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Peace and Goodwill to all!

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in Daily musings

In this season of Peace and Goodwill, let’s take a lesson from this pair: to put our conflicts behind us, and just learn to get along …

The perfect Christmas present for anyone!

Posted by on Dec 19, 2011 in Daily musings

The perfect Christmas present for anyone!

Do you have one of those hard-to-shop-for friends? Either they already have everything that they want, or their standards are so exacting that you break out in a cold sweat trying to figure out what present would meet with their approval?

PetBuddies has found the perfect present for you to give! Instead of buying yet another little trinket which will clutter up your friend’s house, or (even worse) will be quietly re-gifted at the first opportunity, why not give a gift which is guaranteed to not only be appreciated, but in fact greatly treasured? The best part is: you get a gift at the same time too!

SPCA Singapore has come up with a Christmas wish-list of gifts and necessities which their dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and other charges would be very grateful to receive. Well yes, it is true that you will not have the satisfaction of physically handing over a large beribboned box to your friend; but I think that the happiness that they will get from knowing that you’ve made such a generous gesture in their name is better than any tinsel-covered shiny object, right?

And as promised, you too will receive a gift – the gift of knowing that you have helped make some doggy or kitty’s life that much better during this festive season :)

My glamorous job :)

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in Daily musings

My glamorous job :)

Ever wondered what the glamorous life of a pet-sitter looks like? Click on the link below to see a video of me getting my hair “done” by a kitty client!

If ever you want that bouffant tai-tai “do”, you should consider adopting a kitty like Niobe :)

 

 

Simon’s annoying kitten

Posted by on Nov 25, 2011 in Daily musings

Simon sure knows his cats – his every animated video is spot-on! :)

Rescue work is for the birds!

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in Daily musings

Rescue work is for the birds!

Look at this little guy – isn’t he gorgeous?

He was found sitting stunned in a driveway, right behind the wheel of a car that was about to reverse out! My client’s dad, an avid bird lover, fell in love with him right away; and wanted to keep him and nurse him back to health. But some judicious googling uncovered the fact that the little guy is an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, with very specific dietary needs. So they decided to do the right thing, and bring little King to the people who would best be able to take care of him.

PetBuddy to the rescue! Oh no – I am not a bird expert, far from it! I was called in to keep King company on his way to the Jurong Bird Park :)

And may I say: KUDOS to the folks at the Jurong Bird Park. They provided excellent instructions on how to bring him in to the Park and hand him over. When we arrived, the Birdkeeper who took King was very willing to explain to us how they would take care of King – he would be thoroughly checked over by their vets, then kept in quarantine for a month. At the end of the month, they will determine whether he’d be better off being released back to the wild, or staying at the Park.

The whole time he was talking to us, the Birdkeeper was carefully observing King, and interacting with him. He was genuinely interested in the little guy; it was very heartening to see!

So if you ever come across an ill or injured bird, I would highly recommend that you get in touch with the people at Jurong Bird Park. From the phone receptionists to the security guards to the Birdkeepers, they are helpful, informative, and are dedicated to their jobs. Jurong Bird Park, to have staff this competent and genuine: WELL DONE and keep up the good work!

If only they could speak … ?

Posted by on Nov 14, 2011 in Daily musings

If only they could speak … ?

Does anyone remember that James Herriot book, ‘If Only They Could Talk’? Or the children’s books about Doctor Dolittle, the vet who could hold a conversation with any animal he met?

I don’t you about you, but I talk to my kitty and doggie clients all the time. A running monologue, if you will, since they can’t exactly hold up their end of the conversation … I imagine that their bright eyes and cocked heads mean that they are listening intently, and are trying to respond to me. I used to sit a Husky who would sing to me, in response to my questions – we would have lovely after-dinner duets (miss you every day, Djinn).

Sometimes I do think: “If only you could speak to me!” This is especially the case when they are feeling out of sorts, or looking unwell. I wish that they could tell me exactly what was wrong with them, and what I could do to help them. I’m sure vets all wish they were real-life Doctor Dolittles! It must be a hundred times harder to be a vet, than a doctor for humans – at least you can ask a human: “Is it a dull ache, or a shooting pain?”

