Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When Puppies Become Dogs

This has been a year of puppies. 

For a long time, we turned our noses up at puppies. By themselves, the tiny tots are irresistible. Their chance of rescue and in turn, adoption, was way greater than other adult dogs in need. 

Puppies were therefore rarely in our consideration when we decided on the next new entrant to the shelter. 

Well, that was in the past. 

Since June last year, we have rescued thirty-eight puppies. That's more than the total number of adult dogs we have at the shelter! 

There're just seven of them here. But they're really a litter of TWELVE.

What were the reasons for our change of mind? 

In some instances, we rescued pregnant mothers and their unborn puppies came along as a package! In others, we fed pregnant strays in the wild and could not bear to see their puppies lead the rough unstable life that they did.

Dora and Daphne (right) were separately rescued while pregnant. 
Between them, they delivered 17 puppies.

Puppies came in litters of two, five, seven to twelve! 

Puppies born or rescued in small litters faced the problem of keeping warm since they could not yet maintain their body temperature on their own. 

When Denon (front) was adopted, Dabu fell ill.

Puppies in large litters may not receive sufficient milk from their mother in the face of competition from their hungry siblings. Each litter of puppies posed different sets of challenges. 

Four pups were fostered temporarily to allow Dora to cope with the load.

We are a small set-up. Looking back, I don't know how we managed. With each new litter, I remember the new wave of trepidation that would engulf me. 

What were we going to do if they don't find homes? 

Waiting to get picked at our adoption drive.

But with litter after litter, at least half would embark on new lives with their new families. This freed up the space for us to rescue more. 

We must have been very determined and blessed with a heck of a lot of luck. 

Twenty-five out of the thirty-eight puppies found homes.

Dairy and Donut (right) were rescued from 2 different litters and adopted by the same family.

What then becomes of the others that are left behind? 

I run the shelter's Facebook page and am particularly sensitive to the reception I get to my posts (or you could call it narcissism haha).

Updates on our adopted pooches never fail to be the most celebrated. Much less fuss is placed on the mundane ongoings at the shelter. 

Daryl was the only one in his litter not adopted. And life goes on for him. 

Behind the curtains, the pups who don't get picked... they slowly grow up. 

Out of the five pups from our Island litter, two found homes and three remain behind.

They receive a Gentle Paws education, where they learn to sit for treats, walk on leash, dispense kisses, detest showers, ride on vans and enjoy trips to the beach. 

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

They learn to trust people and bask in human attention although inevitably, they soon realise there is never enough to go around. 

Not enough human hands to go around. 

Through scuffles, they learn how to cohabit with other dogs in the same compound. And through sheer proximity to the elements, they grow to be afraid of the rain, thunder and lightning.

The Gentle Paws experience moulds the pups into loving adult dogs. It builds resilience and a certain toughness in our dogs as well. 

They learn to trust at the shelter. 

But it is imperfect. 

Through no fault of theirs, the very same shelter environment instills in them little insecurities... 

Our dogs firmly believe in the need to gobble up their food before the other dogs can get at it. 


The pack environment they live in encourages the barking at neighboring dogs across the fence. 

Our lovable gangsters.

They can't help the anxiety that surfaces when the cold wind blows, thunder rumbles and the rain just won't stop lashing.

They really don't like the rain.

Shelter dogs are special. Adopting a shelter dog requires someone even more special.  

People believe that they can determine whether a dog is 'right' for them from the connection they feel with the dog at the first meeting.

We are not doubting that thunderbolt moments like this do happen. But these are rare. 

Most of the time, connections are not born - they are built. Bonding need not always be immediate. It is a process.

Shelter dogs need people who understand that adoption is very much a journey. 

Deena (front) and Dabu can be so affectionate. 
But before unfamiliar faces, they become insecure. 

They need people who are not deterred when they shy away during the first meeting. They need people who have no qualms about making extra trips down to the shelter to get to know them in the shelter environment. They need people who are willing to stick out the difficult first month of adoption.

Will our remaining puppies get so lucky? 

Duxton and Dikam (right) are two of our newest entrants.

I've heard it been said that its always better to live your life thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. The same applies to shelter work. 

If they don't stop smiling, who are we to feel defeated?

The outcropping of so many new shelters and rescue groups means that the small pool of adopters is further saturated. We can be resigned or we can make the best of it. 

Both Laifu (right) and Doudou found homes. But not all are so lucky. 

If we could find good homes for more than 70 dogs in the past three years, when we were much smaller and less people knew of us, there is hope yet. 

Sad faces no more. Both Deborah and Darbi (right) were later adopted.

Good kind families lie in wait in the great big unknown out there. We just have to keep on with our publicity efforts and allow fate to arrange for them to find their way to us. 

While Jiajia (right) has found a home, the search continues for her sister, Lele. 

Not everyone is prepared to adopt a shelter dog and the baggage they come with. At times, I don't think they make it too easy for you to love them, especially at the start. But those who stick it out get the sweetest rewards. And we're speaking from experience. 

Both sisters, DanDan (standing) and Dilly, were adopted.

If you've adopted a shelter pooch, we just want to let you know how special you are. But I don't think that's necessary. Because... 

That very dog of yours probably lets you know every day that you're the most brilliant person to walk this earth.

I am sure you'll agree with us when we say...

Puppies, adults, senior citizens. So many dogs are in need of a home. We do our best to make the shelter a home. But it'll always be second best at most.

Adopt, don't buy and be well on your way to making one of the best decisions of your life.

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