Prelude

Since the age of six, when the notion of ‘Santa Claus’ was first introduced to me, the one and only Christmas present that I so dearly wished for year after year was a puppy. It didn’t matter the size, breed, or temperament of the puppy—in my annual letters to Santa Claus, all I simply requested for was a cute four-legged friend. Eventually, when my childhood fantasies of Santa Claus fizzled, so too did my desire for a puppy. I realized that owning a dog would entail far greater responsibilities than I was capable of handling during my youth when schooling, career-building, and fishing for a future husband became my entire life focus.

A little more than two decades later, I now find myself comfortably settled into a wonderful marriage and a path towards academia. So, it surprised me when my husband (aka ‘MM’) proposed the idea of adding a companion dog to our nest of two.  I was content and happily enjoying our time together, just the two of us. I explained to MM that raising a puppy would not be an easy feat; it would require us having to re-arrange our existing schedules and way-of-life. In short, I was not prepared to alter my daily routine in exchange for a high-maintenance furball. MM persisted on the topic and provided justification after justification for why we ought to have a dog. I was soon persuaded, but I insisted that we thoroughly read-up about dog ownership before making the lunge.

 

FACTS & FIGURES

For three months, I scoured the library shelves in search of manuals for dog owners and researched every possible breed of dog in order to find a good fit for us. I also frequented online pet forums and became a regular viewer of YouTube pet videos—through these two avenues, I managed to contact a few friendly dog owners and wrote in to them with questions about their experiences. My homework, however, did not end there. When MM and I finally decided that a Toy Poodle would best suit our home and lifestyle, we then debated between acquiring a puppy from a pet shop versus adoption. I was keen to adopt after seeing how many unwanted dogs are in need of homes and learning about the uncertain perils of pet shop puppies. MM understood my motives, but he was concerned that, as first-time dog owners, we may have a rough road ahead in our attempts to re-home a rescue dog.

As a last resort, I ventured outside of Singapore’s dog domain and contacted a few home breeders in the Land of Oz to inquire about their export policies. Understandably, all of the breeders I emailed would not allow their puppies to be exported outside of Australia—they cited concerns about potential trauma and safety incurred by the puppies on long-distance flights. Feeling downright discouraged that we would never find a Toy Poodle to join us here in Singapore, I was about to call it quits until I came across an adoption posting for a seven-month old Toy Poodle in the local classifieds.

 

MEET & GREET

I was initially wary about the adoption posting, as you can never be sure of the sincerity and genuineness of such classified advertisements. Nevertheless, I made the call and arranged for a viewing that same night. We went to the home of a couple that have just started out on their family with two young children under the age of four. They were unable to cope with the stress of caring for a puppy in addition to raising their two toddlers. Lola (the former name of our Toy Poodle) was confined to the kitchen and seldom allowed to step foot into the rest of the house, let alone outdoors. It was obvious that Lola had neither been trained nor given any opportunities to socialize.

When Lola was let out of the kitchen, she immediately bounded for the balcony like an escaped convict and had to be carried back into the living room where she bounced around like a tennis ball. I was concerned about Lola’s hyperactivity and wondered if she would ever calm down. After twenty minutes or so, I noticed that her excitement had abated to some degree although she was still quite active, nipping MM and I whenever we would try to handle her. I asked the owners if they have a treat that we could give to Lola, as I read in a book that presenting a treat to a dog that you are meeting for the first time places you in a favourable position. Of course, Lola had to work for her treat so I commanded her to ‘sit’. To everyone’s surprise, including my own bewilderment, Lola sat! It was then that Lola won me over.

 

DECISION-MAKING TIME

That night, when MMand I returned home, I couldn’t sleep. I wrote an email to one of the Australian home breeders that I had come to know with the hopes of receiving some unbiased advice from an expert. The next morning, MM and I sought the owner’s consent to have Lola examined by a veterinarian. If the veterinarian gave Lola a clean bill of health, MM and I agreed that we would adopt her on the spot.

We met Lola and her owner at Lola’s regular veterinary clinic. While there, we were able to observe how Lola interacted with other dogs, namely a Corgi and Westie who were both also patiently waiting for their turns to visit the veterinarian. Lola was indeed curious about the Corgi and Westie, but otherwise indifferent about their presence—she was more interested in getting to know their human owners. Finally, when Lola’s name was called, MM and I brought her in to have a private session with the veterinarian. I had prepared a long list of questions beforehand and checked each one off as we discussed them. After twenty minutes of interrogation, probing, and prodding, we were satisfied with the veterinarian’s assessment of Lola’s health. We brought Lola back out into the waiting room, where we expressed to the owner our interest to adopt Lola.

The owner requested for an adoption fee of S$800, which would include all of Lola’s food and equipment. Traditionally, private adoptions are either free-of-charge or, at most, involve a nominal fee. It seems, however, that potential adopters these days are made to absorb an exorbitant fraction of the initial costs parted by the owners when they first purchased their pups. We offered the owner S$650, but the owner implied that the lowest she would be willing to let go of Lola was at S$750. It was a tough call. On the one hand, our intuition told us to adopt Lola and provide her with a loving forever home; on the other hand, we felt that our good intentions were being taken advantage of.

 

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

In the end, we were led by our intuition and we brought Lola home with us that very evening after signing an adoption contract with the owner. From the moment Lola stepped into our abode, she became part of a new pack and was given a brand new name to begin her new “leash” on life. As a tribute to her red-colour coat and future patriotism for Canada (I hope!), we have named our Toy Poodle Little Miss Red Maple Leaf. And so ‘The Adventures of Little Miss Red Maple Leaf (Singapore Edition)’ begins!