Do you believe that we all deserve a fresh start, a chance at happiness, a new lease on life? Well I do, especially when I hear stories of stray and shelter dogs. I want them to be able to find their “parents” and forever homes after all they’ve been through.
Which is why I’m happy and grateful when I come across volunteers and groups who feel the same – like Jamie Faith Lim and HOPE Dog Rescue. She’s been with the animal welfare group in Singapore for five years now, helping them care for abused, neglected and abandoned dogs. They arrange for rescues, feed stray dogs, take the dogs to the vet, find them foster parents and homes, and assist in adoptions, among others.
But the reasons why Jamie loves to volunteer are actually quite simple.
“The opportunity to be with dogs,” she quickly answers. “After my Jack Russell Terrier passed on, I didn’t want to go through the heartbreak of losing another dog – so I doubt I’ll ever be brave enough to have another one. But I love dogs, and being a volunteer with HOPE allows me to be a part of the furry world. I also feel happy when I know that the small part I play makes a difference to the dogs. It’s about me giving back to the doggie world for all the 13 years of happiness my dog gave me.”
Another is the set of friends she’s made. “Being with the other volunteers, and working towards a common goal together, are really enjoyable,” she admits.
“The topics we chat about centre around dogs (what else?), and it’s really awesome to have a group of like-minded individuals who share the same passion and interests. You eventually become friends and a part of each other’s lives.”
It begins with two
Jamie also treasures the ways in which these gentle furbabies manage to beat the odds.
I ask her for some of her favourite feel-good experiences, which might seem crazy-tough – because how can she choose just a few? But here, she reveals two. (We can chase her for more later on.) :)
“Elmo is a deaf and blind dog with severe skin issues. When HOPE first rescued him, he was thought to be intellectually disabled, as he didn’t know how to eat or drink or respond to his surroundings. During adoption drives, he was often overlooked because of his disabilities and outward appearance. He didn’t even know how to open his mouth to pant like a normal dog, thus his body would often overheat and need close monitoring.
“We had almost given up hope of ever finding him a home, when a HOPE follower expressed interest in adopting him. Our hearts were thumping the entire week Elmo went for a homestay, hoping and praying that he’ll finally have a family to call his own. His dream and ours came true when the adoption went through! And it was a very special young lady, April – a first-time dog owner. Not an easy task, but she’s done pretty well.
“Needless to say, Elmo’s world went through a 180-degree change, and he seems so happy every time we see him now!”
“Vera is one rescue who has left an impression on me. She’s one of the sweetest and gentlest dogs we’ve ever had. Initially, one of our volunteers, Dean, had expressed an interest in adopting her. But due to circumstances, he was eventually unable to, and we rehomed her to another family with whom we had conducted our usual suitability assessment.
“Vera was with the new family for five months when we did a routine home visit. To our horror, what greeted us was a skeletal version of the regal Vera we used to know and love. She was starved and malnourished, jumpy and fearful. Even her demeanour had changed from a confident and affectionate dog to a shadow of what she used to be. Her eyes bore sadness instead of the sparkle we used to see.
“We blasted out an urgent SOS requesting for an immediate foster for Vera. Within two minutes, the volunteer who had previously wanted to adopt Vera offered his home. The sight of Vera must have broken his heart, because after fostering Vera for a period of time, he went on to adopt her officially, and both of them are inseparable now.
“Dean is also a first-time dog owner and Vera’s favourite person in the world. This is one happily-ever-after story that still warms my heart.”
We all want the same thing
Elmo and Vera’s happy endings are just two examples of how we can make a difference in a dog’s life. It also shows us that humans and dogs do have a lot in common. Jamie can relate to the dogs, and their plight.
“I think all dogs, like humans, fundamentally crave a sense of belonging,” Jamie observes. “The saddest cases I’ve seen are of dogs who are unable to find a family to adopt them. They get fostered from family to family, and when they finally feel like it’s home, their time with the foster family is up – and off they go again, bidding goodbye to the people they’ve started to get attached to, and starting afresh in yet another (set of) unfamiliar surroundings.
“Those who weren’t able to get fostered are sent to boarding, where they’re kept in an enclosed space, devoid of human interaction,” she adds. “Over time, you’ll notice hope start to fade from their eyes, and they seem resigned to their fate.”
Jamie and the volunteers make sure to step in. “We try to do as much as we can for these dogs, arranging for volunteers to visit them and walk them weekly,” she says.
“As much as possible, for every day that HOPE is around, we want to rehome as many rescues as we can, and give them a chance to belong to a family, a chance to love and be loved.”
You become a new person
No wonder Jamie’s thriving, and learning so much every day. :)
Not only that, but she’s also realised how much she’s come to value and appreciate certain things. Here’s what HOPE Dog Rescue and the dogs continue to teach her – and hopefully, in time, us too. :)
“Most of the rescue dogs would be happy with some food in their bellies and human affection. They never ask for more, and are always content with what they’re given – especially the stray dogs HOPE feeds regularly at construction sites. Most have never slept on a warm bed, never had a bath, and are at the mercy of the weather daily. Yet they always seem so happy after gobbling down the food we've given them, their tails wagging madly and frisking away after asking the feeders to pet them.”
“There’s one stray that HOPE rescued after she was knocked down by a speeding lorry at the construction site where she roamed with her pack. Sida was the leader of the pack, fearless, plucky and extremely intelligent. Sadly, the accident damaged her spine, and she never stood up after that day.
“Despite the excruciating surgery and weeks of painful recovery, Sida never lost her will to live, and was always grateful and happy whenever the volunteers visited her.
“Although she lost her freedom and mobility after the accident, Sida gradually picked herself up and learnt how to use her wheelchair like an expert. She’s dubbed ‘Queen’, as she often demands that volunteers pet her, and give her massages and cuddles. She’ll whine and nudge us until she gets her way. She’s very naughty but we all love her, so we just obey her.
“She is also HOPE’s resident foodie, and is happiest when we bring her for picnics, where she knows she’ll be given lots of yummy food. She’s now an Animal Assisted Therapy Dog with St Joseph’s Home, giving back to the community.”
#3 Big, forgiving hearts
“Some dogs have been so neglected and abused by humans that when they’re rescued by HOPE, the condition they’re in is heartbreaking. But with all the dogs that HOPE has rescued, I’ve never seen one who’s begrudged humans for the state they’re in. They’re loyal to a fault – even those who were heartlessly abandoned by their owners.”
Now do you believe in everyone deserving a fresh start, and a new lease on life, too?