They come in all sizes and colours, with floppy ears and grinning teeth. They’ve been titled man’s best friend, loyal companions and often receive squeals of “so cute!!!!!”, but these soft paws are not getting enough credit for their humbling and life-saving work both worldwide and in sunny Singapore. In 2012, a poodle named Wang Wang alerted her owners of a fire that had broken out in the house by barking. What did we humans do to deserve them?
#1 K-9, Military and Rescue Dogs
K-9 dogs from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) take on responsibilities such as a narcotic detector, explosive detector or human trailer. Whether we’re going about our daily lives or out partying during festive occasions, these canines and their handlers are hard at work.
Furry paws in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) fall under the Military Working Dog Unit (MWDU), where they assist army personnel in security and enforcement operations through similar job scopes as those in the SPF – sniffing for explosives, drugs and arms.
Tail-waggers in the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF) take on a slightly different task from their counterparts – search and rescue. These dogs are trained to locate missing or buried humans in disaster search and emergency situations.
Upon retirement, usually around 8-9 years old, these government organisations will put up the nation-serving dogs for adoption to be showered with love in their golden years.
#2 Therapy Dogs
They come bearing puppy eyes and lolling tongues. Employing Pet-Assisted Therapy (PAT) and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) methods which involve animals as a form of treatment, therapy dogs are used to improve a person’s mental, physical, social and emotional functioning. There are a few organisations in Singapore devoted to the purpose, such as Healing Paws (under Save our Street Dogs (SoSD)) and Therapy Dogs Singapore (TDS). Volunteers from these welfare groups bring their friendly and calm dogs to various beneficiaries to interact with diverse individuals – elderly, children, physically disabled or ill, deaf, blind and mental health patients.
#3 Service and Assistance Dogs
The best example of assistance dogs are none other than guide dogs. These 4-legged friends are trained to help the visually impaired enhance their quality of life by providing mobility and navigation assistance. They do this by helping their blind partner avoid collisions, obstacles, stopping at curbs and steps as well as negotiating traffic.
Singapore’s first guide dog for the blind, Stacey, arrived in 1982, but was sent back to Australia after two years as the country was unreceptive and the laws, unfavourable. It was only in 2005 that the same man, Mr Kua Cheng Hock, Stacey’s supposed owner, managed to bring in Kendra, Singapore’s second guide dog for the blind. As of 2016, the country was reported to have seven guide dog users.
By: Violet Koh