World Stray Animal Day (4 April)

All along I know about the strays of Singapore; about them having to search for food, put up with dog fights and catching all those awful diseases I've come to learn about recently. However I never really pondered much on what we could do about them. Much like the majority of citizens here, I remained oblivious to the life of a stray dog.

That very day, my friends and I came across a lady who gave all the excuses in the world just so she could give up her dog. I took it home abruptly without permission from my parents and worse, without the least bit of knowledge about having a dog as a pet  - anything than to give it up to a shelter. So I turned to the Internet for help and that is when I chanced upon HOPE Dog Rescue - This very blog.

The moment I saw this blog, I couldn't tear my eyes off the screen. As I read on and on about the cases HOPE has covered - The rescued breeding dogs, the strays that got into fights and many more cases I never imagined. Of course, the images (not for the faint-hearted) were the ones that caught my attention first - I felt so ashamed and so disgusted at myself for ever considering BUYING a dog when I was younger. I finally saw the spoiled, ignorant side of me that chose to turn my head away when I knew all along cries of help were ringing in every direction.
I made the decision to do what I can to help. I volunteered.
Me and Matthieu chilling after his bath

I started out with cooking for the strays that were warded at the pet hospitals. I wanted them to have a decent meal at least while I can provide for them. I was told that Matthieu was warded and I told them I could cook for him. I found myself staring into the deep, brown eyes of Matthieu the first time I brought food over. He lay there, in his cage while the vet techs carried on with their work. How sad it must be for you, poor boy, I thought. So I stayed and talked to Matthieu, telling him about what I whipped up for him and how brave he was. He understood me, I just knew he did. The whole time he kept looking at me, occasionally cocking his head to the side as though thinking, "I wonder when dinner will be served". Not many visits later, I was lucky enough to see him wag his tail at me once.
Matthieu and his new wheelchair (Matthieu needs a forever home)
Strays don't receive such positive human interaction on the streets where they come from. Often they are beaten, kicked and bullied by humans to satisfy their sick, sadistic twisted minds, or to vent their own frustration. They also have a high chance of being attacked by other dogs when they feel threatened. Can you imagine a life like this? Not having a decent meal and having to stay half-conscious every night just to bolt away from danger such as vehicles. These are just small bits of what strays have to endure every single day.

Fat Sister needs a forever home (5 years old, extremely sweet and affectionate)

They genuinely forgive and forget if you are willing to spend time to show them that there is more to life than just violence, pain and suffering. They will definitely open their heart to anyone eventually because they have nothing but undying love to offer.

Cooper (male), just turned a year old. Excellent with children and other dogs.

I continued with cooking and eventually, I got the chance to meet more dogs as I volunteered to bring food over for them. As I got exposed to more strays like Fat Sister, Cooper and Lulu, they all had this one common thing - Purity. Beneath all of the wariness they show was the heart of a pure, innocent soul. The selfless heart so big that gave them the title of being 'Man's Best Friend'. Only such a heart can love someone else more than itself, and with such sincerity.

Lulu is 5 years old, sweet, calm and low energy. Ideal for watching TV with. (Lulu needs a forever home)

It didn't take me long before I got to meet even more dogs like Happy and Gorgeous. They were running around and playing with each other at a park on a Saturday afternoon, all the while looking so carefree as if they never had a painful stage in their lives. They never had the chance to play like that before they were rescued. I was so glad for them. Glad is an understatement. I was elated, partially because the joy that the both of them emanated rubbed off on me as well. I'm not exaggerating, if you think I am. The same thing would be said by anyone who was there with me that day and saw how the two of them enjoyed themselves.
Happy is female, about a year old, loves playing and gets on well with dogs

I joined the Night Feeding once, and I was so upset that I had to leave early as I had a home curfew. Lisa taught me the importance of feeding and made me realize it wasn't all about giving them something to fill their emaciated bodies with. The strays there needed attention. Why? Because if not us humans, then who? Who would be capable of bringing them to vets when medical attention is needed urgently? The strays have no one. No one other than their own pack, should they happen to be in one, who one by one may just die from anything on any random day. Distemper, Parvo, or heartworms. Anything. The things they eat, the environment they live in, the things they do to survive; we will never be able to endure or even imagine such possibilities.

Sasha, gorgeous and sociable. She is slightly more than a year old and needs a permanent family.
Strays are not pretty purebred dogs that are up for sale in pet shops. They are beautiful local breeds that deserve so much more than what they have to scavenge for in the streets, where they call home.
In fact, I have seen, heard and met dogs that were once strays but behave just like any of those purebred dogs when they got what they deserve - A loving family, shelter, food and clean water.
There is no need to breed your dog or buy a puppy from a pet shop because there are more than enough HOMELESS dogs around. Too many, in fact, suffer in silence because help is insufficient. Adopting a local dog could be the best thing that can ever happen in your life. They are the ones with a story to tell and who can endure hardships. They will appreciate and love you more than anyone.

April 4 is World Stray Animal Day. HOPE Dog Rescue salutes all stray doggies and hope that each and every one of them will find a home, love and happiness.

Written by Tan Jin Hui, 17