The Dog Adoption Series is a series of interviews with Singapore mongrel dog owners, to highlight the joys and the issues that they face when they adopt a mongrel dog.
Leyla the Black Stray Dog Living with White Spitz Sisters
Puppy Leyla with her Spitz sisters – Fluffy and Kira
Wes is dad to three pups. Mornings would start with breakfast for the three, and then Fluffy, Kira and Leyla would take turns to pee and poo. Wes is their primary care-giver so if the morning happens to be free for him, walks would happen. But if life gets in the way, then they will walk at night instead.
But life wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time there was just Fluffy and Kira, the family’s two Japanese Spitz dogs. So I was curious why Wes chose to adopt a stray black mongrel puppy after his two fluffy, white Japanese Spitz dogs.
If you are curious like me, the mystery ends here! :P
5 Questions with Leyla’s Dad
1. Can you tell me why you wanted a third dog and why a black Singapore Special?
Wes: To be honest, we weren’t looking to add another dog into the family so Leyla wasn’t “planned” in that sense.
Leyla was rescued when, as a puppy, she wandered into a factory building in Tuas.
Thankfully, the people there were friendly to dogs. But they couldn’t keep her around as they had a number of dogs living there already. Through a mutual contact, they reached out for help in getting Leyla re-homed.
Unfortunately, the shelters I asked at that time were filled to capacity and couldn’t take Leyla in. That led to my decision to foster Leyla while trying to find her a home. I tried but couldn’t seem to find any suitable adopters for her.
I guess through that whole process of raising her, I formed a bond with her that made putting her up for adoption difficult for me as well. Thankfully, my grandma and family eventually requested for Leyla to stay with us permanently. That was when we officially adopted Leyla.
2. You started out by fostering little puppy Leyla. Was it easy to integrate her into the family? Or were there some challenges that made it hard work?
Wes: Leyla was rather adaptable and integrated well. But frankly speaking, it still wasn’t easy because my family didn’t really take to her at first.
My family didn’t know much about Singapore Specials (SS). So they didn’t quite understand the challenges of raising an SS. When Leyla first joined our family, they were quite taken aback by her behaviour, which was very different from our 2 Japanese Spitz dogs.
There was a great contrast between them. Leyla was more skittish and wary. When unfamiliar people visited, she would bark at them in a fierce manner.
Cautious Leyla is the first to run away from the battery operated ball.
Leyla was also shy and would run away when approached whereas my Japanese Spitzes – Fluffy and Kira – in contrast have always been very receptive to human touch and gestures. This gave visitors the impression that I had a very unfriendly dog, which really wasn’t the case. Leyla was just so scared of unfamiliar people. Loud noises and big vehicles would spook her easily too.
It took quite awhile for us to explain to family and friends for them to understand why Singapore Specials behave so differently and to accept Leyla’s differences.
Surprisingly, my gandma was the one who wanted Leyla to stay and still dotes on Leyla the most. She even offered to cook meals for Leyla so that skinny Leyla would fatten up!
Leyla was estimated to be 4-5 months when we officially adopted her.
Since then, we worked on exposing her to many different situations and desensitizing her to things that scare her.
Now, a year later, she has improved tremendously! She’s a much calmer and confident dog. My parents are also slowly warming up to her, addressing her first sometimes and even asking to walk Leyla!
3. Do you observe any breed specific behaviours or characteristics shared between your spitz dogs that Leyla doesn’t show?
Wes: The main difference between Leyla and Fluffy/Kira is that she is more “dog-oriented”, meaning Leyla prefers the company of dogs and is more confident when in a pack. Even as a puppy, Leyla would want to play with dogs. She would disturb Fluffy and Kira a lot, although they didn’t always appreciate that!
Singapore Specials can be very playful dogs!
Of the three, Leyla is the only one that really plays with other dogs, whereas Fluffy and Kira prefer to find humans for pats and treats.
Leyla is also unique in her behaviour. She tends to police the other two into being obedient, so she’s able to get treats. Usually, we ask them to sit for treats and she’s the fastest to sit. However, she realised that without the other 2 Spitz dogs sitting, she won’t get anything! So, she would attempt to use her paw to force Fluffy and Kira to sit down!
Smart Leyla learning new tricks as an extension of her habit of getting her sisters to sit.
4. Leyla is so smart but do other people see this?
Do you see any differences in peoples’ reaction to your dogs, before when you were only walking the white spitzes and after when you adopted and walk Leyla outside?
Wes: Definitely! Before when I walk Fluffy and Kira, people would stop and ask about the Spitzes and even let their kids approach and pet them. They would comment on how cute they were.
Reactions are a lot different when it comes to Leyla, people would avoid us and comment “so black”. It was even worse when Leyla was training with a head collar. People were afraid to let their small dogs near Leyla as they wrongly assumed the head collar to be a muzzle.
Even so, I’m proud to say that we’ve raised a fine young SS who is relatively well-behaved, although still a work in progress.
5. Last but not least, let’s talk about one of the headaches of being a pet parent – the hair.
Who sheds more – the Japanese Spitz dogs or the Singapore Special mongrel dog? :P
Wes: Hahaha! Many people would assume that JS (Japanese Spitzes) with their long fur would shed more, but that isn’t the case. Leyla actually sheds more!
And because her fur is more dense, it isn’t as easy to clean up. It doesn’t help much when the living room floor is white marble and the rooms are in white tiles. When the wind blows and mixes their fur together, you get lethal grey clumps of fur flying around the house. :P
Thank You Wes for sharing Leyla’s story with us!!
Leyla is a young dog with a long way ahead of her. Look beyond the exterior dark appearance and you’ll find a dog with her own special brand of intelligence, perceptiveness and friendliness, especially with other dogs.
Leyla was rescued and fostered independently, but Wes also volunteers weekly at Mercylight Adoption. Check out more adoptable dogs on Mercylight’s facebook page here.
About the Dog Adoption Series
More than 900 dogs were culled in 2015. Almost all 900 of these dogs were mongrels. This is according to *theonlinecitizen.com article about mongrel dogs in Singapore. It says this “grossly disproportionate number of Mongrels” can be due to several reasons, displacement of their natural habitats being one, and the perceived “unattractiveness” of mongrels which makes them harder to find adopters for.
It is not uncommon. Big dogs and black dogs are often mistaken as fierce by people unfamiliar with dogs, regardless of whether the dog was displaying happy or tense body language.
Related: In Sep 2015, the 10 most popular Singapore dogs accounts that I could find were all white or light coloured small to medium dogs.
It gets worse for dark-coloured or black dogs. A 2015 Straits Times article** revealed that at dog shelter SOSD, ‘it takes three times as long to rehome black or tan dogs compared to white or cream ones, even if they share similar temperaments.’
“The bias against black dogs, commonly termed “black dog syndrome”, is most relevant when adopters meet a dog for the first time,” the newspaper quoted a spokesman at Gentle Paws. “The potential adopter will, generally, be uncertain of the dog’s temperament and black dogs are generally harder to gauge or assess. It’s more difficult to make out their facial expressions”.**
The Dog Adoption Series is a four-part series featuring 4 black or dark-coloured mongrels that have been adopted for a while. I hope these interviews will help potential adopters have a realistic picture of life with an adopted mongrel and some of the joys and issues that these adopters face.
Black or dark-coloured, these singapore specials can be lovely additions to the family too!