Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When life gives you lemons

When life gives you lemons - make lemonade. This is the mantra that Dooki has been leading his whole life by. I cannot help but feel a tinge of regret that life just didn't turn out better for him. 

Dooki was born in the shelter on 15 June 2012. His arrival was unexpected because we didn't know his mother Daphne was pregnant. We had just rescued her from an offshore island a few days back.

Daphne's pregnancy was traumatic. She had to endure the process of being captured and ferried to our main island. She originally delivered seven puppies but two died at birth. 

Dooki was the runt of the litter. He was set apart from his siblings by his distinct white front paws. We refrained from naming the puppies to avoid forming any attachment to them. We were determined to find homes for them fast. We didn't want them growing up at the shelter.

Baby Dooks, the tiniest in the litter.

So for a very long time, Dooki was known to us as White Paws... Until Wee got disgruntled that he was still nameless after all this while and named him Dooki. Now that he had a name, he belonged somewhere. 

In the time when the puppies were being weaned but were still too young to be vaccinated, we were worried. They were most vulnerable in an environment like the shelter. We sought to find homes for them quickly. Dooki was one of those shuffled off for a trial homestay by a potential adopter. 

Toddler Dooki

We were alarmed when the potential adopter reported that Dooki had vomited more than five times in a row at their place. He was sent to the vet for medical attention. To our dismay, he was gravely ill with parvovirus, a lethal puppy killer. The vet said that Dooki's condition was critical. They instructed that we send all his other siblings for testing immediately.

Dooki was warded for a long time. In the first couple of days, he hovered dangerously close to death's door. Every day we were worried we would get a phone call bearing bad news. 

The image of that tiny solitary puppy with those innocent eyes behind the glass enclosure made us feel incredibly sorry for him. He was hooked up to so many tubes. Even the smallest e-collar looked oversized for his tiny neck.

Absolutely nobody could look at this and not feel sorry for him.

We underestimated the strength of this brave little one. He made it through the worst and eventually pulled through. As he was nearing discharge, we began to fret about foster care. He was in no state to go back to the shelter. 

Only a puppy but he was strong.

We were desperate. We went around pulling favours from people who might be able to take him for a while, until he was adopted. It was difficult to find someone because Dooki was still a young puppy who needed round the clock attention. 

We were delighted when a potential adopter who had volunteered previously at the shelter stepped up to take him for a trial. They named him Loki and took great care of him. Unfortunately, they eventually decided that they weren't ready for the commitment of a canine addition to their young family. They agreed to keep Dooki until we made other foster arrangements. 

Back when he was known as Loki.

Dooki next headed to the home of a relative of one of our adopters. He was tiny, adorable and very intelligent. It was pretty easy for the children to love him. 

He was exposed to children from a young age.

But it was never meant to be long term as the family had a sickly grandparent at home. In the course of the foster care, we continued to search high and low for a suitable home for Dooki. 

How much he had gone through for one so young!

We were thrilled when a potential adopter approached us on Facebook indicating her interest to adopt. A trial homestay was arranged. The family decided to go through with the adoption after two weeks. 

We sent him to the potential adopter's place for his trial.

When we went to pay a visit to sign the adoption papers, Dooki had grown so much bigger. He was a hyperactive puppy with boundless energy. We could hardly take a photo of him without him racing off to somewhere else. He certainly kept the family on their toes. They enrolled him in an obedience class. We heard he was sharp, intelligent and quite the performer. Most of all, we were heartened to see that he was healthy. They renamed him Zeus. 

During the house visit.

Life went on for another six months. One day, the family informed us that they were downgrading and would be temporarily staying with a relative. They had adopted another dog after Dooki. They would not be able to keep both of them and had decided to let Dooki go. 

The day that Dooki returned to the shelter, he was happy, curious and blissfully ignorant. He was under the impression that they were all on a jolly excursion to the shelter. While he was busy exploring and meeting other dogs, his family handed over his things and quietly left. Probably the most heartbreaking of all was the moment it dawned on him that they were gone and had not brought him along.

That moment of realisation.

From that day on, life pretty much got tough. Dooki had to adjust to the shelter, a place where he had few memories. He was back to being Dooki again - not Loki, not Zeus. Life seemed to like throwing curveballs his way. 

The shelter can be a pretty noisy and stressful place. The dogs' excitement tends to rub off on one another. When something gets them excited, they would zoom around the kennel in delirium and bark loudly. Some would run into the crate for cover. A few like Dooki would begin to nip. 

A bad habit begins.

It was a bad habit that grew more apparent with time. The greater we reacted to the nipping, the more Dooks would think we were playing with him and the worse it became. Not everyone could handle it. We found ourselves advising volunteers to walk briskly out of the kennel whenever he grew overexcited. We also had trouble leashing him because he would race around the kennel happily like it was a game. We often had to lure him with treats so that another one of us could deftly slip the leash over his head. 

