Best friends fur-ever: 6 celebrities and their precious pooches

This Year of the Dog, The Sunday Times paw-ses to appreciate the friendships between six personalities and their precious mutts

Three of a kind, happy though blind

Who: Film-maker Chai Yee Wei, 41 

Dogs: Mini schnauzers Charcoal, estimated age 12; Captain, estimated age 10; and Cooper, nine

When one has three dogs of the same breed, many assume that they are all related.

But Chai, known for making films such as coming-of-age musical That Girl In Pinafore (2013) and horror movie Blood Ties (2009), says it was "pure fate" that he ended up caring for three unrelated mini schnauzers.

His wife, film marketing manager Diane Chan, 44, had first gotten Cooper as a puppy from a breeder.

About five years ago, the couple decided to adopt Charcoal from a family who did not want him.

Film-maker Chai Yee Wei with his three mini schnauzers.
Film-maker Chai Yee Wei with his three mini schnauzers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Then, two years ago, one of Chai's colleagues discovered Captain alone on the street in Bukit Panjang.

The film-maker says: "We took him to SPCA (Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and put ads in the newspaper calling for people to adopt him. No one responded, so in the end, my wife and I decided that we would just take him home.

"So it's really fate that we ended up with three mini schnauzers."

It happens that all three have bad eye problems too. Captain was found with one eye blind, Charcoal was diagnosed with glaucoma, and Cooper went fully blind last month for unknown reasons.

"The thing about dogs is that they are extremely adaptable." For example, Cooper had been terrified to walk down the three steps outside of the apartment when he first went blind, but now he can run out easily.

Chai says: "I really think that you just need patience with dogs. Humans always complain about everything, but give dogs time and they will blossom, no matter what. I find that quite moving."


Maddy Barber (left) with her French bulldog D'Artagnan.
Maddy Barber (above) with her French bulldog D'Artagnan. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

All she wants is a lazy dog

Who: Kiss92FM DJ Maddy Barber, 44 

Dog: French bulldog D'Artagnan, six 

When Barber and her family decided to get a dog, they had one criteria: It had to be lazy.

 
 

"You know how they say that dogs reflect their owners' personalities? Well, we're a pretty lazy bunch, so we weren't going to be doing long runs with the dog.

"That's why we went looking for a bulldog, because they don't need to have such an active lifestyle," she says with a laugh.

Barber and her IT consultant husband Wez Barber had gotten D'Artagnan from a breeder in Jalan Kayu when he was a pup. He was specifically chosen from the litter of seven because he was being stepped on all over by his siblings.

"When my husband decided that he would be the one, I joked, 'Why did you pick the loser?'

"But my husband said this would actually mean he's the most good-natured. And he really did turn out to be the sweetest thing on earth," she gushes.

Barber's two daughters, aged 21 and 12, fawn over the dog even more than she does.

In fact, they actively maintain an Instagram account (@digglepie) featuring D'Artagnan's antics around the house.

"When we first said we would get a dog, we made the kids promise that they would take the time to care for him. And they really have.

"This is probably also why we won't be getting another one anytime soon. He's so spoiled by the family that he would never want to share the attention."


Guo Liang (left) and Nugget the golden retriever.
Guo Liang (above) and Nugget the golden retriever. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GUO LIANG

A jealous golden retriever

Who: Television host Guo Liang, 49 

Dog: Golden retriever Nugget, eight

China-born, Singapore-based television host Guo Liang got Nugget as a gift for his son's 10th birthday, but he ended up doing more of the dog-sitting himself.

"It's not that my son doesn't do anything - he does. It's just that I love the dog so much," he says in Mandarin. His only child, Marcus, is 18.

"Years ago, we had small dogs in the house, a maltese and a mini schnauzer. Ever since we got Nugget, I have to admit a preference for bigger dogs. It's just more fun walking and bathing a big fluffy dog like Nugget."

 

He adds that his golden retriever has the sweetest personality.

"He is very obedient, very loyal and very smart. It's just so easy to handle him," he says.

Well, that is if Nugget is the only one in the family getting any hugs.

Guo says with a laugh: "He gets so jealous if he sees any of us get affectionate with one another.

"If I hug my wife or my son, Nugget starts barking very loudly and he won't stop until I let go. "

This is the first Chinese New Year in a while when he will not be with Nugget.

As his retiree father, 75, is "getting old", he says, he is spending the festive holiday in his native Shanghai with him.

