Friday, March 2, 2012

She started it all

This is the story of the uncaring winds of urbanization and the creatures they left behind.

This is the story of a rapidly growing city that no longer had space for its stray canine inhabitants. 

This is the story of a particular stray dog who lost her friends, her home and the freedom to roam the world.

This, my dearest readers, is the story of Debbie

I won't condescend to tell the tale of Debbie. This is Wee's story to tell and his alone. I have taken the transcript he gave me and made minor corrections to it. The pictures that accompany the text are gems taken by Wee all those years ago. 

Its been four years since Debbie was rescued, but till date her distrust of humans run high. We can't touch her, shower her or leash her. When we step closer to her, she flinches and moves away quickly.

Debbie is sick now. She isn't eating. Her bones have started protruding sharply at angles. On bad days, she can hardly lift her torso up. Today, Wee informed us that she just lies and stares blankly ahead, no longer moving. We are worried sick.

In Florence's words, there is no time like this moment to share with the world the tale of our Debbie.

And so in the words of Wee...

It was early 2006 that I met Debbie. She was no older than 3 months. I found her lying on the grass verge beside a road near my house. I thought she was dead and wanted to pick her up. But she got up suddenly and ran away.  
I saw her again a few days later. That was when I started feeding her. Because she was a baby and because all my dogs' names started with a 'D', this little girl became Debbie.  

Sometime in early 2007, Debbie brought a friend to meet me. He was a black boy whom I later named Darren. This young fellow was handsome, stout and extremely friendly. I could even pat and hug him.  

A few weeks later, Debbie was found with another friend. This one was a little red girl with very tiny round eyes. She was shy and fearful and would not come near when I was around. I named her Dutches.  

It began with one dog. But I now found myself feeding three. 

This was not the end. An old female and another young brown boy came to join the gang. I named the old girl Diyah. She looked like she had just given birth. 

I named the brown boy Dagger because of a scar on on his face. 
Dagger was lucky. Because he was friendly, lovable and not black in colour, a Caucasian lady brought him home. I saw him and his new owner a few times following this. But after a while, they stopped coming back. Perhaps they shifted away, I don't know... 

In April 2007, Debbie gave birth to a litter of seven puppies. When I first saw them in the morning, they were doing okay. But when I went back to look for them with food for Debbie, Florence and I found five dead puppies and one barely alive. We rushed to the nearest pet shop to get puppy milk but the little one just couldn't make it.  
We went back and buried all the dead puppies.  
I managed to find Debbie with one last surviving pup. I built a little den using an umbrella and some branches and leaves so that no one would spot her. Debbie took her puppy and went into the den I built. 
I was happy.  

Sadly, our happiness was shortlived. Because the puppy cried too loudly, someone called the authorities who came and destroyed the den. Luckily, Debbie escaped with the puppy. 
I built another den for them at a different location. But an old man who exercised in the vicinity every morning told me that the authorities destroyed it yet again.  
For all our efforts, the puppy didn't last very long as well. A heavy downpour washed it away and Debbie disappeared for a few days.  
One day, I was walking my dogs Damien and Dreamer in the vicinity, Debbie came running towards us out of the blue and started playing with Dreamer. 
Debbie had returned to our lives once more.  

On 10 November 2007, Debbie gave birth yet again.  There were seven puppies, but one died. This time, Florence and I were determined to save all the living ones. We picked up all the pups and moved them into my little black Honda Jazz and called Debbie to follow. Surprisingly, she did. She went into the back of the car and started milking her babies.  

If it wasn't for Florence, I wouldn't have known what to do or where to go. She said to me simply, "Drive. We'll go to Pasir Ris farm and seek help."  
I did as told and we got lucky. Florence went around pleading for help. A skinny lady named Karen came and took a look at Debbie and her pups. Then she went and called for Madam Wong.  

Florence explained our situation to her. After some consideration, kind Mdm Wong found a place for us to house Debbie and her pups temporarily.  
That very day marked the beginning of my shelter work.  It was the day I became a slave to all the dogs (mock sigh).  
Because we were inexperienced and financially weak, Debbie's puppies died one by one every day. Those were the darkest days of our lives. 
Only two puppies, Dior and Dana, survived. They were carried home by Jasmine, their potential adoptor, who brought them for their much needed vaccinations.  

