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.
Previously Chantalle Ng told us about the ‘mum guilt’ she feels when she has to leave her dog alone at home for the entire day. Belinda Lee, on the other hand, opened up about how she planned for her beloved pooch to walk down the aisle with her, only for Man Man to pass away weeks before the wedding.
This week, we speak to Desmond Tan, who has become an adoption ‘evangelist’ among his celeb pals.
“There’s a running joke that I have with the Voices for Animals (VFA) founder Derrick Tan,” Desmond chuckled during our interview with him last month. “He’ll tell me that I haven’t hit my quota for introducing friends to adopt from VFA, and ask me when I’ll be referring someone else.”
When we asked him how many of his friends he’s successfully ‘converted’ to adoption, however, the actor pondered for a moment before admitting that he no longer keeps count any longer as there are too many.
““There’s a special kind of happiness that you feel when you hear that a friend has opened their hearts and homes to dogs that deserve a second chance in life,” he smiled.
Desmond’s story with adoption started in 2016, when he was looking to organise a meaningful outing with his fan club, Destanation. He happened to come across VFA, and decided that all of them would volunteer there together.
Not long after, he attended VFA’s adoption drive and fell in love with a tiny puppy. This bundle of joy was so welcome at home that Desmond’s mum remarked that it would be great to have another one at home - that’s how siblings Udon and Kanto joined the Tan family, and although Kanto doesn’t live with Desmond, the two pups see each other almost every day.
“My parents live in the same development as I do, so when I go over for dinner, I bring Hoshi and Udon with me,” Desmond shared with a sparkle in his eyes. “It can get quite chaotic when there are five dogs in the house, but it’s something that all of us enjoy.”
Wait - five dogs?
Let us break it down for you: Hoshi was bought by Desmond years ago from a home breeder. Udon and Kanto were adopted from VFA, while Parkie was found by Desmond’s parents in a car park and eventually adopted by the family when nobody stepped forward to claim him (car park, Parkie, get it?).
They are sometimes joined by Oreo, who belongs to Desmond’s nephew. With so many dogs in the house, the actor chuckled that the thought of adopting more has crossed his mind, although he will be laying off that idea for now as he doesn’t have time to be a good paw-rent to one more.
He mused, “I think the most important thing is to be able to spread the message of adoption to a wider audience. When celebs share their experience with adoption, their followers will be able to learn more about it and also consider it when they want to get a pet in future. Although there are still some taboos against adoption, the situation seems to have improved in the past few years. I’m really happy whenever I hear about anyone who successfully adopts a pet from a shelter.”
This positive effect grows as more celebs join the fray, although Desmond cautioned that education also plays a big part in responsible pet ownership. “I hope that people can also understand why puppy mills are bad. They lock the dogs in tiny cages and just make them give birth to as many puppies as they can. Only when there is no demand will this practice stop,” the actor explained.
Since 2016, Desmond has been actively sharing more information about this through his social media-driven campaign called The Blue Socks, which he started with his buddy whom he got to know from his time as a commando.
They kicked off their initiative with a screening of The Secret Life Of Pets in September 2016, with proceeds going to VFA. With his busy schedule, Desmond has yet to find time to plan the large-scale events that he hopes to hold. The self-professed perfectionist shared that there’s a lot to take into account, but his fellow celebs have assured that they will lend their star power to the cause when the time comes.
His ultimate goal of uniting animal shelters in Singapore together one day might not be that easily reached, he confessed, but Desmond truly believes that it will happen one day.
He smiled, “After all, everyone has the same goal in mind - to give pets that were lost, abandoned or unwanted another chance in life.”
Share the love this Christmas, find out more about VFA here.
#ConsiderAdoption: Belinda Lee chose a pet-friendly wedding venue so that she could walk down the aisle with her dog
#ConsiderAdoption: Chantalle Ng opens up about her 'mum guilt' towards her dogs