By Claire Winterdeur
When we arrived in Singapore three years ago all I saw was a high-tech urban city with a beautiful skyline, lovely parks and clean streets. I never saw any stray dogs roaming the streets like in Bali or Thailand.
But every city, even Singapore, has an "underbelly", unseen from your initial impression. The fact is that Singapore has quite a number of street dogs. Many of these dogs started as guard dogs for factories and construction sites. Once the building is completed or the factory closes down, the dogs are left behind to fend for themselves.
In an ideal world these dogs are rescued and found a loving home. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, many mongrels (if they are lucky) end up in a shelter. OSCAS (Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter) for example is a registered charity and non-profit dog shelter in Pasir Ris. All the dogs in the shelter are mongrels rescued from the streets or from being culled. Currently there are more than 120 dogs sheltered at OSCAS who can only be cared for with help from volunteers, sponsors and donors until a home can be found.
One of these volunteers is Isabelle Rynwalt. Every Wednesday morning, she puts on her walking boots and heads out to the shelter. Isabelle's passion for dogs began in her childhood and has never stopped. In addition to her dog-walking, organising fundraising for OSCAS, Isabelle also fosters dogs. But being a dog match maker was never her plan until Isabelle heard that we were looking for a great family dog.
I was initially thinking of a Labrador-retriever or mix because I was told they were sweet. But honestly I did not know a lot about breeds. The only thing which was sure, was that all our family members were on board with the idea of getting a dog. Isabelle immediately started her campaign "adopt don't shop". Motivated by the conviction that adopting dogs rather than purchasing dogs from breeders or pet stores saves many innocent lives, Isabelle became a match maker! I received photos of great dogs who were in desperate need of a loving home.
Of course I was a bit hesitant about shelter dogs, thankfully Isabelle debunked these myths I was coming up with. So there I was on a Saturday morning to meet Woody, formerly known as Kiat Kiat at the shelter. A beautiful, older, shy dog with a swaggy walk and droopy eyes. Yes it was love at first sight. We found our family dog! Woody has now been with us for several months, as cliched as it sounds, he is our best friend.
For our teenage kids, Woody has become their soulmate. Waiting at the door along with his (tiny) tail-wagging gratitude, he happily greets them. Whenever they've had a "rough day", Woody cheers them up. Our daughter feels very committed to and loves to play with Woody. She prepares his meals, it teaches her responsibility and at the same time it gives her self-confidence a boost. Our son being a teenage boy and in the stage that it is not cool to give Mom a cuddle, however with Woody he will cuddle up side by side and chill together in front of the Play Station no problem. My husband loves hanging out at the beach with our four footer. And I am falling in love again with the newest addition to our family.
Thank you Isabelle for your help. Thank you OSCAS for all the good work you do to help these dogs.
About Woody formerly known as Kiat Kiat Kiat Kiat was found shackled around his neck with a thick heavy rusty chain tethered next to a dry well with no protection from the weather. He survived only on rainwater to drink and scraps of bones throughout the 3.5 years he was kept chained as a guard dog. Rescued by OSCAS where he lived for the past 4 years, he gained trust in people and is the sweetest dog a person or other dog could meet. He is a survivor with the strength of an Ox and the gentleness of a Butterfly!