The song is sung. The candles are blown. The party is effectively over.
Gentle Paws has turned 2 and with our birthday bash behind us, we once again begin to plod ahead doggedly (pun intended).
But before we set off on our journey once more, let me savor the last few hours of April 3rd and bask in the soft glow of memories long past.
Gentle Paws started off as a cold, bare plot of land. There were neither dividing fences nor a roof. All we had to work with was one big running area, ten individual cubicles and one unwieldy structure.
Choo once said that our shelter was built in faith. He was right. Like a jigsaw puzzle, our shelter came together part by part.
We started with the walls. With our amateur painting skills, we banished the drab stone grey walls we inherited and splashed on happy colors like baby pink, lime green and sky blue. Dogs have limited color vision, we know. But happy colors make for happy people, and happy people make for happy pooches.
Then we raised money feverishly to build dividing fences. The problem with shelters is that they are often overcrowded. We wanted to be a house of respite where the weaker dogs who stubbornly refused to yield to the dominant ones could relax and let their guard down. We wanted survival to be a given, not something the dogs had to fight for.
When the rain got heavier and the winds grew stronger, our makeshift canvas could no longer withstand the weight of the water that collected. The canvas was flimsy and did little to protect the dogs from the elements. With the help of a corporate sponsor, Red Hat, we managed to construct a roof on one side of the shelter.
But that wasn't sufficient, so we participated in an assortment of flea markets to raise funds to put up a roof on the other side of the shelter for the other half of our dogs. We threw ourselves not only into flea markets at dog adoption drives but also those organized by Resident Committees like that of Tampines GRC.
Then it became more and more apparent that the condition of our shelter ground was poor. We purchased cement, mixed it ourselves and proceeded to mend the floor. We also laid bricks between each compound to control the flow of water.
Along the way, we installed a refrigerator, a washing machine and electric fans in each cubicle. Each of them was either sponsored or donated.
Little by little, with a patchwork of different additions, this once empty plot of land took on an eclectic homely feel.
And that's what we have become - a home away from home. We have become a place for tired canine hearts to heal and for weary human souls to take a much needed breather.
As we march forward into the great unknown, as we cross paths with more new dogs in the months ahead, we hope to be able to provide the same refuge for them until they find their home and happiness to begin their next phase in life.
This is Gentle Paws, age 2, signing off.