Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Team Gentle Paws

Do you know Gentle Paws and Friends doesn't hire a single worker in the course of running the shelter?

Volunteers do everything from cleaning the grounds, cooking the food, feeding the dogs, showering them and walking them. We take care of the dogs' yearly vaccination and medical needs, ensure all of them are sterilised and as far as possible, healthy and  happy.

On opening day last year, we received 10 fans, a fridge and a washing machine from various kind individuals. With the equipment we were armed with, we were good to go. We wash our own towels, hang them out to dry and collect them again. We clean the 10 fans regularly to ensure that the blades and covers of the fans are not completely caked with dust. We store treats, medication and milk in the fridge for use whenever we need them.

Doing things ourselves might be hard. But it saves us the $800 per month it takes to hire one worker. This $800 a month can go to far better use, such as for emergency veterinary fees or for the sterilisation fees of newly rescued dogs. 

Because we have to be self-sufficient, volunteering at the shelter can be tougher than you think. 

When I arrived at the shelter last Saturday, I was amazed by the sight of each volunteer going about his or her business with a sense of purpose. Some of them were hosing down the grounds, many others were on all fours scrubbing the ground and walls with a mixture of vinegar (to get rid of the moss) and disinfectant.

It was Detox day - a monthly event in which we give the shelter a good scrub down. 

Seeing what I saw, I was truly humbled. Before me was a congregation of people of different ages, nationality even, and from all walks of life, bending down in the most unglamourous fashion and waging war with a common nemesis called Grime.

In the background, music from the radio was blaring and the atmosphere was light. All our workers were happy workers. 

I really do think that as the months go by, volunteering at the shelter helps you make human friends for life. Because as regular volunteers, we really do go through quite a bit together.

For starters, we care for the same dogs. We work together towards the betterment of the welfare of our dogs. The feeling of working hand in hand  towards a common goal is something rare and almost indescribable. It's almost as if we are comrades, marching shoulder to shoulder towards the same destination.

For another, we go through death together. Our dogs die. Whether it is expected or sudden, it is equally painful. What's worse is the sickness and suffering that precedes the death. The pain that you're feeling can only truly be understood by a fellow volunteer who went through what you did.

Next, we experience the pain of parting together. This time not as a result of death, but due to a successful adoption. Ironic, isn't it? We are always happy to see our dogs get successfully adopted. In fact, we go all out to facilitate the adoption and secure that happily ever after for our dogs. But we form attachments during our time at the shelter, each of us to different dogs. That is the reality of the matter. Having your charge leave the shelter for a new life and a new family can be a bittersweet experience that only a fellow volunteer can ever comprehend.

To add on, we organise relatively large projects in the name of the shelter. Furry day is a monthly event that is logistics heavy. We need to coordinate our drivers' schedules, we need the manpower to organise the volunteers as well as the dogs, we need to ensure the safety of everyone involved and we need to remain alert for any emergencies.

We also take part in flea markets to raise funds for the shelter. The most difficult part of flea markets is the gathering and consolidating of things to sell. The hours can be extremely long. I recall shouting till my voice was hoarse. "$2, $2! Everything is going for $2!" To date, we have taken part in about 5 or 6 flea markets, organised by other shelters as well as group resident committees.

And then, there is also our annual Adoption Drive. I remember vividly running around in the hot sun distributing fliers in letterboxes and notice boards. Choo also sacrificed evenings prepping Dakdakdei for his agility performance. And when the turnout for the Adoption Drive wasn't the most spectacular, all of us experienced the same disappointment together.

To further raise funds, we also put together the Gentle Paws calendar for sale. And then, with the help of sponsorship, we started producing our own T-shirts for sale. We recently started manufacturing badges featuring the dogs at Gentle Paws for sale as well.

Finally, we work together to raise awareness about the plight of shelter dogs. We maintain our Facebook account, our email and yes, this very blog, to inform, to share and to communicate. Our dogs might be living within the four walls of the shelter for most of their lives. But this does not mean their presence and their stories should not be made known on cyberspace.

Volunteering at the shelter regularly requires discipline, time management (although I can't say I do that well at all!) and a love for all things canine. It can be tiring, frustrating and rewarding all at once. 

Wee, Florence, Choo, Suat, Sebastian, Lorna, Ann, Edwin, Wei Feng, Chin Leong, Nana, Andrew, Cindy, Joey, Xiang Qian, Chng Bin, Russ, Jie Hao, Jialing... 

This entry is for you. Thank you for making my time at Gentle Paws so much more enjoyable with your simple presence. Thank your for making the shelter a home away from home.

One day, when I am old and bent over with age, I will sit back on my rocking chair and grin toothlessly as I look back on those times we slogged together and the dogs with whom we had the good fortune to meet.

I have a tendency to become sappy and uncool. But guys, let me just say in advance, thank you for the memories.

Onward Team GPF. Toward greater heights!

If you wish to volunteer regularly at Gentle Paws, please do not hesitate to drop us an email at Team GPF remains ever open to new members :) 


  1. Awww!! I love this team and everyone in it :) it is very interesting that I felt a surge of emotions during last week's detox day while I was washing the drinking bowls... Watching everyone so focused on scrubbing is a funny yet touching sight.

    Anything done in the shelter is for the fur kids and I am proud to be part of the team and being able to help the fur kids in whichever way we can...

    Life works in an interesting way, bringing us together to share all the joys, sadness and pressure in the shelter.

    I love you guys too!

    More furry days and detox to come!!

  2. And not forgetting, must thank our best journalist Wanying too! Without ur wonderful writings, all our happenings wouldnt be recorded down. I've been reading ur entries whenever i have time and they bring back a lot of fond memories. Thx Wanying and thx everyone of u in the team :)


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