Too often we underestimate the power of a smile, a listening ear or a random act of compassion, all of which has the potential to turn life around. For Ms Tin Pei Ling, a Member of Parliament in the MacPherson ward, her smile is her autograph, her logo, her calling card, and, most importantly, sincere.

Back in 2011, she was the youngest PAP candidate fielded in Singapore’s general elections. Now at 36, she’s serving as an MP, she’s CEO of a non-profit organisation and she’s the busy wife to another civil servant in the government. 

The list goes on… she’s also the doting mother of two very young boys (4-year-old Kee Hau, and 1 ½-year-old Kee Xuan). And… here’s more – she’s the mother figure to two endearing dogs. Yes, she loves dogs – you can see how she lights up when her fur-kids come into view, and, vice-versa. She readily admits that she is drawn to fur-kids whenever she does her round around her constituency, or during her regular meet-the-people sessions. 

When Volty was added: "It lit up my entire life!"

Ms Tin’s own fur-kids include Volty, a male snow-white Japanese Spitz and Shogun, an adopted male Golden Retriever. It was back into 2012 when the dogs first came into their apartment. “It was just hubby and myself at that time, and when Volty was added, it lit up my entire life,” she says. It was a case of “love at first sight” and naturally being the “first baby” of the house, the furry fella laid claim to the household as rightly his. For Volty, the jubilation did not last long for in came a bear-like creature called Shogun. 

With Shogun, it was an urgent call for adoption that prompted her to step in. He was lost in Toa Payoh and was temporarily stashed at the SPCA. Ms Tin was drawn to the Facebook posting of the forlorn creature. She says: “The post of that skinny dog – I was worried that he was going to be put down.”

Yup, she did the right thing: She went on to adopt the scrawny, smelly, huge bag of fur and took him home – then she promptly told hubby about it. Although she had some initial reservations about Volty accepting Shogun the newcomer, the fur finally settled some three months later forming what is now a close and enduring bond.

Reminiscing, she says: “Shogun back then was a young, easily excitable dog. He had a wound on his tail when we took him in. No one noticed it till he hit the corner of the cupboard – the blood just came spewing out – all over the room!”  A visit to the vet put paid to that bit of wretchedness. Bandaged up, they did a make-shift Elizabethan Collar (ie: as in Cone of Shame from ‘Up’, the movie) to comfort poor Shogun.

The saga of how Shogun landed himself in a situation like this, is, unfortunately, a classic. From the microchip on him, they found he was already one and a half years old, and managed to trace him back to the original owner. Of course, the original owner said he gave away the dog, but he does not know who he gave the dog to…

Because of Shogun and the plight of many like him, Ms Tin spoke up in Parliament on the subject of pet abandonment then. She reflects back and is at least placated, noting that such issues are in the very least, being looked into. 

Motherhood came three years later, and her two dogs took readily to the introduction of Kee Hau initially, then Kee Xuan later. Of course, competition was inevitable in the growing brood: Foremost over food then, affection. Volty was oft-times, the ninja culprit that stole a helpless, crawling Kee Hau’s food. But as the boy grew bigger and taller, Volty knew he was licked and couldn’t chance it anymore.

Ms Tin says Shogun is the wiser one: “She makes sure he gets into the good books of the boys” to get what he wants. While her older son favours heavyweight Shogun, the younger one is drawn towards lithe Volty.

She’s been a dog lover since “forever”. Fortunately, hubby, shares in her passion for the four-legged. Her smile broadens noticeably when she speaks of hubby. “He’s the loving husband and father. When I am sometimes busy with my constituency work, he’s the one in charge of them (the dogs). He’s the in-charge for dog-walking too,” she adds. 

As she cleans her fur-kids ears regularly, gives them treats, and wash and clean them at home she recognises that age is catching up with them. “I can sense that the energy level is going down with each passing year” she adds with tapered voice.

It’s not just about championing for the downtrodden or the under-dog. She’s working hard for her children’s future too. “I may not be able to spend a lot of time with them, but I hope through my effort in Parliament and the community, I can help to shape a thriving future in which there will be many opportunities for them and their peers.”

Yup, she’s much tougher than she looks, and her insistence on championing the causes she cares about (be they canine or human), propels her forward. And, here is where her smile works best: It serves to disarm a confrontational stance, and opens the air for true, and meaningful dialogue to take place. She’s so much like the country she represents: Small, but one that “punches above its weight”.