Be Kind To Pets community education of pet owners, sponsored by www.asiahomes.com and www.toapayohvets.com.

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Location: Singapore

A veterinary surgeon at www.toapayohvets.com and founder of a licensed housing agency for expatriate rentals and sales at www.asiahomes.com

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

40. Loss

"You wrote a composition on 'Loss' in your English Language preliminary examination?" I asked Nurse Ann's son who would be taking his "O" level examinations in six weeks. If he could get less than 20 points in his subjects during this preliminary examinations, he would qualify to study in the junior colleges. The less points, the better his chances were of going to the top junior colleges. If not, he would have to sit out three months waiting for the results of the "O" levels and the four points he had for extra curricular activities to give him an edge by reducing the 20 points by 4 would be of no advantage to him.

"This is a very tricky topic as it is too generalised and you can't score high marks unless you have read widely and are able to link topics on loss," I said. I knew he did not bother to read the Straits Times Newspaper to be more aware of current affairs and be knowledgeable or visit the National Library even once a week, as he had better things to do, like computer gaming and watching television or going out with friends. All these activities cut off the time for research and self study. So, it was a foregone conclusion that he would not have a powerful command of the English Language.

"It was the only topic of the four I could write about. I wrote more than 600 words. It was an exposition essay requiring 350 - 600 words. The other topics were public ban of smoking, advices I had received, how to fit in a group and sights and sounds of a school event.

"What did you write?"

"I wrote about relationships," the boy pointed to the examination paper where he had scribbled the outline of his essay. The outline was less than 20 words. 

Three examples on loss of friendship and love were scribbled. This was insufficient content in an essay. I felt an instant sadness as I knew that this boy could excel in his studies but he did not know how. 

His mum believed in not hovering around him like a hawk, ensuring that he studied the hours and go for tuition, unlike other Singaporean mothers. It was too late now. His academic foundation was wobbly judging from numerous red marks in his examinations in the past four years of secondary school. Somehow, below par performances in examinations did not bother this boy as he believed he would do well at the "O" level examinations and qualify for studies a junior college. It was youthful optimism untainted by the too many failures and disappointments of adulthood.  

"How many marks did you get out of 40 maximum?" I asked this strappy sixteen-year-old boy whose face had been burnt chocolate brown by the four years of National Cadet Corps marching under the hot tropical sun. He was one head taller than Nurse Ann and looked more like his mother. 

"I had 23 marks," the boy whispered as he knew I had always expected him to perform well academically since he was in primary school. 

"That would be 58% and would be not good enough to help you qualify for the top ten junior colleges," I said. English Language was a core qualifying subject and every mark counted in this preliminary examination. Students who had excellent results from 5 subjects including English Language would get enrolled into the junior colleges earlier by three months while the others would have to wait and if they are disqualify, there was the polytechnics or institutes of education.

"It is difficult to write a high quality essay on 'Loss' unless you read widely," I said. "Many junior college students would not be able to score well in this topic too, unless they had read widely and are able to elaborate more on 'Loss' generally and link them politically, socially and economically. Many of such topics require that you give a variety of illustrations rather than just personal loss of friendships."  
Why did the teacher give a question on "Loss"? Could it be related to some significant events recently?   

Events such as the September 11 2001 loss of lives, properties and share values. This would be world affairs. The corporate corruption of Enron causing loss of confidence in shareholders who now don't buy much shares leading to loss of capital for companies would be economics. So would the US$30 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help the Brazilian economy from a country going bankrupt, leading to loss of jobs. 

In Singapore, the loss of a life to liver failure of a Singaporean woman who took Slim 10 dieting pills would had social consequences. Pet loss of newly purchased puppies due to viral diseases are very traumatic to the new owner who loses money as well as suffer grief.

Most Secondary Four boys will be caught at a loss of words when given essay questions to write as they don't read widely and hence cannot link events to "Loss".  

They don't like to read the essays in the newspapers and hence do not have a powerful vocabulary to tackle essay questions well. They love tabloids, Archie comics, television and computer gaming. The majority of teenagers do not go to the Library. 

The school teachers in Singapore are kept busy with high numbers of pupils taught per student and had to teach more than one subject and do administrative and extra curricular activities. Some of them get hoarse voices and had to go for voice training after five years of teaching.

