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Butterballs all, butterballs me.

I didn't spend my break doing utterly nothing meaningful, guys.

Yesterday was Gentle Paws's (a privately run dog shelter) 13th Furry Day event. It's a day when humans head down to bring the shelter dogs out for their once-a-month outing at Pasir Ris Park/Beach. I was roped in by my cousin Pooh to join in this good (and fun!) cause -- actually, I would have gone anyway once I knew about it. I mean, there're furkids there for the picking to rough house with and there shelter folks are more than happy to have volunteer photogs around. As such, I headed down with Syon, a bag of scrap cake (the kind you can get at the bakery for a dollar a packet) -- for myself! -- and basically nothing much else. They don't really ask for much, just for you to have ready, strong hands and your wits and compassion about you. (Oh yes, you also need to be at least 17 years old. :D)

While the time I spent with the dogs wasn't long, what little I got to know of them had my understanding of local dogs (a.k.a. Those Stray Mutts) turned a 180-degrees. I learnt that, if these dogs are given the right kind of attention and love that their luckier, born-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time-to-the-right-set-of-blue-blooded-dam-and-sire counterparts receive, they can be smashingly lively and lovely doggy friends. The route to making them so's definitely a lot more challenging (and sometimes heartbreaking) than if you were to work with the clean slate of a pedigree flown in direct from the Oz, but somehow, I should think that it makes them all the more worth it? If I were to sit down and think of it properly, I can probably come up with a dozen reasons why I'll recommend adopting a furkid rather than buying one, but let's leave that for another day.

... Alright, I bet you were just waiting for the photos to come up, yeah?  XD

The following are some portraits I'd taken of the dogs that were in my cousin's and my group. (The dogs at the shelter have their own excruciatingly exclusive cliques, so if a dog has caught your eye and you happen to be there with your friends to walk them, you all have to choose ones that are part of a pack if you wanna stick together.) 

Doris.

This is Doris, a pure-breed Golden Retriever. I think she's the only one who defies the 'clique rule', 'cause it seems like most of the other dogs don't mind her. She's old, barrel-bodied and ambling but perfectly lovely. Her story's a sad one, yet pretty typical of a breeding dog at a puppy mill: In her prime, she was used to churn out those adorable golden puppies with melting eyes you can get around the island; when she out-lived her use, the pet store owners had intended to kill her off together with the other old mama-dogs. Thankfully, someone was able to intervene and managed to send her off to the folks at Gentle Paws. I think she's been staying there for quite a while now. 

Dyana.Dexter.

These two are a pair of siblings -- Dyana and Dexter. They have another sister named Donna, but that girl has a much fouler temper. Isn't Dyana pretty? <3 I don't have much of an impression of her, 'cause she was walked by my cousin's friend, but I don't recall there being any problems with Dyana. On the other hand, I've heard a lot about Dexter-boy even before I'd gone down to see him. My other cousin Koko had walked him at the Furry Day two months ago. "Hyper dog," she'd said. IMO, he's the sweetest dog around, the shelter dog equivalent of sugar and spice and everything nice (in other words, he's a target for the bullies. >_<). He just loves his walks, ends up being too quickly exhausted and having to take multiple breaks. Their mother's Dior, who looks kinda like them but without the cute floppy ears. 

Dior.

It's kinda heart-warming to know that there're 'happy families' that make it to the shelter, 'cause some of them are not so fortunate. I heard that there's an entire stray dog family that was fed poisoned feed a while ago. The white mother dog had perished together with her pups and it was too late for the Gentle Paws folks to do anything for them. However, they were able to save the one boy that shared his mother's colouring...

Mario's bath.

I don't have a good photo of him, but this is Mario taking a bath. (And that's my cousin Pooh and her friend hosing him down.) He's a jolly fellow. :3 Dior and her kids have accepted him as part of their pack, so the 4 of them, together with another black dog named Dribble share a hangout/enclosure. (Ah. Dribble. He was a bad boy that day. If I tell you guys what actually happened, it's not gonna help with your perception of stray mutts. So please ask me personally if you're acutely curious about it.)

AND AND AND. THE FOLLOWING TWO! THE FEARSOME COUPLE-DUO! THE PAIR THAT NO DOG DARES MESS AROUND WITH.

Retro Xiaobai.Emily.

