S'pore's first guide dog dies, aged 11

S'pore's first guide dog dies, aged 11

SINGAPORE - He saw the world through her gentle eyes.

Now, the light in those auburn eyes has faded. Those eyes have lost their lustre and finally their life.

And so the world of blind businessman Kua Cheng Hock, 58, is once again shrouded in darkness, his eyes clouded by tears.

"In the past nine years," said Mr Kua wistfully, "she was even closer to me than my wife."

He was talking about Kendra, his seeing-eye dog, who holds the distinction of being the first such dog in Singapore.

The labrador died from a stroke and a massive heart attack on Friday, just weeks before her retirement.

She was 11.

She had been with Mr Kua for the last nine years, constantly guiding him and looking out for him.

She was more than his pair of eyes. She was his caretaker, his protector, his constant companion, his "daughter".

Mr Kua was inspired to use a seeing-eye dog after he heard of how guide dog Roselle led visually-impaired sales manager Michael Hingson to safety from the 78th floor of New York's World Trade Centre after two passenger jets slammed into the buildings in the 2001 terror attack.

SCHOOL

Mr Kua wrote and later went for training at the California-based American dog-training school, Guide Dogs for the Blind, before returning with Kendra in August 2005.

Kendra was a gift from the school. (See story on facing page.)

The two had been inseparable.

"You can call her my shadow, never leaving my side. She was always waiting for me, even outside the door whenever I was in the shower," he told The New Paper.

There were times when Kendra managed to keep Mr Kua from coming to harm. (See story above.)

"I guess she felt she was my protector and was wholly responsible for me," he said of his docile friend.

There were times when Mr Kua had to make short trips to Malaysia and could not take her along.

"So when my wife took her downstairs for toilet breaks, Kendra would refuse to go home and would drag her to the bus stop to wait for me to return," Mr Kua recalled.

But when it came to long-haul trips, Kendra always went with him, "to 15 countries in all", he said.

"Europe, United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia," Mr Kua said, smiling fondly.

"We went in and out of Australia so often that she was issued a year-long permit to allow her to do just that."

Her last trip was to California in June and July, when she visited Ms Lauren Williams, who had raised her when she was a puppy.

"It was a good trip. She spent time with her puppy-raiser family and even celebrated Lauren's grandmother's birthday.

"Perhaps it was her easy-going temperament that she was always welcomed on board flights.

"She never barked and would lie quietly under my seat until we reached our destination.

"The passengers and crew members loved her."

Only twice did the pair face rejection.

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