Cinderella the mutt gets her happily ever after
This Valentine's Day, we celebrate love not just between humans but also between man's best friends
It was a skinny, skittish stray.
Despite the best attempts of dog lovers in the Tampines area, no one was able to get close to the fawn-coloured mutt to feed it or to get it some veterinary care.
But thanks to a man and his pedigree dog, the mutt is looking at a happy ending worthy of a Disney movie.
It was a chance encounter last July between Mr Chook Kheen Choong, 44, his seven-year-old golden retriever, Benz, and the mutt that changed the trajectory of their lives.
"I was walking Benz around Bedok Reservoir, when their eyes met. It came loping over," says Mr Chook.
"I was worried at first they were going to fight but they immediately connected and their tails were wagging furiously."
It was the start of something beautiful.
Mr Chook adds: "With Benz around, the mutt would allow itself to be petted and fed. Otherwise, it would just shy away."
His daughter, nine-year-old Charlotte, named the mutt Cinderella.
Charlotte says: "I named it Cinderella because she would appear at our void deck around midnight each day, waiting for Benz."
The Chook family with their golden retriever Benz.
Cinderella would appear to join them on their walks, trotting alongside until they got home - then she would disappear.
One day, Mr Chook couldn't take Benz out for a walk.
When he returned home that night, he found the stray waiting at the foot of his block but she wasn't there for him.
"I tried to approach her and even got some food but she backed away from me."
So he took Benz down, and then Cinderella started to eat.
It became a routine. Cinderella would wait patiently at the foot of the block, rain or shine, for a chance to play with Benz.
Mr Chook says: "My neighbours would tell me that if we don't turn up, Cinderella would wait until 2am or even 3am."
Student Aishah Jamar, 24, who lives in the same block as Mr Chook, says: "Cinderella would quietly wait downstairs for Kheen Choong and Benz to turn up.
"If she sees strangers walking towards her, she would run away."
Cinderella's health took a bad turn about five months ago and Mr Chook arranged for her to be kennelled as he was concerned for her safety and health.
He says: "I get very worried when I walk Benz along the road because Cinderella would just dash across without looking at the traffic.
"I also wanted her to be fed properly daily instead of making her wait for me to feed her every night.
"At least there's a roof over her head at the boarding house."
Cinderella was found to be suffering from heartworm disease.
This results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage and death mainly in dogs, cats and ferrets.
It has been a long process, costing Mr Chook more than $2,000 to date. But Cinderella is recovering.
He doesn't mind the expense - he knows how much of a friend Benz and Cinderella have in each other. And he is making sure the daily routine continues.
Despite holding down a full-time job as a property agent, he makes the effort to drive Benz to the dog boarding house every day so that the two friends can be reunited.
It's a family affair on the weekends, as Mr Chook, his wife, 38-year-old nursing officer Lim Pei Pei, and their daughter take Benz to visit Cinderella at the shelter.
Madam Pei says: "We can tell that Cinderella opens up only when Benz is around. She looks happier and eats better."
Now, there is even better news.
The Chooks will be adopting Cinderella once their new condo unit is ready later this year.
Mr Chook says: "After so many years of being on the streets, I just hope to provide Cinderella with proper shelter and the company of Benz."
I named it Cinderella because she would appear at our void deck around midnight each day, waiting for Benz.
- Charlotte, nine, daughter of Benz's owners