Putting Down the Singapore Specials Stereotype

Putting Down the Singapore Specials Stereotype

This is a story about love, and how it comes in all shapes and sizes. In this case, it comes in the form of a four-year old mongrel named Foxy and her owner Eunice.

It was love at first sight for 22-year-old Eunice Koh, who first sighted Foxy as a stray dog in Pulau Ubin three years ago. Looking back, Eunice described adopting Foxy –her first dog– as a decision that “kind of just happened”.

Eunice said: “I saw [Foxy], and I think she was abandoned. She has no dog sense! She gets overly excited, goes around chasing other dogs who then get pissed off with her. But she was very socialized to humans.”

She continued: “Foxy looked so lost and helpless and I brought her back with the intention to train her up, put her for adoption. But when I was training her, I found out she was very hyper and she barks 24/7.”

Foxy and Eunice

Foxy and Eunice.

Mongrels, euphemistically called Singapore Specials locally, have long faced the brunt of negative stereotypes. Deemed as diseased, aggressive and too large to be tamed, they are subject to negative judgment even before any interaction with others.

According to Exclusive Mongrels Limited, the bulk of the stray dog population in Singapore is made up of mongrels. Due to their sheer number, shelters are struggling to keep up in caring for them or finding places to rehome them in time before they are put to sleep or culled.

What are the stereotypes and why are they there?

Foxy

Foxy does not have the typical mongrel appearances. They are usually brown, with long muzzles and are medium to large-sized.

Eunice believes that mongrels are judged for their outer appearance. Their “stray dog appearance” causes them to be associated with dogs who spread diseases, and wild dogs who are aggressive towards humans. Understandably, some of these beliefs are retained from the older generations.

“Of course,” she added, “some behaviors occur as the dogs are not socialised as puppies. Or when the human [has developed phobias] from past negative experiences with dogs.”

Are they true?

Ironically, Foxy finds herself the victim of violent attacks. “Usually Foxy is the one bitten by small dogs,” Eunice shares. “There was once when she was bitten by two brown mongrels on two [consecutive] days”.  Eventually, the two unpleasant encounters led Foxy to act out and attack the next brown mongrel she encountered on a third occasion.

Eunice’s initial difficulty was getting her dog accustomed to behaviors to follow. Her trouble with training Foxy is not unique to the mongrel breed of dogs.

“She was a mad dog. I had to spend some time to teach her the basics. Leash on, three steps forward and then she moves in front and I stop. It took her 3 months before she understood the concept of walking on leash.”

Apart from maintaining good relations with neighbours, the need for dogs to understand boundaries is also for their own safety.

With a chuckle, Eunice described Foxy’s behavior the first time she brought her back. “When I brought her home she somehow became the perfect dog. She just lay down in the corner and chilled. I think that was when she knew she was home.”

Foxy only lies in the corner now... when she has done something wrong

Foxy only lies in the corner now… when she has done something wrong

Changing Existing Mentalities

Following an initiative of a fellow member from the Singapore Specials Club to change the negative mentality surrounding mongrels, Foxy began volunteering as a therapy dog since about a year ago.

Foxy being professional.

Foxy being professional.

Despite the preference for smaller dogs who appear more approachable and can sit on the laps of those receiving therapy, Foxy has also garnered her fair share of fans. Eunice recalls how a once-fearful patient at a nursing home now excitedly looks forward to Foxy’s presence whenever she visits.

Eunice offers that a little education, compassion and kindness can go a long way.

She said: “It takes time for people and the dogs to open up. People need to be exposed to know that mongrels are not as bad as their stereotypes. This can be done through advertising and pro-adoption events”.

Foxy and a patient, during one of her therapy visits.

Foxy and a patient, during one of her therapy visits.

Initiatives like Project Adore also go a long way to ease the load of dogs in the brimming shelters.

Noticeably, there has been greater visibility for mongrel owners as well due to increased social media activity amongst dog owners. This has given rise to more responsible pet ownership and increased support towards mongrels, as seen in the Instagram Hashtag : #singaporespecials.

Will the stereotypes ever disappear?

Through the course of the interview, I felt like I was listening to a proud parent boasting about her child, or a best friend on her perfect companion, or even a daughter complaining about an old stubborn lady. All these were dimensions of the relationship shared between a petite girl and her 30kg-heavy, half-a-metre tall mongrel.

Negative stereotypes sweep us to internalise external appearances as bad or lead us to linger over one negative example. They blind us from seeing the dogs as they are– furry creatures who are no different from your regular dogs that deserve to be treated with respect and love. Dogs that offer selfless love and companionship in return.

Foxy's signature ears

Foxy’s signature ears.

What’s the one thing you love about her? I asked Eunice.
“I like it when her ears are one up one down. She [also] does this thing where she puts her paw on you and sighs. Very manja.”

She added: “It (owning Foxy) has kind of opened me up as well. I don’t feel like I rescued her, I feel like she rescued me as well. It goes both ways.”

A typical day at home for Foxy and Eunice

A typical day at home for Foxy and Eunice

All pictures from Foxy’s Instagram Page (@foxythesilly) unless stated otherwise.

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