This Singapore therapy dog fulfilled a patient's last wish and is a 'miracle worker' to some
Fluffy & Famous is a weekly video series where we interview "infurrencers", a term we coined for famous fur kids who aren't like your regular influencers on Instagram.
This week, we follow Onyx the therapy dog to work where he brings smiles and comfort to the patients in Assisi Hospice. Some dogs are more than just good bois, they're angels disguised in fur.
We've heard of the saying, "dogs are a man's best friend" and they truly are, especially for Onyx, a six-year-old Schnauzer.
Onyx may look like just another carefree, happy dog if you see him on the street, but unlike any ordinary pupper, Onyx has been volunteering as a therapy dog for the past five years.
Curious to find out more about what Onyx does on the job, we followed him and his hooman, Serene L., 41, to Assisi Hospice, where he's almost like a celebrity amongst staff and patients, lightening up the atmosphere wherever his little paws tread.
We asked Serene some questions about how she came to own the little bundle of joy and what Onyx does at 'work'.
HOW DID YOU COME TO OWN ONYX?
I got Onyx when he was six months old. Actually, my late dog passed on and I decided not to keep any more dogs, but things just fell into place when he (Onyx) was put up for adoption.
HOW DID ONYX BECOME A THERAPY DOG?
We attended a dog event where there was a booth by this dog therapy group, called Therapy Dogs Singapore. One of the volunteers shared with me what therapy dogs are about and I found it very meaningful. But the requirement was that the dogs had to be two years old.
Onyx was one (year old) and I waited a whole year before he was ready. So when he was two years old, we started volunteering with Therapy Dogs Singapore. We're still with them right now, but on our own; we also volunteer as individuals at Assisi Hospice.
The basic requirement to become a therapy dog is, I think, they have to be calm and they have to enjoy being with people.
One of the things a therapy dog has to go through is an assessment test... The dog will be tested on several things, especially for aggression. When you show them a wheelchair, they can't start barking at it.
WHAT DOES ONYX DO AT WORK?
Onyx spends about one to one and a half hours at work. He works once a week, we don't want to stress him out.
As humans, we absorb everything but we learn how to process them. For (dogs), they absorb mentally, emotionally — they hear, they see, they smell — so it's very taxing for them as well.
At the hospice, we usually visit the patients at the daycare first. There are a few patients who enjoy just sitting with him. After that, we proceed to the wards.
For patients who are receptive to dog therapy, we will send Onyx into the room with them. He can lay on the beds and provide them comfort.
ANY INTERESTING EXPERIENCES THAT ONYX HAS ENCOUNTERED AT WORK?
We received a call from the volunteer manager and he told us there was a patient with a final request. The patient wanted to spend time with Onyx.
When I heard it, I was very honoured (and) touched... I just don't know what to feel, really. Because you know you're doing something but you have no idea the impact is so big.
So we visited the uncle, in the midst of (the therapy session), he told me he used to have a Schnauzer as well... and his Schnauzer was very manja (affectionate) like Onyx, I think that's why he had this bond with him.
The uncle passed on the next day.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR ONYX?
My future plan for Onyx is, I wish for him to help people who are in prison. I don't know how we're going to do that but I hope that we'll be able to do that somehow. So, that's what we're looking to achieve in the future.