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


Why People Are Still Buying Dogs?

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

Dog lovers will surely agree when we say this; however many may falter when asked the all-important question, “buy or adopt”. Just as there are many reasons to shop for your dream pooch at your local pet store, there are just as many compelling ones to adopt one! But first, let us look at what lies beneath the innocent facade of cute pet shops and the true origins of “that adorable puppy” in the window.

Two words - puppy mills. These are large-scale, high volume commercial dog breeding facilities where profit is attained at the expense of innocent lives. Bred and raised solely for monetary gains, these puppies and their mummies are kept in shockingly unsanitary and overcrowded conditions which in fact increases their susceptibility to diseases. Surely they get proper food and veterinary care then? The answer is very often NO.

Singapore is also no stranger to such abhorrent scandals. Over the years there have been numerous cases of pet shops and animal farms suspected of breeding puppies in substandard living conditions, with some clear-cut cases of abuse and negligence having surfaced as well. For example, in 2010, a batch of more than 70 malnourished dogs were rescued from an abandoned puppy mill.

Assessments done by Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has revealed that 83% of local pet farms do not provide basic welfare for animals; this means not ensuring the length of the cage to be at least two times the length of the animal from nose to base of tail, and for the width be at least one-and-a-half times the length of animal.

Despite hearing and knowing about the state of these puppy mills and sad, torturous lives of breeding dogs – many people are still foolishly paying thousands for each dog. Why?

“I’m paying thousands for a pure-bred dog that has ‘papers’ to prove.” It is a known fact that such ‘papers’ may be easily obtained with payment, or even through forgery. The certificate also says nothing about the conditions in which the puppies are bred and raised. In short, there is no guarantee that the “pure-bred” dog you buy is healthy or free from genetic defects. All these papers mean is that breeders and pet shops are “entitled” to sell their puppies at a much higher price.

When you adopt a dog, you spend a miniscule fraction of the cost and not to mention:
  • You are giving them a second chance at life; they will be forever thankful!
  • You are getting exactly what you see; shelter dogs have been checked and inspected (and sometimes even pee-pad trained), and you will be informed of their health conditions if any    
  • You are indirectly helping to put an end to the horrible practice of puppy mills.
  • You are making yourself feel good by doing good!

By opening your home and heart to foster a dog, you are spreading and sharing hope and goodwill!

Adora, 3 yrs old, Female
Blake, 4+ yrs old, Male
Brandy, 8 yrs old, Female
Chester, 5 - 6 yrs old, Male

Cody, 5 - 6 yrs old, Male
Harper, 5+ yrs old, Female (Special needs)

Matilda, 4 yrs old, Female
SiDa, 6+ yrs old, Female (Special needs)
Matthieu, 15+ yrs old, Male (Special needs)
Nina, 11 yrs old, Female
Socks, 9 yrs old, Female

Written by : Wee Yen


Aid to Senior Citizens

Hope started out as a dog rescue. Over the years, we have extended our "clientele" to furry pals of the feline nature as well. But it is not just the four-pawed species that we help. We also help the humans we come across in our rescue work that require help themselves. 

Chinnu & Mdm Puspa

We always hear stories of people abandoning their pets like they were yesterday's news. What we hear less of are the stories of those who do all they can to keep their pets, no matter the struggles they have to face or the costs to themselves. These are the people that give us hope that not all is lost for humankind, that there are still people out there who are compassionate and kind. And these are the people we would gladly help.

Mr. Akira
Over the years, we have come across senior citizens and low income families who have pets that they love and would not give up for the world. They would rather scrimp on their own wants and needs than make their pets go hungry or cold. There have been numerous studies showing that keeping pets is beneficial to one's health. Pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase social interaction and physical activity. This is great news for people of all ages, but more so the elderly. Walking and playing with their dogs can help them to keep up with their own physical health. Interacting with their dogs (and other dog lovers they meet on their walks) can improve their emotional well-being and provide the mental stimulation that may stave off dementia. 

Benji, the miniature schanuzer
Knowing how these families benefit from having dogs around, and seeing first hand just how much their dogs love them back, we can't help but want to do all we can to keep them together. In the last 5 years, Hope has taken a more active role in helping senior citizens and low income families keep their families, furry companion included, together. We provide dog food and medical aid for the dogs so that these families can use more of their income on their own needs. If the families need other types of assistance, we refer them to the right community welfare organizations. We make sure that they have all the help they need to live well with their dogs. 

There is not a bond so special as that between a dog and its human. This is nowhere more evident then in these cases where material comfort is not a main factor in the relationship and all that keeps a human and his, or her, dog together are pure love for, and the joy they bring to each other. While Hope started out as a dog rescue, our work is not limited to dogs. We will extend our hand to humans who, like us, understand and appreciate the gift that is the dog. If you, too, wish to help these families stay together, email hopedogrescue@singnet.com.sg for more details.

Written by: Sam