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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What is Pain?

By Lynda Goh

WARNING: Certain photographs / videos present in this post may cause some readers to feel uneasy.

What exactly is pain?

How do you describe your pain and get relief from pain?

The feeling of physical pain is generally described as an unpleasant sensation or distressing experience of being aware of harm to the body. Humans experience pain in a variety of ways and from a variety of causes, but most commonly we experience pain that is related to injury or illness.

Pain is normally a symptom of an illness or an injury and is the body’s alarm system signaling that something is wrong.  Pain can be an unpleasant sensation ranging from mild localised discomfort to agony. It gets your attention, signals that you are in danger and has an essential survival value. Pain can serve as a protective warning of potential damage, can promote learning (hot surface, harmful) or can set limits on activities, which encourages resting.

Xiao Hei went through so much pain and he behaved as though nothing had happened.
We have all gone through different kinds of pain - when we fell as kids while running or playing catch and chasing our friends around the playground, and as adults we go through pain either from physical injury or emotional pain.

If we can feel the pain that hurts us so much – how would a dog feel? 

Can they tell you the pain that they went through when they encounter a dog fight and start to bleed?  Can they tell that they are unwell and feeling discomfort?  They can – if you can feel their emotions.

Xiao Hei was attacked by some dogs.
Sunday, 4 September
If you put yourself in Xiao Hei’s position – can you imagine the amount of pain he went through?  Xiao Hei was in so much pain and not once he has ever complained.  When a pack of dogs attacked him on 4 September 2011 morning, he was bleeding so badly till part of his flesh wound came off. Jacqueline, a volunteer with a shelter next door to Zeus Residence ran to me and asked for help.  Immediately, I rushed to their kennels to see what had happened to the poor dog. 

To my horror, I felt so much pain from Xiao Hei and he just sat quietly at the corner, as though nothing had happened.  I was so cross that I asked the caregiver why the wound had not  been cleaned and attended to – and she said to me in Mandarin “the wound will heal by itself”.  I could not believe the silly reply that she gave me and we immediately cleaned Xiao Hei’s wound and applied basic first aid on him. 

While cleaning Xiao Hei’s wound, I discovered several scars on him which were caused by dog fights. Xiao Hei was like an abused child being beaten by his parents continuously.  I told myself that the hurt and suffering has to end for this poor dog – and that he will no longer have to live in fear. 

Close up of Xiao Hei's wound.
Feeling sorry for Xiao Hei, we took him over to Zeus Residence to nurse him and the next morning, our volunteer Hilda took Xiao Hei to the vet at Bedok to ensure that the wounds were not infected. The vet cleaned the wounds up and he went home with antibiotics.

Saturday, 10 Sept
When I visited Xiao Hei on Saturday afternoon, his wound was healing very well but to my greatest horror – I found out that Xiao Hei’s anus was bleeding and part of it was sticking out.  Immediately, we tried to clean the wound to stop the bleeding and to make him comfortable.  As I was cleaning his wound, I felt so upset that Xiao Hei has gone through so much pain and suffering. 

Xiao Hei was back at the vet again to see Dr Ang at Redhill who was on duty on Sunday.  The vet did several blood tests to check whether Xiao Hei could go under GA – when the results were out – we were saddened to hear that Xiao Hei had tick fever and heartworm. No way he could go under GA – he would never make it.  Dr Ang tried her best to push the rectum back with mild sedation and continued to monitor Xiao Hei.

When asked what was the cause for his anus to stick out – it seems that Xiao Hei had frequent diarrhea and he was using his muscles to push so often that it affected his anus.

Monday, 12 Sept
On Monday evening, Dr Ang called to say that Xiao Hei’s was losing blood and becoming weak. Hence, we needed to have a blood donor on standby the next morning for him. 

Blood Donors
Friends helped to broadcast for blood donors through Facebook and SMSes. You must be asking me this question now “I thought you have a data base of blood donors – what happened?” to be honest, it is still difficult to get owners to come forward to pre-register their dogs as a blood donor and some have donated before and they cannot donate so soon.  My vision for the future - I hope to raise a pool of dogs that are able to donate blood To Help Save Lives.

Not once has Xiao Hei ever complained, whined or growled at us despite all his pain. He never struggled whenever we cleaned his wound; he just stood still and allowed you to do anything on him. He is a real darling who went through so much pain.

Tuesday, 13 Sept
In the evening, we managed to find a Husky to donate his blood to Xiao Hei. Unfortunately, its blood type did not match.

And the search for another blood donor continued.

Wednesday, 14 September
It was late afternoon when we managed to find Dougie, a Golden Retriever to donate blood. However, it was getting late and it was not possible to get the transfusion done in the evening and we have to wait for the next morning to find out if there was a match.

