I remembered that it was 20 January 2015 at about 7 a.m. when I first chanced upon the posting of Rocky on Noah’s Ark CARES Facebook page. This is definitely not the typical story of a girl-meets-boy kind of story; it is more of a girl-meets-dog kind of attraction. This account depicts the restoration of Hope and a genuine acceptance that does not consider physical appearances.
As a Christian, the biblical definition of Hope is "confident expectation". The bible goes on to further describe Hope as a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25; Hebrews 11:1, 7). Also, Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous (Proverbs 23:18). In this case, the righteous one is none other than Rocky, a Neopolitan Mastiff who is approximately 10 years old. A Neopolitan Mastiff is a dog that is known for its traits to be a watchful guard dog but its characteristics is of a gentle affectionate giant that just wants to lounge around to pass time.
Cruelly abandoned by this owner for being too old and smelly, Rocky has medical issues as well - several lumps on his body that require surgical removal and an aural haematoma. An aural haematoma occurs from an irritation to the ear which causes excessive scratching which may rupture the blood vessel in the ear leading to a deformed ear cartilage.
Upon physical examination by a volunteer veterinary surgeon at Noah’s Ark Animal Birth Control (ABC) Clinic, Rocky was deemed fit to undergo surgery to remove the lumps and to drain the swelling in his ear flap. The surgeries were successful which helped to alleviate his physical discomfort, but deep down Rocky was filled with emptiness and unhappiness from his ordeal.
When I first met Rocky in person on 24 January after his surgeries, he was not interested in anything and anyone. He spent most of his time curled up at a corner of Noah's Ark's main entrance, almost like a well - blended wallpaper to its surroundings which made him unnoticeable. It occurred to me that Rocky had separation anxiety which was common in human beings when someone that they are attached to- leaves suddenly. Animals do have feelings and also experience similar bouts of loneliness and grief due to a change of the situation. Pessimism seems to hang over Rocky like a storm cloud and I felt his emotional pain which needed a healing approach known as Tender Loving Care (TLC).
The expression of caring in the clinical context is close observation, precise listening and responsive questioning, in concert with committed engagement and actions directly addressing the patient's problem, stripped of any assumptions about what the patient might or might not be experiencing. Rather, it boils down to genuine and sincere in the compassionate act of caring. After observing his body language, I moved into Rocky's intimate space uninvited to try and get to know him better personally. Naturally, he avoided any interaction with me by either moving away or ignoring my advances. He was also uninterested in treats which showed his low spirit. However, I kept talking to him and also stroked his head and ear gently from time to time. I kept encouraging him to eat more and to put on weight. He turned to me looking surprised whenever I spoke these words of gentle encouragement, "Rocky, I see you. I care. Eat more. Put on weight".
Two weeks passed with a blink of an eye, I had the opportunity to meet Rocky once again on 7 February. During this visit, I fed Rocky with some boiled chicken meat as treats and took him for a walk around the lush surroundings of the sanctuary. It is without a doubt that he is living in such a lovely and tranquil place; hence it is a real pity not for him to witness the beauty of the sanctuary with his own eyes. As we walk along, Rocky's gloomy face cracked up into a smile and I cannot help it but smile too at this development. His eyes slowly lit up and he increasingly got more cheerful with each gentle breeze brushing across his face. Rocky is starting to relax and is learning to enjoy his surroundings with each moment.
After the walk, Raymund Wee, founder of Noah's Ark told me, “Rocky has gained 3 kg since his first arrival at the sanctuary and he is more responsive to people now.” Most importantly, he has regained his will to live. I was delighted at this great news and new development. Deep down, I am filled with gratitude and peace that Rocky has finally settled down comfortably and is regaining his appetite. He can certainly be confident in receiving the best care at the sanctuary and live his life to the fullest!
In my opinion, Rocky's story serves as a timely reminder that good welfare is not simply the absence of negative experiences, but rather is primarily the presence of positive experiences, such as happiness, affection and companionship. This is an aspect of transformation that an animal goes through in finding both love and hope again in the lowest of circumstances.
I felt that all aspects of an animal's needs, including physical, psychological, and social needs, should be taken into account and seen as a whole when caring for an animal for the entire natural duration of its life time on earth. Afterall, everyone needs to be understood and cared for, no matter their condition. Love can be a double-edged sword as it might hurt at times, but with respect for all living creatures on earth, the positive experiences do outweigh the negative experiences. To be able to help an animal at a 100 percent level, it is important to break down any emotional or psychological barriers within ourselves that exist to reach out to those that really deserve the help and attention.