Today (11 April) is National Pet Day! We rope in some pet owners on the City Harvest Church staff to show off the most special members in their household.
They shed fur, they smell, they suck up your time, attention and even finances. What is it about dogs, cats and other adorable creatures that convinces people to bring them in and give them a home (and, more often than not, a special diet)?
Truth is, many humans cannot live without their pets. Pets provide great comfort and support when life gets hard. During the pandemic season, when many spent most of their time at home, the affection and warmth of their pet became an important source of serotonin. All over social media, memes abounded showing pets who rejoiced at their owners spending more time at home.
To commemorate this day, City News spoke to some of the most avid pet lovers in the CHC staff and got them to share what makes them enjoy sharing their life with these furry, scaly and feathery creatures.
“OUR PETS KNOW US REALLY, REALLY WELL”
Founders of City Harvest Church, Pastor Kong Hee and Sun have a space in their heart for both cats and dogs—they have two dogs and four cats: Atom, a golden retriever, Jax Jax, a pug, Miu Miu and Zuca, both Bengal cats, Scarlet, a Scottish Fold and Blu, a Persian.
“We like to spend time with our pets and we treat them like an intimate part of our family,” says Pastor Kong. “I cannot imagine coming to a home without them. When you have pets in your home you feel like your home is covered with love. Every time they are around, it is always filled with love.”
Sun shares that her pets show her unconditional love and faithfulness. “They really teach us what love is all about. They don’t need fireworks from us, they just want our affection and they love being in our presence. We don’t need to do anything too exciting. We can be preparing sermons, I can be on the phone or I can be in a Zoom meeting—just being near us satisfies them.”
She may be an avid cat lover now, but Sun spent the first 40 years of her life in fear of felines. It was through her son Dayan’s persuasion—and Sun’s love for him—that she entertained the thought of meeting a Bengal kitten. Dayan asked his mother to pray about it.
When she prayed, the Holy Spirit gave her a thought: “How wonderful it would be if my life was free from this phobia!”
The introduction was still an extreme challenge for Sun—she felt like throwing up on the way—but the eventual outcome was wonderful.
While the kitten, Miu Miu, sat on her lap, Sun noticed that the tiny, furry creature was shivering in fear, and she realised that what she was afraid of was even more afraid of her!
“As I faced my fear,” Sun recounts, “I suddenly saw how irrational and out-of-proportion it was. We need to look at our fears in the face—our fear is often out of proportion to reality.”
Sun’s journey into cat motherhood expanded when they adopted Zuca, Miu Miu’s father, who was a breeder’s cat. When he first came to Pastor and Sun’s home, the unfamiliar surroundings caused him to be anxious and over-groom himself. It took over a month for him to have the courage to step out from behind the curtains.
Every day of that month, Sun would spend an hour sitting with his bowl of food, waiting for Zuca to come out, talking to him and assuring him that he is loved and welcomed.
Through that process, Sun found that as she brought reassurance to Zuca, she experienced restoration and healing within herself. Bengal cats may look majestic, but they can be quite fearful, much like humans putting up a front, she says.
Through these encounters with her cats, Sun became a cat lover. While some think cats are individualistic, cold and aloof, the Kong family finds them to be as affectionate as dogs.
“Our cats love to be on Pastor’s table when he prepares his sermon,” Sun reveals.
Pastor Kong adds, “We may be very busy, but to our pets we are their whole world. Atom looks forward everyday just to see me. Sometimes when I’m so busy I forget about him—so that teaches me that I cannot be too busy. We will all outlive our pets, they only have a certain lifespan, so we want to make every moment count, spending time with those we love.”
Remembering a particularly painful time, Sun shares how pets can be so sensitive to how their owners feel. She finds it amazing looking at God’s creations.
“So many times, especially when I cried, Atom would just come near me and he would turn his body and face his back to me, allowing me to hug him. He would just stay there for as long as I needed him.
“Our pets are so amazing. We feel they know us really, really, really well. They are part of our family.”
There are many lessons about love, faithfulness and forgiveness that Pastor Kong has learnt from having pets. “We become better as people because of the pets around us,” he says.
“THEY LOVE YOU, NO MATTER WHAT”
Facilities manager Lim Wee Lee has two dogs: a mini Pomeranian named Fluffy and a Japanese Spitz, Junior.
Fluffy is a fitting name for this princess: she’s seven years old but as tiny as when she first became a part of Wee Lee’s family. Like a little royal, she demands belly rubs all the time, and commands all the attention when she is brought out. Because of her size, she cannot play fetch, yet she still manages to see herself as a big dog.
Junior, on the other hand, is nearly three times the size of Fluffy, but Wee Lee named him so that there will never be any doubt who is the big sister.
In his own way, however, Junior is determined to leave a firm impression. He is always the first to greet Wee Lee at the door. Also, he sheds a lot of fur, so Wee Lee will always find a piece of Junior on his clothes.
Wee Lee finds it therapeutic to be around his pets and, because of them, he has learned to pay attention and value the things around him more.
“To some owners, they may just be a pet. But to our pets, we are their world,” notes Wee Lee. “Pets are fiercely loyal—you know they love you no matter what. That is why you always feel safe around them.”
THE CONSTANT AFFECTION OF A FAITHFUL DOG
Creative director Mark Kwan has always been a dog lover, having enjoyed the companionship of a beautiful Shih Tzu he inherited from his uncle when he was a young boy.
In 2013, Mark made the choice to get his own dog, a Labradoodle he named Nutella. She was named for her colour, and nicknamed “Nutty Ella” or “The Nut” for her personality.