It would be an unusual teacher who had the high energy to teach the boys from bottom classes good English as such boys are really not interested in studies. Nurse Ann's son was in the bottom class because he had chosen a biology subject which was only taught in this class. Nurse Ann did not comment much. She was a believer in positive reinforcements. No discouraging remarks. No brutal frankness as this will de-motivate the boy.   

The telephone's ringing interrupted my thoughts on "Loss". Mr Tan, an industrialist, said, "Do you remember me? I have to export my dog to Myanmar as I can't keep him in Singapore. Can you issue a veterinary health certificate?" 
I could not remember Mr Tan. There are many Singaporeans with the surname of Tan. "Well," Mr Tan said, "Do you remember the dog whose two balls popped out of his scrotal bag, after a vehicle accident and you castrated him?" 

I could remember this uncommon case. It was at least two years ago. A skinny cross-bred was all I could recall. 

"Please bring your dog to the surgery for the health examination," I said. 

Mr Tan wanted a certificate without the need of an examination because the dog would attack people. It was a strong dog and was hard to control in the car. "It will save you time and I will still pay your professional fees," he said. "You had seen the dog before."

Certifying an animal for health without inspection is a loss of professional integrity for a veterinarian. There would be such requests for many veterinarians.   

"I need a dog licence but it is difficult to apply for one," Mr Tan continued. He was fluent in the Cantonese dialect but he was knowledgeable about the rules and regulations. His dog was over 40 cm at the shoulder height and over 10 kg in weight and would not be permitted to be kept in his (Housing & Development Board) HDB apartment. The HDB industrial park operator also prohibited the keeping of dogs by tenants. Therefore, he was in a fix even though he wanted to export this fearless dog.  

This dog was intelligent. He would be the sentry to watch out for the dog catchers while the others would nap under the container. Once he saw the blue cranky Land rover moving in, he would warn his mates and they would disappear. For the past three years, he had evaded capture. I was glad that he would be exported as capture of a stray dog meant death for him.

I told Mr Tan that I would apply the dog licence for him as it could be done electronically. The cost of a new licence for a male dog was $20.50. He gave me fifty dollars. It seemed like easy money. Just click on the mouse and email the form. The licence would be posted to Mr Tan.  

It was not simple to apply electronically. There was a need to download the Acrobat software so as to read the form electronically. 

Then, the form had to be downloaded and printed out. If I wanted to pay electronically, I had to get the form approved by the licensing authority first. Then I had to download a software called e-wallet and register myself. This was to avoid fraud. To pay, I must buy a cash card reader machine which could read my cash card. That would set me back by one hundred dollars if such cash card reader machine is still available for sale.  

How about payment by credit card as in amazon.com when you buy a book? It was not possible to pay by credit card directly.

The whole application journey was unbelievably tortuous. In the end, it was easier to ask Nurse Ann to take a taxi to get the licence directly. 

I had to make a house-call without charging Mr Tan, to make sure that there was a real dog before getting the licence. This whole process was a money-losing proposition. 

At the industrial park factory, the dog, kept in Mr Tan's office, leapt straight onto me, ready to attack. Mr Tan had forewarned me and I was ready. 

The dog was in excellent health and had no problems with his operation. I asked Mr Tan to lift up his tail so that I could check that he was castrated. I could remember the unique accident case but not the identity of this dominant dog. 

I did not ask Mr Tan, but I guess he would be fined $500 if he was found with an unlicensed dog and in any case, the industrial park operator would penalise him for breach of tenancy agreement and evict him.

Mr Tan loses a good dog but I am glad that this sentry will have a safer life in a nice house in Myanmar without having to be on guard for his life as the dog catchers intensify their rounds each time a Singaporean complains about stray dogs. 

Fortunately shot guns are now no longer used in Singapore after a man sleeping amongst stray dogs was shot and died. Singapore loses top talents to other countries as the world globalisation provides more opportunities for emigration. Losing a top dog owing to bureaucratic obstacles and penalties would be of concern only to the industrialist who loved dogs.

A brief history of dog shooting in Singapore
Humane treatment of stray dogs and dog shooting in Singapore

Sunday, March 09, 2008

41. Animal welfare work - challenges & case study of SMU Animal Day 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

This article is written for the benefit of animal welfare volunteers raising funds for the animals, using the SMU Animal Day 2008 as a real life case study.

