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Giving strays a new 'leash' on life
WE'VE all heard the saying, "A dog is man's best friend", but anyone who's owned a dog would probably disagree. It's far more appropriate to term them family. After all, how many friends would you allow to sloppily kiss you just because you served them dinner?
Shu Yar Cheng, partner at street-style blog Shentonista, said: "I always say dogs are part of the modern nuclear family. People don't always want to have children, but I've noticed a lot of them treat their dogs as if they were children instead. Some even use dogs as a testing phase of sorts, to see if they're ready for the responsibility of raising a family."
In support of animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs Singapore (SOSD), Shentonista has launched a series of four interviews with dog owners called Family Pawtraits. The interviews delve deeper into the joys and challenges associated with owning a dog, and hope to raise awareness of the trials and tribulations faced by stray dogs in Singapore.
To that effect, they have also taken photographs of eight of the dogs up for adoption at SOSD's adoption drive to be held at *Scape Youth Park on Feb 28.
This project was Ms Cheng's brainchild. She came up with it in November last year, using Shentonista founder Darren Lim's seven-year-old Corgi, Sophie, to further her cause. He said: "We're trying to do more self-initiated projects this year, in addition to our commercial ventures. Sophie is actually my second dog. We bought the first from one of the farms at Pasir Ris, but they didn't take the necessary precautions and she died of Canine Parvovirus Type 2 (colloquially, Parvo) within the first week of bringing her home."
Added Mr Lim, 35: "We wanted to support SOSD by giving them visibility, but we had to do it in a way that didn't veer too far away from what Shentonista does, and we thought the best way to do that was to focus on the people around the dogs."
Though Ms Cheng is no stranger to dog projects, having worked with privately-run shelter Gentle Paws on the 2013 initiative "I Love You So Mutt", Family Pawtraits came with its own set of challenges.
"Taking photos of the dogs with their family wasn't that hard because they were so familiar with them. But taking individual shots of the dogs up for adoption was almost impossible at the time," she laughed.
While the family photos took about two to three hours to shoot, the Shentonista team spent more than five hours for the individual ones.
Ms Cheng said: "We just couldn't get them to sit still, because some of them were scared of the chairs, others of the backdrops. We actually had to move the backdrop several times to get a better picture."
But the 28-year-old also has a lot of fuzzy memories of the day. She recalled: "There was this one very big dog, Danzel. Now Danzel is being fostered with another dog, Rocky, who's medium-sized. It was very cute because Danzel refused to pose for the camera unless Rocky was next to him. And he's so big!"
Apart from the eight dogs featured in Shentonista's campaign, there will be another 40 or so up for adoption at SOSD's drive. In addition to the 34 dogs at the fixed area at *Scape Youth Park, SOSD volunteers will also be walking 15 more around the Orchard area. The event will also feature live performances, talks, and a mini-carnival, though details are unconfirmed as yet.
Celene Ng from SOSD said: "Our adoption drives are mainly used to showcase our fostered dogs. We have more than 80 in our shelter, but those get more exposure than the 50 or so who are with fosterers, so we try to even it out this way."
The dogs up for adoption are chosen based on the size of the space available, as well as their temperaments. Though, according to Ms Ng, the owners' temperaments are far more important.
"If you want to adopt a dog," she says, "your choice of dog should be more than just superficial. A lot of people don't realise the medical expenses that can be incurred when they have dogs, and I think they need to be more aware of that. Another important thing to keep in mind is what kind of dog is best suited to your lifestyle, or it might not work out."