Dr Teo called me in the evening to say that Xiao Hei had not been eating for the last 2 days and that his immune system was going down. Dr Teo wanted to prepare me that Xiao Hei may not make it through the night. 

Saddened by the phone call, I knew that in Xiao Hei’s heart that he wanted to live and that he was not ready to go.  I communicated with Xiao Hei and told him to be strong – I stayed focused and kept telling myself that I want to see him get well and see him play with the dogs at the shelter. He deserved this chance to be alive again!

Thursday, 15 Sept
At 10.00 am, Hilda made her way to Jalan Kayu to fetch Dougie but on the way to the vet, they were caught in a bad traffic, Dr Ang called to ask whether the donor was on the way.

Immediately when Dougie arrived, we did the necessary blood tests and at 1pm – I was delighted to hear that their blood cross matched and the transfusion was going to take place.  Such news brought joy and tears, knowing that Xiao Hei was going to get his second chance to live again.

It was 4.00 pm – Xiao Hei received about 300ml of blood from Dougie and he was in stable condition.  I visited Xiao Hei after work and Dr Ang told me that Xiao Hei had started to eat again.

Before I left, I gave Xiao Hei reiki till he fell asleep and also to reduce the swell on his legs which occurred due to water retention.  When I left the clinic, Xiao Hei was fast asleep.  Reiki helps to calm your mind and puts you at ease and helps you to rest well.

Xiao Hei was given the freedom to move around the clinic.

Black Magic?
Xiao Hei’s caregiver (we shall not name her but some of you will know who she is) told me that Xiao Hei was possessed by black magic, which sounded like some Chinese drama serial. It is believed that one man’s wife had an affair, hence the husband cast a spell on the dog and abandoned him at the temple to spite the wife.  Feeling sorry for the dog, the caregiver decided to rescue him although many had warned her against taking the dog for it would bring her bad luck. 

If you want my honest opinion, there was no black magic performed on the dog and he was fine.  The dog simply had low self esteem and no confidence - that’s why he couldn’t fend for himself.  We were going to change that for Xiao Hei by giving him the confidence he deserves so he can stand up for himself in future. 

Xiao Hei is a young dog estimated to be about 3 years old.  I made a promise to him that he will not have to return to the shelter where he came from and he will start a brand new life at Zeus Residence, where volunteers will show him with love and care.

Sunday, 18 September
It was Sunday afternoon and I was at the shelter getting ready to send 2 dogs to the vet for sterilization and I received a call from Dr Ang giving us the bad news that Xiao Hei passed away in his sleep.  I recalled seeing him on Friday evening when he was so alert and walking about in the clinic – he showed me the will to live but I had this feeling that his system was slowly shutting down – Xiao Hei did not even show us his suffering and his pain.  Could you see how strong willed this dog was?

We are extremely glad that Xiao Hei received the treatment and a second chance that he deserved.  When he passed away, he went knowingly that we all loved him very much and he passed away with dignity.

What is Pain?
Could you feel the pain and the sadness Xiao Hei was going through?  If it was us, we would ask for pain killers to stop the pain because our threshhold for pain is low.  As for Xiao Hei, he persevered and he never gave up.  When an animal wants to live, its survival instinct is very high.

We would like to thank Dougie’s owner James for allowing the donation of Dougie's blood to Xiao Hei.  Dr Ang and Dr Teo for attending to Xiao Hei and for doing what they could to save him.

I know that from the bottom of Xiao Hei’s heart – he says "thank you for caring".

Xiao Hei has gone through so much pain.
Xiao Hei passed away peacefully
in his sleep on 18 September 2011.

What is Pain?

Xiao Hei may you rest in peace and
we know that you are very forgiving towards
humans and dogs that have done this to you.

You still trusted humans despite what you have gone through.

 If humans are as understanding as you,
you would have made this place a better world.


  1. I always say that "if you can't love, at least you don't hurt" but the owner has hurt XiaoHei, in physical pain as well as in Xiao Hei's heart. To people out there....... if you really can't afford to love a pet then DON'T, really PLEASE DON'T get one!!

  2. Hi Lynda, thank you for rescuing Xiao Hei and showing him that there are still people who do love and care for him before he passed on. Be at peace now, Xiao Hei.

  3. Thank you Lynda for rescuing Xiao Hei and caring for him. I hope he gets a better place in heaven for his forgiving and strong-willed personality. We are all dog lovers, no, animal lovers ! People, please don't buy animals to your children if they can't love it or even take care of it themselves. Don't buy animals because of some festive like Easter. To animal lovers, ADOPT animals from the animal shelter ! We humans are animals too, they live on earth, drink and eat. We're the same ! When we are hurt they try to cheer us up. some animals also save us when we are in danger, and they pass away protecting us! Shouldn't we be grateful?
    Rest in peace Xiao hei


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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