SPCA veteran soldiers on in spite of heartaches
FOR the past 14 years, Mrs Ellen Ng, 58, has been faithfully reporting to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (SPCA's) Mount Vernon Road premises five days a week at 8am to walk dogs.
In fact, the committed Singapore permanent resident has spent the last 30 years volunteering at the shelter, making her SPCA's longest-serving volunteer.
Over the span of three decades, Mrs Ng's duties have ranged from the cushier job of answering phone calls to more labour-intensive tasks like cleaning kennels.
In fact, SPCA's dog-walking initiative was started by her, after she realised that a mongrel she adopted from SPCA was not used to life at home.
She handles the scheduling of dog walkers to ensure there is a good mix of experienced and new dog walkers on any day.
Mrs Ng has even taken on roles in the management committee, though she much prefers interacting with the dogs.
The Texan native said: "I'm a manual labourer by nature. I'm...not happy unless I'm dirty and sweaty."
In a way, her volunteer work is almost like a full-time job, although this would be her first and only occupation as she has been a housewife since she completed her studies.
Mrs Ng moved here in 1979 after marrying her Singaporean pilot husband. She lives in Changi.
Her volunteering stint stretches back to when she worked at SPCA's then premises in the Orchard Road area, where she first manned its clinic's hotline.
Nowadays, Mrs Ng takes on a more hands-on role with the dogs, walking them for two hours daily on weekdays.
With a dog's leash in hand, the sprightly woman usually does her walking rounds near SPCA.
The walks are not only for the dogs to stretch their muscles, but also for volunteers to identify behavioural problems the dogs have that could "make or break an adoption", she said.
For instance, getting a dog to calm down and not jump up at humans can be rectified with exercises prescribed by the society's volunteer dog trainer.
"All these are fairly easy to solve. You just need the time and attention, and someone to advise you," said Mrs Ng.
But the volunteer had her share of heartaches when dogs died, declining to delve into heartrending incidents.
The steely woman deals with them by having a good cry at home, and returning to her duties the next day.
One thing that keeps her going is the "never-ending flood" of young, passionate volunteers who turn up at SPCA. About 60 per cent of the society's 1,000 volunteers are in their 20s and 30s.
Mrs Ng said: "You'd think (these working professionals) would want to sleep in on Saturdays, but they are (at SPCA) at 8am to walk the dogs."
My Paper trails the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' longest-serving volunteer, Mrs Ellen Ng