Monday, May 30, 2011

Home again

Some shelters are actively involved in rescue work. You so often hear of stray puppies being rescued and quickly offered for adoption into good homes. Some shelters are just temporary stopovers for injured stray dogs that have undergone treatment, sterilisation and whatever vaccination that is required, before being released back in the wild again. Inadequate resources for the long term upkeep of the dogs force the hand of these rescuers in reluctantly releasing the dogs back into the streets. Some shelters, like the dog mill rehomers, put their focus on rescuing a limited number of pure bred dogs from the brutal hands of heartless breeders, nursing them back to health and quickly finding good homes for them.

What kind of a shelter is Gentle Paws really?

I like to believe that Gentle Paws is a home away from home.

Made with love by four lovely regulars, Ann, Weifeng, Jialing and Nana.

Our dogs all yearn for that elusive thing called a home - a warm human lap to cuddle into, a solid house that protects them from the rain and sun and a human heart that loves them back as well. However, the reality of the matter is that... such homes are as difficult to find as the proverbial needle in a haystack. This is especially the case for medium to large-sized mongrels like most of the dogs at our shelter.

And so we become their second home. A home that seeks to provide, a home that seeks to protect and most of all, a home that seeks to rehabilitate.

Here at Gentle Paws, we aim to provide our current 43 dogs with a kind of stability that they have never experienced before. Week days are a little quiet because most of us have work or school. But even then, there is our darling caretaker Wee, who goes down to the shelter, rain or shine, to feed the dogs, clean the compound and be their friend for the day.

On weekends and public holidays, our gaggle of rowdy regulars make their way down, talking loudly and laughing unglamorously as we go about the shelter chores. We try to ensure that every dog gets to go for at least a walk and receive a good thorough shower each weekend. A lucky few even get to go swimming at a nearby private dog pool.

And for one special week every month, every single dog (save our three "untouchables") gets to go on their field trip to the beach.

This long preamble brings me to the topic of furry day on May 14th.

For the first time in a long time, it rained on furry day. It wasn't any normal sort of rain but a full fledge downpour with thunder and lightning in tow. Thankfully, it only started raining late that morning. By then, the dogs had all walked for a good while and were no longer raring to go. Fortunately for us, there were many pavilions and covered areas at the park for both dogs and humans to seek refuge. It was a good half an hour before the rain came to a stop. By then, it was time for us to pack up and head back to the shelter.

I didn't attend furry day because I stayed behind to help out in the detox of the shelter. I figured I was always in on the fun every furry day and it was high time I slogged it out with the few noble ones at the shelter!

The shelter when empty of dogs is a strange sight to behold. There was no barking to be heard, no one scurrying for your attention, no dog snoozing on the benches. It felt a little soulless, like the very beings that characterised the shelter was no longer around. But this also provided us with an opportune moment to give the place a good thorough scrub. Furry day is also detox day, but the former has proven to be far more popular than the latter. I guess I fully understand the reasons. Furry day consists of fun under the sun. But Detox day merely spells a tiring, unglamorous day of cleaning liquids, powerful disinfectants, scrubs, grime and the accompanying blisters.

But the importance of cleaning the shelter should never be underestimated. A clean home is a good home. And a good home means happy, healthy dogs. The sense of satisfaction you get at the sight of the dogs trudging back into the shelter from their excursion into their now clean compound is worth the toil involved. So if you do not mind, we hope you join us in our detox work in future furry days to come!

Since I was not around to see the events of furry day unfold and observe the little details in between, let us allow these gorgeous pictures do the talking.

Furry day started out bright and blustery, though there appeared to be a chance of rain. There was time for some individual cuddly pictures as well as a quick dip in the sea.

But when the skies overhead started to grow ominous, when the first fat drops of rain started to fall, we found a shelter to hide from the rain and wind. It was an amusing sight seeing all our dogs camped out together under a huge shelter at Pasir Ris Park.

When the heavens above decided to call it a truce and the rain slowed to a slight drizzle, we decided it was time to lock and load and head back to the shelter. It was about an hour or so earlier than the usual time we wrapped up, but the dogs seemed tired enough from the day's adventures.

My favourite part about Furry Day is not at the beach but only begins upon reaching the shelter again. Showering 43 dogs at a time is no small feat. Towels have to be handed out. Dog shampoo has to be distributed. Hoses at the shelter have to be spread out among so many different groups. And then there are the grumpy dogs who detest showering to deal with!

But after the massive showering operation, the sight of the furkids gobbling up their lunch to feed their voracious appetite after a whole morning out and about, the very picture of them snoozing away in their favourite spot after lunch is an extremely heartwarming sight to behold.

The curtains have long fallen on furry day of May 2011. The next one will be coming up shortly. Announcements about the date of furry day would be posted on our facebook page. If you are interested in joining us next month, please be our friend on facebook and we will keep you posted there. Thank you!

For the volunteers of furry day May 2011, if you do not see your picture here, it should be available at this address: 

Photo credits go to Sebastian, Jie Hao and Jialing. 

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