Sunday, May 30, 2010

Wassup at Gentle Paws in the month of MAY

It's been a long time since we last posted and it's high time for an update. If there's one thing to be said about the shelter, it is that shelter life is never mundane. In the past month, so many things have happened that have caused us to be thankful, saddened and frustrated all at once.

Firstly, we must say that Gentle Paws is doing beautifully, thanks to one and all of you out there who have lent a helping hand. The dogs are getting used to the bigger playing area and the general environment of the new place. The lack of a strong roof to shield the dogs from the pelting rain remains. This means that whenever it pours, the canvas that we have put up will collapse and the rain will come pelting in, leaving the dogs wet and cold especially in the nights. But we are working on that. We have just gotten permission to remove this huge wieldy metal structure in the centre of the entire shelter that prevents us from properly fixing the canvas. It remains to be seen how much this will cost or how much manpower will be required, but we are hopeful that a better roof can be fixed after the structure has been removed.

Next, since our opening, we have been blessed with a few new volunteers who are well on their way to becoming regulars at our shelter. The shelter is becoming a familiar place to them and our doggies are also slowly getting more attuned to their presence and more attached to them. Thank you for coming to help out, you know who you are!

The number of dogs at our shelter has also increased drastically in the past month or so. We have welcomed the arrival of over ten dogs for boarding. Drop by at our shelter and you'll realise that there are many new faces that weren't here at the time of our opening. Of course, all the proceeds we receive from boarding are pumped back into the shelter to foot the rent.


The next announcement is one we are most reluctant to make. To one and all who have somehow met our husky Dakula, later renamed Dash, we are most sorry to say that he has passed on. He was only two. The story of Dakula is bittersweet. He was found wandering in a park and brought to our shelter. We were confused at first. Here was Dakula, a beautiful, active and energetic boy. How on earth did he end up a shelter dog? Was he a poor lost dog instead? We sent him to the vet for a check-up and found out that he had a kidney problem and might have to be on lifelong medication. It dawned upon us that this could well be the reason why a perfectly good husky was abandoned and why attempts to locate his owners were futile.

With his good nature and energetic spirit, Dakula won the hearts of most of our volunteers. Many of them would bring him back for home stays or for outings to the beach. When Dakula arrived at our previous shelter, he had not been sterilised. Yet, due to space constraints, we could not separate him from the other dogs. One weekend, when we were busy preparing the food at the shelter, we heard a loud high pitched cry and immediately tried to locate its source. Lo and behold! There was Dakula, stuck to Debbie, and crying his lungs out because he could not separate himself from her. It was a funny sight at that time and we didn't realise the full extent of it until Debbie's stomach started growing. Yes you guys. Debbie's 9 puppies (2 of whom died at birth, 5 rehomed and 2 still at the shelter) are the product of what we suspect to be Dakula's very first attempt at mating. Dakula was literally a one hit wonder.

Dakula's babies

We began a mad drive to rehome the puppies after they were weaned. It was quite a success. At that time, we managed to rehome all the seven puppies. Two puppies - Dillon and Jake - were the last to be adopted. Two families came to view the puppies. One of them, the Yeo family, was looking to adopt two dogs so that the other would not be lonely. Knowing that Dakula would be a promising candidate, we brought him out and introduced him to the Yeos. Mrs. Yeo's son took to the husky at once. We explained to them that Dakula had kidney problems but they decided to take a chance on him. Although Dakula eventually lost his battle against the sickness that ravaged his body, we are heartened to inform that he was surrounded by his loved ones when he passed away. The Yeos did everything in their power to save him. At one point in time, it looked like Dakula was on the road to recovery. But his liver suddenly started to fail and he passed on in a matter of days. It was a difficult time. Nobody expected Dakula's death. He was so close to leading a normal life with a family who loved him, so close to putting his abandonment and shelter life behind him. We just want to say goodbye Dakula. We hope you are no longer suffering and we want you to know that you'll always be missed.