Most of the time, though, I think it’s probably a good thing that our cats and dogs can’t articulate what’s on their minds. We humans like to imagine that our puppy or kitten enthusiastically greeting us at the front door with wagging tail and excited panting, is doing so because he is overjoyed to have us back in his company! What if he is really thinking: “Gotta pee, gotta pee, go clean my litterbox now!” or: “Dinner lady is here! Time for dinner! Hooray for food!”

Not quite such an endearing scene then, eh? :)

I suspect part of the reason why we love our animals so much, is precisely because we can project our own thoughts onto them. They don’t argue with us, contradict us, sass us … (I know some parents who wish their kids would be like that!) So I shall try to be content with learning more from their canine and feline body language, and stop wishing I were Doctor Dolittle!

 

Don’t touch my “dirty” dog!

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Daily musings

Don’t touch my “dirty” dog!

Not so long ago, I was walking one of my dogs when a man coming towards us saw the dog, yelped, and leapt sideways off the pavement onto the road to avoid us. Bear in mind: this was a grown man, in business clothes, and the dog I was walking was a Maltese – small, white and fuzzy, and quite indifferent to people when on his walk. Nevertheless, this man felt that he was so much in danger from my vicious hound that he’d rather take his chances with the taxi drivers whizzing past on the four-lane road.

Similar scenarios occur wherever I go with my doggie charges, regardless of their size and/or appearance. Whether I am walking a Chihuahua or a Husky, people scream/run away/refuse to enter the elevator that we are in. And of course, there are the parents who say to their children, “Aiyah! Dog! Will bite you!” or my personal favourite: “Eee! So dirty! Don’t touch!” (To which I am always tempted to say, “Madam, my dog is probably cleaner than your grubby child.”)

What is it that makes Singaporeans so afraid of animals? I do appreciate the need for caution – any responsible parent will teach their child that one must always ask a dog’s handler whether it is alright to pat their dog, and not just to rush up and hug it. But why the terror that I sometimes see?

I used to feel offended on behalf of the dog, when people acted that way. But these days, I mostly feel saddened that so many Singaporeans are denying themselves the warm and uncomplicated friendship and affection that only animals can give. Are we so far removed from nature in our high-rise lives, that we are unable to interact with animals in even the most basic way, not even to stand next to them in an elevator for 30 seconds?

As dog-owners and dog-handlers, we have a part to play as well. We must ensure that our dogs are good canine citizens; not lunging or barking at strangers; and if we see that someone is not comfortable around dogs, we need to keep our dogs in check – even a friendly sniff can be intimidating to a person who is not able to read the intention behind it. We may love it when a big old slobbery dog rears up and puts his paws on our shoulders; but to someone not familiar with dogs, it must be as intimidating as a grizzly bear pouncing on you!

Take every negative encounter as teaching opportunity – when encountering a frightened child, I keep my dog on a short leash and tell them: “It’s ok, this dog is friendly. You can pat him if you want, he will sit down for you.” Hopefully, we can change the attitudes of Singaporeans, one child at a time.

Mummy, I want a dog!

Posted by on Oct 24, 2011 in Daily musings

Mummy, I want a dog!

How often do parents hear this refrain? As the Christmas decorations start going up on Orchard Road, inevitably that tune will begin to increase in volume alongside the inevitable Christmas carols in the malls: “Mummy/Daddy, I want a dog for Christmas!” (or cat, or hamster, or guinea pig, or …)

A well-loved pet makes a wonderful addition to any family. But parents who are beginning to soften to their children’s pleas should consider one very important thing:

Kids will promise you the earth when they are begging you to buy that cute puppy in the pet shop, but cast your minds back to the last Transformer/Disney Princess/wotsit toy that they were desperate to have: how long did it sustain their interest? Likewise, what happens when the novelty of the new doggie wears off? Cats and dogs can live up to 15-20 years, that is a long-term commitment.

Remember how much you need to nag your son/daughter to do their homework, pick their dirty clothes up off the floor, wash their dinner plates? Imagine having to add to your ‘nagging list’ all the chores involved in caring for a pet: feeding, poop-scooping, grooming, bathing … and we haven’t even gotten to obedience training yet. Parents often tell me that sooner or later, all the unpleasant household chores seem to end up being done by them, just because they’re so fed up of hearing their own nagging!

And let’s be honest: with the hectic school schedules and enrichment classes that our kids have these days, does even the most consistently responsible child really have the time or energy to care for another living being?

