Spark Of Life

On this affluent island we call home, it is hard to imagine a life of extreme poverty and hardship, given the fairly comfortable conditions most of us live in. It is easy to forget about our fellow human beings in need. More likely, we tend to forget, rather conveniently, about the hundreds of poor defenseless animals out there without a place to call their own. I am talking about stray dogs and cats who face the brutal elements each day. For them, a sense of security and a full stomach are as scarce as the scraps they live by.

You’re about to listen to the story of two wonderful mongrels, Sparky and Momo, and their inspiring tale of survival. I hope that you’ll be able to find it in your heart to adopt them after reading this article. If you are unable to do so, I sincerely hope you’ll be able to share their story with your friends and relatives. They deserve that much.

Their mother, whom I shall name Faith, was only a year old when Hope Dog Rescue chanced upon her. Being reduced to skin and bones herself, Faith hardly had any strength to care for her pups and much less nourish them with milk. Her ribs were showing, and it was truly heartbreaking to see her in such an impoverished state. Can you imagine being a mother under such brutal circumstances? In other words, Sparky’s and Momo’s trials and tribulations began the moment they set their paws unto this earth.

Faith was reduced to skin and bones when we spotted her. It was a miracle she managed to deliver her pups in such a delicate state.
A worker helping us lift the metal pieces to get to the pups.

This pile of rubble was home to Faith, Sparky, Momo, and the rest of the three pups.
Our team found five pups altogether after hearing their cries emanating from a heap of rubble. They were probably only about three weeks old; and still crying from fear and hunger when we lifted them out from beneath the dirty planks and corroded metal sheets. Without a doubt, these five pups would have perished if we didn’t rescue them. Unfortunately, Faith was extremely wary of humans, and her elusive movements made it very difficult for us to reach her. On the bright side, all five pups were rehomed three months after we saved them from certain death. However, their happy tales were prematurely cut down by irresponsible and rash owners, at least for Momo and Sparky.

Sparky (left) and Momo when they were three weeks old. It's not hard to adopt them when they are so small and cuddly, is it?
Momo was adopted by a young couple who insisted on keeping her after we advised them about the difficulties of raising young pups. For example, we told them that young pups love to gnaw on furniture or anything they can get their tiny fangs on due to their teething phase. Puppies are also extremely playful, and not to mention messy too since they are not potty-trained as yet. But barely after two short months, this couple, who was once so eager to adopt Momo, was equally eager to give her up. We advised them to be patient, and to send Momo to obedience school if need be. As you probably would have guessed - our advice fell on deaf ears. 
Momo when she was a tiny pup.
Sparky suffered a similar fate as well. He was adopted by a father of two teenage kids. This man is supposed to be familiar with dogs, for they have an old silky terrier with them for some time now. However, we did remind him that strays are not like toy dogs. He’ll have to be firm with Sparky else he might get out of hand in future. They didn’t listen. Instead, they failed to discipline him by allowing Sparky to jump on people. Like clockwork, it wasn’t long before we heard from Sparky’s ex-owner. He complained that a much bigger Sparky was jumping on people and frightening his silky. By then, Sparky has outgrown his cuteness and he was no longer the small and fuzzy puppy he once was. He was returned when he was six months old, much like a shirt that didn’t fit anymore.

What went wrong here? Were their expulsions the fault of Sparky and Momo? No. They were just behaving like whom they were meant to be – dogs. They might still be living in cozy homes today if their ex-owners would only exercise a little patience and effort in understanding dog psychology and behavior. Anyone who has raised a pup from a tender age would know how frustrating the experience can be. But with a little fortitude and insight, it isn’t an impossible task to see them through to adulthood. The rewards of having a loyal, obedient, and loving companion is well worth the expended sweat, teeth gnashing, and sleepless nights spent caring for them.

Taking care of a dog isn’t easy. And I am saying this as an owner of two lovely pooches. But if I could have it all over again, I would rather sacrifice my life than give up my beloved dogs for any reason. Because of human oversight, Sparky and Momo are now living in the cramped and smelly confines of a kennel. That was the price they paid, through no meditated fault of their own. This isn’t how a dog should spend his or her days, is it? Remember, dogs only have a lifespan of ten to twenty years compared to us.

