I can’t bear to see animals suffering or in pain. (Who can?) I think it’s because I have three dogs, and the idea of anything bad happening to them kind of freaks me out.
In fact, ever since I became a dog owner, I can’t look at any animal, or watch any show or movie about dogs and other animals, without feeling emotional and sentimental – even if that show or movie is a happy, feel-good one. And I’m not an emotional or sentimental person. :)
Which is why I’ve often wondered how volunteers at animal shelters do it. They do amazing work, but then they also witness the difficulties these animals face.
But looking after these animals, helping them find homes or sanctuaries, tracking their progress, and seeing them healthy and happy are enough to get volunteers through it. A quick chat with a volunteer will tell you that almost immediately. And I was lucky enough to be able to have that with Bettina Storer.
Mum to a 12-year-old son and two dogs, Bettina has been volunteering with Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter (OSCAS) in Singapore for over two years. A non-profit dog shelter, OSCAS rescues strays and saves dogs from getting culled.
What are Bettina’s tips for dealing with the emotional toll and heartbreak of caring for these animals?
“Tell yourself that you are making a difference,” she declares.
“There are so many dogs in shelters and new puppies being born every week, and often it feels like an impossible and overwhelming task to try and help. You may not be able to save them all, but the dogs you do visit, take for walks, and give a loving scratch to will feel the difference, and their quality of life will be better because of you.
“JFK once said, ‘One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.’ I find that very inspiring and very true.”
Bettina only has to look at the dogs she’s been nurturing and tending to as proof. The first one that comes to mind is Jak, who she’s been working with for a year and a half now. Bettina says Jak used to be “timid and fearful”.
“When I first met Jak, he was full of matted, dreadlocked fur, which can be very painful and uncomfortable,” she recalls.
“So that was my first mission: to get him comfortable enough to be touched so that he could be taken to a vet and have his fur shaved to remove all the matted fur. He couldn’t walk on a leash back then, so we had to take him in a crate. His transformation started with that first grooming session.
“He is around eight years old now, and only in the past few months has he become trusting and comfortable to go outside for walks,” she adds.
“This is a huge step for any shelter dog – to be able to walk on a leash as it can make a big difference in their lives. It means that they can then be exposed more to the outside world, gain confidence in themselves and trust in humans, which make it easier to help them find homes.
“There were some ups and downs and it’s taken a long time, but today he is a happier dog and enjoying life more. Seeing this change in him makes it all worthwhile.”
Another thing that makes it all worthwhile? Jak is on the cover of the OSCAS 2019 calendar, which will be available on print from 07 November 2018. Help Jak and OSCAS, and order online here. :)
Bettina is currently fostering Phoenix, who she’s had since he was eight weeks old (he’s now almost two). Phoenix’s story is incredible too.
“Phoenix is paralysed and unable to use his hind legs. He was found at six weeks old with a severe spinal injury, possibly caused by being hit by something,” she narrates.
“A year ago, he underwent surgery to repair and stabilise his spine. His recovery has been slow due to extensive nerve damage, and it’s still uncertain if he will walk again.
“However, through hydrotherapy and acupuncture, we keep seeing little improvements, so we still have hope,” she observes. “Despite his disability, Phoenix is very mobile and gets around using his front legs. To go on walks outdoors, he has the use of his custom-made wheelchair.”
Adopting or fostering a dog like Phoenix can be the most fulfilling and satisfying thing ever. It’s not always easy, but the love and laughter they can bring to your home and life are priceless. (I can’t speak for everyone, but this is what I’ve come to know. I believe my dogs do more for me than I do for them.) You can also choose to sponsor, donate or volunteer.
“Phoenix would love a family experienced with dogs, and who perhaps already have a dog to keep him company and to play with,” Bettina suggests. “A house with plenty of space and not too many stairs would be ideal. He is a sweet, fun little dog who loves toys! He deserves a loving family of his own.”
We’ve heard Bettina’s experiences. Maybe you know someone who could be that loving family – or could it be you? :)
OSCAS is at The Animal Lodge, 59 Sungei Tengah Road, Block R. For more information, and for tips on adopting and how to help, visit the OSCAS website. Adopt, don’t shop!
Support Jak, Phoenix, OSCAS and the 2019 calendar – order now. :)