Two-legged dog steals residents' hearts

Two-legged dog steals residents' hearts
Kheng Chiu Happy Lodge resident Pang Chee Mee (right), 73, reaching out to play with Qian Qian, a two-legged dog, as part of SOSD's Healing Paws programme. Qian Qian, who was born without front legs and moves around with wheels, had to pass strict tests before being enrolled in the programme to bring joy to the underprivileged.

Laughter, lively conversation and excited barks filled the room. Even the rain could not dampen the spirits of the elderly residents at Kheng Chiu Happy Lodge, as they welcomed seven canine visitors yesterday morning.

One dog stood out, wriggling in and out of residents' arms, licking and bringing smiles to whoever it approached.

Seven-year-old Qian Qian may have been born without front legs, but it has a whole lot of heart.

Its name, which means "money, money" in Mandarin, was given by its first owners, who raised it at their kelong. But they never gave the care which its disability needed.

When their neighbour and fellow fish farmer Ms Jenny Tan, 48, took in Qian Qian in 2008, the dog was in a pitiful state.

Clumps of fur had fallen off its snout, and there were scars on its belly. Some of the injuries were infected as the dog had been left in its own excrement.

Ms Tan obtained wheels for Qian Qian so it could move around.

"It did not like the wheels at first, and I had to train it... I remember being afraid it would roll into the sea as our floating farm has no fencing."

Due to health problems, Ms Tan had to pass Qian Qian on to SOSD, formerly known as Save Our Street Dogs, earlier this year.

Now, the dog visits homes around Singapore, bringing comfort to the sick, disabled and elderly as part of SOSD's Healing Paws programme.

At yesterday's session, the sight of Qian Qian invited raised eyebrows and questions.

But residents were quickly won over by its antics, as it playfully snatched dog treats from their hands and moved around on its wheels.

Madam Pang Chee Mee, 73, a resident at the home, said: "If we lose our arms or legs, we would be feeling helpless.

"But it is very lively. I am very happy to see it."

Qian Qian first had to pass strict tests before being enrolled in SOSD's programme, where animals are used to bring joy to the underprivileged.

The dog was assessed with the help of 32-year-old Maureen Huang, a specialist in the use of animal-assisted intervention.

"The test includes exposing the dog to scenarios such as people in wheelchairs and observing their reaction," Ms Huang said.

When Qian Qian is not "working", the dog lives with SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah, a doctor in an aesthetic clinic, and his partner Andy Cheng, who also volunteers for the organisation.

"It sticks like glue to me!" said Dr Siew.

"It loves to be carried, which is quite unique as dogs generally do not like to be hugged."

More than 200 dogs are rescued by SOSD every year, sheltered either at their headquarters in Pasir Ris or the homes of volunteers.

Last month, SOSD was designated as an Institution of a Public Character (IPC) charity, which allows it to issue tax-deductible receipts to donors.

Dr Siew believes this could help attract more donations, especially from corporate sponsors. Currently, most of the funding comes from individual donors.

The group also hopes to raise $100,000 through an online campaign, for which Qian Qian is the ambassador. The money will be used to fund activities, expansion plans and expenses such as veterinary bills.

Mr Cheng said: "Qian Qian is very special to us... It really embodies what SOSD believes in.

"We hope that this is a chance for Qian Qian to inspire others to give back to society."

Additional reporting by Audrey Tan

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This article was first published on May 24, 2015.
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