We Almost Lost Our Lives

Ever witnessed or felt from afar the intense heat from a “glorious” fire on your skin, and yet there is nothing you can do to help with the situation? Well, Lisa and I have. Just last night, we spent 20 torturous minutes watching a blazing fire consume every surface of my trusty, old van. Helplessly, if I may add.

HOPE's van on fire

The van that I have relied on for the past one and a half years to transport rescue dogs, to get to unimaginably secluded areas to feed stray dogs, to take me around the island to visit rehabilitating dogs, and to carry cartons and bags of kibbles and canned food to caregivers, had just gone up in flames. All that is left of my van is a wretched, charred skeleton of scrap metals awaiting to be disposed.

I had originally thought that yesterday would be just another regular day, shuttling from one place to another, taking little Harper and Matthieu to the vet. After these two dogs were sent home, we had a quick dinner before heading down to meet a dear friend, Jennifer, who donated some toys and treats to Harper. As we were about to call it a day, I received a text around 10pm saying there were some strays barking in Tanah Merah and Changi areas. Although the strays did not chase after pedestrians, Lisa and I decided to swing by and to use this opportunity to take our own dogs out for a walk. Being in the rescue line where you are almost always out on the run at irregular hours often means that you only get to spend time with your own pet dogs past midnight.

We checked on the strays who seemed to be at ease and contented, walked our dogs, and decided it was time to head home. While driving, Lisa alerted me that she could smell a tinge of smoke, which was strange because my radiator light showed normal. I edged forward to look at the outer areas of my car and noticed smoke emitting from the left side of my bonnet. I immediately pulled over along Changi Coast Walk and parked near a fire hydrant (which proved to be useless anyway) to check on my car.

By this time, the smoke was already spewing out of the bonnet like water spouting from a broken tap. Lisa and I grabbed all three dogs from the car, but only managed to retrieve two leashes, and we ran as fast as we could – while juggling the dogs – away from the smoking van. I’ve to warn you that it’s not easy running for your life with all the dogs in hand, or on leash, so it might be worth doing regular drills at home.

So, we stopped some 100 meters away from the van and I was about to call the police to inform them of my potentially hazardous vehicle, when I saw sparks coming out of the left bonnet. Then, a small fire started…
I called 999, and we waited for the police to come to our rescue.
We waited for the next five minutes, and there was no sign of a police car. The fire spread, and my engine was lighted in the crimson fire.
I dialed 999 again. No police arrived…40% of my van was on fire.

Watch the video of HOPE's van going up in smoke. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfCXzowr1yg&feature=youtu.be
I hit the same buttons again. No sight of the blue-uniformed men.
From the corner of my eyes, I could see Lisa trying to pacify the three dogs – two were overly excited, and the other had a panic attack, salivating and panting. The one with the panic attack also has a history of seizures and Lisa hugged him close to her, for fear of him going into a seizure. So I told her to take them home first while I wait for the police and firefighters to arrive.
I managed to stop three cabs on the road but none of them agreed to ferry the dogs even after my pleading and explaining to them about my pathetic situation. They all said, “NO!” and drove off, leaving me, my burning van, Lisa and our three poor dogs by the road.
The entire van was engulfed in flames
Luck is always out to pull people’s legs when they need them the most. Both Lisa and my phones were on critical low-battery mode. We made one hopeful phone call to our young volunteer, Joceline, at 1am to task her to help book Lisa a taxi.
After the fire
A total wreck

All this while, there was still no sign of the blue rangers. However, a blue police van did drive past and pulled over to offer help. Funnily, or mockingly, the officer come out of the van with a small fire extinguisher in hand, and before I could even speak, he decided his fire extinguisher will not be of much help for my flaming car. And so, he watched my van slowly engulf in flames as it were a scene in the movies.

Frustrated, I punched 999 again… They arrived close to 20 minutes after I made my first phone call to them, which really isn’t of much help because my van was already burning in full glory. I could even hear the popping sound of my three cartons of doggy canned food exploding in the fire.