On Saturday March 8, 2008, I visited the Singapore Management University (SMU) Animal Day 2008. I had news of this event from an electronic NANAS newsletter.

As I have had spent more than 2 hours just editing 5 pictures for this article and have to go to my surgery to work, here are my observations:

1. HOW TO GET A LARGE CROWD?. Saturday afternoon. It is a challenge to get a big audience. 100 goodie bags and prizes would be given but there seemed to be not sufficient audience.

1.1. Get the various sponsors and associates to inform their network. I got info from NANAS electronic newsletters by e-mail. Be pro-active in finding out whether they are doing it.

1.2 100 goodie bags. Attractive. The problem here is the lack of audience. Those children and mothers you see in the picture came over from the National Museum.

1.3 Advertise event in the National Museum, National Library, POSB and community centres where the likely audience is found. A small notice in the Straits Times "Events Today" was placed.

1.4 Excite or interest the newspapers journalists to do a write up. I don't know whether this was done. The theme must be attractive to the jaded journalist.

1.5 50 posters were printed and put around the campus? Some flyers were distributed. None were available.

1.6 Sponsors get disheartened if there is no crowd.

2. THEME. Somehow I feel that the theme is not connecting to Animal Day. This event seems to be more a dog adoption and not buy from the pet shops concept. The poster slogan is great. Poster is attractive. The T-shirts of the energetic organising committee tell it.

3. TIME-TABLE OF EVENTS. Why should a person attend this event? There is no agenda or information about the talks or seminars advertised on site for the audience. No information is given in the poster. Flyers are no more. Actually, there is the agility and obedience dog show by the Singapore Kennel Club.

4. CREATE MARKET AWARENESS OF YOUR OBJECTIVES. Beautiful layout of the front of the T-shirt is important. But in this competitive world for funds, it is important for the animal welfare organisation to understand that a buyer of its T-shirt is a walking advertiser for its objectives.

Though graphics experts advise NO slogan in the front (to attract a person to read the back of the T-shirt for the message), I am of the opinion that the front is prime advertising space. Time-pressed Singaporeans and people may just read the front and if you listen to the experts, you just fail to get the "marketing awareness creation" to anybody.

Remember: The graphics experts look for awards and beauty. A slogan of the animal welfare organisation on the front of the T-shirt reinforces its objectives to new audience and maybe attracts new volunteers. Fund raising is extremely competitive and donor fatigue is common. So, get the slogan out in the front of the T-shirt!

Overall, I enjoyed the SMU PAW event and met great animal lovers including the energetic organising committee members.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

40. Valentine flowers for a mother?

"How romantic this uncle and aunty must be!" the 4 couples and the waitresses in the Crystal Jade Restaurant at Toa Payoh would be thinking.

The 5th couple to join their table of ten was a couple in their fifties while the other 4 couples at the big dining table were younger.

Tables for two on Valentine's Day were full but the restaurant could give immediate seats to couples who did not mind sharing a table of ten (5 couples). So, the fifth couple was Judith and her husband in his mid fifties. Judith was carrying a bouquet of roses --- an uncommon sight in this restaurant.

The waitress smiled and kindly shifted an 11th chair for her to place the boutique of roses. The other 4 couples looked but did not say anything. They were in their thirties and had also not minded sharing a table of ten to have dinner on Valentine's Day in this full-house restaurant. None of them carried any roses into the dining room. In Singapore, seldom do older couples from an earlier generation waste money paying more for roses on Valentine's Day.

Yet here was an older woman carrying a bouquet of roses in a star-shaped wrapping to dazzle everyone and make all fall in love with love again and forget about very expensive roses.

The older woman with the roses did not appear, what I would say, "over the moon" carrying the bouquet of roses.


The roses were for another lady. Her son sent the roses to his first love at the first love's office but the young lady was in another location. So he phoned his mum to help him bring the roses to meet him. Mum arranged to meet him at this restaurant, carrying the roses and bedazzling all at the restaurant!

The boy had taken special leave from his national service to celebrate Valentine's Day. He got his flowers and would meet his date.

Mum is still a boy's best friend, especially on Valentine's Day. The boy had asked whether he should buy her flowers on Valentine's Day? She said, "Don't waste money. Roses are so expensive on Valentine's Day."

