Bringing cheer to St Joseph’s Home (Pet Therapy)

Just last weekend, HOPE's very own Harper and another volunteer's dog, Ollie, had their first pet therapy session at St Joseph’s Home

Shun Li carrying Harper up so that the resident can pat her 
Ollie's very first attempt at being a Pet Therapy dog

As volunteers, we were tasked to bring the dogs around the home and encourage the residents to give pats and interact with them. 

Harper, a special needs dog, giving love to the residents 

Both Harper and Ollie did extremely well for first-timers! They weren’t only calm and collected, but also gladly welcomed pats and paw shakes. Many residents felt that they could relate to Harper when they saw her on her wheelchair, as they, too, have walking disabilities but have chosen to look on the bright side of life.

Very often, the staff need pet therapy too 

These 2 dogs belong to the staff of St Joseph's Home 

It was a truly rewarding experience as we saw how their faces lit up with joy whenever they interacted with the dogs. We could also tell how proud Harper and Ollie were to be able to provide comfort and companionship to those in need. Needless to say, we were really proud of them too. Well done Harper and Ollie!!!

Being on her wheelchair had its limitations as the residents often could not reach Harper 

The one hour spent at the nursing home might be the ones that the elderly residents looked forward to most. It’s amazing how much a few volunteer hours can make the residents feel loved and cared for.

An extremely exhausted and proud Harper 

We're so proud of our little fighter <3 <3

Written by: Shun Li


Life Begins At 10

What happens to a dog if its owner passes away? We always hope that the dog will be treated like any other grieving family member and still have a loving home to mourn in and loved ones to get through the loss with. However, this is not always the case.

The day her new life began

We wonder if she knows what lies ahead 

We were informed of a case of neglect and shown a photograph of a schnauzer in a cage and certain signs told us that she may have been caged for a while. She was a bit tubby due to lack of exercise. Further, her legs were very weak and her paws were so smooth that they tore and bled the first time we walked her. All these point to her having not been walked in a long time. We found out that the late owner had been ill and had in fact passed on just a week prior, and had not been able to care for the dog properly while she was sick. While she was survived by her husband, he was also not able to provide the care and attention that the dog needs and released her to us readily. 

Unkempt fur and a "botak" head (bald patch on head) 

When we got her, her fur was so badly matted and her body reeked of pee that it seemed like she had not been given a bath, much less been groomed, for quite a while. Her nails were so long that they were curled sideways. She looked and smelt so bad that we brought her straight to the groomer's to shave everything off. It is no surprise that she would have a skin infection and under all that matted fur was red and crusty skin. The smell of infection was so strong that it stayed on our clothes all day. She also has a small bald patch on her head which is so smooth and furless that we doubt any fur would grow back in that spot.

Nails so long they curled sideways 

Dirty & unshaven 

Looks at the inside of her ears!

Terribly bad skin infection

The next order of things was to get her to the vet, which we did the next day. At the vet, she was diagnosed with a laundry list of issues, some we expected, and some which were more concerning. Her skin condition was severe and she was not going to win any hearts over with her tartar-filled smile either (if a few teeth can make up a smile). She was anemic and dehydrated. Her urine was very concentrated and had crystals in them, which could be due to her dehydrated state. A urine cytology test was taken and it showed she had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Her hind legs were weak and she had early-stage cataract. She was not sterilized and had never been vaccinated. She had a heart murmur due to a faulty heart valve and will need to be on life-long heart medication. She has a luxating patella that had been left unrepaired and she seems to have endured it for a long time as it has begun to fuse in the wrong position thus she has difficulty sitting as it makes it uncomfortable. Most concerning of all was a lump found on her back. This lump feels to be attached to tissue. When it was aspirated with a needle, it was found to be filled with blood. The vet is concerned that it is a sign of hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant tumour of the blood vessels. We had her scheduled for dental and sterilization. She had 4 teeth extracted and her remaining teeth cleaned of tartar. During the sterilization, another blood-filled lump was found on her groin. The vet recommends she goes in for another procedure in a month or so, to remove both the lumps and send them off for further testing.

At the vet     

4 teeth extracted and she now only has 9 left

She has early stage cataracts 

She has luxating patella in both hind legs 

Apart from all her physical issues, she also has a deep sense of fear; a fear so great that it’s going to take a while to overcome. We will not speculate her past but she cowers and yelps at the top of her voice when we touch her suddenly, when we raise our hands above her, hold her neck or when she meets people for the first time.

While the news so far is worrying, we are glad that she is no longer suffering in her cage. At 10 years old, face all white from an extremely hard life, she is now safe and can begin to rebuild her life at her own pace. Her total medical bill amounted to $1500. If you can help with her vet bills, please email hopedogrescue@singnet.com.sg.

Written by : Sam


What Makes A "Special" Needs Dog Special?

What makes a "special" needs dog special? Is it just a term we use to satisfy our politically-correct sensibilities? Or a marketing gimmick to fob these dogs off to unsuspecting adopters? We at HOPE do not believe so. Sure, they may require different types of care but that may not necessarily be very much more challenging than taking care of any animal (or human) in general. And, while all dogs can teach us a thing or 2 (or 10), about living life to the fullest and taking joy in the smallest blessings, we think that special dogs are rightly called as such because there are some lessons that only they can teach. Lessons such as perseverance, determination, and never giving up in the face of adversity. "Adversity" does not even exist in the dictionary for these dogs. 

HOPE's own specials are members of the Diaper Club. Members are easily identified by their diapers and their unquenchable zest for life:

Matthieu, our oldest resident, broke his back and became paralyzed when something heavy fell on his back at the Jurong Island worksite that he used to live in. As a result, Matthieu is now wheelchair-bound and needs to have his bladder expressed 3 times daily. But this old man does not need your pity, nor want it. Master of the bum shuffle, this wise, old gentleman can charm the socks of any lady (or fellow gentleman) if only given the chance to.

SiDa narrowly escaped being just another traffic statistic. Hit by a lorry not once, but twice, you can only imagine the sheer determination and love for life she had (still has) to survive the horrific accident to this day. She also teaches the lesson of steadfast love. She has not forgotten her first love, Yongyurt, and how he used to care for her, though they may be apart now. We wonder, who will be the next contender to win her love?

Harper, unlike Matthieu and SiDa, was born without the use of her hind legs. The first picture we received of her showed a tiny thing trying to power through on her tiny front legs. Her tiny stature belied her fierce determination. Harper is no longer the small puppy she once was but her determination never waned. Harper has dreams of being an F1 racer - while she started out with a 2-wheel-drive, she is now also an expert at maneuvering in a 4-wheel drive. 

Donut is the latest to be inaugurated as a member of the Diaper Club. She had a run-in with a lorry and came out of it with a fractured back and dislocated hip. Amazingly, her back was not so badly damaged that she can now walk like a normal dog. However, the accident has not left her without any permanent effects. The muscles and nerves around her bladder were permanently damaged so she will leak pee and even poo. Despite that, Donut is hopeful and determined that, with the help of hydrotherapy sessions, she will be running around again as if the accident never happened. 

The members of the Diaper Club are not special to us because they have needs that are beyond what is normal, like requiring to have their bladders expressed a few times a day. They are special to us because they teach us special lessons. Watching them never give up no matter the challenge that they are faced with is what drives us to continue doing what we do despite the hardship we face. How can we give up if they don't give up? If only people would learn to see them through our eyes. They too will understand and appreciate the truly special nature of these dogs and how having them in a home is a special gift to be cherished.

Written by: Sam