The police finally came… to divert traffic. A Red Rhino arrived a few minutes later, but try as they might, the fire didn’t get any smaller as it was way too strong for the Red Rhino to manage. Then the fire engine came, and they spent the next 20min fighting the fire. By now, there was nothing left to salvage and my van was burnt beyond recognition with the flames reaching almost to the street lights above.
The SCDF took more than half an hour to put out the fire and by the time everything was over, it was close to 3am. I asked the SCDF officer if they would give me a ride out to somewhere where I could get a cab and she replied, “That’s your problem.” Shocking.

A sorry sight

In fact, none of them came up to me to ask if I was alright. I’m left to think that there is no sense of empathy among the officers who handled my case yesterday. 

My life had literally gone with the smoke. The van was an integral asset in my life. The volunteers lovingly named my van the “ferravan” as it was the main vehicle used to rush injured rescue animals and abandoned dogs to the vet.

What used to be front seats
Although it was an old van that had to be sent to the workshop weekly for the past three months which cost me thousands of dollars – they have been fixing my aircon which constantly blew hot air – it was an essential tool in my life and I needed it to get my work down efficiently. I suspect the mechanics had something to do with the fire but I don’t know enough about an engine to comment, neither do I have the money to sue them.

The back of the van where many rescued dogs have been ferried. Burnt : 3 cartons of canned food, kibbles, collars and leashes
What’s worse is that the now, non-existent van is still on installment. This means I have to continue footing my monthly installment until the insurance payout which typically takes up to six months to process. I’m not even sure if the damages will be covered as the van did not have a comprehensive coverage.
But what I am most upset about is that the toys, pee pads and treats for baby Harper and Matthieu as well as the three cartons of donated canned food for Mr. Aziz have all perished in the fire. My microchip scanner, new doggy collars and leashes have all turned to ashes.
A tire

My bag containing my wallet, ID and passport which I had just collected are gone too.

Although Lisa and the dogs are safe, I’m left with a new pile of bills to settle. It’s such a traumatizing experience – I still choke in fear whenever the scene of my burning van flashes across my mind. Just the smell of smoke triggers my heart to beat faster. I don’t even dare to sit in a car for fear it might burst out in flames. I didn’t think I would be so traumatized but the fear is so real. To all pet owners reading this, do not leave your dogs unattended in the car, you never know what might happen.

Lisa is equally traumatized; she insists on carrying all her bags with her at all times.

I’m sorry to say there will be no rescue work for a while, no feeding of strays as we no longer have the transport to reach the most secluded of areas, or to shuttle dogs around at ungodly hours. Regrettably, we can only rely on pet transport until I get another van. It won’t be soon because I have to pay for my non-existent van.

That night, upon reaching home, I hugged my dogs and finally let out a first sob.
Now, it’s time to start picking my life back up again, just like gathering the remnants of a wreck and gluing them together to form a brand new piece again. It’s tough, but there’s no other way.
Written by Claire Chai for Fiona


Saving A Tiny Soul

From womb to tomb, is it written in their fates that life, to them, is but a mere rainbow bridge that connects the heaven to the earth? Is their first puppy cry a celebration of life, or an ominous greeting by death? Is it by default that strays are destined to die from the time of their birth?
The past month has been an extremely hectic time for the HOPE Dog Rescue team. While we have welcomed three lovely stray puppies – Harper, Ben and Jerry – to the family, none of them came without a hint of pain or sufferings. Such is the life of a stray. And just a month ago, we were dealt with another piece of sad news of three injured puppies, of which two survived and one died.
Tricia - 2nd day after being rescued. Note the swollen cheek and ear wound
Diamond - 2nd day after being rescued. Note the ear and tail wound
Jan, an amazing animal rescuer, contacted us and told us that she found two black puppies at the northern part of Singapore. At the time of discovery, both puppies had gaping wounds on their bodies and were on the brink of death. Their listless bodies were wastelands for maggots and ants that were feeding and thriving on whatever that was left of them. Both puppies were slightly more than a month old.

