Love at a Dog Shelter
Seeing the power of love at an unexpected place.
There’s something about a dog’s unconditional love that melts the coldest of hearts.
Whether it’s their goofy grins, hilarious antics or their calm presence when you are down – their way of loving is selfless.
But not many people know what it takes to bring some dogs to that point. Especially when it’s a dog that has been abandoned, abused or given up.
Growing up with a dog naturally kindled my love for canines. But after our family moved from India to Singapore when I was seven years old, we decided not to have a dog, given that most of my family is hardly home. I started to miss being around dogs.
So, I decided to do the next best thing: volunteer at a dog shelter.
I’ll be honest – during my orientation, I had doubts about whether I would be able to commit the time, travel and emotional involvement. It was also obvious that it would require a lot of physical work.
I have no issues with hot weather, sweat and being outdoors. But knowing that I’d have to handle dogs that practically fly on the leash, walk in their pee while trying to keep their fur out of my mouth, and listen to a pack of dogs barking at the same time, had me thinking twice.
If I had any glamorous, puppy-cuddling ideas of what volunteering at a dog shelter meant, they were soon dismissed.
As I walked around the shelter, I began to notice another side to dogs that many of us hardly get to see.
Their large eyes looked at us with fear, as they cowered and pressed themselves against the walls. Some had a history of abuse or neglect, and others had injuries that made me cringe with both anger and sadness.
Other dogs were uncannily quiet. But their intense gaze spoke so loudly, that I knew it was best to keep away.
They had absolutely no reason to trust humans again.
Then I met Treasure – who in spite of his past, was never once distrustful of the people around him.
I was shocked when I saw him! A hit-and-run accident left him with a severed spine with only his front legs to support his body. He wasn’t expected to last the night.
But he did.
It’s true that my initial interaction with Treasure awakened feelings of pity, but that quickly changed. Watching him move around swiftly like Flash, stick his snout through the door to bark at other dogs and get the attention from the ladies made me realise something.
He’s still as much a dog as any other!
He doesn’t focus his attention on his hind legs. Instead, he focuses on what lies ahead. Full of sunshine and happiness, Treasure’s condition doesn’t hinder his ability to live a carefree life.
As I left my orientation, I was convinced I would likely not return. After all, I had valid reasons: travelling distance, inability to commit my weekends, etc. But the following Saturday, I showed up.
That was three and a half years ago. I’ve been showing up ever since.
Arriving at the shelter every other weekend, and seeing the volunteers working hand-in-paw, I realize how humbling it is to be alongside a team who selflessly put in their all to rebuild the broken trust of these dogs’ pasts.
I have witnessed how unconditional love has enough strength to heal the pooches’ emotional and physical wounds, while bringing out their playful and mischievous personalities!
Those who would press themselves against the wall out of fear now press themselves against our legs, while wagging their tails for affection. The snappy ones with the intense stare now have a gentle gaze and may even snuggle their snouts.
As volunteers, these are our victories.
When they trust us enough to be themselves again, we know we’re doing something right. Some of these victories are bittersweet when the dogs get adopted. But oh how they bloom when they know they’re home!
As much as we miss them, that’s what unconditional love is all about – being happy in their happiness. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that they've found their own family.
And a place to call home.