Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dog tales

I was extremely horrified to learn from the papers that a precocious silky terrier was bitten by a Rottweiler at the National Dog Walk held last week and thereafter died from her injuries.

My deepest condolences go out to the owner of the silky terrier, although I'm certain all the condolences in the world are never going ease the sorrow and the grief that she is feeling right now. The loss of a beloved pet takes time to come to terms with, let alone one that occurred so suddenly and unexpectedly. 

On that note, I also sympathise with all parties involved in the incident, including the Rottweiler's owner. I'm sure what happened that day was beyond his wildest imagination. It was meant to be a great day out and about at the park, but it became nothing short of a complete nightmare. 

Dogs so easily become our best friends. The grieving process when your dog passes away can be extremely painful. 

I recently found out that it's not just us. Dogs grieve when their owners die as well. They seem to know that their owner isn't ever going to come back. 

It's this rare bond that makes a dog a man's best friend. 

US Navy Seal Jon Tumilson died when the military helicopter he was in was shot down by a rocket grenade. At his wake, as friends and family gathered to remember this honourable man, his Labrador Retriever, Hawkeye, walked slowly down the middle aisle leading to his coffin and lay down before it. I wasn't there, I wouldn't know much. But the very image of this desolate dog lying prostrate before the coffin containing his owner's unmoving body struck a chord in me. 

It was as if Hawkeye knew right to the depths of his very soul that his beloved owner was never coming back. His owner was never going to call out to him again. No more "sit", "stay" or even "bad dog!". His owner was never ever going to be by his side once more. 

This bond between human and animal, the connection that exists, is rare and oh so precious. Dogs bring us a lot of trouble. They are a long term commitment. They depend on us in every way possible. They shed hair and require us to pick up their poop. And when they pass on, they leave us distraught for months on end, missing their very presence. 

But troublemakers that they are, they bring us a lifetime of joy. At the end of the journey, it is often unanimous that we would rather have had and lost than never to have had at all. 

Joy aside, dogs can, in a rare instance or two, bring us miracles as well. 

When Tom Morgan saw his six year old daughter, Taylor, fall into a fast moving Washington river on August 17th this year, his first thought was that all was lost. 

While he was standing shell shocked at the spectacle before him, his quick-thinking dog Maggie dived into the river towards Taylor. This dog was not going to allow the currents to sweep her little girl away. 

Maggie grabbed onto Taylor's jacket with her mouth and swam about 90 metres towards the shore. The currents weren't letting up, but Maggie wasn't giving up either. She reached the banks safely, with Taylor in tow. Her heroics were witnessed by not just Tom and his wife, but by people who were near the river as well. 

And you know what the best thing of all is? Maggie was a shelter dog adopted all those years ago by the Morgan family! The Morgans gave her a second chance at life. It seems like Maggie is repaying them by watching over their little girl with her heart and soul. This was not the first instance she saved Taylor. She previously alerted the adults when Taylor collapsed in the yard by racing into the house, breaking the screen and barking maniacally in the process. 

Dogs are devoted animals. They can be difficult to handle at the start. But give it a year or two and their love and loyalty will shine through. 

This is apparent even at the shelter. Some of our dogs take a longer time to warm up to new volunteers. It's the seasoned volunteers they turn to for reassurance. Whenever Dior is handled by a new volunteer on a walk, she never fails to turn back every now and then to look for me before she moves off. 

And then there is YenYen, who can be quite a handful for a new volunteer to handle because a little into the walk, she'll slow down and... refuse to walk. That is, until one of us regulars come along to give her a little encouragement. Based on my experience, simply calling out "YenYen" chirpily will get her moving.

It's all these little responses from the dogs that make the shelter such a wonderful place to be in. It is as if the dogs know what we're doing and they're responding in ways that they know how. 

And for me, at least, that's what keeps me going. Helping out at the shelter allows me to build, grow and nurture my friendship with all these beautiful dogs. 

They have no owner to call their own. But they surely can do with a friend like you and me! 

If you are interested in volunteering with Gentle Paws and Friends, please drop us an email at

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