Without a second thought, Jan cleansed the puppies and was almost convinced that both of them had died until she detected a slight movement by one of them. She named this miracle puppy, Diamond. Diamond’s sibling, however, didn’t make it and passed away at the scene. Jan couldn’t bear to forsake Diamond and so she brought him home to nurse him back to health.

Diamond's tail wound

Diamond's ear wound
A couple of days later, Jan spotted another dying puppy – possibly from the same litter – in a drain, not far from where she first found Diamond and his sibling. She, too, had a maggot-infested wound on her body that had to be treated as quickly as possible.  She took this little girl home, and named her Tricia.

Tricia's ear wound and swollen cheek

Her swollen cheek wound

 Diamond and Tricia’s Mummy was nowhere to be seen on both occasions. She might have abandoned her puppies, or she might have been killed when she was out in search of food. Such is the life of a stray – laced with danger and uncertainties. 

If not for Jan’s help, both Diamond and Tricia might have already perished with their mother and siblings. Today, the wounds on Diamond and Tricia have started to heal under Jan’s care but they would need a permanent home as soon as possible. Jan is a rescuer herself, and she already has her hands full taking care of other foster dogs and cats.
Diamond - 8th day after being rescued. The white part is healed and the raw parts are healing

Diamond - on the 3rd week after being rescued. Ear wound is free of maggots

Dead maggots removed from Tricia's cheek wound
Jan has written to a number of shelters to seek help but the shelters that she have contacted are either full at the moment or have not replied to her. As for us, we don’t even own a shelter and we are treading on thin ice with the number of rescue dogs that are currently boarded at fosters’ homes and partners’ places – pet shops, boarding homes, vet clinics and etc.

As much as we would love to offload some of her burden, all we can do now is to help spread the word.

We know that dogs and cats can potentially live with one other harmoniously, but it is really unrealistic to expect Jan to keep both puppies and care for other foster dogs and cats. That would be no small feat!



If you have been thinking of doing something meaningful this year, whether it is helping unfortunate people or animals, please consider adopting Tricia and/or Diamond.

Diamond and Tricia are expected to grow to medium-size and thus not HDB approved. They are still too young, and they may not survive in the wild if they are released back to the forest. If you can adopt them, please get in touch with Karen at 9620 9976.


There is only so much we can do as rescuers, but as a community, we can achieve a lot more than we do as a group. Your help will keep us going in the long run, and your help will give these animals a chance to live.

* This is not a HOPE Dog Rescue case. No funds are required. We are helping in the hope that the puppies will find permanent homes.

Written by Claire Chai for the two puppies.


Little Dog With A Huge Courage (Harper's 1st Update)

Today is the 5th day since Harper’s rescue and we are happy to say that she’s doing much better in just these few days!

Together all the way!
In the first two days over the weekend, Harper was still rather quiet and spent her time sitting and staring at nothing much, not stimulated and lively at all. Perhaps, in the short weeks since her birth, she only knew one thing; struggle to survive, and is momentarily lost now that she’s in safe hands, without a gnawing hunger to preoccupy her. Or perhaps, she is disoriented by the gentle human touch and the foreign environment, surely a far cry from the dusty, noisy and harsh worksite where she eked her survival on her own. Harper definitely also lacked proper nutrition and this probably contributed to her underdevelopment and small size.

Her head fits into a styrofoam cup. That's how tiny she is!
Lisa and Lynette putting Harper in a box and bringing her out for some fresh air.
Little Harper did not poo over the weekend but on the third day excreted a big amount of live worms, confirming our concerns over her belly. At the moment her stomach still looks distended and feels like a balloon when we gently press it. We are concerned.

