. Read the story here.

The mass on Benji's leg turned out to be grade 1 soft tissue spindle cell sarcoma. These tumours normally do not spread and if removed, tend not to recur. However, given the size of Benji's tumour, the vet had warned that a recurrence might be a possibility in Benji's case. Benji was further treated for kidney stones and sent back to his family. He had to be on a special diet. 

It has been 2 years since we have heard from Pam or Benji's family, and we had hoped that no news is good news. Unfortunately, what the vet feared might happen have come to pass. Pam contacted us and told us that a lump had reappeared on the same leg. Edmund, Uncle and Aunty Soh's son, had brought Benji to the same vet as before, where the vet advised to have the lump removed immediately before it grows any bigger, given the speed at which it grew before. Otherwise, they risk losing the leg if the lump grows to the size it did before. The vet also advised dental cleaning, which they had put off 2 years before due to the cost of the surgery. As the vet had advised urgency, they went ahead with the recommended procedures as they did not want to waste any more time and put Benji's leg at risk. Poor Benji also had 24 rotten teeth removed!! In total, the procedures cost $2000/-.

Aunty Soh herself had recently undergone heart surgery and only just been discharged. She is no longer working due to her condition. Uncle Soh was also involved in a motorcycle accident so the family has had alot to deal with recently. Yet, despite all this, they have not neglected Benji and are concerned about his health. We cannot turn a blind eye after seeing their determination to care for Benji despite their own plight.

A huge mass on Benji's leg

Please help Uncle and Aunty Soh save Benji's leg to allow him a good quality of life in his golden years. To find out how you can help with Benji's vet bills, please email hopedogrescue@singnet.com.sg.

Written by: Sam


URGENT: Sweet Cat Needs a Home

“Meowww, meowww” *rubrubrub* Every Saturday, as we pull up in front of a factory to feed the doggies inside, a friendly ginger coloured cat would position herself by the side of the factory, purr very loudly and rub herself against our legs. How can anyone not fall in love with her and go “awwww”? She is so adorable. Even the stoniest heart would melt upon meeting her. We have temporarily named her Ginger.

Friendly Ginger

Last Saturday, we caught Ginger for sterilisation. She was so sweet and did not protest at all. Being the dog people that we are, we were so afraid that Ginger might scratch or bite us but she did none of these. She just allowed us to carry her and put her into the carrier. She is such a sweetheart.

Our dedicated volunteer, Qin Wu, the hero who helped to catch Ginger

On Sunday, we sent Ginger to the vet for a check-up and admission. Upon feeling her belly and closer inspection, the vet suspected that Ginger might be pregnant, so she sent her for an ultrasound scan. It turned out that Ginger had a pseudo pregnancy, meaning she was experiencing hormonal changes that made her think she was pregnant and gave rise to signs of pregnancy. That explained why she had slightly engorged tits and appeared to be nursing herself. We heaved a huge sigh of relief upon hearing that as it meant that no abortion would be required.

The next day, the vet performed some blood tests and other checks before proceeding with the sterilisation surgery to ensure that Ginger was fit for surgery. The results were heart-breaking. As it turned out, Ginger had abnormally low red blood cell count and high white blood cell count, indicating possible infection. She also suffers from feline leukaemia virus. Poor Ginger. 

The vet recommended that Ginger be kept in a clean environment and fed well for one to two weeks so that she can beef up her health and increase her red blood cell count before proceeding with the sterilisation surgery. As we could not afford to keep Ginger at the vet for so long, she was transferred to a volunteer’s home and is still staying there now, but the volunteer can only keep her at her house temporarily.

Will you take me home with you?

In another week’s time, Ginger will be back at the vet for a further check-up to ensure that she is ready for the sterilisation surgery. After the surgery, sweet Ginger will need a place to recuperate in or better still, a place to call her furever home, or at least a foster home she can stay at until she finds her furever home. Otherwise, poor Ginger will have to revert to the life of a stray. She does not even seem to belong to the factory that we visit to feed the doggies. She just loiters around that area and there does not appear to be cat feeders in that area. Poor Ginger. Ginger is estimated to be about 6 months to a year old. She is super affectionate and is always asking for head scratches and pats. If you can help with Ginger’s vet bills or help to foster or adopt Ginger, please email us at hopedogrescue@singnet.com.sg. Thank you so much! *kitten eyes from sweet Ginger* *meowwww* *rubrubrub*


Bringing cheer to St Joseph’s Home (Pet Therapy)

Just last weekend, HOPE's very own Harper and another volunteer's dog, Ollie, had their first pet therapy session at St Joseph’s Home

Shun Li carrying Harper up so that the resident can pat her 
Ollie's very first attempt at being a Pet Therapy dog

As volunteers, we were tasked to bring the dogs around the home and encourage the residents to give pats and interact with them. 

