“It all started when our daughter asked us if she could have a dog. That was some years ago when she was just six or seven years old. We got her a pet hamster instead and said that we needed to get used to caring for another animal so let’s start with a small one like a hamster. She was very attached to the hamster which she named ‘Sammy’ for Samantha, since it was a female and after a few years, Sammy grew old and eventually died. One morning, we woke up and went to Sammy’s cage to find her immobile. Our daughter was devastated and almost inconsolable. Perhaps that was her first experience with death.
Earlier this year, our daughter asked us again if we could get a dog. Now a 14-year-old, she even suggested that we should adopt a dog instead of buying one from the pet shop, since there were so many dogs that have been abandoned and rescued. As parents, we were quite amazed at her maturity. So, I made a few searches online and came across SOSD’s website. I was impressed at the level of care that they gave to the dogs under their shelter especially naming each dog and giving a description of his/her character traits. I made an appointment for the next shelter tour and the Head of Outreach, Mr. Tony Tan replied to my email. I thought, this is getting better and better! Even the Head of Outreach is in on this! On the morning of the tour as we drove in to Pasir Ris, we could see handlers with dogs along the road. Our daughter couldn’t contain her excitement! ‘Oo! Doggies!’ She exclaimed. We were met by Tony (not the President of the Republic) who gave us an overview of SOSD, their mission and how they rescued dogs from construction sites and other places as well as some touching stories of how many dogs have benefited from finding an adopted family through their shelter.
We had browsed the website beforehand and had our eyes on a particular dog named Cole but on that morning, we couldn’t find him at the shelter. So I asked May, one of the volunteers who was assisting with the shelter tour, if she knew of a dog named Cole. She told us that he may have already gone with a fosterer. She was kind enough to bring us for another round inside the shelter to see if there was a dog who caught our attention. Many of the dogs were barking as we entered the shelter. May then introduced us to a dog named Marco who shared a kennel with another dog named Faith. As we approached his kennel, he was just sitting there with his tail wagging like a helicopter rotor and looking at us eagerly. Unlike most of the other dogs, he wasn’t barking at all. You could call it love at first sight or whatever but my daughter and I knew then and there that Marco was our dog! My wife, seeing that we were deciding to just find a home for the dog instead of being picky over what colour or shape our ‘pet’ would be, was won over and she too wanted to take Marco home. May then told us that Marco has been with the shelter for almost two years and has not found an adopter. There were plenty of people who commented that he was very handsome but no concrete action was taken to foster him. We registered ourselves as fosterers and made an appointment to meet him again the following week to take him on a walk.
My daughter and I were counting down the days until the next week. The day came and we were so happy to see Marco for the first time outside his kennel. We started noticing other little things about him; his black and white claws, the white patch on his chest, his super long tail etc. This time we brought our domestic helper, E who was initially afraid of big dogs. But after the walk with Marco, even she warmed up to him, giving him a pat on the head before he returned to the shelter. We met Marco a few more times for walks over the next two weeks and finally the day came when Marco visited our home for the first time. May brought him over with Priscilla, a volunteer who has also taken him home for a ‘staycation’ and they told us all about his behavior during the stay.
The following week, it was time for Marco to come stay with us for real. We picked him up at the shelter, together with Despina and Tick Fei and drove back to our home in Choa Chu Kang. Throughout the journey, Marco kept looking out the windshield as if in anticipation of his coming to stay with us. Despina and Tick Fei helped us settle him in and even gave him a bath. The first few days went by without much to note. Each morning, Marco would be waiting outside the door to our room, tail wagging like a helicopter and jumping for joy at the sight of a human. I would take him down for a walk and on some days, a longer jog along the Sungei Kadut canal.
One night, about 3 in the morning, I woke up to the sound of wailing or whining. I came out to the living room and found Marco sticking his head out the window and wailing/whining. It was raining heavily outside. Thunder and lightning all around. The rain was splashing him. I didn’t call him because I didn’t want to startle him. He saw me and stopped whining but walked past me to the main door, scratching at the floor. He was panting really fast and shivering slightly. Very restless. After a while he came towards me and I patted him and stroked his back. He was still panting very fast. Took a while to calm him down and finally he slept. When I went back to the room he wanted to follow. He scratched the floor for a bit but stopped after a while. The next morning he seemed ok but a little disoriented during the walk and when we were just downstairs he refused to come back into the lift lobby. I had to carry him in. But when the lift reached our floor he had no problems coming into the apartment.
May has been helpful in giving us tips on how we can help Marco deal with his fear of thunderstorms. Over the next few weeks, we learned to cope with it better. Putting on his leash and getting him to sit in his favourite spot near the sofa with his blanket usually helps him calm down. The next few days’ walks were good. Here is an example of an update to May:
It was 10 pm. My wife took him down but I followed. Just the familiar path: roundabout a little further down and back home. No problems. But in the afternoon, E took him downstairs and it started to rain. He stalled and refused to move. Poor E was stuck in the rain with Marco. Then Isabel came downstairs with an umbrella and slowly coaxed him back with treats. This morning’s walk was fine. Very responsive when I tugged the leash and walk. It was raining so I took the sheltered path. He negotiates the narrow path well with people going to work and school, keeping to my left side. Early this morning though around 3 am there was a thunderstorm. I heard Marco whining softly outside our room door. When I opened it a crack he wanted to come inside but I stopped him and he followed me back to the living room. I brought some old clothes out and lined the floor where he likes to sit and he was calmer. Much better than the previous thunderstorm! No panting and salivating. Just a bit of shivering and restlessness.
Before we knew, it’s been two months since Marco came to live with us.
The time came to decide if we were keen on adopting him or not. We all had our concerns, of course since we didn’t want Marco to be too stressed when we were out, in the event a thunderstorm happened where could he go to seek shelter? After weighing all the concerns that we had, we decided that we should foster Marco until he finds a suitable home. But after hearing ourselves and realizing that there would come a day when Marco would leave us to go live with someone else, we thought maybe that wasn’t the best decision after all. When May left that night after hearing our concerns and decision not to adopt him, we were all in tears. I guess even Marco understood what was going on because he too came close to us and lay beside where we were sitting.
The next day we just moped around in silence thinking about what had just happened. Then in the evening, we gathered around the table and talked about adopting Marco and just committing to providing him the best home that we can. Somehow, we all agreed. I guess this sort of ‘cold-feet’ symptom happens whenever we’re asked to commit to something for life.
Just last week, we signed the adoption papers, and Marco is officially a canine member of our family!
Now, every morning, I wake up to his ever familiar ‘propellor’ tail wagging away just before I put on his leash to take him down for his walk. In the evening, when I return from work, he greets me with that same propellor tail!
I suppose his fear of thunderstorms will be difficult or impossible to eradicate but just last night, (or early this morning) there was a thunderstorm and I came out of my room expecting him to be jumping on the window ledge and trying to get out but instead it was just his tail wagging and his panting was a little faster. He was happy to see me, so I stayed with him in the living room. He has found his favourite spot just next to the sofa and behind the coffee table. He lay down on the floor and I slid him just under the sofa. We both lay there like bunk-mates, waiting for the storm to pass.”
– Marco’s adopter