Sparky (left) and Momo as they are today. These dogs don't need your sympathy. They need you to understand the hardships they've been through and your assurance that you'll make life better for them. Never have they once complained.
With that, I hope you’ll consider adopting Sparky and Momo if circumstances allow you to do so. I still walk Sparky twice a week. He is currently seven months old and still a little jumpy when he’s excited, but I can assure you he’s one of the most affectionate dogs you’ll come across. Although I might find it hard to give him up when the time comes, I know that it’s only in his best interests when he finds a proper home to stay. I would like him to mingle with other dogs in the future too. 
Sparky  (male)
Breed  :  Local Cross
Age  :  Estimated 7 mths
Temperament  :  Playful, highly excitable and intelligent. Sparky would make an excellent agility or guard dog. Takes a while to warm up with other dogs but enjoys their company.

Momo (female)
Temperament  :  Obedient, sociable, highly intelligent and gets on well with other dogs. Takes a while to warm up to small children.

* Both Sparky and Momo have been microchipped, vaccinated and sterilized.

Might you be the one? Sparky and Momo ARE HDB approved dogs. and will be medium sized when fully grown.

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
~ Author Unknown

Written by Andy Sim
Photo credits Kuan and Lisa


Vagabond Sunday

Updates (25 Feb) -  "Sunday”, a rescued stray, urgently needs a foster home. She has been discharged from the vet and staying at the boarding kennels for the past 3 days.

She doesn’t like the kennels. She is sad and scared. “Sunday” has not eaten or drank water for 3 days and we are pleading for anyone with some space in their home to please foster “Sunday” for a few weeks till she starts eating and feels secure again.

She has just been sterilized, some loss of fur from malnutrition and conjunctivitis. She has no contagious diseases.

(22 Feb) - Sunday will be discharged from the vet on Thursday. Will a kind soul please foster her for a few weeks till she finds a permanent home?

I was born at the back of a factory some years back. My mommy, brothers and sisters all live in the factory and its vicinity. They go out late at night in search of food but I have always been a timid and shy dog, so I chose to remain at the back of the factory, often going hungry or eating metal and wood shavings when my hunger was too much to bear. Occasionally the workers would feed me with leftover curry rice or fish bones – they were the best meals ever, but these meals were few and far between.

My greatest fear was coming in heat and I dreaded it tremendously. As many as ten dogs would be fighting to have their turn on me. Some days they would hurt me and make me bleed. I cried and cried in pain, but they wouldn’t stop. Sometimes I collapse from fatigue and they would guard me till I stood up and they would start again. I would walk for miles when I was in heat, never daring to stop and rest, search for food or drink from the water puddles on the streets, because as soon as I slowed down, they would be on me again.

Over the years, I have lived my life in loneliness, sadness and pain. I spend my days just lying at the back of the factory, keeping out of harm’s way and waiting for my time to go. I have had many litters of puppies, but most of them die before they even reach a year old. I think I am about 4 years old but my body feels much older and terribly tired. I have white fur on my muzzle and my body is exhausted from the years of living on the streets. I have lost many of my front teeth from poor nutrition, living off garbage scraps and the fur on my lower part of the body has also fallen off.

Fur loss on half her body
Look at her poor body, the result of malnutrition, filthy living conditions, and many births

With her front teeth missing
In the past two weeks, I have started venturing out to the main road in search of food because I was pregnant yet again. The pregnancy was taking a toll on my frail, weak body and I have been feeling extremely hungry. I heard from the other dogs that a lady and her friends have been coming around to feed us for years, but I have always been too afraid to venture out, even though I could smell the delicious food in the air.

On Saturday night I was in so much pain and hunger that I decided to go out in search of scraps. It must have been my lucky day! I saw the lady and her friends that all the dogs talk about – she had come round to feed us again. I prayed that she would stop and offer me a nice warm meal. I was shy and scared because with all my fur loss, I didn’t look pretty. I heard her telling her friends to look at that poor dog with no fur. Then I heard her comment, “Looks like she is bleeding from her private parts”. Her friends came over to take a closer look but I was scared and moved away. The lady didn’t give up, she took her torch and squatted near me. She said, “It's blood. We need to take her to the vet tomorrow." Then she ran in to speak to the workers and asked them for their help in catching me. I heard her telling her friends that she would come tomorrow (Sunday) at 9am to take me to see a doctor. I was scared so I quickly gobbled my food and ran back in to the factory.

