Sunday, January 26, 2014

This Week: Singapore

Basset Hound meets Buddha

Moving with a pet can be difficult. Now imagine moving halfway around the world with a dog in tow. Sandra Goodman of Lakewood, CO, found herself in that situation in 2006 when her husband, Bob Schafish, received a 3-year work assignment in the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore. An avid world traveler, Sandra was ready to go, but wouldn’t leave her beloved Basset Hound Emma behind. Getting Emma into the Lion City proved quite a task.

"We learned it's much easier to get a person into Singapore than it is a dog," Sandra laughed. They even hired a ‘pet handler’ to help. Sandra said the foreign community that lived in Singapore was so large, several companies provided relocation services to help navigate the county’s strict laws. These companies helped families get children into schools, leased apartments, and even brought in pets. The company, Pet Hotel, made sure Emma’s medical records and other documents were in order.

Paperwork was one hurdle. Another was the 30-day quarantine enforced by the government’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. The Authority told Sandra that Emma had to arrive on September 5, Labor Day weekend.

"I wasn't happy about that," she said, "but it had to be within 3 days of that date or Emma's paperwork would get put back at the bottom of the pile." Airlines were also an issue. Dogs weren’t allowed on direct flights so they had a stopover in Taipei. Emma was in her crate for almost 24 straight hours. Then came the quarantine, or doggy jail, as Sandra called it. In October 2006, Emma became a free dog in her new country.

According to Sandra, Singapore was dog friendly, but daylight hours proved unbearable for walking to both dog and human because of the overwhelming heat and humidity. Sandra went jogging in the dark of morning and walked Emma late at night. The late walks proved useful because midnight in Singapore was 10 a.m. in the US so Sandra could make her family and business calls. The heat also led to medical issues. Dogs were susceptible to heat rashes and Emma developed several. However, Sandra said Singapore had excellent veterinary care so Emma recovered quickly.

Sandra also learned about Singapore’s pet culture. Dogs, while loved and adored, were also a status symbol in this wealthy financial capital. The bigger, more foreign the breed, the higher the status. A family with a Siberian husky had a lot of money, she joked, because they could afford to run their air conditioning all day. German Shepherds were also quite popular. However, most families preferred small breeds because they were easier to handle, especially when living in tiny Singapore condos.

Sandra enjoyed taking Emma to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The gardens were shady and large and allowed dogs, even in the outdoor restaurant. They met many new friends there, canine and human, expats from England, South Africa, Australia, and France. Sandra’s only problem was Emma would pilfer the food offerings locals left for their ancestors at the many Buddhist altars around the city. Sandra hoped the ancestors would forgive Emma.

From their new home, Sandra and Bob traveled all over Asia, including China, Thailand and Indonesia. Both experienced SCUBA divers, they enjoyed their free time diving in the beautiful reefs around the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, Emma had to stay behind. Sandra discovered a boarding and dog care facility called Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD). More than just boarding, ASD was a non-profit organization that provided care and adoption services for Singapore’s stray cats and dogs and to help raise funds they boarded dogs for traveling owners.

"It was a wonderful place and Ricky Yeo (ASD Founder and President) was great," Sandra said. They even put photos from one of Emma's stays on the ASD website. She said the ASD had many great stray animal programs and she and Emma were glad to help support a local organization in their adopted new country.

Returning home in February of 2009 was much easier for Sandra and Emma. All Emma needed was proof of her rabies vaccine. Back in Colorado lounging in her favorite chair, 12-year-old Emma was quite content. For Emma, home was wherever Sandra was.


Sandra is a friend of mine and one of my first interviews when I began the International Pet Examiner at The article was originally printed there, however, this version is a condensed one I used to enter a writing contest. It didn't win, but I still like the story. Sandra also helped me contact Ricky Yeo at ASD for my next IPE story. Those two interviews really established what I wanted to do with the column and made it what it is today. Emma was a wonderful dog. She passed away just over a year ago, but lived a long and content Basset Hound life. I still see Sandra when she gets her weekly coffee next door to the frame shop and she has two new pups, Truman and Toby. Sandra still travels the world to go diving too. The smaller dog in the photo next to Sandra and Emma belongs to a Singapore friend. See more of my work as the International Pet Examiner by using this link: 

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Action for Singapore Dogs