Sick boy's wish to pat dogs comes true

Madam Tan (in blue) with her son Isaac as he gets his wish to pat as many golden retrievers as possible.
Madam Tan (in blue) with her son Isaac as he gets his wish to pat as many golden retrievers as possible. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
About 100 golden retrievers and their owners turned out in full force yesterday, forming a snaking queue at the Botanic Gardens as they waited for their turn to meet Isaac.
About 100 golden retrievers and their owners turned out in full force yesterday, forming a snaking queue at the Botanic Gardens as they waited for their turn to meet Isaac.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE
Madam Tan (in blue) holding her son Isaac's arm, as he gets his wish to pat as many golden retrievers as possible. Sponsors also pitched in with free T-shirts, goodie bags and even a birthday cake in Isaac's favourite flavour - chocolate.
Madam Tan (in blue) holding her son Isaac's arm, as he gets his wish to pat as many golden retrievers as possible. Sponsors also pitched in with free T-shirts, goodie bags and even a birthday cake in his favourite flavour - chocolate.
Madam Tan (in blue) with her son Isaac as he gets his wish to pat as many golden retrievers as possible.
Madam Tan (in blue) with her son Isaac as he gets his wish to pat as many golden retrievers as possible. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Isaac enjoyed a 13th birthday party with around 100 golden retrievers at the Botanic Gardens.
Isaac enjoyed a 13th birthday party with around 100 golden retrievers at the Botanic Gardens.
Isaac (centre) posing with his birthday cake at his 13th birthday party with around 100 golden retrievers at the Botanic Gardens.
Isaac (centre) posing with his birthday cake at his 13th birthday party with around 100 golden retrievers at the Botanic Gardens. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Madam Tan Mei Lee, 54 , (in blue blouse) with son Isaac, meeting the golden retrievers at the Botanic Gardens.
Madam Tan Mei Lee, 54 , (in blue blouse) with son Isaac, meeting the golden retrievers at the Botanic Gardens. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Golden retriever owners, sponsors pull out all the stops for birthday party with 100 dogs

It was possibly the biggest gathering of golden retrievers ever in Singapore.

About 100 of the exuberant dogs made a boy's wish come true, when he got to hug and pat them at the Botanic Gardens yesterday.

Lahl Isaac, who will turn 13 tomorrow, uses a wheelchair and suffers from brain cancer, which has recurred despite radiotherapy, chemotherapy and two operations.

An animal lover, he had earlier told the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, that he wanted to pat many golden retrievers. The foundation arranged for him to meet three golden retrievers and a few other dogs last month.

But the owner of two of the dogs, ophthalmologist Leo Seo Wei, 43, decided to take things a step further. Upon learning that Isaac had just been discharged from hospital and would be turning 13 soon, she started rallying other dog owners on the Golden Retriever Club-Singapore Facebook page on Tuesday.

The mission: to throw Isaac an unforgettable birthday party with as many golden retrievers as possible.

"Other kids want to go to Disneyland and all. But Isaac's wish is so simple - just to pat dogs. That's what moved us," said Dr Leo, whose husband Eric Hong and son Dylan were there to help out yesterday.

"People just started coming forth to volunteer their help - with sponsorships, decorations, logistics. Even those without dogs came forward," she added.

The National Parks Board gave the green light for the gathering at the gardens, and sponsors pitched in with free T-shirts, goodie bags with dog treats, snacks, drinks and even a birthday cake in Isaac's favourite flavour - chocolate.

Barely four days later, the dogs and their owners turned out in full force, forming a snaking queue at the gardens and waiting their turn to meet the special boy.

Some gave him presents, such as dog soft toys and blankets.

The party ended as the crowd of about 200 people sang Isaac a birthday song, and watched him blow out the candles.

IT architect Nic Pang, 45, was there with his wife, two teenage daughters and Furball, their golden retriever.

"As a parent, I can understand how it can be very painful to have a child who's sick," said Mr Pang.

"My wife and I came to give moral support, from parent to parent. And we also brought our daughters so they can learn a thing or two about helping others."

Student Anandhi Amonkar, 13, who was there with her father and dog Syd, said: "If we can put a smile on (Isaac's) face, why not?"

Isaac, who turned up with his mother Tan Mei Lee, 54, and chihuahua Kirby on his lap, spent over an hour feeding the dogs treats and playing with them.

Madam Tan, who teaches at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, said she did not expect so many people and dogs to show up for her son.

"It's very heart-warming. I didn't think it'd be such a big thing," said Madam Tan, who is divorced. She also has a 15-year-old daughter.

"I really want to thank everyone who came and offered to help. Isaac was really looking forward to this.

"I can tell dogs are very therapeutic for him.The first thing he does every morning is look for his dog."

Isaac was quiet throughout the event, but his face lit up with joy every time a dog approached him.

Asked how he felt, he simply smiled and said: "Happy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Sick boy's wish to pat dogs comes true'. Print Edition | Subscribe