The next morning, when I was hiding at my usual hideout, I heard the van stop in front and that same lady came out and spoke to the workers, who told her I was nowhere to be found. She must have waited over half an hour, but finally the workers found me hiding under a truck. I allowed myself to be caught as I was tired of living the life I led. Two Indian workers carried me into a huge carrier, which was loaded into a van. Then we were headed straight for the vet, the lady talking to me most of the way, telling me not to worry, that she would not hurt me and she would get me some help.

Lady Sunday arriving at the vet 
Look at the sadness in her eyes

No life in her

Waiting to see the doctor, feeling scared and confused
At the vet, the doctor took my blood sample and ran some tests. They said that I had ehrlichea and my gums were pale.  I had very bad conjunctivitis too. My blood count was rather low at 23, with the normal reading being 35. They did a skin scrape to see if I had mites but I didn’t, so the doctor concluded that it was probably from poor nutrition and living in a filthy environment that has caused me to lose my fur. They warded me, and the next day, the doctor put me under anesthesia and sterilized me. They informed my rescuer that the blood they saw the night before dripping down my fur was the result of a miscarriage. I had lost my precious babies.

Trying to draw blood from Sunday

Checking if her eyes are producing enough tears

Severe conjunctivitis
The white dot in her eye is from an old injury, probably poked by a sharp object

Feeling very miserable and depressed from the loss of her babies

Sunday feeling shy and not wanting eye contact
It has been a week since they saved me, they named me Sunday because they wanted my days to be bright and sunny. They visit me almost every day with the most delicious food any dog could ask for. I had mutton, eggs, beef, liver, food fit for a queen. I lap it all up. The doctor said I was ready to be discharged but the rescuer senses my fear of going back to the streets and so she has kept me at the vet longer than I should. I am grateful to her for this is the only time in my life that I am not scared. I feel secure in the cage. Some days the nurses let me out to walk around the clinic and they smile when they see me curl up next to the cats for a snooze. I like cats. I like animals smaller than myself. Big dogs terrorize me.

Mutton stew for Sunday

This is probably the first time Sunday has ever tasted eggs
Sweet Sunday
Cleaning her eyes

Sunday resting safely in her cage

Allowing herself to be loved at last

In the past one week at the vet, many people have come to visit me; they pet me and bring me food. I am confused and uncertain but it feels nice to have them care for me. I long to be out in the sunlight again, to smell the flowers and to walk on grass again, but I am scared. The feeling of being raped has left a deep impression on me. I have lived all my life as a stray but I long for a home, for love, for security. I get on well with cats and I am sweet and submissive. Please don’t put me back on the streets. I am tired of that life.

Editor’s note: I have been feeding this location for the past few years but have seen Sunday only twice in the past two weeks. She is shy and usually keeps her distance. I am grateful to the workers for helping me catch her and allowing me to take her to the vet. Like all the dogs we rescue, these street dogs are usually the sweetest. They trust.

Sunday has been sterilized and is on medication for ehrlichea and conjunctivitis. If you can’t help financially or physically, then please help find Sunday a home. That’s all she needs in her life. Helping her is just a click away.

To adopt / foster Sunday, please email fiona@hopedogrescue.org  Sunday is a rather small mongrel and is HDB approved.

Written by Fiona Foo
Photo credits: Lisa Goh


Food For Thought

A 2 mth old puppy living in dangerous conditions, waiting for food
“Do not feed the strays” – you might have heard this phrase at some point in your life.  You may or may not agree with this dispensed ‘wisdom’, but we at HOPE Dog Rescue believe that feeding the street dogs is the best way forward, not the other way around. And it works best for these poor dogs’ welfare, and who knows, perhaps for our brownie points as well.

We carry out our missions with good reason and gravity, and we sincerely hope that by the end of this article, you’ll be able to see things from our perspective. Maybe you’ll even find it in your heart to help us with our projects.