Poor baby Harper looking like a giant rat with her distended tummy.
We did another X-ray yesterday to check if there are still gravel and metal pins remaining in her intestines and the Vet said they don't see any foreign body in her at this moment. Hopefully it has been passed out. We were concerned that her intestines and colon might be punctured, and were advised to look out for vomiting, which indicates some kind of blockage in Harper. At the moment, Harper is eating very well and loves milk, though she would also gladly drink water when given some.  
The callous on her chest has dried up
The vets cant conclude if her weak hind legs are caused by spina bifida or from trauma at an early age. An MRI might give us a better insight but we don't feel that it's necessary. The money could be better spent on her therapy and early intervention instead.
Trying to make her use her hind legs
It is a pity that Harper is still wobbly on her feet at the moment, because her cheeky face surely belies a really playful nature! One of her hind legs is weaker than the other – her right hind leg is noticeably thinner, shorter and has no muscle tone at all. It is literally skin and bones and we noticed Harper does not rely on this leg to crawl about.

Baby Harper sound asleep on the chair while the volunteers spent time with her

Her left hind leg is slightly stronger, and reminds us so much of Matthieu. However the hind  legs are still not strong enough for her to push herself up to stand. Harper is all wobbly and falls within a few seconds although this is a far cry from when we first rescued her, where all she could do was crawl and drag herself. 

When we visit her, we would bring her out for some fresh air. We put her on a towel so that her tiny paws can have better grip on the flannel surface. This sweet puppy never stops trying and seems to be stronger day by day!! We can also see that she’s much more active, livelier, hopeful and there’s always the tell-tale cheekiness in her eyes! It’s only been a few days but Harper has already endeared herself to us so much. How could we not do our best for this tiny fragile puppy?
Her tongue is not as pale as before and is no longer anemic. Her health should continue to improve with the better nutrition she’s been getting.
Her favourite meal for now!
Harper is still leaking pee and doesn’t seem to be able to control her poo too, although we’re not sure if this is a transient puppy condition, or incontinence. We would continue to observe her for a few more weeks.

Harper is too young for her vaccinations at the moment; we’ll be sure to get her protected in about 2 weeks’ time. In the meantime, she must not come into contact with other dogs, and anyone handling her should wash his/her hands before touching her as her immunity is likely low.

Her eye ulcer seems to have cleared up although her eyes still tear slightly. We thought her breathing was rather laboured but a check with the vet said her heart was good and that it sounded normal.

Despite her health difficulties, Harper is all play and fun! She’s teething and absolutely love the chew toys and treats that volunteers brought for her! The daily visits has really lifted her spirits and she’s now visibly happier and stronger, behaving more like a normal pup. This little one never gives up and we are thankful to be here to support her all the way. We give her Reiki and massage and encourage her to stand and walk, and she cooperates wonderfully! She loves homemade meatballs and actually stood for quite a while to munch down on them heartily. With all that determination in a tiny body and everyone’s love, we are convinced that Harper will walk one day!

Watch Harper try to stand http://youtu.be/B0ShuWA1g0M
Thank you everyone for contributing to this rescue, through your donations for her vet bills, pee pads, puppy milk, treats and toys! Harper is touched by the love and kindness, and we are moved by your compassion time and again.

We will continue to do what we can to put her back on her tiny feet! Dr recommends physiotherapy for her and we’re trying to get more info on that. We hope you continue to support this little fighter.
Cuteness overload
Harper is just one of possibly ten other puppies at risk at the worksite she came from. Please consider donating regularly towards food for the other dogs left behind. Harper must surely be worried about them and given her sweet loving nature, she would most want her family to be well-fed and happy too.   

Harper has found a foster and we hope she finds a permanent home soon too. We will continue to provide updates as and when we have new information.

To help in any of the following :

1)      Future vet consultations
2)      Therapy
3)      Her daily needs – pee pads, towels, puppy milk, canned food, puppy kibbles
4)      Adopting Harper
Note : We can’t sterilize the dogs where little Harper comes from as they are on Jurong Island. Mr Aziz had checked with the authorities on this and they had told him if the dogs come out for sterilization, they will not be allowed to return to the island. As such, our hands are tied. If anyone knows how to work around this, please email us, so we can sterilize at least some of the dogs there. Thank you.