... I know you wouldn't believe me if I told you that they're the Fearsome Twosome of Gentle Paws, Xiaobai and Emily. (小白/Xiaobai is white, as his name suggests. He and Mario are the only two pure white dogs at Gentle Paws. You tell them apart by their ears: Xiaobai's left ear is chipped and the other kinda round-edged, while Mario's are both erect.) Admittedly, they look rather much like sheep here. In fact, they behave almost exactly like that -- around humans, that is. They love people; they scorn other doggies. For the record, I heard that Xiao Bai has a record of biting off pieces off other dogs' ears (4 dogs, I think, but it's hardly anything to boast about. >A<) Emily growls and lunges at other dogs when they're too close. They only behave civilly towards each other. Joy. :D The moment I'd stepped into the shelter, these two had caught my eye. (Not the least because they're so pretty togther -- yes, yes. Steffi's superficial. We all know that by now. =A=) Emily came up and licked my hand moments after I entered their hangout. Xiabaii took a while to warm up to me, but I ended the day with him.

Now, I ought to explain why I'd said earlier that these dogs have 'excruciatingly exclusive cliques'. Besides each being housed in  living arrangements such that no dog will end up a mess of wounds and whimpers, when being transported to the park for their monthly long walk in a small van, they've got to be ferried in these groups. This means multiple trips, sometimes with 5 dogs, sometimes with a loose group of individuals who are generally fine around other dogs. Then there's Caspian&Qiqi and Xiaobai&Emily. I ended up chilling out with Xiaobai and another volunteer who was with Emily near the end of the outing. Since there was no way that he and Emily could be transported back to the shelter with the other dogs, we ended up being the last group to go back. It happened that Caspian and Qiqi were also around. For a panicky moment, the logistics people had to figure out how to save time and not waste petrol while ensuring that us volunteers handling the dogs don't end up traumatised while sitting with the dogs at the back of the van. There's no way they could've put all 4 dogs and us in there. (This is what I meant by 'excruciating'. The number of things you have to consider. The number of repetitions you have to make just 'cause the dogs have their finicky social habits. T_T The possibility of ending up with injured dogs, maybe even intervening human, at the end.)  Luckily, the coordinator Ann managed to sit in the front with the huge Caspian and Qiqi on her lap, while I and two other humans formed a human shield keeping Xiaobai and Emily apart from the two in front. >AAAAA<

... Whew. It really does seems like a ton of work, doesn't it?

But I can attest to the fact that it's immensely rewarding, plus a lot of fun (if you've got a sense of humour, you should be able to realise the fun parts, if belatedly). Most of the dogs crave human company, since the shelter is only opened for visitors on weekends. (That's right, they're holed up there with only 1 human caretaker, Wee, for 6 days of the week. DX) I'd  go down again. The Gentle Paws owners/main volunteers keep a pretty free-and-easy structure, so it seems like you can pretty do anything if it helps the dogs and isn't totally out of their capabilities.  They've a lot of room to grow and aren't a registed charity organisation yet, unlike other more established animal shelters like (the notorious, in my book, at least) SPCA and Action for Singapore Dogs. They can do with more humans helping out along the way. 

Ah. And to close off, here's a boy that could do with some of our thoughts and prayers. 

Drago.

This is Drago, a Very Recent Rescue. His coat is evidently covered with bald patches and there may be sores on his skin. I heard that he has only partial sight right now. I hadn't really interacted with him much (and wouldn't have at all, if not for Xiaobai and Emily being housed next to him) but you can tell that he was pretty forlorn in his sorry state. I patted him a bit, took a few shots and wished I could have done more at this time in point. The shelter's asking for sponsors for him right now, so if anyone's interested, please drop them a mail.

Love,
Steffi

P.S. It's been a while since I've written up a long post like this, with no mention of dolls. I feel oddly proud.

P.P.S. If anyone's interested in joining me the next time I'm heading down to the shelter, please tell me! It doesn't have to be next month's Furry Day, or the one after that. It can just be a free weekend. :)
Bunnisteffi

Comments

( 13 messages — Leave a message )
raining_on
Sep. 25th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
Gentle Paws sounds like an interesting place!

