Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A sheltering tree at SPCA

The puppy that kept everyone awake.
SPCA is an acronym I knew from primary school days. (Anyway, there weren't too many acronyms in my childhood days, unlike today when you have PIE, KJE, CTE, MCE etc.)

A sheltering tree at Pasir Panjang Park. -- a  Giving Tree,
 like the one in the book for children written by Shel Silverstein.
My first visit to SPCA involved taking a rare taxi ride there with my parents, hugging a stray mother cat and her kid. SPCA has always been registered in my mind as a protective and sheltering place. I visualise it as a big, sheltering tree where animals can climb up and down its trunk in play, or laze around under its shade. Not sure whether SPCA agrees with my mental image. But from my visits, the animals look happy and clean -- and safe. There was a sign there (during my last visit) which said animals kept there will not be put to sleep but will await a home.

So, after my A levels I answered SPCA's ad in the papers  for a job as a veterinary assistant. SPCA was then located at Orchard Road. I was probably not dressed right for the interview. I needed to attend another interview later as a Passenger Service Agent (PSA) at the airport, so I was  in a nice long-sleeved pink blouse, white skirt and high heels. He looked at me and asked whether I would be ok assisting in surgeries, hold panicking animals still, and not be squeamish at the sight of blood. I answered yes, no problem.

I got a letter of rejection from SPCA a few days later. (I didn't get the PSA job either, so I should have gone to the SPCA interview dressed more ruggedly!)  Anyway, the real outcome of the whole episode was that I adopted a puppy. I didn't know what ailed me, but I went back there and told them that I wanted a puppy. Finally chose a really sweet, tiny mutt. It was placed in a used brown paper bag (the Chinese type with red and white strings as handle) lined with newspapers. I took the bundle of joy home  -- and received many smiles and compliments from the other passengers in the bus.

Mum was not at all pleased though. It pee-ed and poo-ed all over the house -- and had to be kept in the bathroom at night where it yelped piteously till someone went in to play with it. Everybody agreed that I should return it to SPCA. Especially my eldest brother who usually returned late at night and had to put the puppy out before he could take his bath -- and then in a bathroom littered with poo and pee. (By the way, he is a proud owner of two dogs now -- a full-time dog and a part-time dog which actually belongs to my niece.)

My second attempt to work as a vet assistant came after I quit my full-time job and became a freelanced writer. This time, a veterinary centre at Whitley Road. I was told to give it a shot so I reported for work the next day. First thing I had to do was help clean the kennels and cages. At 9am, the vet sailed in with breakfast for everyone. But I couldn't put in a morsel after having hosed the kennels and getting rid of all the swirling bits and pieces.

"Why, not hungry?" the vet asked. All I could think of then was that I wished I had a pair of wellies. After that, I had a go at deciphering the vet's handwriting and dishing out prescriptions. His handwriting was worse than any doctor's I ever knew. I didn't have time to cuddle any kitten or puppy. Not even a hamster. I didn't make the cut as a vet assistant, I am afraid.

Better that I am a pet owner than a vet assistant. There were many more visits to SPCA in my life, accompanying friends who wanted to adopt a cat or a dog. One visit stood out. A canine of my landlord's cat had come loose. It protruded out giving the cat a rascally look. So we took it to SPCA which was by then, at Mt Vernon. Dr Jean Paul Ly saw us. (He must have just started out on his career then). We dislodged the fat cat from the bag and sat her on his table. He took one look and the tooth was out before we could say "hallelujah". We bowed our way out in gratitude... and wonder.

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