This is the suggestion that I give parents whose kids say they want a pet: How about sponsoring a dog or cat in a local animal shelter, as a first step? You and your kids can go and visit your charge on the weekends, bring it for walkies, have cuddle-time, bathe and brush it, etc. After a few months of this, you will be able to get an accurate gauge of whether your child (or rather, your entire family) is truly ready to have a pet – and who better to take home than the pet you’ve been sponsoring? And then again, if you find that you’ve missed many sessions with your charge because you were too busy to pay it a visit … well, that’s your answer right there.

Sounds harsh? Yes, because lives are literally at stake. Many of the dogs and cats you see in our shelters (and so many more who are euthanised due to lack of space in those same shelters) started out as “the best birthday/Christmas present ever, Mom!”, only to become an annoyance and “interfering with homework time” a few months down the line.

It’s trite but true: a pet is for life, not just for Christmas.

How much is that doggie in the window?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2011 in Daily musings

A puppy mill dog in Singapore (photo by Cohen Ng, Dog Mill Rehomers)

For many years, animal activists have been up in arms about the living conditions of the breeding animals and puppies in puppy mills (known as puppy ‘farms’ in most countries, including Singapore), and the trauma that it causes to these animals. However, without the benefit of objective evidence, it has been all too easy to dismiss such protests as the overemotional ravings of ‘crazy cat ladies’ (or whatever the canine equivalent would be).

An American study was recently conducted on the effects on dogs of life in such facilities. Carried out by James Serpell and Deborah Duffy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, together with Dr. Frank McMillan, director of animal well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society, it is the first major study which scientifically analyses the impact of puppy mill life on dogs born and/or living in puppy mill conditions, as opposed to being raised in homes.

One of the most troubling discoveries of the study, which is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science, was that these effects are long-lasting, and owners who buy these puppies from pet shops (which the mills supply) are left to deal with what is described as “post-trauma-like behaviours”.

USA Today report on the study states:

This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large-scale breeding facilities don’t just suffer while they’re confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years, even when they’re placed in loving homes.

The dogs from puppy mills showed significantly elevated levels of fears and phobias, compulsive and repetitive behaviors, and heightened sensitivity to being touched.

“The most prominent difference was in the level of fear,” says McMillan. “Compared to normal pet dogs, the chance of scoring in the highest ranges for fear was six to eight times higher in the recovered puppy-mill dogs.”

The behavioral differences within that group existed whether they came from filthy, inhumane puppy farms or from cleaner, law-abiding large commercial breeding operations that have sought to separate themselves from the more unsavory breeders.

Food for thought, for anyone who walks by a pet shop and is tempted to ask “How much is that doggie in the window?”

The monetary cost of buying that puppy is one thing, but the psychological and emotional price exacted from that puppy, as well as its parents who are still trapped in the mill that supplies the pet shop, is much higher than any right-thinking animal lover would think is worth paying.

(To find out more about the pet shop puppy trade in Singapore, read this CNNgo article.)

phoDOGraphy

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Daily musings

Eddy with (L-R) Patricia, Suzanne and Mrs Lim (photography by Emilie Lancelot-Jouno)

 

Check out the gorgeous portrait above of King Eddy the Jack Russell, and his loyal subjects! Note his possessive paw resting on his royal orb … This regal pose was not produced by accident!

There’s an old Hollywood adage that says you should never work with dogs or small children, because they can’t take direction and will run amuck on set. Can’t help you with the children bit, but betcha didn’t know that PetBuddies’ services also include Dog Wrangling, eh?

The trick to great pet phoDOGgraphy (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) is to have an assistant (i.e. your PetBuddy) whose job it is to capture the attention of your pet, so that they’re looking in the right direction with just the right twinkle in their eyes. In Eddy’s case, this perfect pose was achieved with the assistance of squeaky toys being noisily tortured right next to the photographer’s head. And that extra twinkle in his eye came from smelly freeze-dried chicken gizzards brandished at him, at just the right moment!

 

Robin the Irish Terrier and Kingsley the Border Collie, with proud parents Harry and Shanni (photography by Benson Goh)

So don’t leave your pets out of your family portrait, and definitely make sure to include them in your wedding photos! Your PetBuddy will be happy to help you include your furry friends in your magical moments, to be recorded for posterity :)

(Many thanks to Suzanne and family, and Kingsley the Border Collie for letting me use their lovely pictures!)