Guo says: "It wouldn't be nice if he was alone in Shanghai. My younger brother is coming along as well, so three men will be celebrating the new year together."

A Mini celebrity


Comedienne Preetipls (above) and her Jack Russell terrier. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Who: Comedienne Preetipls, 23 

Dog: Jack Russell terrier Mini, 10

Home-grown comedienne Preetipls is upset. "My dog Mini and I get along really well and she even sleeps on me in my bed at night. But outside the house, she doesn't listen to me and likes to growl at me," she says.

Perhaps, her Jack Russell terrier is a complete homebody. "She doesn't like going out very much and does not socialise with other dogs. I think she's too used to spending time with our family at home since she was a puppy," she reasons.

Even though Mini does not get out much, she has become quite the celebrity, thanks to appearances on Preetipls' social media accounts.

The comedienne, whose real name is Preeti Nair, has more than 9,000 followers on Instagram (@preetipls) and more than 21,000 followers on Facebook. Her online videos, which tackle topical issues such as race and beauty in a funny manner, often go viral.

Much of the humour of the videos stem not just from the nonsensical things she says, but also from the Chinese subtitles, which are typically direct translations of the English dialogue and do not make much sense. The Chinese subtitles are written by Preetipls, who speaks and writes fluent Chinese, having learnt it since primary school.

Preetipls, who has an elder brother aged 25, says: "My parents got special permission for us to learn Chinese in school, and we used to hate it because it's such a difficult language. But it looks like it really came in handy."

Asked to give a quick Chinese New Year greeting in Mandarin for a video, she immediately puts on her comedic face and jokes: "Gong xi fa cai, feng he ri li (fine weather)."


Film-maker Chai Yee Wei with his three mini schnauzers.
Radio DJ Yip Limei (above) with Bobby, a one-year-old Japanese spitz. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

From a scrawny 3kg to a healthy 16kg

Who: UFM100.3 DJ Yip Limei, in her 40s 

Dog: Japanese spitz Bobby, one 

When Yip first adopted Bobby from animal shelter Voices For Animals last June, he weighed only about 3kg. He now weighs 16kg.

"He was so thin and tiny when we first got him, my mother wondered if he was sick. But all he needed was a loving home. Look at how fat and beautiful he is now," she says in Mandarin.

His transformation has spurred her to encourage other aspiring pet owners to adopt instead of buy a dog.

"People don't want to adopt because some of the dogs at shelters don't look very healthy or pretty. But give them some time and they can really shine," she says.

Still, that does not mean that anyone should just go ahead and take a dog home, she adds.

"I think some kids say they want to get a dog on a whim and although it's nice of them to rescue abandoned dogs, they have to think very carefully if they are willing to care for it for many years," she says.

The radio DJ, who is single, adds that she spends much of her free time with Bobby. "I live in Tuas, but I drive Bobby all the way down to Tanjong Beach on weekends and let him run there. He loves it. It's important for him to get out into the world."


Actor Desmond Tan with Hoshi and Udon.
Actor Desmond Tan with Hoshi and Udon. ST PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI

Look who's the boss

Who: Actor Desmond Tan, 31 

Dogs: Hoshi, eight, English cocker spaniel; Udon, two, unknown mixed breed

For years, Tan's busy filming schedule meant that he had little time to spend at home with his English cocker spaniel Hoshi. The actor is single and lives alone.

The guilt ate at him and he decided that he needed to get Hoshi a doggy friend. So, two years ago, he adopted a mixed breed, Udon, from animal shelter Voices For Animals.

Things did not play out the way he had hoped. "The two of them didn't become friends. Maybe their age gap is too wide," the actor says with a laugh.

Udon was just a puppy when he took him in, while Hoshi was already middle aged in dog years.

"Their personalities are also very different. Hoshi is a very mild dog, but Udon is full of energy. He has bitten off my filming scripts a number of times," he says.

Although his work schedule is busier than ever this year, with several TV projects in the pipeline as well as a starring role in the movie A Simple Wedding, he keeps much of his free time for his dogs.

"I'm supposed to be the pack leader of the household, but sometimes, I let them step all over me."

He also works closely with Voices For Animals to promote adoption over purchasing a dog.

"I bought Hoshi from a home breeder and wish I could turn back time, because knowing what I do now about how some of those dogs are abused, I would never have done that.

"Now I hope to use my influence as a public figure to encourage people to adopt."

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Best friends fur-ever'. Print Edition | Subscribe