I first noticed her at a bus stop about 2 years ago when I started volunteering with HOPE Dog Rescue. Together with her siblings, all five of them would rest along the bus stop, away from the sun and the rain. Unexplainably, of all the strays we’ve fed, this family has taken a special place in my heart. I was captivated by their built – they were much taller than regular strays and they had these cute dark eye rings which reminds me of pandas! Their eyes were brown and expressive, revealing the tough life and deep sadness they had. These were the eyes of street dogs.
Five months ago, we noticed that three members of the family of five had disappeared. We asked around despite knowing that no one would have cared if they lived or died. As expected, nobody had an answer to their disappearance. I knew there were only two possibilities: they were either killed in an accident or caught and culled. Either way, they lived and died in vain. There was nothing we could do but to continue feeding and keeping a look out for the last two members of the family.
|This photograph was taken in December last year, where she (on left) and her sibling waited for the food|
She was different from other street dogs. Instead of running enthusiastically towards us for food, she approached us with such heavy footsteps as though her legs were tied to heavy chains. Rather than wolfing down the food like other street dogs, she ate slowly and often melancholy.
|We saw her lying on soil during our feeding rounds|
I approached her cautiously, called out to her gently, but she didn’t move or acknowledge my presence. She lied in the shallow hole that she had dug. It seemed like she had given up on life - she had nothing to live for anymore and she was lying there, awaiting death. I squatted at a distance and placed some canned food on the soil for her but she didn’t even get up to eat. She was no longer interested in food.
I remember Fiona mentioning to me that when you rescue a badly injured stray, you seldom need to make a decision on whether to put them down or save them. The dog would make its own decision. If she didn’t want to live, she would not eat. I felt a wave of sadness as that thought crossed my mind. Has she given up on life?
|Lisa took 20 minutes to approach her|
|Listening to Lisa talk to her|
After a few minutes, she calmed down and lied next to me, allowing me to stroke and pat her. I even planted a kiss on her forehead. I spent the next 20 minutes talking to her. Her breathing was terribly laboured and she could hardly keep her eyes open. These were symptoms of tick fever or heartworm and it was common in rescue dogs. As we didn’t have a carrier with us and we had to continue our journey to feed the many other starving strays, we decided to leave her for the moment.
My heart was heavy throughout the night. I have never felt so sad in a long time.
Fiona knew what I was thinking and she said to me: “We have 15 dogs to rehome. We can come back for her tomorrow but you’d better work harder in re-homing our dogs!”
The next morning, we gathered 5 volunteers and armed with a carrier and a vet appointment, we went down in the afternoon to save her. It had been raining on and off but we weren’t going to let the weather stop us from saving a life.
We found her lying beside a coffee shop. She allowed Fiona to stroke her forehead but walked away when a lorry stopped in front of her to drop off the workers. We didn’t give chase as the traffic was heavy and we didn’t want her to feel alarmed and get hurt.
She continued walking for the next 15 minutes, stopping frequently to lick the wound. Suddenly she started trotting with a bounce. She seemed so happy – the kind of happiness when you see an old friend or perhaps an angel. We traced her gaze and noticed that standing outside a provision shop was an old uncle who was waving at her to come. She ran towards him and he hugged and patted her. Fiona immediately told the uncle to hold on to her, while gesturing the volunteers to bring the carrier over. With the help of this uncle angel, he put her safely into the carrier.
|An angel appeared . . . .Uncle Lim|
We told him we were taking her to the vet to have her wound cleaned and to help find a good home for her. The uncle was extremely delighted and supportive. He kept saying she was a good girl and that he had been feeding her for some years and he too noticed all her family members had disappeared. He also mentioned she had disappeared for about a week and only just appeared a few days before, with the wound on her back.
We brought her to the vet. The vet said she was running a pretty high temperature, which explained her laboured breathing and drowsiness. Her wound, albeit not deep, was becoming infected. Blood test also revealed she had tick fever. While her medical conditions weren’t that serious, we knew she was emotionally scarred and that it would be a challenge to heal her broken heart. Imagine having to live with the pain and trauma of losing your family members, one after another, not knowing when and if they will ever be back.
|At the vet, Amber was very scared and worried|
|The wound on her back|
I named her Amber.
Amber is now warded at the vet and we need to find someone to foster her soon. She is very sweet and docile, loves being patted and adores affection. Having grown up in industrial estates, she will need some time to learn to be a domestic pet.
|Have you ever seen such a sad doggie?|
It will take some time to heal Amber’s broken heart but I will be there to support her. If you can join me in making her smile again by offering her a loving home, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can make a difference; we can heal Amber’s broken heart.
Written by Lisa Goh. Video by Phan Y Lan