Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you for the memories

It keeps raining recently. I live just a stone's throw away from the shelter so whenever it rains at my place, I know for sure it is raining at the shelter as well. I really don't like downpours these days, especially ones accompanied by thunder and lightning. Dribble becomes uncertain and needy during bad weather. Debbie becomes so vulnerable she allows you to touch her. Doris loses her appetite for food and we all know how much Doris loves her mealtimes. Without even having to be down at the shelter, I am certain that most of the dogs are going to be wet and uncomfortable because of the lashing wind. 

This brings me to my topic of the day... Furry day. Given the trend lately, we were especially worried that the weather wouldn't be cooperative when November 19 came about. It was our last furry day of the year. More than anything, we wanted it to be a great success. 

Luckily for us, the weather turned out to be glorious. And when the curtains finally fell on the show that day, we went back feeling tired but happy. 

In the blink of an eye, we have organised over 15 furry days. With each furry day that passes, it is so easy to lose sight of its significance. Why is it that we insist on going through the trouble of organising this event month after month?

Each month, we go through the arduous process of gathering enough regulars to facilitate furry day, ensuring that our drivers are available, holding volunteer recruitment drives and liaising with the volunteers via email about plans for that day. 

On the day itself, we kick off the process by registering each new volunteer and showing them about the shelter. We then leash and load 40 excited, irrepressible dogs up our vans and, together with the volunteers, make our way to the park.

At the park, we assign each volunteer to a suitable dog, ensure the volunteers remain contactable and then implore them to explore the grounds with the dog. We also deal with emergencies like tearing apart two squabbling furkids or coaxing some fearful dogs to walk. We also have to be alert to other dogs at the park that might be unleashed. At all times, we have to make sure we are not a nuisance to other park users.

After 2 hours or so are up, we begin the process of ferrying the dogs and humans back to the shelter. And then the showering process begins...

Furry days can be very long days! But we persist at it.

As I perused through photos of furry days past, I filled with nostalgia. And it struck me that the reasons for doing so are aplenty...

Furry day gives our dogs something to look forward to. The thought of the sun, the sea and the sweet grass on one special day of each month makes all the heavy downpours they experience slightly more bearable. 

The dogs' lives at the shelter are fairly monotonous. They wake up, they have their only meal of the day, some of them fool around and play with each other. And when the next day comes around, they start to do the same all over again. Weekends are slightly different because they get to go for short walks nearby. But apart from that, their lives beat to the same rhythm day after day, week after week. 

Furry day brings a pleasant change to their lives. It takes them away from within the four walls of the shelter into the big glorious world out there. They get the chance to take a dip in the sea, sink their paws into the sand and enjoy the pleasant sea breeze. 

In a city that can be cold and unfriendly towards them, the warmth of furry day is effective therapy for all and any weary canine soul. 

Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. See how the dogs all seem to be smiling back at you? 

With furry day, we have the peace of mind that no matter what the dog has gone through in its life, at the very least it will always have with it the memory of one happy fulfilling day. 

Furry day also opens up the world to our dogs. It brings people from all walks of life to the shelter and to our dogs. We typically recruit about 40 volunteers each furry day. Multiply that by 15 furry days we have had and you get a total of 600 volunteers whose paths have crossed with ours because of  furry day. Imagine that!

And this isn't all!

It is also through furry day that we unearthed some of our most regular volunteers with us today. Through the event, these people realise they actually enjoy working with dogs. They start coming down to the shelter on their own accord and hey presto, the rest is history. 

No matter how hard we have worked to organise them, furry days would never be possible without YOU - the volunteers who sign up for it. On the eve of each furry day, the pessimist in me would start fretting that the people who signed up would fail to appear. And then we would be left with insufficient manpower for furry day to go on. 

Yet each time, I am always proven otherwise. 

So on behalf of Gentle Paws, let me just say a big thank you to one and all who have helped out in furry day in one way or another for the past year. You help the furry day express to keep chugging on. 

We hope to get to meet many more of you in future furry days to come. May each and every furry affair be filled with as much laughter and joy as we have experienced thus far.

Until next year, the GPF furry day team is over and out! 

Just an update on the Walk-a-Paw event next month... all slots have been filled and registration is closed early. Thank you for the overwhelming support! 

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