The next piece of news on the list is the return of Donna, one of Dior's 3 daughters. She was adopted when she was just a few months and was so tiny she could be lifted with a single hand. A few weeks ago, her owner dropped her off at the shelter. It has always been our policy that adopters turn to us FIRST when they decide to give our dog up. We took the leap of faith in the adopters by allowing them to adopt our dog at no charge, merely on the condition that it be loved and accepted as family. In return, we expect to have the right to have the dog returned to us should the owner decide that they no longer want it.

Dogs that have passed through our hands will always be ours. We want to be able to be assured that our dogs are living a better life at their new homes than that at the shelter. If we are one bit unsure, if we are the slightest bit worried, we would rather have the dog back and rest in the knowledge that the dog isn't suffering. It made us so mad that this particular owner didn't turn to us when she decided to give the dog up. Instead, she sought adopters on her own. Based on the situation, we wouldn't even have been notified if Donna changed owners. Before we know it, we would have lost contact with the dog for good. The whole point of dog rescue, the whole point of an adoption drive is to give the dog a better life. Home life doesn't always equate to a better life if the owners are irresponsible or indifferent to the dog.

Donna is a beautiful girl. She is smaller in stature as compared to her siblings but she is the most energetic and active. She is always ready to have a game of tug-of-war with you. She would bring you her toy and wait for you to throw it for her to fetch. She would jump and hug you when you arrive. She loves a good rub and kiss. She can sit and stay on command. She's very adoptable and we hope somewhere out there, a suitable family is waiting for her...


The final piece of news is the return of Daelle, another of Debbie's puppies and Dillon's brother. Daelle was so named for the distinctive "L" marking on his back. He was returned to us just two days ago and the reason for his return remains unclear. Unlike Donna, Daelle didn't take so well to the shelter. The sound of his sad helpless whine as we left the shelter yesterday spoke volumes about his fear of this foreign place that he is now forced to call home. It's not fair why some dogs get wonderful families and others like Daelle keep getting returned to the shelter (this is the second time for him) and having to learn to adapt and adjust over and over again.

What about me? What about a family?

Perhaps it was a failing on our part for not vetting the adopters carefully when we allowed them to take our dogs back. Every time there was an adopter, we were hopeful that one of our dogs would finally get a taste of home life, away from the shelter... so hopeful that we were willing to overlook certain details... like the fact that the adopter came alone without family or the fact that the adopter was a young teenage girl... We allowed ourselves to be too easily to convinced that everything would be settled within and amongst the family, that these adopters had the means to take care of the dog... We failed to prepare the adopters sufficiently for the introduction of a dog into their lives.

We have feelings too

Everyone knows the usual refrain... A dog isn't a toy... but many don't know that you're not doing the dog any favours by simply opening your home to the dog... you gotta open your heart as well. The dog shouldn't be just a pet. A dog should be family. Just like any family member, a dog has good times and bad. A dog can make you laugh with its antics. A dog can accompany you with utmost faith and loyalty your time of loneliness or grief. But it can also get into trouble. It may chew on your socks and shoes, it may poo where it shouldn't, it may destroy your garden and it may break something precious. You scold it, you train it, you allow it to learn from its mistakes, but you don't ever give up on it. Because it is family. And because it is a journey of learning and experiencing as you build a life together. It is as simple as that.

We constantly wish for adopters to step forward and we are ever so grateful when they do. These adopters can so easily go to a pet shop to purchase a frisky puppy instead of giving shelter dogs a chance. But we so wish for sincere and informed adopters, people who understand what adopting a dog entails. From now on, we'll strive harder to vet potential adopters more carefully, to be there to lend a helping hand to sincere adopters when they have difficulties with their newly adopted dog but we'll also try to educate adopters, to warn them realistically what awaits them. We used to fear this would put off adopters, that this would blow out whatever sliver of hope shelter dogs have at adoption, but after a string of unpleasant encounters, we are no longer afraid.

Hopefully, when I next update you on this blog, we'll have more happy news than bad ones. Until then.... have a pleasant month of June!

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