He only wanted to play...

But all of that did not characterise Dooki. What made him quintessentially Dooki was his responsiveness to people. He loved affection. Whenever we reached out to give him a scratch, he would lean in onto us fondly. Put your face close to his and he would lick you lovingly. 

He was loved by many.

Once he was leashed, Dooki walked beautifully. For a dog in his teenage years, he ought to be a tugger - but he never was. Taking him out was always leisurely. 

He was the type of dog who could sit by you for hours.

Dooki also got along with other dogs. Whenever we had to reconfigure the living quarters of the dogs, we never had to worry that Dooki might not get along with a new entrant. He was even tempered that way.  

Other dogs? No problem!

Before long, Dooki became a familiar fixture at the shelter. I can't be certain when it started but we began to notice a limp in his gait. It was affecting his walking and he seemed to be in pain. 

We sent him to the clinic for a check. Scans showed he had arthritis and was suffering from grade 2 luxating patellar. In layman terms, it meant his knee cap would pop out but wouldn't always pop back in automatically. As his condition wasn't at the most severe stage, surgery was not the first option. We started him on a course of carthrophen treatment to ease the pain. He would receive monthly jabs to cope. It had worked for some of our older dogs. 

Learning to cope with the pain at the shelter. It wasn't easy.

We revisited the problem this year because Dooki's condition did not seem to improve. We sent him for a second opinion and decided to proceed with surgery. It was going to be a big year for Dooki in his already eventful life. The surgery for his right knee was scheduled on 24 March and the one for his left knee was tentatively fixed in May or June. 

On the van on the way to the clinic for his first surgery in March 2015.

Following his surgery in March, our volunteers were roped in to foster Dooki in the interim so he didn't have to return to the shelter. He went to Yik Lun's for a week and then to Venn's for four months. 

He had a long period of recuperation before him. In between, he had to return to the vet for reviews to ensure he was healing well and on course for the next surgery. We depended a great deal on the volunteers to not only care for him but also help out in the transportation to and from the clinic. We can only count ourselves lucky that so many generously pitched in. 

Post surgery, his movement had to be restricted.

During those months that he was being fostered at home, we learnt plenty about Dooki that we wouldn't have found out at the shelter. Venn tells us he is very responsive to food and in turn, easily trained. He was taught to sit and wait for his food and not to enter the kitchen. It didn't take long for him to learn to use the pee tray. She set him boundaries and he learnt to abide by them. 

Once basic commands were mastered, they moved on to the finer details of day to day grooming. At home, she tried to get Dooki accustomed to being brushed, showered, having his ears cleaned and nails trimmed without feeling overly stressed. Nail trimming remains tricky but it is a common problem for many dogs that only time and consistency can help achieve.

Comfortable at home.

What became even more apparent during this period of foster care was just how much Dooki loved human affection. Venn tells us that there isn't a day that goes by without Dooki flopping over for a belly rub the moment she touches him. When she stops, he lifts his paw to tell her to continue. The home environment has done wonders for Dooki. When he returned to the clinic for a review, the nurses expressed surprise that they could take an X-ray without needing to muzzle him. 

Waiting to see the vet.

Dooki was fast growing accustomed to a home environment. He was afraid of thunder and being at home brought him greater comfort. On sunny days, he would jump up excitedly when Venn picked up the leash. He also got along with all other dogs, big and small. Venn ran a small boarding business so he really did meet and cohabit with quite a few of them. Best of all, his nipping problem quietly disappeared over the months. When I met him again after so long, he was calmer and gentler. He looked the same, perhaps a little trimmer, but he felt a touch different from the past. That's what a stable home environment does for dogs.

A home made him different.

When Dooki went for yet another review, the vet certified that his right leg had healed beautifully. They gave the go ahead for us to proceed with the surgery on Dooki's left leg that very same week. And so we did. 

The vet remarked that the second surgery went faster and more easily than the first one. They were confident Dooki would recover well. He had already started to eat after the operation.

All his life, Dooki has learnt to make the best of a bad situation. When life gave him those lemons, he didn't make lemonade. He made orange juice and left us wondering how he did it. 

From parvovirus to failed adoptions, from coping with the pain in his knees and then to facing a difficult recovery period, Dooki has been just amazing. I wish that for a change, a great situation could just present itself to him instead. Dooks is ready for a home and there is no one more deserving. Will you be the one to turn the tide for him at last? Don't take too long to find your way to him.

This is Dooki. He is looking for love.

Dooki and many other beautiful mongrels, each with their own story, are looking for homes. Please email us at for further adoption enquiries.

1 comment:

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