Thursday, 10 January 2008

Living in Singapore

So we had safely arrived in Singapore and embarked on 4 years of a totally different life for ourselves and for Hector.
No 1 had been given a house in the Naval Base that was allocated to Dockyard people. It had a living room and 3 bedrooms and stood on stilts, so that the windows caught any breeze going and bugs etc were less likely to gain access. The temperature was about 89F mostly and the humidity approaching 90 too. We had left the UK with snow on the ground, so Hector had his winter coat on - a dense woolly undercoat and a longer hairy top coat. It took him about 3 months to change this to very little undercoat and just the hairy stuff. Otherwise he adjusted to the new life remarkably quickly. He had to be kept tied up because there was only a small amount of garden and all open to the rest of the base. He lived by day under the house, attached by a long rope (with a chain nearest to him, so's he couldn't bite through it) to a rope that ran across under the floor above. This meant that he could run about quite a lot. At night he slept on our bed as ever.
We only stayed for 8 months in No 132. After that we moved out of the Base into a house that had been built for the MD of Metal Box, whose factory was just down the road. It was only a mile or two from the Causeway that linked Singapore Island to Johore Bahru in Malaya. A minor road ran past the gate and the drive led down to our house at the lower end of the compound. There was one other house which very soon became vacant, so we lived on our own here. The other 2 or 3 houses had never been built. We inherited Lim and Leong from the previous occupants. They were Amar and Cook Boy respectively. They were Chinese and had spent the war in Malaya where they were badly treated by the Japanese. They were not that keen on dogs, but were kind to Hector who soon decided to accept them. On one side of the compound, which was surrounded by a 10ft high wire fence, was jungle. On the other side was a stream and not far off a small Kampong (village) where Malays lived. Across the road were a banana plantation and rubber trees. Below the house was the main road from the Causeway to Singapore City, and beyond, a lovely view of the Straits of Jahore.
The very first day, the children and I, with Hector, were exploring the compound. Hector was off the lead but not far away. Suddenly he started a high pitched regular woofing - not his normal noise. When we went over, there was a black cobra in a monsoon drain, swaying in front of him and he was clearly being hypnotised. Luckily I had his lead in my hand and threw it at the snake, which broke the spell and it shot off. I managed to catch Hector before he tried to hunt it! Either that night or shortly after, there was a yell from the children's bathroom, where A was having a bath - "a snake, a snake!". Leong came running and fortunately was able to tell us that it was a house snake and quite safe! You would have thought all this would have frightened me off, but somehow it was just all part of the challenge of the new life.
There were four things that happened during the next 3 years that are worth recording as part of Hector's life. First of all was the arrival of the monkeys. There was a troop of them living in the bit of jungle next door. They used to come and sit on the wire fence and hurl insults at Hector, who hated them. He had his special monkey bark - quite different from his usual one or the snake one! In the early days, I did not keep him tied up and he would dash out, they would fly off into the jungle and he would chase them into the trees. I knew that if they caught him they would tear him in pieces, so I was in agony till he came back. I used to put music on very loud so that I would not hear him if he screamed! He led a charmed life and always came back. In the end I had to keep him tied up. We had a living room with very wide double doors leading on to the veranda, so he used to be tied on his long rope/chain in such a way that he could be inside or out.
After 2 years, we came home for 3 months leave. The Captain of the Dockyard, who happened to be a distant relation, had become fond of Hector and his long-suffering wife agreed to take him. They lived in a smart Admiralty house, second only to the Admiral's. It was at ground level in the Base. The doors were kept shut and the windows were quite high so Hector seemed to be secure. He fell in love with the younger daughter and hated to be parted from her. He slept on her bed and growled ferociously at her father when he tried to say goodnight to her. One day she went out in the car with her elder sister, shutting the door behind her. Hector was furious and to everyone's amazement he managed to jump out of the window. He was a wee fellow, so goodness knows how he did it. Anyway he did and disappeared. 2 or 3 weeks later, we got home to be met by a distraught Captain. What was making matters worse was that it was his responsibility to order the dog shoots, that had to take place in the Base, due to the number of feral dogs that lived in the monsoon drains. It was high time there was one. Hector had been sighted off and on running with these dogs. About a week or so after our return, there was a delighted phone call. The wife of the Padré had been driving through Sembawang, near the main gate to the base and spotted Hector among the food stalls. She stopped the car, opened the door, called Hector and he came running over and jumped in! He was well fed and wearing a new collar. We were all delighted but none more so than D G-W who could go ahead with the dog shoot. [I know it sounds horrid, but needs must and they used good marksmen]