Harper, a special needs dog, giving love to the residents 

Both Harper and Ollie did extremely well for first-timers! They weren’t only calm and collected, but also gladly welcomed pats and paw shakes. Many residents felt that they could relate to Harper when they saw her on her wheelchair, as they, too, have walking disabilities but have chosen to look on the bright side of life.

Very often, the staff need pet therapy too 

These 2 dogs belong to the staff of St Joseph's Home 

It was a truly rewarding experience as we saw how their faces lit up with joy whenever they interacted with the dogs. We could also tell how proud Harper and Ollie were to be able to provide comfort and companionship to those in need. Needless to say, we were really proud of them too. Well done Harper and Ollie!!!

Being on her wheelchair had its limitations as the residents often could not reach Harper 

The one hour spent at the nursing home might be the ones that the elderly residents looked forward to most. It’s amazing how much a few volunteer hours can make the residents feel loved and cared for.

An extremely exhausted and proud Harper 

We're so proud of our little fighter <3 <3

Written by: Shun Li


Life Begins At 10

What happens to a dog if its owner passes away? We always hope that the dog will be treated like any other grieving family member and still have a loving home to mourn in and loved ones to get through the loss with. However, this is not always the case.

The day her new life began

We wonder if she knows what lies ahead 

We were informed of a case of neglect and shown a photograph of a schnauzer in a cage and certain signs told us that she may have been caged for a while. She was a bit tubby due to lack of exercise. Further, her legs were very weak and her paws were so smooth that they tore and bled the first time we walked her. All these point to her having not been walked in a long time. We found out that the late owner had been ill and had in fact passed on just a week prior, and had not been able to care for the dog properly while she was sick. While she was survived by her husband, he was also not able to provide the care and attention that the dog needs and released her to us readily. 

Unkempt fur and a "botak" head (bald patch on head) 

When we got her, her fur was so badly matted and her body reeked of pee that it seemed like she had not been given a bath, much less been groomed, for quite a while. Her nails were so long that they were curled sideways. She looked and smelt so bad that we brought her straight to the groomer's to shave everything off. It is no surprise that she would have a skin infection and under all that matted fur was red and crusty skin. The smell of infection was so strong that it stayed on our clothes all day. She also has a small bald patch on her head which is so smooth and furless that we doubt any fur would grow back in that spot.

Nails so long they curled sideways 

Dirty & unshaven 

Looks at the inside of her ears!

Terribly bad skin infection

The next order of things was to get her to the vet, which we did the next day. At the vet, she was diagnosed with a laundry list of issues, some we expected, and some which were more concerning. Her skin condition was severe and she was not going to win any hearts over with her tartar-filled smile either (if a few teeth can make up a smile). She was anemic and dehydrated. Her urine was very concentrated and had crystals in them, which could be due to her dehydrated state. A urine cytology test was taken and it showed she had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Her hind legs were weak and she had early-stage cataract. She was not sterilized and had never been vaccinated. She had a heart murmur due to a faulty heart valve and will need to be on life-long heart medication. She has a luxating patella that had been left unrepaired and she seems to have endured it for a long time as it has begun to fuse in the wrong position thus she has difficulty sitting as it makes it uncomfortable. Most concerning of all was a lump found on her back. This lump feels to be attached to tissue. When it was aspirated with a needle, it was found to be filled with blood. The vet is concerned that it is a sign of hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant tumour of the blood vessels. We had her scheduled for dental and sterilization. She had 4 teeth extracted and her remaining teeth cleaned of tartar. During the sterilization, another blood-filled lump was found on her groin. The vet recommends she goes in for another procedure in a month or so, to remove both the lumps and send them off for further testing.

At the vet     

4 teeth extracted and she now only has 9 left

She has early stage cataracts 

She has luxating patella in both hind legs 

Apart from all her physical issues, she also has a deep sense of fear; a fear so great that it’s going to take a while to overcome. We will not speculate her past but she cowers and yelps at the top of her voice when we touch her suddenly, when we raise our hands above her, hold her neck or when she meets people for the first time.

While the news so far is worrying, we are glad that she is no longer suffering in her cage. At 10 years old, face all white from an extremely hard life, she is now safe and can begin to rebuild her life at her own pace. Her total medical bill amounted to $1500. If you can help with her vet bills, please email hopedogrescue@singnet.com.sg.

Written by : Sam


What Makes A "Special" Needs Dog Special?

