A tribute to Mai Mai, the shelter dog who became a precious member of our family


Mai Mai was a dog we adopted from a rescue-animal shelter in Macau. He was our dog, but at the same time, I have to add that he was never like a dog to us, he was like another person, another member of our family whom we loved and cherished with all our heart.

Very Sadly, he fell ill last year and succumbed to the illness a few months ago. We did everything we could to save him but we caught the disease in him a little too late. He breathed his last on the afternoon of the 31st of March 2021. In the last few months of his life, we did the things that he loved doing. One of the things he loved, was going out, so we took him out as much as we could. As he weakened by the week, he began to find it difficult to walk, so we put him in the baby stroller and pushed him around. He fought on, fought on really hard but the illness unabatedly spread through his body.

We knew the day would come when he would eventually leave us, so we tried as hard as we could, to prepare ourselves for the day when it eventually came. Alas, as hard as we tried to prepare ourselves, we were not ready to let him go. Our hearts still broke when Mai Mai breathed his last that fateful afternoon.

From the day he came, he was part of our family. Sharing our bed, sharing our food, sharing our ups and downs. I truly struggle to find the words to describe how much he meant to us. The relationship that we shared with him can only be understood through experience, plain words simply cannot do justice to the bond we shared. To put it simply, he was more than a dog to us, he was family, friend, confidant and so much more.

This post is in tribute and memory of our dearest Mai Mai who forever lives on, in our hearts. 

Who is Mai Mai.

When we first got to know about Mai Mai, he was an 8 year old Schnauzer who was abandoned at the municipal pound in Macau. He had been abandoned at the pound by his previous owner and he wasn’t in the best of health. The pound is not a very nice place to live, and very sadly, many dogs who go there, don’t leave. Fortunately for Mai Mai, he was rescued from the pound by one of the dog shelters in Macau that is run by a few kind volunteers. He was named BeBe by the volunteers who rescued him. Below are some images of him being rescued from the pound.

shelter dog before and after

The volunteers posted this photo of Mai Mai on social media after they rescued him ❤️????

Mai Mai in the volunteer’s car after being rescued from the pound

Having a look around ☺️❤️

Looking disheveled ????

All Happy!! After my hair cut!!! ????????❤️

How we met Mai Mai.

My wife had been looking for a dog to adopt for sometime but I was always not very keen on the idea. I have had two dogs before and I knew the emotional pain and heartache that we would suffer when they left us. I didn’t want to go through that again. Besides the fear of heartache, the other reason that I was not keen on having a dog was because my wife and I travelled frequently and if we had a dog, we wouldn’t have the same freedom as we had before. That being said, I was not totally against the idea of adopting a dog because I have always wanted to help abandoned and stray dogs and I knew the joy and love, a dog would bring to the home.

After a few months of looking and my constant dilly-dallying, my wife became more adamant and insistent that she wanted to adopt a dog. I then agreed, because I thought: “who was I to deprive her of the joy and experience of having a dog?” I have had the experience of having a dog before, she has not. I shouldn’t deny her of that experience. And besides, this was also an opportunity for me to help abandoned and stray dogs.

I had two conditions though, I told her that we should adopt a dog that was not a puppy and a dog that was not too big in size so we could accommodate him or her comfortably in our home. “Not a puppy” because I wanted a dog that was settled and mature in its personality. Puppies would be full of energy and may have the tendency to chew on things in the house, so that was why I wanted a dog that was grown up and probably between 4 to 6 years old.

My wife had been scrolling through the facebook pages of the various shelters in Macau and there was one dog in particular that caught her attention, it was a small elder Schnauzer which had been posted up for adoption by a shelter for more than a month.

We made an appointment to see Mai Mai.

We made an appointment to see Mai Mai on a Saturday afternoon. When we walked in to the shelter, a Schnauzer that looked like the one we seen in the pictures on facebook was running around the place, barking and pee marking everything he saw. I have never been afraid to admit, my first impressions of Mai Mai were not very good. He was noisy, peeing everywhere and he didn’t show any interest in us (his potential adopters).  Anyway, we spoke to the volunteers at the shelter and they told us that Mai Mai had actually already been “adopted” and taken home by a family that just lost their own Schnauzer.

Unfortunately for them though, they returned Mai Mai after three days because they felt his personality was very different from that of their previous dog. (Unfortunately for them but fortunately for us, because if they didn’t return Mai Mai, we wouldn’t have had the chance to spend five wonderful years with him). Below are the first pictures that we took with Mai Mai at the shelter.

The first picture I ever took with Mai Mai

The first picture my wife ever took with Mai Mai

We left the shelter without Mai Mai.

Like I said, I wasn’t impressed initially with Mai Mai because of his barking, pee marking the whole place and lack of interest in us. When the volunteer told us that there was another couple coming to see Mai Mai that evening, I made the decision to let the other couple see him first and it would be OK if they wanted to adopt him. We then left the shelter without Mai Mai and I told my wife that we would continue looking at the shelter postings to find a dog to adopt. We would also consider Mai Mai if the other couple didn’t adopt him. Nevertheless, at that time, I thought Mai Mai would be adopted by the other couple and we would never see him again (Thankfully they didn’t!).