The sad thing is that people much prefer the ease of buying a new dog, and having the time to bond with it as a puppy then investing more care by adopting. Plus people like to choose the breed they want to own, instead of having to 'settle'. Also, having its papers means that you'll know the origin of your dog. People who adopt know that a dog shouldn't be judged by its coat, but rather its heart and character, exactly like humans. C:

You ruined your track record by the postscript! XDDD
bunnisteffi
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
The other sad fact is that, even with the breeder's papers, things aren't always as stated in the black and white. There are responsible breeders, but I believe that they are a rarity. My cousin's dog is a certified Pom, with his parents certified as Champions and what-not. But he grew and... grew. Turns out that he may be more of a Spitz-mix, or his parents are just large-boned. ._. And being aware of the origins doesn't mean that the owner can be rest assured of their having a clean bill of health. Pure breeds tend to have hereditary diseases. A private breeder may inform you of them, but I don't suppose the salesmen at Pet Safari/Pet Lovers Centre etc. actually do that? (I mean, they even allowed Shana's Pepper to be housed with a male hamster and look what happened?!)

Most typical pet buyers just aren't aware of what they're paying for.

Hey, these GP dogs can go to you for free! You just need the space for them, since most of them are too large to be HDB-approved. ._. Yeah. No wonder people go for the MiniPins and MiniSchnaus and fluffy Malteses.

... At least I didn't talk about dolls at length!
raining_on
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
There are always exceptions. Most people who are serious about buying dogs head straight to breeders, and not pet shops. Lately many dogs just languish at Pet Safari. O:

With Shiro around, I doubt we have the space for another. XDDDD
bunnisteffi
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
But people who don't do their homework just head straight to the pet stores anyway! Argh.

I doubt you do, too. Ah well.
bunnisteffi
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
... We need to have an operation to cut out those Sunday Classified ads of the Pet Farms from as many Straits Times as possible! The ones that gloat about the number of 'exotic pure breed' cats and dogs that they have.
raining_on
Sep. 26th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC)
Pet stores really are one of the worst places to buy pets, imo, considering that pet welfare is right at the bottom of their priority list. Dedicated pet breeders are much nicer in that they handle all their animals themselves, and actually care for them.

Shiro came from such a breeder - he had two puppies - who also bred hairless guinea pigs (it's an acquired taste) and kitties. I think Shiro would go ballistic to be in GPF - OH! ARE YOU MY NEW BEST FRIEND? *wags tail*
chuo_ri
Sep. 25th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
OMG Dogssssssssss!!!!! <3333 I wanna come too! :DDDD This is really amazing! They remind me of Ichigo. Haven't posted about him for ages but he's doing fine as usual. XD Poor Doris, I really hope Ichigo's ma didn't suffer the horrible fate breeding dogs usually do. ;A;

I'm sorta interested to hear what happened with Dribble that day. XDDD You can tell me in private if it's too stray-mutt-reputation-damaging to say here. 8D

Poor Drago. D: He looks like he needs love. ;A; A belly rub is in order!
bunnisteffi
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Rene's talking about this coming weekend. We'll see. XD And yes, some of them remind me of Ichigo. But because they're more starved for attention then he is, they aren't aloof for a long time around strangers. (That's a plus!) Did you guys get Ichigo locally? If you have his papers, you may be able to find out where his ma was from. T_T

And yeah, Drago's a heart breaker. I really hope that he'll get better soon and bounce right up from whatever quagmire they'd rescued him from. He just looks so sad. The fur around his eyes look like doom holes. It'll help if some of the other dogs will look after him, too. Really, the social dynamics within that shelter are complicated! I know barely the surface of it all.

I'll tell you about Dribble another day.
chuo_ri
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
XD Ichigo is the epitome of the antisocial dog! We got him locally at some pet shop in Pet Movers (not sure if I remembered the name correctly). As for papers... I'm ashamed to say that I've never seen them at all. :OOOO Maybe mum has them.

We need to give this poor heartbreaker a good belly rub and play a game of fetch. D:
yagamijo
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
Doris is a perfect darling ^^ I really do not understand the horrible decision to out these lovely girls down once they outlive their use. Damn those damn puppy mill.

Very very lovely pictures of the dogs, absolutely beautiful.
bunnisteffi
Sep. 25th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
Profit-motive, I guess. And no sense of responsibility/compassion/gratitude. D:< There's an organisation called dogmillrehomers which aims to help find these abandoned dogs homes. It's heart wrenching yet strangely inspiring to read their success stories.

Thank you! I was charmed by the dogs themselves enough to get down low to take these shots.
jo_sen7
Sep. 26th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC)
My heart kinda aches at the last pic. -huggles brownie-

cleopatreycu
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:11 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this post. You write about this topic very well. There are many cherished moments in life, why not wear a beautiful dress! When looking back on special memories of your child wearing a gorgeous dress, it will make a fond memory.

( 13 messages — Leave a message )

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Bunnisteffi lay flayrah u silflay.

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