Whilst living in Vietnam last year, I volunteered at a local animal shelter, ARC Pet Rescue. I had the absolute pleasure of working with some wonderful people and adorable animals.
Daily, I helped predominately with the dogs they homed there. However, they also home 70 cats within the shelter and in foster programmes as well.
During this time, I have many, many fond memories of the different dogs I met. I walked, washed, cuddled and, cleaned up after them.
One that I especially bonded with was Oscar, believed to be an Alaskan Malamute or Husky cross. When I met Oscar, he was in a reasonably good condition.
His hair was big and fluffy, although patchy and matted in places. He had some mange around his nose but it wasn’t too bad considering some of the dogs I had seen.
The most noticeable oddity, for want of a better word, was his bowed back legs. Rather than standing tall on two straight hind legs the were oddly bent inwards.
His legs appeared to have grown curved and they almost crossed at the back; similar to that of a ballerina’s pose. This gave him a unusual gait and caused him to lose balance often.
Oscar was only 4-6 months old when I met him. He was a gentle giant and loved any attention lavished on him.
He was shy amongst the canine group and often stuck to the outskirts of the parks or gardens we visited. As well as wanting to enjoy the shade, Oscar’s social skills were limited.
There was a more dominant dog in the group and he was clearly afraid of him. Ian, one of the head trainers at Arc had asked me to spend time with Oscar and to keep an eye on him and Spot (the dominant dog) to prevent any skirmishes breaking out.
I would often encourage Oscar to get up and walk the perimeter, with me as protector at his side. I wanted him to be in the vicinity of the other dogs during playtime.
In doing this, I hoped that by observing others at play he would pick up on how they communicated and interacted.
Becoming a Member of the Community
Oscar was so unsure of himself and void of any understanding on how interact with other dogs but gradually he began to grow confident enough to approach and play with Coco. Coco was one of the sweetest dogs at Arc.
With the help of Coco, and with Spot more relaxed in his company, he began to join in more. It was a joy to watch him begin to intermingle and even play with some of the other dogs.
I watched as his legs became straight and more stable – not a disease as I had first thought. With this, rough play between them eventually came around too.
Over 3 months I watched Oscar flourish. He was always a big softie with people but now he was a playful and included member of the Arc Dog Community.
Oscar’s Heartbreaking Condition
Oscar was extremely undernourished, covered in mange and his hind legs had not developed properly, due to the fact he could not stand in the crate he was imprisoned in.
Oscar was dying and without the help of the vets and volunteers at Arc he would not have survived much longer.
With the hope and determination of these people Oscar has become a fun loving, healthy, happy dog. He is full of life and seems to carry no scars from the first few torturous months of his life.
I am always utterly amazed at the resilience of anything, animal or human, that has been treated so badly, to love without prejudice again.
Oscar won my heart the moment I saw him, but he has since won my admiration and respect for bouncing back from a grave condition to the bundle of fluff and fun I encountered.
Oscar’s New Family
Through my time with Arc, Oscar was fostered out to two families with children and loved his time with them. He was kind and gentle with the children and had such an amazing temperament to all and everyone he came into contact with, dogs and human alike.
When I heard that he was being adopted to Canada, I was over the moon for him. After a lot of interest to adopt him from a number of families the Arc team decided on Canada.
It was by far the best home and environment that would suit his breed and personality. However, it is not easy or cheap to have a dog the size of Oscar shipped over to Canada to be with his new family.
Arc is a non-profit organisation and relies on the donations from others to run. Undeterred by the $5,000 bill, the team took to Facebook, Marathon running and charity fundraising events to raise the money for Oscar – his fundraising page provides more details on his story.
The support was fantastic and, in a little over a month, Arc had the resources to get Oscar to Canada and into his forever home.
ARC Pet Rescue
Oscar’s story has a happy ending but unfortunately not all the animals brought into Arc can be taken on and cared for; there are simple not enough funds, people and places to go around. The volunteers there do an outstanding job, they save the lives of dogs like Oscar.
They re-home them into loving families which bring joy to both parties and do they do all of this with smiles on their faces. They continue to inspire by them each and every day.
I continue to study dog behaviour and volunteer in whichever city I lay my head but will never forget my time with Arc. I’m fortunate enough to have learnt so much from both the people and dogs there and have made life long friends.
If you would like help Arc with their mission to rescue abandoned and abused animals in Ho Chi Minh, I know they would appreciate it. Are you living in Ho Chi Minh? Great! You can help walk, clean and foster the animals.
To do so, please contact them directly – all their details are listed on their website: http://arcpets.com/
If you are not in the area but would still like to help there are many way in which you can do so. Follow their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/arcpetsvietnam/ to keep up-to-date on their activities, events and animal cases.
If you would like to Donate, please do so using https://www.gofundme.com/arcpets – a fundraising site where all funds go directly to the charity.