Monday, October 29, 2007

49. Creating High-Impact Nonprofits - 12 Cases

Standford Social Invovation Review Vol 5 No. 4

Secrets of Success ie in how high-impact nonprofits mobilize every sector of society - govt, business, non-profits and the public - to be a force for good.

6 practices to achieve extraordinary impact:

1. Service delivery alone cannot achieve large-scale social change. Good at both service and advocacy. Advocacy at the national level - replicate its model, gain credibility and acquire funding for expanasion.

e.g. Self-Help, Durham, N.C. Home loans to poor, minority single mothers. Predatory lenders. Self-Help organised a statewide coalition in N. Carolina to pass the first anti-predatory lending law in the USA. Then in 22 other states.

Some start with service, some with advocacy but they recognise early that both reinforce each other.

2. Tapping into the power of self-interest and laws of economics more effective than pure altruism.

e.g. Environmental Defense worked with McDonald's packaging to be more environmentally sound. Change business behaviour on a large scale.

Self-Help use mainstream financial players like Wachovia and Fannie Mae to reach underserved markets.

America's Second Harvest, City Year and Habitat for Humanity - large corporate partnerships to obtain funding, media relations, marketing support and in-kind donations.

Share Our Strength runs a nonprofit consulting business called Community Wealth Ventures whose revenue --- social mission to fund their programs.

3. Value volunteers, donors and advisers for their time, money and guidance and also evangelism. Create emotional experiences to connect supporters to the group's mission and core values.

Habitat for Humanity - churches, grassroots -- building homes for the poor. Mobilise super evangelist like JImmy Carter -- propel from a grassroots nonprofit to a global force for change.

4. Collaborative, collective action for large-scale social change.
Self interest to share wealth, expertise, talent and power with other nonprofits to help them succeed at fundraising. Influence legislation or conduct grassroots advocacy campaigns with worrying about getting credit.

The Heritage Foundation - local, state and national levels. > 2,000 member organisations for the Heritage's Resource Bank. As a critical connector to build a larger conservative movement over last 2 decades.

YouthBuild USA, Second harvest, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Exploartorium.

5. Combine creativity with disciplined system for evaluating, executing and adapting ideas over time.

e.g. Share Our Strength. - - raise money for hunger relief. Rather than direct mail campaign, launch the Taste of the Nation series - 70 cities -- professional chefs donate their time and talent to local tasting event.

"Taste of the Game" using celebrity athletes was a flop.
Develops business plans and research more before diving into new programs.
4 critical steps in the cycle of adaptation
- listen to feedback from external environments and seek opportuniites for improvement or change.
- Innovate and experiement, developing new ideas or improving upon older programs.
- Evaluate and learn what works with the innovation, sharing info and best practices across their networks.
- Modify plans and programs - ongoing learning. Never-ending cycle.

6. SHARE LEADERSHIP. Empower others to lead. Buld strong 2nd in command, enduring executive teams with long tenure, develop large and powerful boards (20->40 members share power with the executives).

e.g The National Council of La Raza - collective leadership. Hispanic leaders.

Big mistake -- focus too much on process rather than on impact.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Police yourself to become a vet

February 8, 2007, 5.58 am.

At 6.30 am, I need to send this boy to the airport. A window of opportunity to become a veterinarian is open but will he squander on long hours of addictive online gaming and partying in a land far away from parental supervision?

"What grades do you need to get into veterinary medicine at Murdoch University?" I asked the recruitment agent yesterday?

"Three Grade As at "A level or CMS points (for those studying in Australia) of above 90%"

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Chihuahua trembled violently suddenly

February 1, 2007 7.30 a.m

"He was shivering violently this afternoon," the girlfriend said as her Chihuahua sniffed the marble flooring of the living room at 1.10 a.m February 1, 2007. The dog wagged his tail and looked at his owner. I was now fully awake now expecting some dire emergency. Fortunately, this male dog did not urine mark my living area.

"Many dogs do behave normally when they see the vet," I said. "What was his temperature at the emergency vet?"

"He was given some tablets," the girlfriend did not know what the medication 'Cimetidine' was for.

I put the dog on the dining table. The sudden development of violent shivering could be due to pain rather than fever. The temperature reading shot from 38.6 deg C to 40.9 deg C.

