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Walking stray dogs for a day

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It was a ruff day, but I poodled through.

Most of us are familiar with dogs. Those soft, adorable and cuddly animals have long been one of the most popular pets to keep.

But while everyone is gushing over these pampered fur-balls, dozens of dogs still remain on the streets or in shelters where society has seemingly forgotten about them.

As a dog owner myself, I wanted to find out I can do to make a change.

Save our Street Dogs (SOSD) is a non-profit organisation that helps to re-home stray dogs. A staggering 100 dogs currently call the shelter home, with an additional 70 dogs fortunate enough to be under foster care.

Anyone who owns a pet knows how much money and effort goes into taking care of them. Personally, I can tell you it's an incredibly expensive feat.

SOSD relies 100 per cent on donations in order to feed the dogs, medicate them, and keep the shelter running. To deal with these huge numbers, SOSD has over 500 volunteers who offer their energy and time.

So, I popped by SOSD for a few hours to experience what it is like to take care of these dogs in need.

The experience was heart-warming to say the least.

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Volunteers remained on the ball despite the wet weather.

My liaison for the day was 23-year-old Audrey Lee. The full-time student has been volunteering with SOSD for three years and she does it out of her love for dogs.

The first thing I noticed about the shelter was the incessant barking and musty smell of dogs.

What struck me next was the profiles of the volunteers. Most of them were tertiary students and youths who have decidedly volunteered their weekday mornings and sacrificed a few hours of sleep out of goodwill.

I wondered if I could ever sacrifice my precious weekday morning sleep to help out at a shelter.

The first task was to prepare the dog's food. Despite it being a gloomy rainy morning, the shelter was already buzzing with activity.

A team of 20-odd volunteers began the food prep, hurriedly scooping a mixture of dry kibble and wet food into bowls. I couldn't wrap my head around what would happen to the dogs if donations ran dry.

Considerations were also made for each dog's individual needs. For example, dogs with skin issues are given fish oil and those with joint problems are supplemented with glucosamine.

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I tried mixing a bowl of chow for the dogs.

The second task was to walk the dogs and give them some exercise.

First on the list was Randa, a male golden retriever puppy who came to the shelter with a broken tail when he was 10 months old. His tail has since been removed, but the fur around his back end remains patchy.

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Randa tends to nibble at his rear end when he feels stressed out or is over stimulated.

Randa was really goofy and sociable as we walked him. I was downhearted that such a lovely dog could not find a permanent home, probably because of his imperfect looks.

After his walk, Audrey carefully cleaned Randa's wounds with antiseptic to help him heal faster.

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Randa would rather nibble on my fingers than eat his treats.

Audrey and I walked three other dogs whom each had their own unique personalities. Some were timid whilst others were overly excited. But with a bit of time and patience, these dogs could be handled – you just have to learn to love them for their quirks.

After the 20-minute walk, the dogs were given their meals, which they all gobbled down in the blink of an eye.

The hardest part of the day was returning the dogs to their cages. You could sense their dejectedness in the air as they returned to their mundane life.

As a little token of hope, I donated a squeaky ball to the shelter. Hopefully the dogs will have much fun with it!

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You might want to consider adopting a dog from a shelter instead of shopping for one.

I also had a newfound respect for these volunteers who took it upon themselves to care for these dogs when no one else will. I left SOSD humbled by the people and animals I met.

Something tells me I might just return as a volunteer soon.

PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/MARK ONG