We got married in 2012 and moved into our new flat in October of that year. We always knew we wanted to have a dog, but we didn't expect to find our fur-covered companion so quickly.
Several weeks after we moved in, my husband Mugi heard about an adoption drive by Action for Singapore Dogs. I had to work, but he decided to drop by and learn more about dogs and adoption in general. At the crowded adoption drive, everyone was cooing over a pen full of puppies, who were unfortunately too young to be HDB-approved. There were only two dogs that were HDB-approved under the pilot Project ADORE scheme.
One of them was a chocolate-brown ball of excitement, jumping around and barking. The other was scared, skinny and standing alone in a corner, unwilling or unable to mingle with the other dogs. Mugi went over to say hello and, with the permission of the volunteers, tried to pick up the scared nine-month-old boy (named Kang Kang).
Poor Kang Kang let out a soft yelp of fear as he was lifted into the air, then put down gently. He didn't seem keen on interacting, so Mugi left him alone and walked across the room to ask the volunteers some questions. He learnt that Kang Kang had appeared one day at an area that was already home to a pack of strays. As an outsider, he was bullied and prevented from eating by the other dogs. A stray feeder took pity on him and rescued him on impulse, perhaps thinking that he wouldn't last long in the wild by himself. It is possible that he had been abandoned, or perhaps dumped there when a construction site or factory was closed.
While talking, Mugi was suddenly aware of a soft furry chin on his knee - Kang Kang had trotted all the way across just to put his head on him and stare up with his big, sad eyes: "Take me home with you?" It was the decisive moment in every feel-good dog movie or book. How could anyone resist?
Needless to say, today Kang Kang - renamed Dmitri, and answering most of the time to Dim Dim - is king of our home and sofa. While Singapore Specials are often stereotyped as damaged goods or feral animals, Dmitri only took a few months to settle in before revealing his truly affectionate - and endearingly quirky - nature. His greatest pleasure is to fall asleep with his head in my lap while we watch a movie in the living room. He hates being showered but loves being towelled dry. He can be pretty demanding - he taps me with a paw if he wants my attention, and has been known to bash his way through half-closed doors to get to us. But he is so good natured that strangers often comment on his constantly wagging tail and happy expression.
The timid, undersized stray is now a strapping, confident 2-year-old who loves people (although he's still warming up to other dogs). He has a best friend named Ember (a fellow Singapore Special neighbour), his favourite rugs and sofa to lie on, all the treats, toys, chin rubs and kibbles he'll ever want, and his two human beings wrapped around his paw.
We sometimes wonder what made the scared little creature pick his way through a room full of people and dogs, just to rest his head on Mugi's knee. Maybe dogs have the ability to recognise which owners are meant for them. Or maybe Dmitri just liked Mugi's scent. Whatever the reason, we're just happy and thankful that he found us. He has made our home and lives complete.