At the start of the year, I decided to do something a little different with our lives. Instead of sitting around every weekend, I thought that it’d be good to do some volunteer work that involves Moon since we want to spend time with her. After a bit of research, I found Therapy Dogs Singapore or TDS for short.
After a couple of quick emails with Valerie (the President), it was time to send Moon for a temperament test as well as a thorough check-up for a clean bill of health at the vet (vet will do a quick check and issue a health certificate to indicate that she’s healthy – this is to ensure that therapy dogs are not carrying any diseases into the places that it’d be visiting). The temperament test was held at a pet shop where the testers were volunteers as well. Dogs were tested in a group and would be put through various scenarios typical of the visits, i.e. person on crutches, bouncing basketball, being held by other dog owners, eating treats from the hand, etc. This is to see if the dogs would be fearful or worst, bite when confronted by these situations. Thankfully, Moon did not embarrass me and she passed. Yeay!
With all the paperwork out of the way, it was time for our first visit on a Friday afternoon. The boy decided to join us as well as he has volunteer leave from work (lucky him). Our first visit was to MINDSville@Napiri and we arrived promptly at 2.45pm (the visit would last for an hour, starting at 3pm but owners and dogs are to arrive earlier for dogs to socialise and to relieve themselves). Moon was a little apprehensive (she whined!) when she met the 2 golden retrievers Reegan and Quinton but soon, settled down. A couple more dogs arrived soon after and we headed to the multi-function room located on the second floor.
The residents were seated in a large circle and when we first stepped in, everyone was pretty quiet. That didn’t last very long though. They got excited the moment they saw the doggies and came forward to touch them. As we were contemplating what we should do, one of the residents – let’s call her Geok – came forth and hugged Moon.
She also attempted to carry Moon and we obliged by carrying Moon and placing her into her arms. Geok then proceeded to walk around the room with Moon in her arms and Moon’s legs were dangling in the air! It was quite a funny sight to watch and we were really pleased that sweet Moon did not flinch despite being visibly uncomfortable being held that way.
One of the nurses came to Moon’s ‘rescue’ and told Geok to let Moon down. We then decided to play ‘fetch’ with Moon to entertain the residents. Also, it would be good for them to throw Moon’s toy to strengthen their arms.
Moon had a little audience watching her antics and Geok (in pink strip polo shirt) was excitedly picking up her toy and throwing it at her. Repeatedly. Thankfully, Moon seem to enjoy the attention and was running up and down, tirelessly. We noticed that one of the residents was dancing along to the (radio) music and the boy quipped that Moon can ‘dance’ too. Actually, what we do is to wave a snack in her face so that she’d stand on her hind legs. Once we move our hands in a circular motion, she will do a little ‘twirl’ because she’s keeping her eyes focussed on the snack! But yes, it looks like she’s ‘dancing’.
After showing how it’s done, Geok insisted to do it too. Here’s Geok holding a snack and as you can clearly see, Moon was enamoured. With the snack in her hands, of course.
As we were busy playing with Moon and entertaining the residents with her antics, one of the nurses came up to the boy and said that one of the residents have ‘fallen in love with him’ and if he minded giving her an autograph.
It was funny seeing the boy’s face. “Me?”, he said, bewildered.
He followed the nurse over to one of the female residents who was confined to a wheelchair. She couldn’t take part in the activities, except to watch from the sidelines.
Here’s the boy signing an autograph for the lady. He told me that he drew a heart for her along with a sweet little message. Awwww. And yes, Miss Moon was being her kaypoh self, poking around…
All too soon, the 1-hour visit was up and it was time to go. We said our goodbyes to the residents and promised that we’d return next month. The whole group trooped back to the street level, to the grass area, where the therapy dogs could have a drink of water and relieve themselves. Check out the really fluffy white Samoyed called Snow (top-right photo). Really cute and yes, it was wearing shoes and carrying its own water bowl. Heh.
The next day, we also did another visit to the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled (BHID). It was going to be a larger group of residents so we were requested to come along if we had time – which we did!
I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of residents at BHID. Similar to MINDSville, they were also waiting for us at the multi-purpose hall which is, thankfully, air-conditioned. We had no idea who to speak to but some residents came right up to us, extended their hands to us and said Hello. Really sweet. We walked around for a bit, not quite sure what to do this time round. We weren’t sure what language to speak to them so we’d try Mandarin, followed by Hokkien, then sometimes, English. Some of the residents spoke to us in Cantonese while gesturing wildly and I totally wished that I knew how to speak/understand Cantonese!
Soon after, we found a little group of ladies and settled down to chat with them. Moon wasn’t too keen to play fetch this time round, probably because of the overwhelming number of people and movement around her. Snacks didn’t even work this time. I then took out her brush and asked if they wanted to groom her. It was lovely to watch Moon staying still while being groomed gently by the lady in the green/yellow top.
Soon after, Moon warmed up for a bit and wanted to play fetch. This got the ladies very excited and everyone clamoured to throw her favourite toy. We also showed them how to feed her and although initially apprehensive, they warmed up to Moon soon enough when they realised that she won’t snap/bite them.
Towards the end of the hour, a sweet lady came up to Moon and proceeded to hug her. The boy made Moon stay still so that she could pet and sayang her. Without saying anything, she wrapped her arms around Moon and with the gentlest of touch, stroked Moon on her head repeatedly. She even ‘kissed’ Moon on her head. It was touching, to say the least.
I offered to take a picture for her and Moon and she quickly posed. Of course, Miss Moon couldn’t stay still, hence you can see the boy’s hand holding her still. I shall develop these photos and bring them along with us on our next visit which will be one month later.
It was our first 2 visits as new volunteers but I am already looking forward to more of such visits. I am also very proud of Moon for being a calm and sweet dog. There were occasions when she was not handled very gently (not on purpose, of course) but she did not flinch or yelp.
I’m so SO proud of you, Moon! *squeeze*