We first got to know about Ah Girl from a Malay lady who reported a white dog loitering at a service station. The lady’s husband was a taxi driver who frequented that area and often saw Ah Girl in the same spot. Ordinarily, he would not have paid much attention to the dog except that he observed that Ah Girl appeared to be injured as she was limping badly, and had lost an eye. Worried, he shared his observations with his wife, who decided that something had to be done to save the dog. She then contacted HOPE Dog Rescue and informed us about the dog.
|Eyes that have never seen happiness|
Concerned about the welfare of Ah Girl, I contacted the Malay lady the next day and she met me so we could go to the service station together to assess Ah Girl’s condition. We found Ah Girl sprawled on the cold, hard concrete floor of a cramped storeroom, unable to move. It was a heart-wrenching sight. She had lost her left eye, probably in a previous accident, and her eye had been stitched up. Her stomach was unnaturally swollen and there were multiple wounds on her legs. She was famished and looked sadly at us as we pondered what to do. We tried to get her to move but her legs failed her. When we tried to lift her up, she shrieked in unbearable pain, and our hearts broke at what she might be going through.
|Ah Girl's home, a cramped store room|
|A broken right front leg, from a previous accident|
|An extremely distended stomach|
When we spoke to the service attendants, they said that Ah Girl was about 13 years old and lived in the area around the service centre. In the day, she would typically move around on her own but would always return to the storeroom in the evenings. The attendants let her sleep there and would feed her whatever biscuits or leftover scraps they could find. Several years ago, she was involved in a car accident which led to the loss of her left eye. She had also been in another accident which broke her right front leg. The attendant remarked that Ah Girl was a good dog and didn’t bother anyone at the centre. Instead, the sweet girl was often bullied by a pack of stray dogs in the area and also abused by humans who would walk past and kick or hit her. As she was too weak to move, she would just bear the brunt of it. The storeroom was her only refuge from the harsh world outside.
|Unable to move from traffic|
|I often wondered if dogs could commit suicide|
Seeing how bad Ah Girl’s condition was, we decided that despite our limited resources, we could not refuse a dog crying for help. The next day, even on short notice, we managed to get a few of the volunteers together to rescue Ah Girl. The poor girl was too weak to put up a fight so she laid limply in our arms as we lifted her into the pet carrier. However, as we were making arrangements to take her to a vet, we were shocked to discover that Ah Girl was not a “stray” and her “owner” was a Chinese lady who ran a business nearby. Clearly, Ah Girl had been severely neglected by her owner. In fact, the owner was not even aware that Ah Girl was seriously ill. Imagine our horror when one of the employees insisted that we brought Ah Girl back to the service centre once she had been discharged. He even claimed that Ah Girl was licensed and microchipped.
|Not a lot of teeth left|
At the vet, blood tests and x-rays were carried out. Ah Girl’s breathing was terribly laboured and she was diagnosed with tick fever, anaemia, heart murmur and heart failure. X-rays revealed that her stomach was so distended with fluids caused by her heart failure that the vet needed to do a needle aspiration to drain out the fluids. That explained her difficulty in breathing. Despite the bloated stomach, we could feel her ribs protruding and the vet commented that she was extremely malnourished.
The nerves in her hind legs were poor, possibly from old age, past accidents or both. She was also severely arthritic. Each time she stood up, she would lose her balance and fall flat on her face, it was a sorry sight. She would then bravely pick herself up and try again. After a few rounds of struggling, she would manage to stand and she had to walk quickly, to build the momentum so she would not fall again, much like riding a bicycle.
The vet put her on a drip as she was severely dehydrated and scanned for a microchip; she had none.
The vet’s words gutted us. To hear that a dog that lived such a miserable life might have such a miserable end was heart wrenching. When we tried to cheer Ah Girl up, she just looked at us with eyes that had never experienced happiness. Even if we were to heal her ailments, there was no way we could put her back onto the streets, not when we now know that she might one day die out there alone, unwanted, unloved. While we were waiting to take her to the vet, we had witnessed many cars driving dangerously around Ah Girl as she could not stand up to move away from the dangers of the traffic.
Caring for Ah Girl is not a lot of work. She spends her days sleeping, goes for short walks 3x a day just to do her toileting. At times, she may pee in the middle of the night as she is old and unable to hold her pee for long hours. She loves cooked food and has been eating well. She needs to go to the vet for a review every two weeks, just to check her blood count and ensure no fluids in her stomach and lungs. Once that has stabilized, her visits to the vet will be lessened.
Ah Girl is such an amazing dog. Despite having been through years of neglect and abuse, she still remains friendly, gentle and trusting. We are urgently looking for someone to give Ah Girl a permanent home in her remaining years. She asks for nothing more than decent meals and a roof over her head for her to live out her golden years.
If you would like to adopt Ah Girl or make contributions to help defray the high cost of Ah Girl’s treatment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Lynn Chue. Video by Esther Low. Photographs by Esther and Lisa Goh.
Note from Fiona : One can never imagine the hard life of a stray. When I first laid eyes on Ah Girl lying in the middle of the car park, I instantly felt that she needed to be taken to safety. Thirteen years on the streets! I can’t even begin to imagine how strong she is to have survived 13 years of hardship. The tiredness of the same old daily struggles. Strays generally don’t live past 7 to 9 years old before they fall prey to illnesses and accidents but 13 years for an old arthritic dog who had heart failure, one broken leg and just one eye, she sure deserved a good loving home for all that she has gone through.
Ah Girl is one of the gentlest, sweetest strays I have ever met, undemanding and grateful. (But then again, I say that of all our rescued strays!) When I held her in my arms, I could feel her loneliness and sadness. It’s not often we come across dogs with such deep sadness. Her sadness was indescribable, a lifetime of abuse, neglect and loneliness. She didn't know what love was. Her sadness also stemmed from the fact that she was unwell, she felt her body failing her and yet there was nothing she could do, but to continue to struggle and survive day by day. As I kissed her forehead gently and promised her everything would be alright from today onwards, I felt her heave a sigh of relief. And I thought I heard her say Thank You.
Ah Girl is presently fostered by Sooh Yee and we thank her for her kindness. We thank Emilia for informing us of Ah Girl's plight, Lisa, Lynn and Esther for helping with the rescue, Lynette and Amy for giving Ah Girl her very first hair trim and bath as she was very badly matted, and volunteers who had cooked for Ah Girl daily during her stay at the vet.
We appeal to your kindness to help Ah Girl with her vet bills, as she needs to go back to the vet for reviews and to please open your heart to Ah Girl. Show her there is love and happiness after suffering for 13 years, that her struggles were worthwhile.