They are her K-9 heroes
Two former police dogs help bring suicidal hit-and-run victim out of depression
All it took was one touch.
For two years, Madam Karen Teng, 46, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a hit-and-run accident on Oct 9, 2010.
Madam Teng was on her way home from work when another car rear-ended her Ford Fiesta along Tampines Expressway.
Her vehicle spun round once, hit the guardrail, then spun round twice more.
When the car finally stopped moving, Madam Teng was facing oncoming traffic.
She said: "For the first few weeks, when I closed my eyes, I had this feeling that I was spinning round and round."
But it was the feeling of being trapped in her wrecked car and facing approaching headlights that lingered on.
She had awful nightmares. Her psychologist prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs to help her manage her PTSD.
But the drugs, coupled with work stress and an impending civil suit against the driver, drove Madam Teng deeper into depression. She also became suicidal.
Then, on March 21, 2013, a chance encounter changed everything.
Madam Teng and her husband, air force engineer, Mr Michael Koh, 49, were in Somerset MRT station when she was drawn to a golden labrador retriever.
Madam Karen Teng, 46, and her husband, airforce engineer Michael Koh, 49, with their dogs Murphy (right), 10, and Happy (left), 8. TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
It was a Singapore Police Force (SPF) K-9 unit sniffer dog that was on duty with its handler.
Even though it is not usually allowed, Madam Teng asked for permission to touch the dog.
Madam Teng, who had three dogs when she was growing up, said: "At that point in time, my world was very dark. But with that one touch, I felt my spirits being lifted.
"It felt as if I was being transported back to my carefree childhood years when there was no stress in my life."
That night, she tried to adopt the dog, which was known as Juno, but found that it was not available for adoption as it was too young. It was only three years old and working dogs with the police are not retired until they are seven or eight.
Instead, she was directed to the Police K-9 unit's dog adoption drive then.
A year and a month later, Madam Teng adopted Murphy, a pale yellow labrador retriever that was a Police K-9 unit sniffer dog.
Madam Teng said: "I wanted to adopt a police dog because I have seen them at work
"They are indeed the unsung four-legged heroes who deserve a good retirement after having spent their youth serving the nation."
But Madam Teng never forgot the police dog that had made her feel better.
She sent cards and photographs of Murphy to the K-9 unit often, especially on special occasions like Christmas.
Before Happy joined her family, Madam Teng used to send cards to the K-9 unit inquiring about Happy’s possible adoption.
NEW FAMILY ADDITION
"I would write (the cards) in (Murphy's) voice and say, 'Dear (officer-in-charge), I'm having a good life here...', then end off with a 'P.S: When is my friend, Juno, joining me?'"
Then, on May 19 this year, she was told by Police K-9 unit para-veterinarian, Senior Staff Sergeant Bernard Tan, 35, that Juno was being prepared for retirement and that she could take him home in a few months.
Officer Tan said: "I felt Karen's sincerity because every festival, she'd send updates, cards and e-mails. We kept all of the cards she sent."
On June 17, Madam Teng finally brought Juno home and renamed it Happy.
Madam Teng and her husband, Mr Michael Koh, with the two dogs. TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
And Happy is living up to its name.
It joyfully runs round Madam Teng's home and occasionally shows a mischievous streak - it loves chewing her socks.
Madam Teng, who left her job in 2014, spends her time with her dogs.
On the perks of adopting an ex-police dog, Madam Teng said: "(Police dogs) are more well-trained and are very obedient. They are also easy to train and very loyal."
She recalled: "I left Murphy outside White Sands while I returned library books. When I came back, he was sitting quietly waiting for me."
Added Madam Teng: "Every night before I go to sleep, I will tell them that I love them."
Especially close to her heart is the 10-year-old Murphy. Age is catching up with it, she revealed. It moves more slowly and sleeps more now.
Madam Teng is dreading the day when she will have to say goodbye to her fur-child, but she said: "I just hope that when he goes, I will be there with him."
K-9 dog adoption a 'lifelong commitment'
NO ORDINARY CANINES: Singapore Police Force K-9 unit para-veterinarian, Senior Staff Sergeant Bernard Tan, with former explosive detector dog Morris, who is now retired and up for adoption.
As a para-veterinarian with the Police K-9 unit, Senior Staff Sergeant Bernard Tan, 35, looks after the health, disposition and well-being of more than 200 K-9 unit dogs.
Officer Tan has been a para-veterinarian for the past three years. Before this, he was a police dog handler and had worked with four dogs over seven years.
Para-veterinarians are the first port of call for basic first-aid treatment when police dogs get cuts and bruises, or suffer from basic skin issues or diarrhoea. They also act as the middleman between police dog handlers and veterinarians.
The four main breeds that are used in the K-9 unit are german shepherds, belgian shepherds, labrador retrievers, and springer spaniels. Pointers and cocker spaniels are also used.
These dogs are trained for and perform a specific role throughout their years of service. These roles include explosive detection, drug detection and guarding.
The K-9 unit's dogs are retired from service and put up for adoption when they turn seven.
About three to four police dogs are adopted by the public every month.
NO GUARD WORK
Officer Tan said: "Some adopters come in with the intention to adopt our dogs to use as guard dogs.
"But it is under the terms and conditions of adoption that these retired police dogs are meant to serve as house pets and not to perform any guard work."
He added: "Some also come in expecting the dogs to be perfectly fine without any health issues.
"However, we must emphasise that these retired dogs are old and therefore may suffer from typical ageing issues like excessive shedding, and skin issues like eczema and yeast infections.
"Adopting a retired police dog is a lifelong commitment."
HOW TO ADOPT K-9 DOGS
Can you provide a good home for a canine that has been working for Singapore's safety its entire life?
Call the K-9 unit on 6314-6043 and find out which veteran dogs they have up for adoption, then set a viewing appointment at the unit's headquarters at 2, Mowbray Road, off Choa Chu Kang Way.
There will be some paperwork to adopt a retiring dog and the unit will have to assess whether you can provide a good home for the dog.
Once the adoption is given the green light, you will need to get a dog licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).
Have this with you, along with a collar or lead, when you collect the dog and you can take it back to its new home.
The entire application process may take up to three weeks.