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‘Hachiko’ of Jurong East returns to await his master

Alyssa Chua
Singapore Showbiz
10 July 2012
‘Hachiko’ of Jurong East returns to await his master (Yahoo! file photo)
‘Hachiko’ of Jurong East returns to await his master (Yahoo! file photo)

The "Hachiko" of Jurong East has returned to his same spot to wait everyday at Block 345 Jurong East street 31.

The stray dog first made news on local forums in May when several Jurong residents spotted the collarless labrador returning to the same void deck in Jurong East Avenue 1 every day to wait for his master.

Mystery surrounds who actually owns the dog but his steadfast loyalty quickly earned him comparisons with the Japanese dog Hachiko, who became a national icon in Japan in the 1920s after it returned to the exact same spot outside Shibuya station in Tokyo for 10 years to wait for his master even after his death. The touching tale was most recently popularized in a 2009 Hollywood film starring Richard Gere.

After the initial reports in May, Jurong's Hachiko went missing and it was thought he was picked up by an anonymous group of dog lovers. But recently, he's been spotted back at his usual haunts in Jurong East.

How is he making it through every day? A 68-year-old newspaper vendor by the name of Mr Loke has been feeding him since he mysteriously first appeared in May.

Mr Loke told Yahoo! Singapore that he feeds the dog two to three times a day and has a stash of dog food and rice bought with his own money kept by the side of his small stand.

Jurong's 'Hachiko' being feed in a bowl by a newspaper vendor (Yahoo! file photo)
Jurong's 'Hachiko' being feed in a bowl by a newspaper vendor (Yahoo! file photo)

He says people have been throwing the dog food to eat but it will only eat when the food is picked up and put into a proper bowl. Mr Loke has clarified that the dog is not his but that the dog comes and goes as he pleases. At times, the dog ignores Mr Loke's calls for him to eat and only returns the next day.

Another Jurong resident, 23-year-old Kim Tong, says the dog appears faithfully and lingers at a bus stop at Block 345 on most days to wait for his master.

"The dog appears at 2pm to 3pm everyday and then again around 6pm to wait for his owner", she said.

Shy and wary of people, Mr Loke says the dog, who looks to be around seven or eight years old, does not like to interact with passers-by, once barking at a man when he was walking towards him.

But he added that the dog was generally well-behaved and follows people when he wants to cross the road and only does so when the pedestrian traffic light turns green.

The dog waits at the same spot every day for his owner to turn up (Yahoo! file photo)
The dog waits at the same spot every day for his owner to turn up (Yahoo! file photo)

The dog is now a familiar sight around the market or playground near Block 345, and several kind-hearted residents have been passing Mr Loke food to feed the dog on their behalf when he appears.

While no-one has yet come forward as his owner, Mr Loke said he's seen many people trying to lure the dog home but he steadfastly refuses to budge.

Kim Tong agreed, saying that many people have tried to secure the dog but to no avail. Each time, the faithful animal escapes and returns to the same spot to wait.

When this reporter went down to visit on Monday evening, she saw the dog quietly minding his own business but is constantly afraid of people walking near him.

Dirty and slightly emaciated but looking otherwise healthy, he wandered around the grass patches and bus stop and stood around after eating some food. When approached by a middle-aged man, he ran away, only to come back ten minutes later to finish his food, provided by the newspaper vendor.

UPDATE

According to a Facebook post, a team of around four to five people, including one keen on adopting the dog, have taken it upon themselves to secure the dog.

50-year-old homemaker Sharon Oh who led the team to secure the dog told Yahoo! Singapore that she and her team have tried in vain week after week to capture him.

Their reason for catching him was to keep him off the streets before he is taken away by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

A spokesperson from the  Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Yahoo! Singapore spoke to said that because the dog is mobile and healthy, it would be difficult for SPCA to capture him themselves. They mentioned however that if the dog is secured successfully by someone else, SPCA would willingly take him in.

So for who and how long is Singapore's Hachiko going to wait?

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