The next event was when he got covered in ticks. He was always getting the odd one, which I would pull off but this time he really was covered with them and got tick fever which meant a visit to the vet. We had to find where he was getting them. It turned out that a small skin rug that my brother had bought in NZ and given me well before we went to Singapore was thick with them. I imagine that he had dropped some on it over a period and they had bred and it became a vicious circle. The only problem, once the fever had gone, was that No 1 got one in a certain hairy part of his anatomy - much to my hilarity!
About a year before we came home, Hector escaped and disappeared. We had no idea where he was and really gave him up for lost. A fortnight later, a very bedraggled little figure was spotted wavering his way down the drive. He was torn open most of the length of his back. We decided that he had joined the dogs around the kampong and being extremely keen on the ladies, had got into a fight with one of the males. Any way, the vet again. He would not stitch up the wound because there was a great danger of fly blow. I was given a huge syringe and some nasty yellow ointment and had to get it in under all the loose skin! He didn't like it much but I managed and it kept the flies out. It was not long before he had healed up. A most remarkable dog - no?
Three months before we went home, we shipped him off - in a proper cage this time - to go into quarrentine. By doing it like that, we only had 3 months there and here without him, which was better than 6 months here. As for him, it made no difference. We did not visit him for 2 reasons. You could not touch the dog and also we were told it was better for him. For us to appear and then disappear again would have been very hard for him.
At this point I must introduce a very short-term dog. About 1.0 oclock at night, 6 months before we left, we were woken up by Leong throwing open the door and turning on the light. We were petrified because we thought it was burglers until he spoke. It turned out that a man had got in through the high narrow window in his and Lim's room and taken his watch - and frightened him a lot. He announced after this that he would not stay unless we got a guard dog. Hector slept with us and if left loose in the house at night barked all the time. So we got a brindled short haired dog about the size of an alsation, from a family that was going home. I forget her name, but she was a sweet dog, and got on well with Hector, but she had obviously been badly treated by a male Chinese! I made Leong feed her so that she would learn that he was OK. He did so with great trepidation but put up with her because she was definitely a good guard dog! We had an Indonesian gardener who was a witch doctor. People would come down the drive to see him with a live chicken's legs sticking out of a bag! One day, she bit him. I was really quite frightened because I thought he might put a curse on me!!! I bathed the wound and put sticking plaster on it. We heard no more about it, luckily. She was passed on to someone else, when we left.
So that is the end of dogs in Singapore. One day I might possibly blog about life there for us humans! There were still many years of life for Hector, so you will hear more of him anon.


Anonymous said...

What an amazing and fascinating story, Withy. Hector certainly sounds like a well travelled dog and a most lovable pet.

Thank you for sharing this.

Crystal xx

Blossomcottage said...

I love these stories about well travelled dogs, who's owner lived in the far flung parts of the world. Lovely Hubby's parents live in Singapore, they were in the army there. They are great Labrador fans and their dear dog was put in his cage and lifted onto a boat with the family waving a fond farewell, to be reuntied with him at a much later date. He arrived safe and sound having won the heart of the Captain who was also a Labrador fan, he had live the life of luxury as the Captains companion on his sea voyage.!!!

Wizzard said...

WOW - what an adventure Hector has had, and I am sure there are many more that you can tell us.
I am so pleased he didnt get caught up in the dog shoot - that would have been very distressing for you.
looking forward to hearing more about Hector's adventures.

Faith said...

Really super, well told story, Withy. You were brave about the snake! and so funny about no. 1 getting a tic!

Milla said...

great stories so entertainingly told. Hector comes bounding through the words.

Casdok said...

Yes amazing story! An adventure indeed!

Woozle1967 said...

Great blog, Withy. Hector sounds marvellous.x