PEOPLE AND THEIR PETS
Nothing bonds fur-riends like exploring the great outdoors together. We join fitspo paw-rents, Joel Tay and Esther Lin, on a fun-filled day out with their equally fit furry companions. BY GILLIAN LIM
Get inspired by these sporty paw-rents and embrace the active lifestyle with your pup.
While most of his friends spent their growing up years glued to computers and mobile phones, Joel Tay dedicated a good part of his childhood to dashing around the running track. From primary school all the way till university, the sporty young man has been representing his schools at track and field meets. Family jogs, night cycling, and weekly badminton and basketball sessions were all part of his youth.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) student has always been active, and it reflects in his 1.78m-tall, lean physique when we meet him and his four-year-old Shetland Sheepdog, Buddy, for the photo shoot. In fact, this sporty streak seems to run in the family. “Did you know my parents first met playing squash in NUS?”
Now, with four-year-old Buddy in the picture, Joel and his family spend their weekends tossing frisbees and balls at dog-friendly parks, nature reserves and beaches. “The point is just to get out of the house and do some fun outdoor activities together,” he shares.
To Joel, a fitness routine isn’t just about getting in shape; it’s highly satisfying and can even be quite addictive. “The same applies to dogs as well, because you’re stimulating them physically and mentally,” says Joel. “Not only are you keeping their weight in check, you’re also expending their energy to a point where they’re able to sleep soundly at night. Case in point: Buddy’s such a beast when he’s out and about, but he sleeps like a baby once he gets home.”
What considerations did you have when you got Buddy?
We knew that our furkid had to fit in with the family’s lifestyle, so it made the most sense for him to be an active breed.
How has Buddy fared as an outdoor companion?
Buddy is an infinite ball of energy, so expending his energy is a necessity. If not, he just looks really sad and bored. He’ll plead with his eyes, and sometimes he’ll bring his leash to us. He’s extremely intelligent, affectionate, and constantly craves human validation. Shetland Sheepdogs are bred to herd sheep, but since there are no sheep for him to herd here, Buddy has to resort to herding small children, birds, and squirrels. (laughs)
Interestingly, he was and still is apprehensive about new experiences— not just sports. He was afraid of his first swim, and even simple things like taking his first step.
What has been your most memorable outing with him?
Definitely Buddy’s first swim at Tanjong Beach. He was initially afraid of jumping in, but after much encouragement he took the leap. He had a blast! He also drank a lot of sea water, probably thinking it was normal water. (laughs)
Any house rules when out and about?
I leash Buddy most of the time, but when it’s less crowded, I let him roam and explore his surroundings. His harness is kept on at all times, and it’s engraved with my contact information.
List three tips for paw-rents who’d like to lead a more active lifetstyle with their pets.
Firstly, you need to find your motivating factor. Secondly, don’t be afraid to explore new places and activities. Lastly, make friends with other paw-rents so you can spur one another on!
Among the many pooches dashing along the coastline of Tanjong Beach during our photo shoot, Troy and Triton stand out because of their breed—they’re Pugs, known to be greedy couch potatos and one of the laziest canine breeds around. However, propped on Esther’s paddle board, tongues lolling and tails wagging, it’s evident that these two pups love the outdoors.
Prior to getting her two snorting furkids, Esther was already pretty active—she enjoyed doing zumba and pilates on alternate days, and occasionally went trekking when her friends invited her along. “I like being outdoors, but I don’t enjoy doing it alone,” she shares. “It became so much more fun after I got Troy in 2014, since I had a furry pal to share all these outdoor activities with me.”
The two Pugs’ experiences with the sea weren’t smooth sailing: Troy’s first visit to Tanjong Beach was when he was 2.5 months old. “He took to the sand immediately, but to my horror, he started to eat the sand,” exclaims Esther with a laugh. “His first experience with water that day wasn’t too great either because he kept sinking and didn’t know how to swim, so I carried him and sat in the ocean.” At present, Triton hasn’t learnt to swim, although he loves lying in the water. “If he sees Troy doing it, he’ll follow,” she says.
It took weeks of dedicated training for Esther to hone her two Pugs’ recall and focus skills to a point where she felt confident bringing them to the beach. “Those are essential skills for all pawrents, especially if you’re planning on bringing them to open spaces like the beach.”
Once the two pooches overcame their fear of water, Esther realised that they absolutely loved it. She adds with a laugh: “Now they refuse to go home when I pack up!”
What outdoor activities have Troy and Triton tried so far?
So far, we’ve gone on pet cruises, trekking, and paddle boarding. It was pretty fun during the pet cruises because we’d stop in the middle of nowhere, jump off the boat, and swim in the ocean! Only Troy knows how to paddle board so far, since Triton is still learning how to swim out to me. The little one just likes to lie in the water for now. (laughs)
As Pugs are flat-faced dogs, are you worried they might overheat?
Yes, weather is always a concern. If it’s too hot or hazy, we’ll call off the activities. I’m not rigid about it. I leash them at most places, except at the beach. I also make sure they have plenty of water breaks and watch out for signs of heatstroke.
Tell us about your current outing schedule.
I try to bring them out weekly, and I alternate the activities. We usually go to the beach or dog cafes with other furry friends, while trekking is just with the family. Other activities like cruises and stand-up paddle-boarding are occasional activities arranged with Troy’s regular mates. A typical trekking session starts early in the morning—to avoid heatstroke—and usually lasts two to three hours. As for the beach, we can stay there for three to five hours depending on the weather. They really don’t want to go home! (laughs)
How did Troy’s first introduction to the paddle board go?
We let him sit on top of the board and pushed it around. On subsequent tries, he’d nibble my leg whenever I got on the board with him, as if asking me in a puzzled manner, “Why are you on it?” My friends were all laughing at me! (laughs)
Why do you think they love the great outdoors?
They enjoy trekking, smelling the flora and fauna, and of course the mud. They also love the water. I guess they enjoy being close to nature. What activities do they dislike?
Dog parks and dog swimming pools.
They simply refuse to get into the water although they love the sea. I gather it’s the texture of the tiles, which is different from sand, and the taste and smell of chlorine water. As for the dog park, they seem really lost even though they like to run about off-leash. They will just sit on the bench and watch. I think, to them, it is no different from their daily walk where they get to walk on grass and to the nearby parks.
Why do you choose to share an active lifestyle with your pups?
The joy of spending time together builds the bond and trust between me and my dogs. As a result, Troy and Triton are calm, confident and happy furkids.
JOEL TAY, 24, STUDENT BUDDY, 4, SHETLAND SHEEPDOG
ESTHER LIN, 32, LEGAL AND CORPORATE SECRETARIAT TROY, 4, PUGTRITON, 2, PUG