It’s the most wonderful time of the year: our favourite Christmas songs play on loop in malls, supermarkets and cafes, the streets in town are decked in festive paraphernalia, trees and baubles of all sizes imaginable and a palpable sense of joy lingers in the air.
It’s a good time to spread holiday cheer to those around us and this Christmas we’d like to shine the spotlight on a particular group of furry dwellers in the community who are in need of more love and attention – dogs.
For this special series, we speak to celebrity dog owners as they share stories about their adopted furry best friends.
First up is Chantalle Ng, who tells us that her love for pets – cats and dogs included – started from when she was in primary school. She recalls a lady living in her neighbourhood who used to feed the cats every night and Chantalle would follow her around to help her out.
“That’s how I brought my first pet home,” the 24-year-old grinned. “She was the smallest cat among her siblings so I brought her home since she was getting bullied.”
“We brought her to the vet and they found out that she had a genetic issue that [impeded her growth], and she would have a shorter lifespan than a regular cat. A few months later, I woke up one morning and opened my bedroom door to see that she was there waiting for me. My helper at the time told me that she had been walking around the living room the entire night. The moment I picked her up and sat on the sofa with her, she vomited blood and left this world.”
This was the first time Chantalle encountered death, and the then-10-year-old girl was understandably devastated.
That, however, didn’t stop her from reaching out to help again barely two years later, as that same lady told her about a dog, Summer, that would be put down if nobody brought her home. That furry friend would lunge at and try to bite anyone who came near her – that is, except for Chantalle. From the moment that she saw her, she was more than happy to have the then-12-year-old come close to her, pet her, and bring her home.
“She did cause some problems at home at first because she would attack everyone except for me. She bit my grandparents, and at the time, my grandfather had cancer so he was very weak,” she explained.
“Having a dog attack your granddad who wasn’t well was far from ideal, and we did wonder if we would be able to help her.”
Undeterred, Chantalle and her mum, veteran actress Lin Meijiao brought her for lessons, showered Summer with love, and once they did that, the dog blossomed under their love and stopped displaying aggressive behaviour.
“For the last few months of her life, I had to do drips for her every day while I was in secondary school because she had kidney failure. After Summer passed, our home seemed very empty because there was nobody at home to greet you with a wagging tail.”
The stars aligned for Chantalle and Meijiao, who heard about an abandoned senior toy poodle from local organisation SOSD Singapore, which is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming stray and abandoned dogs.
“Most people hope to adopt younger dogs, so senior dogs don’t really get a chance,” Chantalle said. “His owner used to be very busy so he was always alone at home. One day, the owner decided that it wouldn’t be good for him to be alone all the time so he gave him up. Maybe that’s why he has a bit of separation anxiety. His name is Dasher and he’s still with us now.”
Her second dog, Pretty, was also adopted from SOSD. Her previous owner was wheelchair bound and lived with her two children in a rented room. However, there came a time where they couldn’t afford rent any longer and had to move somewhere else where pets are not allowed.
Chantalle visited this family with the other SOSD volunteers, where they told her that they needed someone to foster Pretty. Whenever the mother-daughter pair brought her out for adoption drives, nobody would want to go near her because she didn’t take well to strangers. They tried to get her adopted for a whole year, but truth be told, Chantalle already fell in love with her just a few months in.
She gushed, “When I brought her home, it took one week for her to open up for me to pet her. She was in that room for all of her life and never socialised with others apart from her owners. She would hide in a corner of the house and just try to attack anyone who went near her. It took some time and she slowly opened up to me. She’s really a sweetheart and is the gentlest soul. My mum was the only ‘obstacle’ so I had to wait for her to give in to the idea that Pretty was ours to keep.”
The actresses have fostered numerous dogs over the years, and while saying goodbye to them when they move on to their new homes is always difficult, Chantalle shared that SOSD’s stringent adoption procedure keeps her assured that the dogs will go to good homes.
The actress mused, “I remember there was this dog, Bibi, who nobody wanted because she had cataracts in both eyes. Surgery to remove it would cost around S$6,000. Honestly, not everyone would be willing to pay that much for a dog that they just met, but SOSD found someone who was willing to do that and they sent us photos after she settled in. She looked good, happy, and she could finally see.”
“If they’re moving on to owners who love them and can give them a good home, then I’m not sad at all – I’m just happy that they found someone to love them for the rest of their lives.”
Chantalle also opened up about saying goodbye to her furry friends when they leave this world.
“Some people say that they don’t think they can go through the pain of losing a dog for the second time,” she explained. “Yes, it hurts, but the entire journey – the happiness you get from the relationship – overweighs the sadness at the end. When you reflect upon it you know that it’s beautiful and that you’d want to do it all over again.”
“There are dogs that were used in puppy mills and are thrown away after they are past their “prime” age. Why are they making so many new puppies when there are so many dogs out there who need a home? I think that the amount of love that the dogs I adopt or foster have is more than those that my friends have bought. They’ve experienced life and they treasure what they have more.”
That doesn’t mean that she thinks adoption is a decision that potential owners should make on a whim, as she emphasised the importance of being responsible.
She mused that her ‘mum guilt’ kicked in just last month when Pretty was left alone at home for 10 hours. “Dasher is always at my grandma’s since he has separation anxiety, but my grandma can’t handle a 20kg dog, so Pretty has to stay home. My mum was overseas for work and I was out the entire day for filming. Pretty was alone for 10 hours, and this was the first time that this happened.”
“That was when I was even more convinced that one day, if I move out on my own, I might not adopt a dog if I don’t have enough time for them. Maybe after I can settle down, have a family and kids, when I know that I can commit for the next 10 years at least, then I’ll be ready to adopt a dog.”
Share the love this Christmas, find out more about SOSD here.