Three days later.

My wife and I still kept on talking about Mai Mai for the next couple of days. We wondered if we did the right thing in not taking him home, then three days after we visited the shelter, the volunteer called my wife and told her that there was some kind of disease outbreak at the shelter and asked if we could house and foster Mai Mai for a few weeks so that he would be safe from the outbreak at the shelter. My wife called me over the phone to ask me and I immediately told her to agree to take Mai Mai in (before anyone else takes him). I agreed immediately because I saw this as a “sign” from God,  telling us to take Mai Mai in.

And so, Mai Mai came to our home. The volunteers thought that we would only be fostering Mai Mai but my wife and I already had other plans. We had already decided to adopt Mai Mai the moment the shelter called us to foster him. We had already found our dog. We were looking for a 4 to 5 year old dog to adopt but we got an 8 year old dog instead.

Mai Mai when he first came to our home, I think he looks like a puppy here but he was already 8 years old.

The volunteers visited us about 3 weeks after we took in Mai Mai to check up on how all of us were doing and this was the photo they posted on their social media page.

We changed Mai Mai’s name.

Mai Mai was named “BeBe” by the volunteers who rescued him. We are not sure what his name was when he was with his previous owner, what his living conditions were like or why he was abandoned at the pound at the age of eight. We only know of what happened to him after he was left at the pound. Anyway, my wife and I found the name Siew-Mai cute so we named him just that; Siew-mai (after the dim-sum dumpling). Somehow after awhile, we started calling him Mai Mai and the name stuck.

Mai Mai loved to eat…everything! He was noisy, he loved to grumble and bark … and sleep on the sofa

So Mai Mai stayed with us and he was both a joy and a headache to be with. The volunteers told us that Mai Mai really loved to eat, but we thought to ourselves then: “which dog doesn’t like to eat??” Mai Mai was different though, he had a really good appetite, almost an insatiable appetite. He would eat anything at anytime of the day. If I woke up at 3 am to use the toilet, he would wake up as well and pester me for food. He would also wake us up at 6.30am to ask for food. And it was not like we weren’t feeding him enough, we fed him two proper meals everyday!

Not sure if we are right but we always thought that he was like this (always hungry and looking for food!!) because of his experiences at the municipal pound where he may not have had enough to eat, or there may have been more competition for food from other dogs. Or also possibly because he didn’t have enough to eat when he was with his previous owner. We thought that the lack of food or the competition for it, made it a habit for him to eat as much as he could whenever there was food available. Or ask for food at every opportunity.

Besides being hungry all the time, he grumbled and barked a lot. Grumble in a way of whining and growling and when he did that, it seemed like he was complaining about something and talking under his breath. He would also bark a lot and that gave us some stress as he would bark when no one was at home, when he wanted food, when we were going out or when the neighbours were passing by our home outside. He look for opportunities to bark and every chance he got, he would bark!

He had his own bed but he loved sleeping on his sofa

He loved to tuck his nose between his “hands” when he was falling asleep.

Striking one of his poses on the sofa

A shirt for him to stay warm during cold winter days. He disliked wearing clothes though and would quickly rip them off when he woke up.

Mai Mai sat in my suitcase as I was just about to pack for one of my trips back to Singapore. I think he wanted to come along ????

He loved his walks and car rides.

Mai Mai loved his walks, I mean he really really loved his walks. He would be ecstatic the moment we took out his collar and leash. We took him to many places and played games with him outside.

He loved his car rides

Taking a stroll along Guia hill

Walking with Papa at the beach

mai mai at sai van lake

Every year, during the Macau grand prix, a police vehicle would be parked in this exact same spot and every year without fail we would take a picture of Mai Mai in front of the police vehicle

Enjoying the drive, enjoying the view, enjoying the sun in his eyes

Playing in the bush.

He shared every moment with us, he was there when our daughter Charlotte was born and the two of them developed a strong bond.

This was the image I used for my social media profile when we were expecting Charlotte.

Mai Mai snuggling up to Charlotte when she was still in Mama’s tummy.

Charlotte greeting Mai Mai immediately after coming home from nursery

Taking over Mai Mai’s bed and having a nap with him.

Let’s smile for the camera!

My pillow has a name and he is called Mai Mai!

Don’t worry Mai Mai! I will protect you!!

Mai Mai would rest his head on Charlotte’s lap on car rides.

Charlotte and Mai Mai were always happy to go out with each other.

Charlotte learning to walk Mai Mai.

We celebrated all our birthdays together.

Charlotte made a cake for Mai Mai with her toys

Mai Mai’s birthday cake that was just for us.

One of Mai Mai’s birthday cakes

Another of Mai Mai’s birthday cakes.

Sadly, Mai Mai was never in the best of health.

Mai Mai never enjoyed going to the vets. This is him waiting for his turn to see the doctor. He is clinging onto mama and begging to go home 🏡 😊.

Mai Mai was never in the best of health from the day he came to us. We suspected that his health problems could be a reason why his previous owners abandoned him, but we will never know for sure. Below are some of the problems and major medical procedures that he had to go through.

