Doing the Write Thing: Fiona Foo
Fiona Foo is the founder of Hope Dog Rescue, a volunteer organisation that works towards fostering dogs and searching for their forever homes. Seeing how she's extremely passionate about saving as many strays and abandoned dogs as she can, it's hard to believe that Fiona used to suffer from a crippling fear of dogs.
Happily, her first dog, Popsicle, helped her overcome that fear. Four years ago, Fiona met Button, and a bond immediately formed between the two. Seeing Button's potential, Fiona decided to train her to become a therapy pet, and the elderly Schnauzer was soon visiting Hokkien patients at Assisi Hospice, bringing company and joy to their lives.
Though Button is no longer with us, her memory lives on in this new memoir, Button: The Hokkien Therapy Dog. This is their story.
Why did you decide to write this book?
It was a rare feat to have a senior rescue dog achieve such greatness and touch so many hearts and I wanted to share and hopefully change mindsets on what a rescue dog can achieve, given the love, support and opportunities.
You also used to have a crippling fear of dogs. How did you overcome that to become the founder of Hope Dog Rescue?
I have my mother to thank for my fear and I have Popsicle, my very first dog, to thank for helping me turn my fear into love. Popsicle has just turned 19 and has been waiting eagerly for the book launch. He and Button were really close.
Training dogs to respond to Hokkien commands is quite unusual. What made you decide on Hokkien instead of other languages?
Because it was too difficult for me to learn Tamil. And besides most old folks understand Hokkien and I wanted my therapy dog to be able to connect with them. Having said that, our younger generation seems to have lost their cultural roots and I thought it would be cool if my dog’s Hokkien is better than your kid’s.
What are some of the Hokkien commands Button will respond to?
Lai ("come), zay ("sit"), dan ("wait"), jiak ("eat") and lots more! Buy my book, there is a Hokkien chart inside and who knows, you might learn some new Hokkien words too.
Walk us through the life of a therapy dog. What are some of their responsibilities?
They need to be healthy, above two years old preferably, super zen, mentally matured, zero aggression. Then they need to complete the basic obedience course and pass a temperament assessment, conducted by a therapy dog group. They must enjoy meeting people.
What do you hope to inspire or raise awareness for after people read this book?
There is a shortage of therapy dogs. Hopefully, more pet owners become aware of what a therapy dog does and consider signing up their dogs to be one—if they make the cut.
Equally important is the fact that I encourage adoption and not purchasing a dog. I want people to know that you can bond with an old dog, you don’t need to buy a puppy and start from scratch. A senior rescued dog can achieve as much as, if not more than, a store-bought puppy. All you need is love, patience and the right opportunities.
Last but not least, the book also touches on responsible pet ownership. Owning a dog isn’t just about providing food, water and shelter. Dogs are essentially social beings. They need walks, social activities, vet care when needed and not leaving dogs alone for long hours.
Get Button: The Hokkien Therapy Dog here.