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