Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dogs visit Mr Tan before they leave for Noah's Ark

It was a usual warm Saturday afternoon on 9th January. What wasn’t usual about it was spending it at SWAMI home in Sembawang. We arrived slightly before 4pm with Mr. Tan’s freshly groomed 3 dogs. Mr. Tan was sitting in his wheelchair waiting for us in the foyer, and as he saw the dogs approaching, he broke out into a broad toothy grin, waving and gesticulating happily.

Dogs off to visit Mr Tan after their grooming

From left to right: Mark, Lynda & Joo Kim bringing the dogs to see Mr Tan

Mr Tan's face lit up and broke into a wide smile when he saw his dogs walking towards him

Mr Tan and his dogs in the foyer

We found it odd though, that the dogs did not reciprocate with the same degree of exuberance. Later, we wondered whether the dogs might have been so traumatised with the separation over the last 4 months and that this might have possibly affected their memory, or whether the changes that Mr. Tan had to endure might have contributed to their reaction. Could it possibly be that towards the last few months of living with Mr Tan, dementia had already set in and through no fault of his, he may have been less affectionate or overtly harsh with them and thus when they saw him, they were not exactly jumping for joy as we had anticipated them to. Unfortunately, we are not expert canine psychologists and will never know for certain.

Mr Tan patting Snowy

Mr Tan patting Beef

Snowy licking Beef's tears away

What was certain though was Mr. Tan’s fondness for and affection towards these dogs. With patient coaxing and gentle probing, we managed to get Mr. Tan to recall their names – the one that came the easiest was Dan, who’s the brown one; Scruffy is the hyper white one and Laddie is the extremely shy black-brown one, who spent the whole time cowering underneath the chair. When I was referring to Dan “she”, Mr. Tan quickly corrected me and said “it’s a he, all of them are boys”.

Ben cowering under the chair

It took more probing with Mr. Tan to piece together the dogs’ sketchy background. He said he’d had them since they were puppies, they were strays from the neighbourhood, and he’d been caring for them for about 5 years now. “They all sleep with me”, Mr. Tan mentioned more than once, and he could remember that he went to the supermarket to buy meat to cook for their meals, which he claimed were 3 times a day!

Mark bought some treats for Mr Tan to feed his dogs

Mr. Tan had great difficulty remembering details and events from his past and it was heartbreaking to witness him struggling with words and grappling with facts that he was trying to recall, like when we asked what his previous job was and whether he had any siblings. There were occasional flashes of clarity and coherence, one such moment being that he explicitly requested for “2 wanton mee, with lots of chilli”.

Mr Tan sharing his char siew with Beef

Mr. Tan proceeded to devour his wanton mee with contentment, in the midst of it he insisted on sharing some of the char siew with his dogs. He also wanted to give them some of his noodles but we were concerned that the chilli which was mixed in would not be good for the dogs. Fortunately, we had some doggie treats with which to distract and satisfy the dogs with.

After an hour and a half, Mr. Tan said a gentle “bye bye” to his 3 dogs; he reached out to pat and cuddle them one more time. He was smiling and I was relieved that there didn’t seem to be any discernable sadness on his part, although I’m sure on some inner dimension somewhere, Mr. Tan is aware that his life with his 3 dogs is no more. It was also a consolation that on some level, Mr. Tan is well aware that his dogs are being cared for and they will continue to live out their lives in peace and safety. This was further reflected in his earlier comment – “I am very glad I have given my dogs to you, otherwise they have no one who will look after them, no one will care for them; I know you will look after them”.

As we accompanied Mr. Tan back to his room, he kept telling the nursing aide that he wanted to go home, but by the time he got to his bed he seemed resigned to fate that this was where he was going to be for awhile. We left Mr. Tan looking at the photos of his 3 dogs as we said our goodbyes.

With a heavy heart I trudged down the stairs, pondering on how many of us bother to make a will or some kind of formal, legal arrangements to ensure that our loyal, loving canine companions are well taken care of should they outlive us or should our life’s situation not enable us to carry on providing for them. I give silent thanks that Noah’s Ark is here to carry on Mr. Tan’s commitment to care and provide for Scruffy, Dan and Laddie. May their lives at Noah’s Ark be truly peaceful and full of happiness.

**Article contributed by Koh Joo Kim

He's Just My Dog

He's just my dog.
He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds;
My other ears that hear above the winds.
He has told me more than a thousand times over that I am his reason for being,
By the way he rests against my leg,
By the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile,
By the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.
I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.

When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.
When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.
When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.
When I am a fool, he ignores it.
When I succeed, he brags.

Without him, I am only another person.
With him, I am all powerful.

He has taught me that the meaning of devotion is loyalty itself.
With him, I know the secret comfort and a private peace.
He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant.
His head on my knee can heal my human hurts.
His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things.
He has promised to wait for me ... whenever ... wherever ...
In case I need him, and I expect I will, as I always have.
Who is he? He's just MY DOG!

**Author Unknown (but greatly appreciated!)

Snowy @ Noah's Ark

Ben @ Noah's Ark

Beef @ Noah's Ark

We’d like to thank Mark of Stormville for closing his grooming salon on Saturday afternoon just to specially groom Mr Tan’s three dogs and for taking them in his van to the Home to visit Mr Tan.

Thanks must also be given to our volunteers who spent the afternoon with Mr Tan. Volunteers found out that Mr Tan’s birthday falls on Feb 14 and they will pay him a visit again during that period, to celebrate his birthday with him, as well as to wish him Gong Xi Fa Cai.

As of today, Mr Tan’s dogs have arrived safely at Noah’s Ark. It is there they will be treated with care, respect and dignity for the rest of their lives.

Thank you everyone for helping Mr Tan’s dogs and do not forget to give them a hug when you visit Noah’s Ark!

1 comment:

ROSalind said...

Thank you, Noah's Ark and all parties involved in helping Mr Tan and his 3 dogs out. This story has touched me time and again. May the kind souls, Mr Tan & the dogs continue to be blessed.

I look forward to meeting the 3 new residents @ the sanctuary during my next visit! =)

Beneficiary of Animal Merchandise :)

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