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

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents -

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?”

he re­veals.

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

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