If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. Mark Twain

Monday, November 8, 2010

We Need Your Help!

Homeless in Singapore?

We often bring you stories of homeless stray dogs, cats, abandoned pets etc but today I write this with a heavy heart wrought with concern and confusion.

It’s about a homeless lady in Singapore. Did you know that there are people in Singapore who have no homes, no food nor shelter? That they sleep on benches in parks, or on cardbox boxes on the sidewalks? What’s more – this homeless lady has a dog with her. Is it good that she has a dog for companionship? Or is it sad that the dog has to go through the life of a vagrant with her? 
Leaving Orchard Road and going to the Vet
On Saturday, around noon, we received a call from a friend, Chris. He was out shopping in the heart of Orchard Road when he saw a mongrel wandering INSIDE the shopping mall, seemingly looking for its owner. He called us for advice and we adviced him on how to approach the dog, catch it, hold on to it and we would go by to meet him. The dog was relatively calm and easy to approach so he managed to catch her within 20 minutes. She had on a collar and a tag with her AVA license number. Who would abandon a dog; firstly in a shopping mall, and with a AVA license? So we figured it was most likely a lost dog.

We had plans to discharge Venus and Little Joe and take them to their new factory, but this felt urgent so we headed down to the shopping mall where we found Chris sitting on the steps outside, holding on to the dog’s collar.

When we saw the dog, her eyes were tired, she had discharge from her eyes and her hind legs were trembling as if she had been walking for weeks or months on end. She was also thin and her coat and skin were not too good. She was friendly and we managed to lead her to our car and carried her in.

We headed to our regular vet and scanned her for a microchip. She had none. Dr Ang examined her and checked her teeth. Dr Ang commented that although the dog looked about 7 or 8 years old, she was in fact only about 2 years old and she was underweight. Did the effects of leading a vagrant life with her owner take a toll on her? Did she go on for days and weeks with no food, no water nor shelter?

As it was a Saturday, AVA’s office was closed for the day, so we decided to keep her at the Vet for a few days. Anyway, she looked really exhausted and lay down at every opportunity she could get.
Outside the Vet. Look at her tired eyes.
Chris stayed on and walked around the mall and Orchard Road, asking shop owners if they had seen this particular dog before and if they knew its owner. Two people told him it belonged to a lady on crutches and they told him where she was usually spotted at.

He went over and true enough, she was there. When he told her he had found her dog, she kept telling him that her dog was sleeping and will come join her soon. Despite attempts to communicate with her about her lost dog, his attempts were futile; she did not seem to comprehend. He left shortly after.

The rest of our day was spent settling Little Joe and Venus into their new factory etc and their story would be up next week.

While at the Vet, this dog kept looking out the glass door, as if she was  desperately looking for her owner and she seemed really worried that her owner was out there alone. Despite looking so thin, tired and weak, she refused all food and water.

Sunday. We went down to Orchard Road again and found the lady with crutches sitting on a bench. I asked her where her dog was. Her eyes reddened as she answered “I don’t know”. I spoke to her for about 20 minutes, and after a few minutes, I realized that she suffered from a slight intellectual disability. Her answers were sometimes reasoned like that of a 10 or 12 year old child. After asking for her name a few times, she finally told me her name was “Selma” and that she was a Muslim. She said she lived with her “Chinese Aunty” in Rowell Road. I asked her if she worked, she said she could not get a job. I asked her if she fed the dog because she was very thin. She told me that if people gave her money, she would buy food to share with her dog but said usually she had no money.

I asked how she got from Rowell Road to Orchard Road daily; she said she and her dog would take the bus or taxi. This did not make sense as we know dogs are not allowed on buses and that she probably could not afford the taxi fare – considering we were told she would sit at the same spot in Orchard Road everyday.

I asked her for her handphone number or her mom’s name but she answered “my mother says cannot tell you Ma’am”. I merely wanted to contact a family member to take her home and to ask if they needed help feeding and caring for the dog.

I told her we had her dog at the clinic and that her dog was fine and resting. Tears rolled down her face and she turned away. I bit my lips and tried not to break down too. It was clear she loved her dog very much and it seemed like all they had was each other. I told her I would take her to see her dog on Monday if she waited at the same spot for me. I am not sure if she understood what I said, but I will go and look for her. She also told me her dog’s name was “Singapore”.

