Come rain or shine, Serene Lu and her four-year-old miniature Schnauzer called Onyx never fail to show up at the doors of MWS Bethany Nursing Home – Choa Chu Kang every second Saturday of the month.
The home-based dog food culinarian and her friendly pooch have been visiting the nursing home since 2015, and are members of Therapy Dogs Singapore (TDS), a non-profit voluntary welfare group that brings dog owners and their pets together to offer joy and comfort to those in need.
“I love putting Onyx on the laps of the residents. I love the smiles on their faces and he loves the massages from them! I also enjoy chatting with the residents and hearing updates from them,” says Serene.
With the entire TDS volunteer pack, Serene and Onyx spend an hour in the afternoon interacting with residents in the function hall. So far, the pair know 6 to 8 residents by name.
“There was one Uncle who joined us for the first time, and was not really smiling at first. However, 15 minutes into the session, he was already grinning from ear to ear. I even heard him asking one of the volunteers when we would be there again. There was also an aunty who loved to smother Onyx with kisses. Fur therapy is really quite powerful!” she adds.
Beyond the altruism of her volunteering experience, Serene says it has also given more value and meaning to her life. “I’ve learnt that there is a story behind every face, be it a sad or a happy one. I’ve learnt not to make assumptions too quickly, but most of all, I’ve learnt to be strong.
“To be honest, the first few visits were really hard for me. Seeing the residents and the immobility they face was not easy. I’ve had the chance to listen to some of the stories they shared and some just tore me up inside. It puts life in a whole new perspective for me and made me realise how fragile it can be. I feel so happy after each session. Just giving, no matter how little, makes a huge difference!”