Not a life we can ever imagine

Many people disapprove of stray-feeding because “it encourages strays to breed”. Theoretically, giving these dogs food keeps them alive, and provides them with opportunities to breed. However, withholding food from these street dogs iis by no means a way to curb their population. For a fact, even hungry dogs can propagate. And their newborn puppies often go hungry as their mommies hardly have food for themselves, let alone milk to nurse them. At this point, you might think; why not deny them food then? A dead dog can’t breed. But is this what we want? Is this the most humane and compassionate means to control the stray dog population? 
Stray pup with eyes barely open, stuck on a sheet of metal
We build makeshift shelters for the puppies
Jac giving the street dogs some loving

A much better and kinder way of preventing strays from breeding would be to sterilize them. Our “Spay It Forward” program advocates a catch-and-release system. We bring in strays for sterilization before releasing them back to where we found them. Gradually, the stray population will be reduced. Feeding is a great way to carry out our “Spay It Forward” program. Why? As the dogs become more familiar with our volunteers, they’ll develop enough trust for us to approach them such that we are able to bring them to our vets, be it for sterilization or for injuries sustained from industrial accidents or dog fights. Without this trust, it would be difficult for our “Spay It Forward” program to reach these sometimes distressed dogs.

All this food just for the night as we also distribute food to workers

We provide food to factories who have care-givers
Our volunteers also get to know the dogs well through regular feeding rounds. This enables us keep track of the stray population in various industrial areas, as well as any new pups who are eligible for sterilization. This way, we can sterilize them before they reach breeding age. As such, our feeding and sterilization programs go hand in hand. This is a more organized and humane way of preventing breeding, rather than simply withholding food from stray dogs. This way, they can live their lives as strays in marginally increased comfort without more unwanted pregnancies. These dogs may not be pedigrees, but they deserve the right to live as much as you and me.
We apply Frontline on the street dogs in the hope that they won't get tick fever
Applying antiseptic powder on dogs with wounds and injuries
Another reason people commonly give for not feeding strays that is that “it attracts vermin”. The rationale behind this is that when you leave food for strays, you are also feeding pests such as rats and cockroaches with the leftovers. This may be true if you’re feeding your neighbourhood stray that’s already well fed by other kindly residents, but not with street dogs. The strays that live in the industrial areas have no proper source of food apart from what we give them. If we do not feed them, these dogs would be so desperate for food that they would devour bones, rubbish, stale food, and even stones. Yes, you heard us right. They would be so famished that they’ll resort to eating stones. Needless to say, they’ll await our weekly visits with much anticipation, and every morsel is ravenously gobbled down. In other words, there’s simply nothing left for pests!
This little puppy will be sterilized in two weeks' time
That is why we continue to nourish these dogs. Truth is, they have no cushy homes to find solace in. They don’t have anyone to love them like we do. And they don’t have anyone to bring them to the vet when they’re sick or in pain. With all this in mind, we can’t bear to let them go without food as well, or to watch them die a slow and agonizing death without doing anything to help. Simply put, our goal is to reduce and manage the stray population by sterilizing them, while allowing the remaining dogs to live a better life for the rest of their days.
We provide them with milk / food and sterilize them when they are of age
Would you help us fill these poor dogs’ bellies, and give them a chance to live? Their lives are hard enough, and it’s only right we give them a little kindness. A little goes a long way, and it would mean the world to them. If you would like to sponsor food for these street and factory dogs, please email fiona@hopedogrescue.org  The most precious gift you can give is the gift of love.
Written by Elena Lin


The Little Wanderer (A Senior Silky Terrier)

Is it true that people abandon their dogs only when they're old, sickly and has health problems? Or do they abandon their dogs when they tire of them, regardless of age? From our experience in dog rescue, we feel that people abandon their pets for many reasons.

A teenager, Zoey, spotted a silky terrier standing along a pavement, looking tired and lost. Zoey happened to be there on a Sunday afternoon to attend a wake and although not a dog lover, she felt compelled to help this poor dog. She knew that had she not carried him to safety, he would have stepped on to oncoming traffic and risk being killed.

Zoey could not foster the dog and decided to call on her friend, Hui Yi, whom she knew loves dogs. Hui Yi and her boyfriend immediately rushed down to meet Zoey and they brought the dog home to clean and feed him. While bathing him, they realized that he had extremely bad skin, long overgrown nails, and looked terribly old and sad. They felt sorry for him. He was such a sweet and well-behaved dog, and was even paper trained! He walked with a slight limp and his tiny legs were swollen, possibly from walking for a long time, trying to find his way home. For a teenager who has never owned a dog, Hui Yi was extremely observant. She noticed that his ears were droopy and he kept scratching them, and she guessed he might have an ear infection. She also observed that both his eyes seemed cloudy and that perhaps he had cataracts. He probably was not abandoned for long as his fur had recently been trimmed and not really matted, save for areas around his mouth and bum area.