We also found out that one of Debbie's friends, the little red girl Dutches, had given birth to three puppies. She only took one of them with her. 
Florence and I brought the other two motherless pups to Debbie. This noble dog took the two little ones in as if they were her own. She fostered them till they could eat by themselves. Unfortunately, as with most stray puppies, they failed to survive.  
We were poor. I had just retired with $800 in pension money and Florence had swiped her cards until they were all maxed out. We started seeking help from others, whether financially or otherwise. More volunteers stepped up to the plate. Life became more stable... and the rest is history... 
I tried several times to bring Dutches in but failed. The authorities came many times. Except for Debbie and Dagger, the place is wiped clean of dogs. I guess the others must have been caught and put to sleep by now. Debbie's old home has now become a new condominium project. 

When I took a look at the pictures that Wee sent me for this entry, I was taken aback by the expression of sheer joy on Debbie's face. I had never seen her look so relaxed in all my three years at the shelter.

Florence believes that if given the chance, Debbie would choose to run away and be free again. 

If Wee and Florence hadn't taken Debbie in, like her pals from her old home, Debbie wouldn't have lived to see this day. And yet, on the other hand, did we really save Debbie? We so often find her  at the shelter with her paws crossed regally and her expression brooding... as if going over her former carefree days in her head...

It's a fine, fine line. Contrary to what people think, shelter life can be a sort of imprisonment if conditions are worst then life on the streets. Because Debbie isn't human friendly, shelter life for her is a thousand times tougher.

But right here, right now, we no longer have a spare moment to brood over this. We are now working out a way to send Debbie to the vet to receive the medical attention that she badly needs.

Debbie was the first dog Wee rescued. She paved the way for countless other dogs that Wee helped rehabilitate.

It was Debbie who helped lay the foundations of what is known today as Gentle Paws and Friends.

Through the years, Debbie has withstood the ravages of time. Now gravely ill, she is facing the battle of her life.

Please say a little prayer for this very special dog who started it all.

As Florence would say ever so often in that indulgent way of hers, love love Debbie

Stay strong, brave girl. 

We believe that Debbie is the representative of the voiceless strays out there. 

This entry is not meant to encourage any emotional bashing of the authorities. We believe that dialogue should always be civil and cordial. 

As much as this world is ours and the strays', so too does it belong to non animal lovers. 

The pilot program and the talk of a national adoption centre gives us hope that a peaceful compromise will be reached amongst the many stakeholders.

Finally there is something being done for strays like Debbie and for that, we are heartened.


  1. My heart goes out to you and your team.
    Debbie has sure had a hard life but yet, I'm sure there are others far worse.

  2. It struck me when I saw Debbie's happy face when she was outside, comparing to now when she's at shelter... if only we could bring her out for furry day... Debbie must jia you, and we shall try our best and bring her out for furry day, like how Baby has done it!

  3. Nicely written.
    My prayers are with Debbie and your pack.
    You are all such an inspiration. Stay brave in your love for each other.


  4. You brought her to the shelter where she has to face so much stress. Please just feed those strays that never like to be in presence of humans instead of forcing them to be in a place that they do not enjoy at all. Giving them a happy life are as good as giving them a healthy mind for a healthy life. To force a dog that do not like to merge in the activity or the surrounding is just a shame. Put yourself in their shoes.

  5. Next please think if baby had actually enjoyed furry day or just being stress out to the max? Please be kinder to the dogs by respecting their comfort zone and not intruding into it. Sometimes your kindness just make things worse.

  6. To Mr Anon with the negative comments, at least they are doing somthing to help. What are you doing? Talk is cheap. If you are not doing anything I suggest you just STFU. Like they say if you don't make any noise, no one will say you are dumb. Or in this case ... no one can call you stupid.

  7. You guys are great! Yes, we can say by putting strays in shelter we rob them from freedom but in Singapore today, most places are not safe for them anymore. They may be run over by truck/cars, abused, hunger, injured etc. Shelter is like prison but at least they are safe. They won't go hungry n hv to fight for food, they are loved n taken care if sick. In some poor country, ppl break the law just to go prison for a meal! Pls appreciate kind ppl that do things to help, be it for human or animals. May not always the best but they hv done their best!

  8. man cannot force an animal to do anything by force. anyone who has brought a dog out will know that. a dog that does not want to walk with you willingly will do all sorts of things e.g. wriggle, sit, lie down, growl. baby showed none of the above during furry day and debbie initiated contact and willingly followed wee back. she hates thunderstorms and loves food. all of these she will not have without these kind people. I am not sure who is mr negativity in some of the above comments but some advice is think not of what could have been, instead think of what has been and be thankful for it has happened....debbie have found a safe shelter and home for her pups....she may not have been as trusting but i do think that eventually she is happy to have made a difference in the lives of these kind people and the dogs that were subsequently well as thankful for the food and the roof above her head....


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