What makes a "special" needs dog special? Is it just a term we use to satisfy our politically-correct sensibilities? Or a marketing gimmick to fob these dogs off to unsuspecting adopters? We at HOPE do not believe so. Sure, they may require different types of care but that may not necessarily be very much more challenging than taking care of any animal (or human) in general. And, while all dogs can teach us a thing or 2 (or 10), about living life to the fullest and taking joy in the smallest blessings, we think that special dogs are rightly called as such because there are some lessons that only they can teach. Lessons such as perseverance, determination, and never giving up in the face of adversity. "Adversity" does not even exist in the dictionary for these dogs. 

HOPE's own specials are members of the Diaper Club. Members are easily identified by their diapers and their unquenchable zest for life:

Matthieu, our oldest resident, broke his back and became paralyzed when something heavy fell on his back at the Jurong Island worksite that he used to live in. As a result, Matthieu is now wheelchair-bound and needs to have his bladder expressed 3 times daily. But this old man does not need your pity, nor want it. Master of the bum shuffle, this wise, old gentleman can charm the socks of any lady (or fellow gentleman) if only given the chance to.

SiDa narrowly escaped being just another traffic statistic. Hit by a lorry not once, but twice, you can only imagine the sheer determination and love for life she had (still has) to survive the horrific accident to this day. She also teaches the lesson of steadfast love. She has not forgotten her first love, Yongyurt, and how he used to care for her, though they may be apart now. We wonder, who will be the next contender to win her love?

Harper, unlike Matthieu and SiDa, was born without the use of her hind legs. The first picture we received of her showed a tiny thing trying to power through on her tiny front legs. Her tiny stature belied her fierce determination. Harper is no longer the small puppy she once was but her determination never waned. Harper has dreams of being an F1 racer - while she started out with a 2-wheel-drive, she is now also an expert at maneuvering in a 4-wheel drive. 

Donut is the latest to be inaugurated as a member of the Diaper Club. She had a run-in with a lorry and came out of it with a fractured back and dislocated hip. Amazingly, her back was not so badly damaged that she can now walk like a normal dog. However, the accident has not left her without any permanent effects. The muscles and nerves around her bladder were permanently damaged so she will leak pee and even poo. Despite that, Donut is hopeful and determined that, with the help of hydrotherapy sessions, she will be running around again as if the accident never happened. 

The members of the Diaper Club are not special to us because they have needs that are beyond what is normal, like requiring to have their bladders expressed a few times a day. They are special to us because they teach us special lessons. Watching them never give up no matter the challenge that they are faced with is what drives us to continue doing what we do despite the hardship we face. How can we give up if they don't give up? If only people would learn to see them through our eyes. They too will understand and appreciate the truly special nature of these dogs and how having them in a home is a special gift to be cherished.

Written by: Sam


St. Joseph's Home Animal Assisted Therapy Briefing

HOPE was invited by St Joseph's Home to speak about animal-assisted therapy. Fiona Foo, founder of HOPE Dog Rescue and trainer of Singapore's very first Hokkien therapy dog, Button, was the speaker at the event. Besides Fiona, some of our volunteers and doggy ambassador, Harper, attended the event. 

Animal-assisted therapy, as the name suggests, is a form of therapy that incorporates animals. It is believed, and backed by numerous studies, that animals make the best therapists! Studies have shown that interactions with animals reduce stress in people. Just playing with or petting animals increases the production of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin, at the same time decreases the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Therapy dogs have been used in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and special schools, helping with healing and rehabilitation by lifting the spirits of the people they meet at these places. 

While various types of animals can be used as therapy animals, dogs are the most common. Therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs. While the latter usually have all the characteristics of a therapy dog, their main purpose is to help humans with disabilities to navigate day-to-day life. Service dogs should not be interacted with while they are working as this may distract them from paying attention to their human's needs. Unlike service dogs, human interaction is encouraged with therapy dogs as they are there to increase the mental and emotional well-being of people other than their handlers. 

That's our little Harper 

While therapy dogs do not require as much training as service dogs, not all dogs are suited to be therapy dogs. Because these dogs are expected to interact with many people who may not know how to interact correctly with dogs, they need to be of stable temperament, friendly and easy-going. They should also not be be excitable as too much excitement may not be good for some of the people they meet, so they should be of a calm disposition. The owner, and handler, of therapy dogs also play a big part as they would be the ones to facilitate the introduction between animal and human.

The talk at St Joseph's Home was to kick-off the animal-assisted therapy program at the home. Come 7 July, we will have our first therapy session at the home. This will be an ongoing program and sessions will take place every first Saturday of the month. Harper will accompany us on these visits as training to see if she is suited to be a therapy dog. 

Written by : Sam