Getting Nutella was an intentional step towards regaining a semblance of balance in life as an adult; to force his attention away from the constant demands of work, and carve out moments to enjoy more of the mundane.
In the daily, repetitive routine of feeding, cleaning and dog-walking, Mark discovered a unique sense of joy, a joy that could only be experienced through the constant affection of a faithful dog.
“Nutella is turning 9 this year, but still behaves like a pup. Always sweet-natured and oftentimes goofy, she’s attentive, smart and can be just a bit of a diva,” says Mark. “I thank God often for her. She’s good for my heart in more ways than one—you can often find me on long, stress-clearing 5- to 10km walks with her along the East Coast.”
A FELLA AND HIS BELLA
“I think we have a lot to learn from pets. They are full of love and devotion and very quick to forgive us. I am such an imperfect owner and sometimes downright unreasonable, yet the loyalty and love of my pets is unconditional and endless,” says Bernard Loh, programmes producer for City Radio.
Bernard, his wife Justina and their mini Schnauzer Bella do everything together. She sleeps and cuddles with them, goes for walks with them, sits in the front seat of the car and joins in their Zoom cell group meetings. They bring her just about everywhere. She even follows them on Chinese New Year visits.
When they first brought Bella home, she was shy, fearful and curious all at the same time. Bella’s special skill is her ability to gobble a bowl of food in eight seconds.
“In this world where we face so much pain and setbacks, it’s good to come home and hug a piece of heaven,” smiles Bernard.
A SIGN OF GOD’S CREATIVITY
Lynn Tan, a pastor with HarvestKidz and also head of CHC Nursery, owns two birds: Buddy, a green-necked conure and Sunshine, a love bird.
They are very social birds, says Pastor Lynn. Buddy gets sulky when he doesn’t get enough attention, and he shows his displeasure by pecking fingers. They are allowed to fly around the house, and when they do they sometimes randomly land on her children’s heads.
With Buddy and Sunshine, Pastor Lynn discovered an opportunity for her children to learn to care for small creatures. When she brings the birds to the playground, they also attract much attention from the other children around.
“When I look at our pet birds, I cannot help but marvel at God’s creativity,” Pastor Lynn muses. “Just look at the colours and the personality of the birds!”
CATS THAT ZOOM AND GROOM
Audio engineer Lee Shu Xia has a Singapura named Mao “because he is very cat”.
She shares that Mao has a thing about Zoom meetings, especially prayer meeting. Some of us may be suffering Zoom fatigue but not Mao—he even attended all the sessions of the Early Morning Prayer Meeting in February!
Shuxia appreciates the simple way that Mao loves her: he would bring his favourite rat toy and leave it on her bed when she is out at work all day. And when she’s home, she and Mao enjoy watching National Geographic on television together.
Administration manager Kua Siew Yan has a Scottish Fold with round brown spots on his white fur, hence his name Button. Siew Yan says that Button is the odd cat that behaves like a dog—he is attention-seeking and affectionate, and he loves sleeping on shoes and catching his own tail.
This is Charcoal, a British Shorthair Munchkin that belongs to Pastors Wu Yuzhuang and Audrey Ng. “We sometimes call her Cha Cha,” says Pastor Audrey, adding that pets are good companions. Charcoal has been a blessing to their whole family as she brings much joy and comfort to them.
“Charcoal always waits earnestly outside our rooms every morning, and once we open our doors, she would meow affectionately and rub against our legs to greet us,” she says.
NO HUGS BUT LOTS OF LOVE
It’s not just cats and dogs that CHC staff members keep. Some of the other pets owned include two hamsters, a tortoise and a tankful of fish.
When his family began keeping hamsters Jack and Jan, IS manager Peter Teo discovered a new pastime: maintaining the hamster cage.
A nature lover, Peter used to turn to aqua-scaping to destress. Now, he sets up his hamsters’ cage to resemble the wild as much as possible. He redesigns the cage now and then, this current design being the sixth rendition.
This whole process is therapeutic for him and gives him a great sense of fulfilment. He explains, “I am a programmer and I work a lot with computers and systems. To me, the best thing about pets and interacting with them is that it’s non-digital and you can’t programme them!”
Operations executive Thomas Poi owns a number of small fish, which he keeps for his children’s entertainment. Watching them swimming all day and chasing each other around in their own little world creates a calming effect on the mind, he says.
No less calming, but maybe not as elegant is Rocket, a tortoise belonging to design manager Nicholas Goh— “I inherited him from my children”. Rocket gets to roam around the house occasionally, and Nic would have to remember to put him back in his tank.
“OUR PETS ARE ALWAYS THERE FOR US”
Whether they are scaly or furry, aloof or excitable, pets bring comfort and cheer to their humans. Sometimes, they even become the star of the household.
Pastor Jeremy Choy, who heads CityFamilies, has a Goldendoodle, Toby, short for Tobias which means “God is good”. Toby is Pastor Jeremy’s running buddy—he gets very excited anytime the pastor returns home, even if it’s just for half an hour! “He twirls and jumps every time,” says Pastor Jeremy, adding that Toby has become the centre of the family’s attention and brings them together.
Likewise Callum La-Tay (named for his Irish-English ancestry), a Pomsky that was recently adopted by Pastor Edmund Tay, is an active dog that never fails to remind his family that it’s time for his one-hour long walk—twice a day!
“Whether we are happy, angry or sad, our pets don’t mind our moods,” says Pastor Ed. “They are always there for us.”
If you are looking for a pet, why not adopt from one of the following no-kill shelters:
Voices For Animals
Animal Lovers League
SOSD Dog Shelter
Do you own a pet? Post a pet selfie in your Instagram story and tag us @citynewssg and let us know what you like most about your pet!