We wish we could rescue every dog in the world.
But the sad truth of the matter is, there are just too many homeless dogs.
Having about 35 to 40 dogs to care for on a daily basis, we already have our hands full. There is not only the day to day caring of the dogs and the maintenance of the shelter to tend to, there is also the dogs' medical needs and the constant look out for their adoption opportunities to keep us on our toes.
All too often, we receive emails from members of the public informing us that they have sighted a stray dog in their neighbourhood and querying if we can help. We yearn for the day we can help each and every dog. But if we were to intervene each time we received such an email, our shelter would be filled to the brim.
What we aim to provide for our dogs is quality of care. Save for new entrants who have to be isolated, none of our dogs is confined to a small cubicle. Instead, in addition to their cubicle, they have a small running area for them to play. Most of the running areas are furnished with benches to facilitate human interaction with the dogs.
Our shelter is a haven exactly because it is not overcrowded. When agreeing to take in more dogs, we are extremely careful to ensure that we are not compromising on the care of our existing dogs.
A make-shift home, but nevertheless, we hope, still a home
It is a fine, fine line between being a shelter dog with a meal a day but confined within the four walls of the dreary shelter and being a stray with all the freedom to roam the world but at the risk of starvation or capture. The former is a threat on a dog's mental health and the latter targets a dog's physical health.
Through experience and error, we learnt that the best way forward for us is to work with responsible rescuers.
What do we mean by that?
Responsible rescuers recognize that from the moment they decide to intervene in a dog's life, they are duty bound to watch over the dog for the rest of its life. It's easy to pass by a stray dog and feel sorry for it. But what right do we have to remove it from the only home it has known if we aren't prepared to go the distance?
Placing a dog at a boarding house for the long run but not exposing it to the affection, love and exercise it requires might not necessarily be doing it a favour.
We have had the good fortune to meet a few wonderful rescuers in our time running Gentle Paws. In fact, this very entry is dedicated to one very special rescuer the folks at our shelter have grown to love and treasure.
Suat, our lady in red
Suat wrote to us in January last year asking if we had space to take in three dogs who were living near her work place at an industrial estate. She was going away for a month and she was worried that the three girls would not have enough to eat or worse, would no longer be around when she returned.
There was a period of time when we were especially wary of people writing in requesting for us to take in their dogs. More often than not, these requests were laced with thinly veiled threats that the dogs would be sent to SPCA if we failed to take them in.
But Suat sounded sincere and truly desperate. So on a whim, I put her into contact with Florence for a speedier resolution. And then the decision was made to take the three girls in and from February 2011 onwards, we never looked back.
Hindsight is often perfect. Looking back, the decision to take in the three dogs whom we've come to know as Big Girl, Small Girl and Green has been one of the best decisions we've ever made. We not only gained three wonderful fur kids, we also gained a very fabulous human being.
Meet Big Girl, giver of big hugs and big kisses.
Meet Small Girl, smaller, quieter but just as sweet.
Finally, meet Green, grinning.
It is plain to see that Suat loves the dogs. Her love is not confined to her three girls. Our entire shelter full of dogs are beneficiaries of her big kind heart. Suat never fails to whip out her famous 'magic box' each week filled with icky home made treats like gizzards, tongues and ribs that our dogs loooove. Recently, she has begun to cook the dogs' lunch on Saturdays to give Wee a break. Sometimes, after a long tiring day at the shelter, Suat lugs her heavy bags to go feed the strays.
It is clear also that our dogs love Suat back, especially her own three girls. The sight of Suat leading Big GIrl, Small Girl and Greenie out for their walk on their different colored leashes is often a heartwarming one. I was mighty impressed to discover that Suat was able to allow the girls to roam free and have them come running to her when she stands up to leave. It was as if the dogs knew who watched over them and who deserved their love and respect.
Every dog has a tale but unfortunately, they are unable to tell it. Lucky for us, Suat played a big role in the rescue of the girls. They couldn't speak, but she could. And from her, I learnt the story of how Big Girl, Small Girl and Green came to be.
The three girls on their furry day out.
Big Girl, Small Girl and Green were industrial estate puppies. Industrial estates weren't such great places to be born in. Physical condition of the place aside, the dogs were constantly on the verge of being evicted by the management.
The three girls were born to a Mama dog famous for her large litters despite her slim build.
Big Girl and Small Girl were full siblings, born to a litter of 13.
The Big Girl Small Girl litter
Suat played a peripheral role in this first litter. It was a kind uncle working at a car garage in the vicinity who discovered the litter under the drain. He took care of the puppies and Suat occasionally dropped by to pay them a visit. Suat tells us that the uncle gave some puppies away while some others strayed and disappeared. Only Big Girl and Small Girl were left when Suat came back from three weeks of leave.
Green was born some time later to the same Mama dog under a container at the same industrial estate. This time, the litter comprised of 14 pups!
Their first glimpse of this world was from under a container
The puppies had to be hidden away from management after some uncompassionate people complained about their presence. Suat informs us that to their relief, the uncle next door was familiar with the Mama dog and allowed them to build a make shift shelter at his place to house the puppies.
The way they lived
It was a whole litter of 14! What happened to the rest of them?
The makeshift shelter
Suat tells us that she managed to find homes for 7 of them, 2 were run down by vehicles when they grew adventurous and the fencing could no longer keep them in, 3 were adopted by a fish farm and to Suat's greatest regret, later died from poisoning, Green and Moomoo were now with Gentle Paws.
Moomoo left the litter early and was reunited with his sibling and half-siblings, at Gentle Paws
Meanwhile, the Mama dog who has long evaded capture was finally brought for sterilization and allowed to roam free once more.
Suat told her story plainly enough, but we're sure that beneath the simplicity was a tumultuous journey of ups and downs, fear and joy, uncertainty and hope.
With that, we hope you get an idea of what we mean by responsible rescuing. No one ever said rescuing a dog in need was an easy task. It only ever stops when you find a permanent home for the dog. And when you don't, you just have to keep on watching over it and showering it with the love and care that it deserves.
Just like Suat with her magic box and her magic ways.
No dogs have been endangered in the telling of this story. Suat informs us that the old home of Big Girl, Small Girl and Green have been developed into multi-storey offices and no dogs remained behind.