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A tale of two dogs

Childhood reading of Enid Blyton gave R. Venkatanathan the first introduction to dogs – Buster, the Scottie, Timothy, and Scamper, the golden cocker spaniel. While he felt nice reading about them in books, it was a different matter encountering them in real life. Here is his heartwarming story

The Welsh Corgi. Photos: RV

I used to be quite wary of going near dogs, whether they were being walked on a leash or they were odd stray dogs on the street. My wife had similar feelings as well; hence, our family remained pet-less for quite a while.

Over the years, the acceptance of dogs as pets in Singapore grew rapidly, with the sight of dogs being walked around the condo becoming commonplace. Our condo had a service lift in addition to the regular ones, and dogs were encouraged to be taken only in that lift. I was still very uncomfortable being in close proximity with a dog inside a lift. I even refused to sign a petition brought by one of our neighbours to allow dogs inside the regular lifts.

After our daughter was born, she was increasingly getting used to the presence of various dogs in the condo, and would happily stop and pet them while playing with her friends. The inevitable question soon followed: “When can we get a dog?” We managed to deflect her question for a few years until she came up with an ultimatum: “Either you get me a sibling or you get me a dog.” At that point, we threw in the towel and decided to get a dog for ourselves.

We then looked up various kennels that had puppies for sale, and finally selected a Welsh Corgi pup that was just a few weeks old. The initial weeks were interesting but also challenging, especially the potty-training phase. Once that phase passed, it was an absolute joy having the dog around the house and my daughter adored her. Being a small dog, it was easy to lift her up or even catch her when she used to run and jump into our arms.

Unfortunately, the Corgi developed kidney trouble (turned out to have been congenital) when she was around three years, and passed away soon after. All of us were quite heartbroken, especially our daughter and our helper who spent the most time with her.

I then remembered the books by James Herriot, vet-cum-author, who practiced in Yorkshire and wrote several books containing stories of his veterinary practice. In many of his stories, on the passing of a dog, he would always advice the owner to immediately take on another dog to ease the pain. This was an advice he followed religiously in his own personal life as he went through multiple dogs over time.

My wife and I decided that we would try to adopt a street dog for a change, and looked up the Iternet for options. We found an organisation called Save our Street Dogs (SOSD), which had a nice website with lots of pictures of dogs available for adoption. When we called, we were told there would be an open house at the Singapore Expo the coming weekend and whether we could go and take a look.

We drove there the following Sunday morning and looked for the SOSD booth. A very friendly lady introduced herself as a volunteer who took care of some pups while they were waiting to be placed with potential owners. “We just found this litter of eight abandoned pups near a factory in Tuas which might be right for you,” she said. We asked our daughter and our helper to decide which one to pick. They entered into an animated conversation with the volunteer who gave some hints about the personality of the different pups – which were friendlier, etc. They chose a cute white and brown pup which was supposed to be very affectionate.

James Herriot’s advice was proven right once again as the new pup immediately filled the void left by the earlier one. As personalities go, the two dogs could not have been more different. The first dog would happily allow herself to be petted by strangers while out on walks or when friends visited home. This one, however, is much more shy with strangers and allows herself to be petted only by friends who she has become familiar with over time. We always wonder if such reticence is due to the fact of being abandoned as newborns.

We have also observed an increasing number of adopted dogs when we go on our walks, compared to say 10 years ago when they would be seen very rarely. It is a heartening trend. I believe they are now called Singapore Specials, which they truly are.

(The author serves an international bank in Singapore and has travelled extensively in Southeast Asia.)

April – June 2022