Written by Liw Yiling. Video credits Joceline Loo.


We Are Hoping For A Miracle

What can you do when the odds are against you and there’s nothing left to go on but hope? Hope that someone sees the pain you’re in, hope that help will come and hope that there’s indeed a light at the end of the tunnel and brighter days forevermore. This is the story of sweet determined Harper.

Little Harper, female, all of 6 weeks young
You can’t choose how you were born. If that’s the case, every dog would be born in a loving home with a name, a family to return that love tenfold to and a long healthy life ahead of them. Unfortunately for Harper, a six-week-young puppy, she was born in a filthy, dangerous construction site, without any food or shelter. Life dealt her an even harder card as she can’t use her hind legs. Since her birth, she has simply survived by crawling on her chest and dragging her hind legs over rough gravel and dirt.
We got to know about her situation from Mr Aziz who used his friend’s handphone to capture a photo of the pup and sent it to us at 8pm. At first glance, it looked like the puppy had a broken leg because of the way she was dragging her hind legs. Despite being low on funds and the astronomical charges of a late night visit to the vet, we decided to meet Mr Aziz at the vet with the puppy as we were more concerned about the great pain she would be suffering with a broken bone.
We received this photo via handphone and were extremely concerned
For those who don’t know Mr Aziz, he is a kind Muslim man who feeds strays at his worksite with food supplied by HOPE on a monthly basis and he was the one who informed us about Matthieu.
He said he had to work till 9.30pm so we said to just call us when he ended work. He then called later at night and told us that the puppy’s condition was more like Matthieu’s as she could not walk and was simply dragging her little body. A Thai worker who knew that Mr Aziz loved dogs told him about the puppies. There are actually ten of them from different litters and one had been crushed and killed by a heavy vehicle just this afternoon. Such is the harsh reality of life on the streets, unforgiving whether you’re an old sickly dog or a young healthy puppy.

Arrived in a box with Mr Aziz

He put the puppy into a box for transportation and she made no sound at all during the long journey from Jurong Island where he worked, to the vet clinic. After arriving at the vet, he asked if he could stay with the puppy. We were very touched knowing how he had just finished a hard day of work. In total, we spent almost two hours at the vet that night.

Watch little Harper's video here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuqO7UA_iLg&feature=youtu.be
She weighs just 1.1kg!!
She could hardly open her right eye where she had an eye ulcer
While waiting for the vet to arrive, the vet tech fed the puppy some canned food which she ate but still did not stand. She had diarrhea after that and her excrement was all black. Mr Aziz did not hesitate to clean her up even after we told him to leave it to us to clean as he is Muslim after all but he truly didn’t mind. We were touched by his love for an animal that he just found.
Fed canned food to see if she had a normal appetite
The vet tech then washed the puppy as she had poop on her hind legs and he commented that she could have been born this way as there were no visible injuries on her. Mr Aziz also added that she made no sound while in the lorry, nor showed any signs of discomfort or pain.

While waiting for the Doctor, she tried dragging herself on the table
When the vet arrived, upon our request, she did a blood test for distemper and parvovirus which the little puppy, thankfully, was negative for. Then we did a second x-ray after the first came out blur. While waiting for the results, the vet examined the puppy and noticed an ulcer in her right eye which explained why her eye was only half opened and teary. It didn’t help that she was dirty and dusty from the construction worksite.

Being examined by the Doctor

Checking her hind legs for sensations; she had some
The vet informed us that some puppies walk like a drunk when they are very young as they are still unsteady on their feet. But she estimated her to be only six weeks old and said she’s very small for her age and too unsteady so it’s obvious that her growth was not very normal.

