Giving these retired SCDF veterans a 'woof' over their heads

Retired sniffer dogs Jimbob (left) and Gilly, with (from left) Mr Jonathan Leow, his girlfriend Koh Tian Ning, Lieutenant Jonathan Ong and his fiancee, Captain Anne Claudine Tan.
Retired sniffer dogs Jimbob (left) and Gilly, with (from left) Mr Jonathan Leow, his girlfriend Koh Tian Ning, Lieutenant Jonathan Ong and his fiancee, Captain Anne Claudine Tan.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Like other retirees, former Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) colleagues Gilly and Jimbob meet regularly to catch up.

But in public, they are sometimes kept on a short leash.

The two retired sniffer dogs, who now live with their former workmates, are part of a pilot scheme launched last year which lets officers living in Housing Board flats adopt them.

These retired sniffer dogs, which include breeds such as labradors, english springer spaniels, cocker spaniels and pointers, are bigger than the dog breeds generally allowed under HDB regulations.

The scheme was made permanent last Wednesday. A pilot programme has been introduced to let members of the public adopt them. Sniffer dogs retire when they are around eight.

In the SCDF, they are trained for search and rescue operations, while in the Singapore Police Force, they are used to sniff out explosives and narcotics. Those in the Singapore Armed Forces Military Working Dog Unit detect explosives.

Gilly, a 10-year-old black labrador retriever, now lives with Mr Jonathan Leow, 22, a dog groomer and walker, in a three-room HDB flat in Bukit Batok. Mr Leow, who was a dog-handler in SCDF during his national service, adopted Gilly three months ago.

"There's a difference between working dogs and pet dogs. In camp, they won't get so much affection from people. There are a lot of boundaries," explained Mr Leow. Nowadays, Gilly gets to cuddle with her owner whenever she wishes.


Gilly and Jimbob have known each other for years, as they were housed in the same kennel in Mowbray Road near Choa Chu Kang Way. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Mr Leow said it has not been a problem keeping a big dog in his flat. "You just need to take them out every day. They need somewhere to displace their energy."

Jimbob, a sprightly eight-year-old english springer spaniel and border collie mix, belongs to Lieutenant Jonathan Ong, 28, a media relations officer, and his fiancee, Captain Anne Claudine Tan, 29, an operations readiness officer. Both are with the SCDF. They will be moving into a Marine Parade flat by the year end.

Gilly and Jimbob have known each other for years, as they were housed in the same kennel in Mowbray Road near Choa Chu Kang Way. And these days, they are happy to catch up at the West Coast Park dog run. The dogs have also become an accepted part of life in the neighbourhoods where they live.

"The kids under my block like Gilly a lot. When I take her for walks, they will pet her," said Mr Leow.

Mr Kevin Loi, 27, a former dog-handler in the police K-9 unit, had to convince his parents before they let him adopt his former partner, a labrador named Rosie, last year.


Mr Kevin Loi and his former colleague and current pet dog Rosie. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

He lives with his parents, who are both in their 60s, in a three-room HDB flat in West Coast. "But they are now more concerned about the dog than me. They will ask if the dog has eaten, rather than whether I have eaten," he said with a laugh.

 

Mr Loi, who works in a dog daycare centre, said he knew from the start he wanted to keep Rosie. "It was love at first sight," he said of the nine-year-old yellow labrador. The duo worked together at Changi Airport, searching for suspicious items, among other duties.

Those looking to adopt older dogs must be prepared to deal with health issues, noted Mr Leow, who has spent $2,000 on Gilly's vet bills.

But their proud owners agree it has all been worthwhile.

"Rosie is very well behaved, and we have developed a bond. I want to give her a better life, and I want to take care of her for the rest of her life," said Mr Loi.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2018, with the headline 'Giving these retired SCDF veterans a 'woof' over their heads'. Print Edition | Subscribe