Thursday, February 23, 2012

For the love of mutts

The curtains finally fell on the National Geographic Free Pet Shop last Sunday evening.

It seems like everything there is to know about the event is already on the Internet. We are fortunate to have the Sunday Times, Today, AsiaOne, Yahoo and a host of other publishers featuring the event.

Chua En Lai and our Emily (courtesy of Today ONLINE)

We are even more pleased to hear that 3 or 4 dogs under the banner of Action for Singapore Dogs have been successfully adopted.

There were 4 different shelters at the event over the weekend. I am certain each shelter not only operates on varying scale, but is also governed by starkly different rules and regulations. But for that weekend alone, we were united by a common cause to find homes for our very lovable Singapore Specials.

What we can contribute to the chatter already circulating about the event is some thoughts about the Gentle Paws experience.

We are small, but we stand strong!

We were the newest and the smallest participating shelter at the Adoption Drive. The event was a severe test of our resources because we attempted to bring almost all of our dogs out, save Debbie and Buddy who can't be leashed.

Not all of our dogs were ready for adoption. Baby just took her first walk out of the shelter a couple of weeks ago. Caspian was slowly opening up to us humans but still had the tendency to be unpredictable. Yet, we couldn't bear the idea of leaving them behind.

Bringing all the dogs meant that the adoptable ones had equal exposure to potential adoptors. You never know who might come along and fall in love with one of them just like that. Fate can work in very funny ways and we weren't about to stand in its way.

Green excitedly greets new friends

So in traditional Gentle Paws fashion, we came up with the grand plan of making this event an excursion for the whole shelter. This Adoption Drive was to be the Furry Day of February!

Oh but it was easier said than done.

The thought of 32 of our boisterous furkids in a premise full of other excitable dogs filled us with some trepidation. We needed the most experienced of our volunteers to handle our dogs at the event.

But wait... Didn't 32 dogs translate into... 32 volunteers?!

How are they gonna pull it off? Tiger's confused as well

Handling of dogs aside, we needed free hands to man the adoption booth and mingle with the public.

We also needed transport to ferry all 32 dogs and 32 volunteers from the shelter to East Coast Park where the event was held. Unlike Pasir Ris Park which was just a stone's throw away from the shelter, the journey to East Coast Park took a good 20 minutes.

And then there was our poochies' meals to think about.

For the life of us, they were never going to eat the kibbles that Nat Geo folks kindly provided at the event. They would be too excited and distracted by the other dogs and people to concentrate on the mundane task of eating.

Gracie was elated to be out and about

We would have to do morning feeding before the event and another round of evening feeding when we returned.

When the dogs returned Sunday evening, we would also have to shower every single one of them to get the salt and grime of the weekend off their furry bodies.

It was going to be very challenging logistics wise and very taxing on our helpers.

Ever smiley, our Waggy

But hey, we only live once right?

This felt like the right time to be crazy.

With very dedicated volunteers who had no qualms about sacrificing their weekend to lend a much needed hand, we managed to get our show on the road.

People came in droves!

I guess experience with organising furry days and Adoption Drives also made the going much easier.

At the event, we had the chance to mingle with the public and introduce ourselves to the world. One question that frequently cropped up was... Hey, which of your dogs are HDB approved?

It struck us that there is many a family out there with the desire to adopt a dog but without the means to do so because they live in a humble HDB flat. As a privately run shelter, we were helpless to do anything.

We are keeping our fingers tightly crossed that the pilot program currently in the works really does pan out. With that in place, the idea of a home for our dogs will become less of an elusive dream.

No home for me? Xiaobai's feeling a little hurt

Another question that came up quite often, at least for me, was whether we had any golden retrievers or labradors for adoption. Our Dollar and Doris are a GR and a Lab respectively and they have shown me just how great these breeds are.

But I think the crux of the matter and a rather worrying one at that is... many people still don't see just how great our Singapore Specials can be as well. I sense that there is still a notion that mixed breeds are somehow inferior.

But I'm just as lovable... muses Big Girl with a hint of sorrow

From pocket chihuahuas to Italian greyhounds to Chow Chows to Great Danes, the event saw the arrival of many proud dog owners with their pets in tow. But I could hardly see a mixed breed house pet in the sea of pedigreed dogs out there.

No, don't get me wrong. I recognise that pedigreed dogs can make wonderful pets and that the choice of a pet is really an individual preference. But I do believe that much more can be done to make people understand that mixed breed dogs have just as much to offer.

Look how pretty Dyana is?

This is what makes the Nat Geo event so wonderful - it boldly puts the spotlight on our Singapore Specials. It exposes these dogs to the wider public and accords them with some sort of credibility. Over the weekend, these mixed breed dogs were no longer the rugged street kids out to cause trouble but every bit the equals of their pedigreed counterparts.

So tired from two busy days, Dada catches a wink at the event

As wise old Atticus Finch would say, the Nat Geo Free Pet Shop event was a great leveller.

Dyana and Dior - with the Muttons (Courtesy of Today ONLINE)

And with that, let us say thank you to the National Geographic Channel for so kindly extending the invitation to our very small, very young, very humble shelter. Thank you very much for having us.

An exhausted Wanda, a rare sight!

It was a bustling busy tiring weekend but we wouldn't have missed it for the world. We hope you had as much fun as we did.


  1. I think it was a great idea for Gentle Paws to participate in the event. The public would hardly have guessed that you were the "newest and the smallest" participating shelter. In fact, by bringing out 32 dogs, and with all volunteers nicely decked out in your official T-shirts, you gave the impression that you were one of the largest and most organised shelters in Singapore. I could feel the love, energy and dedication of your volunteers just by being there. Keep up the good work!

  2. I was so looking forward to attend but was sick over the weekend and missed it! Hope to see more of such events and who says Singapore Special is inferior? Am waiting for Singapore Special to be HDB-approved.

  3. hihi, i love the article, it briught tears to my eyes and really felt very touched by all the hardwork & dedication you guys have for our Singspore Specils!

    mind sharing if any if the dogs have been adopted?

  4. Thanks for leaving such wonderful words you guys. We don't often reply to the comments but rest assured that we are reading the words that you leave us... and are feeling very thrilled!

    As for dogs that have been adopted... we are still in the midst of working out a few homestays. Will keep you posted if it succeeds! Thank you for caring!

  5. Although I have a pure-bred dog, my next dog would be a Singapore Special. At that time, there weren't that many dog shelters and the awareness wasn't at the level as it is today. So, well done Gentle Paws and the other shelters! Don't despair cos with public education, people like me will not perpetuate the puppy mill cycle and overlook the S'pore pooches when we are looking for a dog.


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