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My favourite canine pal, Max, who warmed the cockles of my heart at Save Our Streets Dogs. Photo: Ng Kai

What Volunteering At A Dog Shelter Taught Me About Being Human

Growing up, I always wanted a pet. More specifically, I wanted a dog. After all, they are man’s BFF. However, my family was against it so bo pian, no dog for me.

The closest I got to any canine was through volunteering weekly at Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) during my free weekends when I served NS. SOSD is a volunteer-run organisation dedicated to the welfare of Singapore’s street dogs a.k.a. Singapore Specials.

And you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from our furry BFFs by being a volunteer. Well, I did! And here are some lessons I gleaned from that experience.


1. Carpe Diem

This fancy term literally means “to seize the day”. Dogs live in the moment, only thinking about when their next treat or meal will come while happily frolicking. Shiok hor. Not suggesting you shouldn’t plan ahead, but most of us are so busy worrying about the future that we forget to enjoy the present. So give yourself a break and live in the moment!


2. Don't so niao

You know sometimes you just feel very petty? Dogs don’t do that. Dogs don’t hold a grudge if you don’t pet them or give them a treat, but human beings can hold a grudge for years (or even a lifetime). It’s okay to be a bit more patient and understanding, it’ll make you feel a lot better as well! If we all learnt to be more empathetic, it would definitely go a long way in making everyone’s lives a bit easier.

Another one of my faves while volunteering at SOSD, Jacky - so photogenic and ever-ready for a photo op.Photo: Ng Kai

3. Be content with yourself

We all have insecurities, it’s normal. But if it starts to affect you negatively, then it’s time to start working towards self-love and appreciation! I’m sure a golden retriever wouldn’t look at a poodle and wish it could look like one. We humans spend a lot of time wishing we looked like someone else - it’s time to start accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly! Embrace it all – we are all unique.


4. Appreciate the journey

We often set a goal and work hard to accomplish it. However, the mistakes and lessons or joyful experiences along the way are equally as important as the end goal. When we focus too much on the outcome, disappointment at having our expectations not met are highly likely. Dogs enjoy every step of the journey, from sticking their head out of the car window to chasing after a tennis ball. Remember to enjoy every moment of fun and the small things during the journey itself!


5. Be loyal

This is kind of of a no-brainer. Loyalty goes a long way in many of our friendships and relationships. For dogs, it’s inbuilt into their DNA as they are loyal to the end. Also, dogs are pack animals so they will stick with and defend their pack with their lives. Similar to your clique, you’d do anything for some people in your lives as well. While dogs won’t say it, you can say steady lah to your friends and loved ones. 


6. Love unconditionally

Dogs provide endless and unconditional love. No matter what day or time it is, they will wag their tails and clamour for your attention. Of course no person is as patient or loving as a dog, but we can all try to have a bit more love and kindness in our hearts. Every bit counts and makes the world a better place. Furthermore, like karma, what goes around comes around; treat others how you would want to be treated and you’ll have way fewer enemies and much less animosity with people.

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