A face that had never seen happiness

While waiting for the x-ray results, we chatted with Mr Aziz who had become a good friend of ours, as we’ve known him since Matthieu’s rescue. He had visited Matthieu a few times at the clinic and at his foster home. We also send food to him on a monthly basis to feed the strays at his worksite. (If you’d like to donate to support our efforts in providing for the strays in this area, please do not hesitate to contact us.) Mr Aziz cradled the puppy like a baby in his arms and even wrapped her in a towel so she would not feel cold as she was trembling very badly, from both fear and cold. He talked to her in Malay and told her to rest and that everything would be alright. He said he has told his colleagues many times whenever he sees them using sticks to chase or scare the dogs away, “these dogs have very hard life. If you don’t like, you just go away. Don’t need to beat them.” Such is the kindness of Mr Aziz.
Human kindness, Mr Aziz cradling the puppy while waiting for her xray results

He said he loved all animals and you could see the sadness in his eyes. He looked tired from a hard day’s work and yet, all he cared about at that moment was if the puppy would be okay.
The x-ray showed no cracks or fractures but there was an abnormal hump on her spine which the vet said looked like Spina Bifida, a condition that shows hind-end weakness, poor muscle tone, incontinence, incoordination and abnormal use of the tail. If it were true, then it means that the puppy will never walk again. We wanted to know if the puppy had control of her bowels and bladder but the vet said that she couldn’t tell unless she’s closely monitored for a week or so. Although she had diarrhea after she ate, she just dragged herself away using her two front legs.
We also noticed a callous-like bump on her chest, developed as a result of her dragging herself over a long period of time. What a tough life for a six-week-young puppy. It’s fortunate that the bigger dogs didn’t pick on her, as she would not have been able to escape them. The x-ray also revealed gravel and metal pins in her stomach. Can you imagine how hungry she must have been to have no choice but to fill her little stomach with these objects in order to quell that gnawing hunger? Thankfully, the gravel has already travelled down to her intestines and hopefully, she will pass it out naturally without the need for surgical intervention. Her stomach is also very distended which shows a possibility of worms and lots of gas. She is slightly anemic as her gums are pink but her tongue is pale. This could be from malnutrition.

Callous on little Harper's chest from dragging herself on the rough gravel
While we were waiting at the vet, we shared the news of the puppy’s condition with the rest of the team. Fellow volunteer Lisa then found a link on a dog named Harper. While the case was not identical, it inspired us to name this little one Harper, in the fervent hope that a miracle will take place for her and she will, someday, walk.

Mr Aziz said if the puppy cannot be saved, he would bring her back to Jurong Island where she was found. How could we possibly let that happen? We are known to save every dog that comes our way. But if she really has incontinence then we may have to make a tough decision. We already have problems rehoming sweet, normal local dogs, what more a special needs local dog?
The puppy was warded for the night and before he left, Mr Aziz wrapped her up in a towel so she wouldn’t feel cold and can have a good night’s sleep.
We will be taking her for a second opinion on Monday to confirm if she really has Spina Bifida and the steps we can take to help save little Harper.
We cannot emphasize enough the hard lives that strays often have to endure and how we only pay attention to them when something terrible truly happens and in this case, that’s little Harper’s tragic condition.
Just for that night’s consultation, the initial vet bill is already almost $800. She will be staying for a day or two while we find a foster who is willing to take care of her. We also need funds to pay for a second opinion on her condition. If there’s anyone who can help her, be it through a cash donation or fostering or adopting her, please email Fiona (Fiona@hopedogrescue.org).
Against all odds, her silent cry for help has reached us. Everything happens for a reason so let’s all do the best we can for her. Although life was hard for her first six weeks in this world, Mr Aziz helped turn it around and now we have the ability to give her a better future and a shot at a more comfortable life. Together we can make a miracle happen for sweet little Harper who deserves so much more than this. 

Thank you for saving me

Written by Eloise Lee. Video credits Joceline Loo. (Thanks Joceline for working on the video till the wee hours.)