We took a drive to the “Chinese Aunty’s” house in Rowell Road. We just wanted to verify Selma’s story before returning the dog to her, and to also see their living conditions and how we could help. The aunty’s house was a shop house in Little India. There was no one by the name of “Lee Hwa”, whom Selma mentioned. However, this Chinese lady knew of Selma but when I asked if Selma and Singapore lived with her, she said no. She said that Selma would come into her shop once a week, sometimes once a month and this “aunty” would buy chicken wings for “Singapore”. Aunty told us that Selma used to rent a unit nearby but was asked to leave when she could no longer afford the rent. She said they slept at the park nearby, usually on the park bench. She told me sometimes people would give Selma $2 and she would buy food to share with “Singapore”. We know how much food we can get for $2 these days – hardly enough to fill a human, let alone a human and a mongrel.
Selma & Singapore's home

I asked aunty if she would let Selma and Singapore live with her, she said they had no extra space. She told us that Selma has been living at the park for some years now and that she had lost one leg in an accident some years ago.

Think about this - a Muslim female, about 45+ yrs old, mentally and physically disabled, cared for and protected by one loyal mongrel – sharing what little food they can get every few days, sleeping at the park and walking from Little India to Orchard Road everyday. I would think with a physically disabled person and a tired and hungry dog – they would take at least a FEW hours to get to town. Then she would sit along Orchard Road all day, watching the world go by, while Singapore roams around scavenging for food. That must have been how she ended up inside the shopping mall. Come nightfall, the both of them would walk another few hours back to Little India to sleep in the park.

Did you know such situations existed in Singapore? Why is it that no one has referred Selma to social welfare? She is unable to care for herself and she is homeless. Isn’t that enough grounds to offer help?

On another note, if social welfare did take her into a Home, she would most likely be separated from her dog and that's not what we want. They NEED each other.

We used animal communication with Singapore and she communicated with us that they did not have a home, they slept at the park – which was true and we already knew. Singapore asked why she was locked in the cage (at the Vet) and that she needed to get out to be with her owner. She said when it rained, they just continued sitting at the park and got drenched because her owner liked sitting in the rain. Singapore also told us that her owner was in a world of her own and the dog was all Selma had.

We have been in a fix on how to help Selma and the dog. This is a true case of a fellow human being needing help and a loyal dog taking care of her owner, living a life possibly worse than a stray. This is not a life; neither for a dog, nor a fellow human being.

To help the human being or to help the dog? We would like to help both, if we could. We would be glad to provide food to the dog on a regular basis but where can they live? The dog should not be separated from her owner because they only have each other and they mean the world to each other.

We have asked the vet to microchip the dog, vaccinate her and we’ve bought her a leash as she didn’t have one. We got one that can be hooked round Selma’s waist, so that they could walk together side by side, as she holds on to her crutches. We also got her a water bowl and some treats to keep with her. Singapore’s new name tag with be arriving in a week’s time – it has our telephone number on it, in case they lose each other again.

We are at a loss on how we can help both Selma and her dog. If you have suggestions, ideas on how we can help them – be it offering Selma a simple job so she has an income, or to provide both of them with regular meals and a shelter over their head, please email me at dogs_ink@singnet.com.sg  We will be returning the dog to her soon as we do not wish to separate them for too long. We're just holding the dog at the Vet so she gets some much needed rest and food, while we think of solutions for them both. PLEASE HELP US WITH IDEAS OR SUGGESTIONS. We would truly appreciate that.

Don't you think it's ironical that the dog's name is called "Singapore"? Yet here they are, living in their own "garden city" receiving no kindness, hope nor welfare.

Our young volunteer, Jo- Ann, did some surfing and found this article on Stomp! It was in July 2010.

The sight of this disabled woman sleeping on a cardboard box caught STOMPerTrempest Humphries' eye. The STOMPer noticed that this woman has cared the dog for at least two months despite having only one leg.

The STOMPer said:

“I took this picture at about 1.30pm on 22nd Jul because I saw this lady for the second time.

“The only difference this time is that she's sleeping on the walkway outside shop houses along Rowell road.

“Next to her is her loyal companion, a mongrel, which the lady shares a large portion of her cardboard 'mattress' with.

“When I first saw her about two months back, I thought to myself, ‘Steady! Just one leg and with crutches, she’s still able to walk her dog’.

“Now to me, there's so much more to this lady.

“She cares for her dog even though she's homeless.

“This is an example to all those people who give up their pets just because they've decided to move from a piece of landed property to a condominium.”

Written by Fiona.

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"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."- Unknown