The greatest satisfaction Dr Siew derives is seeing stray dogs bounce back from debilitating illnesses. “Their will to live is very strong,” he says. Chica is a proud story. When rescuers found her, they initially thought she was dead: She was paralysed, furless and had mite infestation. After nearly two months of rehabilitation which entailed trips to the veterinarian’s clinic and potty training, Chica healed and became a force of nature, her blithe spirit rubbing off on others.
But belying every rescuer’s pride are the ripples of emotional agony and much sweat. For every dog that SOSD saves, there is one that it cannot due to resource constraints. Some dogs are feral and dislike human contact, and they growl at the approaching rescuers — leaving the hands of the latter tied. For every dog that has a happy ending, there are many whose stories are heartrending. Joy was one such example. She was found chained up in a shophouse, and SOSD’s many calls to the tenant went unreturned. In the end, the rescuers had to take matters into their own hands by cutting loose her shackles.
“No matter how hard we tried, she just couldn’t get used to being in a home. She would stay cooped up in her shelter, crying and walking only in circles — it was the only freedom of movement she was allowed and knew when she was chained up. She passed away a year ago.”
The passing of their charges can hit the volunteers hard. Imagine expending much energy and time sterilising and feeding the dogs, only to have them succumb to a virus outbreak. Or to hear news of dogs in foster care being knocked down by a car. Such news cast a pall on the volunteers’ days. Extrinsic criticism sometimes follows, with the volunteers’ handling methods and training philosophies coming under scrutiny. Some are lambasted for failing to do more for dogs with terminal illnesses. But the hardest barrier to overcome, Dr Siew says, is self-blame. “‘What should I have done differently? ‘Was I at fault?’ — these questions haunt the volunteers.”