Hui Yi with Teddy
Being in a family that doesn’t fancy dogs, the dog was kept in the toilet all day by her father. Hui Yi couldn’t bear to see the poor dog locked up in the toilet all day but there was nothing she could do. She urgently needed to get help for him and find someone to foster him.

One Tuesday, the dog was kept in the toilet as usual. He started whining and making noises, probably because he was kept in the enclosed area for too long. Hui Yi’s father said that he was too noisy and he told her that he didn’t want to keep the dog any longer. Hui Yi panicked. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t want to send the dog to SPCA because she had heard that for old dogs, they weren’t given very much time at SPCA if they were not adopted. Furthermore, he had a skin condition and she didn’t want to risk him being put to sleep.

Hui Yi desperately started asking around for help and finally, one of her friends gave her the contact number of a HOPE volunteer, Lisa. Her friend had come across HOPE Dog Rescue on Facebook. Having no choice but to part with the dog, Hui Yi called Lisa late at night, crying. She wanted very badly to help the dog but she was so young and without the support of her parents, she couldn’t possibly help the dog. Volunteers from HOPE told Hui Yi that they would assist her and take over the care of the dog.

The Silky Terrier was then taken to the vet by HOPE volunteers and a temporary foster was found for him. The foster has named the dog Teddy and although the new foster is also relatively young, she has the support of her mom and are happy to foster him till he finds a permanent home.

Teddy at the vet

Fear and confusion in his eyes
The foster's story:
Teddy is very well-behaved and he doesn’t bark at all. He allows me to shower him and he doesn’t fidget or try to run away. He is house trained and will wait for us to take him down for his daily walks to do his business downstairs. I have no problems with him whatsoever.

When he first came, he was a little frightened, perhaps because he was still new to the environment. But after just one day, he got really close to me and he followed me around the house. Teddy responds to me when I use my hands to ask him to ‘come’. I have a Maltese at home and Teddy gets on with her. Teddy is such a sweetheart and anybody who adopts him would be blessed to have such a darling in their family.

Teddy when he first arrived at his foster home

Settling in with his foster
Recently, we met up with Teddy’s owner near the foster’s home. When Teddy saw his owner, he didn’t even acknowledge him! Teddy’s owner claims that Teddy has been with him since the age of 2 and since Teddy is 12 now, the owner has had Teddy for 10 years! When asked why Teddy doesn’t seem to know him, the owner said that maybe because Teddy was missing for too long, which he claimed was 11 days on the day when we met him. Would a dog that has been living with you and seeing you every day for the past 10 years forget you so easily? Dogs are adorable, loyal and smart creatures and they do not forget their owners that easily.

When we told the owner that we had brought Teddy to the vet because of his bad condition – nails so long that they curled up, ear infection, limping, the owner lost his temper, said he didn’t want to pay for the vet bills and drove off! We didn’t even ask him for the money! Did he really love Teddy? We know he is the legal owner and we are obligated to return Teddy to him but how can we be assured that the family would love and care for Teddy?

Teddy's long curled up nails

Giving his nails a much-needed trim

Having his vision checked
We called the owner the following day and offered to give him a "hong bao" for letting us adopt Teddy, reminding him also that vet bills will cost more as Teddy got older. He agreed. So we met him for a second time, gave him a token sum and he gladly allowed us to "adopt" Teddy. We were absoultely elated!

Teddy has been fostered by Zoei Ong for the past 2 months and he has gained weight, been well loved and extremely happy. He is now ready to find his own permanent home and a family who can love him, care for him, devote their time to him and make him happy in his golden years.

The foster, Zoei, with Teddy

Sweet old Teddy
To adopt Teddy, please email fiona@hopedogrescue.org

Name : Teddy
Breed :  Silky Terrier
Sex  :  Male
Estimated age  :  9 to 10 years old.
Health : Good health except for his failing vision and possibly hard of hearing.

Written by Zoei Ong
Photo credits Zoei Ong and Elena Lin