National heroes

In these tumultuous times, national security is a priority for Singaporeans. Hence, we turn the spotlight on our nation’s furry protectors this National Day.
By Sheryl Lau
Published on Thursday, 10 August 2017

One of the newest entrants to Singapore’s working dog scene, therapy hounds have been bringing joy and comfort to those in need since the mid-noughties. What’s beautiful about the furry ones in this line of work is that all of them are “volunteers” and they don’t have to be of a specific breed or age. Although a pooch needs to go through an assessment to qualify as a therapy dog, every furkid stands a chance to give back to society. These good-natured pups head to institutions such as hospices, old folks homes and mental health hospitals every month or fortnight to give affection and comfort to the beneficiaries or patients there.

Singapore had its first guide dog in 1982, and its second only 23 years later. Thankfully, over the last decade or so, seeing eye hounds have been gaining traction here. “Guide dogs are specially bred and selected for their hardworking, gentle temperament that thrives on praise and an eagerness to please,” says Vanessa Loh, general manager of Guide Dogs Association of the Blind.

Gary Lim, who is visually impaired, shares that his Labrador Retriever Jordie not only keeps him safe and helps him to get around more effortlessly, he’s also a great companion and confidante.

Among working canines, sniffer dogs undergo the toughest training regimens. Most grow up in the K-9 unit, where they are professionally trained to detect drugs and explosives. Each hound has just one handler whom they form a strong bond with. Under Project ADORE’s new scheme, retired sniffer dogs can now be adopted by their handlers—even if they live in HDB flats. Thaksin Toh, 21, who completed his national service (NS) in March, was the first to adopt his K-9 partner, Moss the Cocker Spaniel, under this scheme. “To say that I was happy I could bring Moss home is an understatement. He’s the main reason I enjoyed NS,” says Thaksin. “Everyone in the family is in love with Moss. Just watching him sleep makes me smile.”

To read more about our nation's furry protectors, flip to Paw Prints (pg 20) of our Aug/Sept 2017 issue!