Saturday, January 2, 2010

Home Alone for Christmas


This story was featured on the ChannelNewsAsia website on 25 December '09.

Click to enlarge and read

T’was the week before Christmas and Vice-President of Noah’s Ark CARES, Lynda, received a call from the authorities that there were three dogs that needed the help of our society.

An elderly man, about 70 yrs of age, lived alone in a house with his three dogs. His mother had passed on some years back and all he had left was the love and companionship of his loyal dogs. Despite his age and being diabetic, he took his dogs out for their daily walks and walked to the nearby supermarket to buy meat for their meals.

One fateful morning, Mr Tan fell a few houses from where he lived and was injured. Lying on the ground, and after many moments of desperate cries and shouts for help, a neighbour finally called for an ambulance. Sadly, his right leg had to be amputated from his knee down. We're not sure if the amputation was due to his fall, his diabetes or a combination of both. We later found out from neighbours that this was not his first fall. He has had many falls in his own home. On one occasion, he even laid in the garden for three days, with the dogs helplessly looking on.

As this was a case that required immediate attention, Noah’s Ark volunteers took the day off from work to visit Mr Tan’s home, together with a social worker from NUH, another authority from the government body and a neighbour, Edith, who found the key to his house underneath the flower pot.

We were confronted by the nauseating stench of feaces and urine as we entered the house. Neighbours had assumed that Mr Tan had family and friends to check on the dogs. Little did they realize that his dogs have been left to their own devices for 6 days, enduring hunger, thirst and living in their own filth, waiting faithfully for Mr Tan’s return. Fortunately, they had not cannibalized each other.

Condition of the house when the dogs were left to fend for their own

The mess left by the dogs

Sadness filled our hearts as the dogs’ downcast eyes conveyed their longing for Mr Tan’s companionship and their anguish of not being able to be reunited with Mr Tan, as they scoured the home, hoping to find Mr Tan in our midst. Needless to say, it was clear in our hearts that Mr Tan could no longer care for himself, the dogs can no longer be in his care.

It was obvious the dogs were free to roam about the house

Mr Tan is a dog lover. Though the house was unkempt; pictures, paintings and statues of dogs filled his walls and gardens. He must have loved his dogs dearly as they had free rein of the house, bed, sofa . . . They were his family and he was theirs.

Mr Tan's Garden of Eden, a paradise for his 3 beloved dogs

Statues of angels and dogs in Mr Tan's garden

Mr Tan's extensive collection displayed outside his front porch

More of Mr Tan's collections in one of his rooms

It was obvious Mr Tan was a staunch Catholic and a dog lover. His walls were filled with pictures of The Last Supper, doggie paintings and doggie quotes.

As Mr Tan had no next of kin to take over the care of his dogs, his neighbour, Edith tried to get the dogs adopted. But efforts were in vain. The authorities then informed Edith that the ownership of the dogs would be transferred to Noah’s Ark. It was agreed that the three dogs would continue to live in Mr Tan’s house and fed by Edith until they were ready to leave for their new home in the Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary, JB.

The next day the three dogs were sent to the vet for a complete health check, vaccinations, microchipping and one of the dogs had a bad eye infection. Two of the dogs will also need to return to the vet for dental scaling as their teeth are in poor condition.

Dan's eyes were constantly tearing as he had a bad eye infection.

Rotten food from Mr Tan's fridge being disposed of by the authorities

Authorities sealed up the house and turned off the electricity. The dogs were only allowed in the garden area, with Edith still holding the key to the main gate, so she can continue feeding and caring for the dogs till they depart Singapore.

Keen to know more about Mr Tan, we returned the following day to take a walk around his neighbourhood, speaking to neighbours to try to find out if he had family or friends. We found out that Mr Tan kept to himself and although he had been living in that estate for the past 17 years, not many people knew much about him. He hardly had friends or visitors to his home. They did tell us that he was an ex-civil servant and an accomplished pianist. Neighbours remember him playing beautiful music most mornings when he was at home.

We also took pictures of his three dogs and visited Mr Tan. By this time, he had been transferred to the Swami Home, never to be able to return to his own home to be with the love of his life as he was now wheelchair bound and suffers from dementia.

Mr Tan was friendly when we met him and he spoke excellent English. His face lit up when we showed him pictures of his three dogs. Sadly, he could no longer remember that they were his. He said the dogs in the photographs were beautiful and asked who they belonged to. When told it was his dogs and they were well, he asked if they were really his. It was a heartbreaking moment and we tried hard to hold back our tears. Mr Tan then asked us if we could bring his dogs to visit him, and we promised we would.

Laddie, the most timid out of the three, hides under a bench when visitors come

Laddie, hiding in a corner

We left with a heavy heart. As we looked back, we saw Mr Tan sitting in his wheelchair admiring the photographs we left with him, smiling. We knew he didn’t know those were his dogs, he smiled because he just loved dogs.....any dog. The names of the dogs – Mickey, Dan and Laddie - were given by his neighbour, Edith, who has helped care for them since Mr Tan's hospitalization in August. We have no idea what his dog's names are. Despite asking Mr Tan, he could not recall them.

The export permits for the three dogs are being processed and they will soon be making their journey, as a family, to Noah’s Ark. They will visit the vet just one more time, for their dental scaling, and volunteers will take another day off from work to bring the dogs to the Home to visit Mr Tan and bid him farewell. The Home has kindly agreed to allow the dogs to visit him there.

We wish we could end the story on a happy note, with the dogs being reunited with Mr Tan, but alas, that is not to be. The consolation is the dogs will still have each other at Noah’s Ark, where they will live out the rest of their remaining years, but we know they will remember him and miss him always. While we had a lovely Christmas with family and friends, Mr Tan’s dogs were home alone this Christmas . . . . . awaiting their master’s return.

We are still hoping to find a friend or someone who can tell us a little more about Mr Tan Hoo Chuan. Knowing that he is a staunch Catholic, we have contacted the Catholic church to help circulate his story in the Catholic news, in the hope that someone would come forth with more information on him. If you know Mr Tan, please do send us an email. Thank you.

Our movie screening of Hachiko resembles Mr Tan's story in many ways - where the loyal dogs await their Master's return. Day after day, they sit by that gate, eagerly staring outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of their Master coming home to them.

Mickey(left) & Dan(right) waiting for Mr Tan's return

Noah’s Ark will be using ALL proceeds from the sale of Hachiko's movie tickets - See - to help Mr Tan's three dogs, ensuring they will be happy, comfortable and remain together as one family. The monies raised will be used to pay their medical bills, the exportation and transportation to Noah's Ark and their upkeep at the Sanctuary.

Their story has touched our hearts deeply and we hope to do our best for Mr Tan's best friends.

1 comment:

Patti Green said...

This story has touched my heart and made me cry. It is several months since the dogs have been moved. I hope they are adjusting to their new home and are well. Poor Mr. Tan. I hope he is well and is comfortable in the last year's of his life.

Beneficiary of Animal Merchandise :)

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