"Was the dog eating?" I asked the girlfriend as I palpated the dog's abdomen and found nothing abnormal or painful.

"Yes." So, it was likely that the sudden burst to above normal temperature was a freak result.

I used another thermometer to take the rectal temperature again. I asked the young man who wanted to study medicine to take the rectal temperature. He fumbled as he looked for the very small anal opening covered by the long coat of the Chihuahua.

Hm... That did not make a good impression on a customer (his girlfriend in this case).
The temperature was normal, at 38.6 deg C.

"What is the normal temperature of the dog?" Daniel asked. I was surprised he asked. But young man had better distractions than knowing such mundane things. But he was going to be a vet and maybe, he should know. To impress his girl friend, maybe.

"What is Cimetidine?" Daniel asked. I think he ought to read up.

I put 2 fingers and poked the dog from below the neck to the tail, inch by inch while the girlfriend held his head. The dog was unhappy. His eye-whites warned me to get off. He turned his head as I poked an area of his spine, midway up and behind his rib cage.

"Was he staggering like a drunk, as if he was lame?" I asked the girl friend. She did not know but the emergency vet had diagnosed some loose knee caps. Yes, his right patellar bone was partially luxuated and slipped up and down creaking like a loose stone when I flexed the right hind knee. The girlfriend was aware of that. When I put the dog down after flexing, he was not lame or painful.

I put the dog onto the living area. He sniffed and walked near to the sofa. Maybe he was going to urine mark.

"Call the dog to climb the 2 steps of the stairs separating the living from the dining area," I asked the girl friend.

The dog climbed easily. Then he wanted to climb the staircase to upstairs.

"Put the dog on the dining table again," I asked the girl friend.

She held the dog's head while I review the pain on the spinal area up and behind the rib cage. This time, the Chihuahua wanted to bite me as he lowered his body in great pain. I had poked at the painful part, the thoraco-lumbar spinal area --- behind his rib cage.

"Why did you use 2 fingers to do that?" the young man asked.

"Just to check for spinal disc protrusion," I said. "The dog had a spinal disc pain but it is not serious now. That would account for the violent shivering at 4 p.m., 9 hours ago.

"He is normal now but don't allow him to climb up and down stairs anymore."

"There are no steps inside the HDB apartment," the girl friend said.

"I mean, the flight of steps going up and down the apartment." I said.

As for the boyfriend, he is at the cross roads now. Like the traffic policeman in the picture, he has to decide whether he wants to go the straight path of researching and learning lots about veterinary medicine or turn right to the path of distractions of long hours of online gaming and partying with army friends and mates.

He can't have both because time is needed to hone his skills at veterinary medicine and he has only a finite time in this stage of his life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

36. The Shih Tzu likes to grip women's legs

"Come in," I asked the 2 classmates of the dog owner to be present for the dog's annual vaccination. My consultation room of 80 sq ft would be crowded with 4 people but it would be good to make the veterinary visit interesting for the friends as well.

3 teenaged girls of around 18 years of age, wearing dull brown uniforms. Matching the colour as the brown of the Shih Tzu and contrasted with their sun tanned faces.

"Have you paper-trained the Shih Tzu?" I asked the lady owner.

"I was not able to catch him peeing," the girl said. "I shouted "Kenny, Naughty boy!. But he run away quickly!

"It is best not to shout when the puppy is starting to eliminate," I said. "He gets startled and stops peeing." Many owners do shout, but it may not work.

"I put newspaper over the urine spot," the girl said. "White vinegar:water does not seem to be effective in neutralising the urine smell. He pees onto the wall often. On the same spots."

"As this dog is a male and grown up, he is not having toilet training problems. He is urine marking to mark his territorial limits," I said. "He probably grips people's legs as well."

"Yes," the owner said. "He clings onto my legs and even when I walk away, he just get dragged. He goes for women's legs only."

"What happens? Do the women scream?"

"He also jumps and grips my leg," one friend laughed.

"My sister and I will pull him away but his grip is strong."

"Why don't you neuter him as this anti-social behaviour can be solved if he is neutered early."

"But he will be gay," the girl said. The new generation is much against neutering. So strict obedience training of male dogs must be done early. However, there will be female or other family members not able to control the male dog's dominating and sexual behaviour.