That, sadly, is mere wishful thinking. Every time I log onto Facebook, my newsfeed fills with photos of countless of dogs looking for homes, most of them mongrels. I have to sheepishly point out that as a shelter running a Facebook page, we are contributors too.
Homeless dogs are everywhere.
The even more disheartening thing is, this isn't just happening in Singapore. I don't have to quote you any facts or figures. Just hit Google and it's all out there for you to peruse. The fact that this problem is such a universal, age old one hints at how deep rooted and difficult it is to resolve. Some countries are dealing with it better than others. But the situation remains. Because there are just too many stray dogs, many of them are being captured and their innocent lives, extinguished.
When it comes to the treatment of strays, two main issues arise - stray feeding and sterilisation. Feeding the strays is the compassionate thing to do. That daily meal from the feeders will mean they don't have to scavenge for food. But it is the often overlooked solution of sterilising the strays that will truly be effective in helping to tackle the problem of overpopulation in the long run. One ought to go hand in hand with the other for us to work towards a stray free nation.
The strays don't make it easy. Most of them are extremely intelligent. They keep their distance from people, even if they have identified these people to be the good sort. The dogs are happy to see their regular feeder, they eat the food provided but take one step towards them and they scatter like a flock of birds taking flight. Who can fault them? Their will to live and sense of self-preservation are pretty admirable if you ask me.
Our dog stories have been a long time coming, I know. Florence says that this is the time we should be writing more since the lease ends in May next year. This blog is a depository of memories that will live on when we are old and frail. That is what words and photos can do, when the intricate details fall between the cracks of our recollections.
So today, let me tell you the story of one of my favourite stray dogs made good. His name is King.
I feel like I have known King for a long time, even though I haven't really. That is because Wee always documents his stray feeding through videos which he shares with us. For months, perhaps even years, we would watch them savouring their food from the comfortable confines of our home and office, worlds apart from the tough environment they call their home. Most days, the videos were similar. But that was the lives these dogs led. Stability in the wild was considered a blessing.
In his hey day, King was the only male in his pack and clearly the leader of the gang. He stood firm and refused the entry of any other male dog into the group. Even if he did, it would have to be a more submissive one. At any one time, there were about two to three female dogs in the pack. Imagine how many puppies King sired, much to our exasperation! Over the years, we must have single-handedly taken in at least twenty pups from the different litters. Yet, it was so difficult to lure him in. The females in the group were all alert and wary too, which made it very challenging to intervene and sterilise them.
As time went by, some of the dogs grew ill and slipped away as quietly and unobtrusively as they came. We never found out what happened to them or where they lay down to close their eyes as they took that final breath. The area where they roamed was vast, grassy and tricky to comb.
Though King was younger and stronger, it didn't take too long for the elements to wear him down slowly as well. Our local climate is at times hot, at others wet. There was no shade or shelter from the weather. Imagine the diseases that lurked in the dense underbrush where they rested. Works to redevelop the area were also beginning to intensify, leaving the dogs running helter skelter for cover. They were forced to flee from their home and their comfort zone.
Back in those days, this was how he lived.
King became sickly. He lost a chunk of weight. Suddenly, he didn't feel like such a king anymore. He was a pale shadow of the dog that he once was. His gait was slow like an old person's and his ribs began to protrude at angles rather noticeably. These were tough times. They either made it or they didn't.
With the weight he was losing, it was clear he was ill.
We did not capture King so much as he allowed us to do so. He had grown too weak to put up a fight or even to simply retreat. We ought to feel more euphoric that we got him, but there were graver concerns on our mind. This was a sick dog and he needed medical attention. And so to the clinic we headed without much ado.
He was muzzled on his first vet visit because at that time, we hadn't found out how gentle he was.
As we expected, the vet diagnosed King with a host of ailments. He was blind in the right eye. He also had hepatitis, tick fever, heartworm, joint problems and a heart murmur that didn't go away. His appetite was so weak we had to force feed him kibbles. I would never forget those days we had to gently pry his upper and lower jaw apart, place the kibbles near his throat and hold his jaws close so that he would began to chew and swallow. If he didn't eat, he couldn't take his medicine. King was only about four. But he was so worn down physically he looked so much beyond his years.
See that faulty right eye?
Our weeks passed by in a blur of vet visits. Expectedly, he had a long list of medication. Even his eyedrops had to be administered to both eyes up to three times a day. Recovery was slow and long. Everyone had to pitch in to ensure we kept up with the vet's orders. To our delight, we succeeded. No, King succeeded. He pulled through.
From spending a half hour coaxing him to eat his food, his appetite grew. He started prancing around excitedly during mealtimes. While the sight in his right eye was all but gone, the vet declared his left eye to be intact and healthy. His hepatitis condition cleared and his liver readings became normal. He was also treated for tick fever and heartworm. What left to be dealt with was the heart murmur. As I am writing this, an echocardiogram has been arranged to find out what the cause of the murmur may be.
In the span of his recovery period, we were reacquainted with King. I don't think he will ever regain the glory of yesteryear. Everything is different now. He used to turn his nose up at kibbles. Wee fed them a pure meat diet in the wild to build them up to endure the elements. Now, King loved his kibbles and he enjoyed them plain. It was as if he developed a newfound appreciation for the simple things in life. When you rescue a stray dog who has been through some really rough patches, what you get in return is a profound gratitude that doesn't have to be spoken to be felt.
For all his street credit as a pack leader, King got along with the other dogs at the shelter. He let the younger ones climb all over him playfully without so much as flinching. He got along with other male and female adult dogs as well. Bringing him for a walk was such a pleasure. He would walk slowly and leisurely beside you. It's a whole different life he is leading now. He had traded in his former life for one that was more restrained, but also one that was more stable and so much safer.
What we went through with King makes him a very special dog. He is also case in point that stray dogs can make some very wonderful pets.
Stray dogs may be termed "strays" because they roam about with no fixed home. But it is easy to forget that not all who wander are lost. On the contrary, if we wrap our minds around it, we will discover that it is probably these "strays" with their wealth of life experiences who have the clearest idea about what they want out of life and the things to be thankful about.
Give a former stray dog a home! We have many adult mongrels looking for homes. For adoption enquiries, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.