Heart problems: We learnt before we adopted Mai Mai that he had some kind of heart problem. He was on some form of Chinese herbal medication that we were to add to his meals every night.  This problem though, would not be the main health issue that he was going to face.

Bladder stone: Mai mai would pee-mark a lot on his walks, he would walk and stop to pee and mark every 20 – 30 meters or so. About a month after he arrived, we noticed that his pee was red, it was blood. We took him to the vet who did scans and x-rays and found a huge stone in his bladder. The vet gave him some meds and told us to observe him and to come back if and when it got worse. We also started yearly health checks for him and this checks included x-rays and blood and urine tests. Our goal was to detect any problem early so hopefully we can “nip anything and everything in the bud”.

Bone spur in his spine: Another health issue surfaced. Mai Mai would always have severe pain in his back whenever we took him to the groomers for a hair cut or if he had a vigorous walk.  We brought him to the vet who did x-rays again and found a bone spur in his spine (some form of bone degeneration that gradually gets worse). That spur was causing him the pain. The Vet told us there was not much we could do except put him on ‘chronic’ joint and pain medication. That helped him to a certain extent.

First surgery for bladder stone: In early 2018, we sent Mai Mai for surgery to remove the bladder stone. The stone in his bladder was causing him more problems and it had to be removed. It was a huge stone and it was then that we realised how much pain and discomfort Mai mai must have been enduring all this while.

This is the actual stone that was removed from Mai Mai’s bladder.

Bladder stone returned. 

We continued with the yearly medical checks for Mai Mai and on one of these checks, we discovered to our frustration that the bladder stone had returned just two years after the surgery. Unbeknownst to us, this was just the beginning of Mai Mai’s major health issue.

Besides the bladder stone, the vet said that there might be something going on with his spleen but it didn’t seem serious at that moment and told us not to worry about it.

We sent Mai Mai for another surgery to remove the other bladder stone.

We sent Mai Mai for another surgery to remove the bladder stone. We didn’t want it to get as big as the first one. During the surgery, the vet called us and told us that Mai Mai was anaemic but the surgery could still be done. We continued with the surgery and the stone was removed.

Tumour in his spleen.

What we discovered from the surgery was that Mai Mai was anaemic. There most certainly had to be a cause for this, something was consuming his blood. After he recovered fully from the second surgery, we took him to the vet to investigate further and through further blood work and x-rays, the vet found that he had a tumour in his spleen.

The vet that diagnosed the tumour in his spleen was the same vet that told us not to worry about it just awhile earlier.  This was the same vet who brushed it off when there was some abnormality on Mai Mai’s x-rays and blood work. This time he gave Mai Mai some steroids and antibiotics and told us to come back in a week or two.  That was all he suggested. We couldn’t take his word at face value this time. He knew that there was something amiss much earlier (when Mai mai did the annual checkup) but nothing was done, he chose not to investigate further. He even told us not to worry about it.

A second opinion and a new Vet

We arranged to see another vet for a second opinion. This vet did an ultrasound scan and ran a few more blood tests. He concurred that it was likely a tumour but unable to tell if it was malignant or if it had spread to the other organs. He suggested that we do surgery to remove the spleen. If it was non-malignant, Mai Mai would make a full recovery after we removed his spleen. However, if it was malignant and the cancer had spread to the other organs, then the prognosis would be very poor. At most, Mai Mai would have just three more months to live.

Mai Mai and Dr Wong, the vet who did the surgery on Mai Mai.

We couldn’t bare to lose Mai Mai, we had to give him a chance. We opted to do the surgery.

If we went though with this surgery, it would be his third major surgery in 4 years. This would be extremely tough on a 13 year old dog and the question we asked ourselves was; what if we did the surgery and the cancer had already spread to the other organs? He would then have gone through all the pain and distress of surgery for naught.

BUT, what if the tumour was non-malignant? If we didn’t remove it, it would continue to grow in size and ultimately kill Mai Mai as well, even though it was benign. By the off chance, it was benign, wouldn’t it be best to remove the spleen and let Mai Mai make a full recovery? We would be wasting valuable time by not doing the surgery. After much thought and prayers, we decided to do the surgery. The thought of losing Mai Mai was just too painful, we knew he wanted to stay with us and to live longer, so we decided to give the surgery a go. We just had to give Mai Mai and ourselves a chance.

Mai Mai recovering after the surgery

Devastatingly, it was found out during the surgery that the tumour was malignant, was aggressive and had spread to his pancreas. We were devastated.

The doctor told us we only had 6 months (at most) left with Mai Mai. If we had not removed the spleen, Mai Mai wold have passed away within a week to three weeks as the spleen had swelled up tremendously and was close to bursting. Somehow it felt like this was all a bad dream. We cried as we went home that night. Feeling of regret of finding out about the tumour too late. Regret about doing the surgery because we put Mai Mai through so much pain again. Regret that we couldn’t do much more to save him.

We still had a little time with Mai Mai so we tried to make full use of it.

Mai Mai was physically fine for a month after the surgery. The removal of the spleen relieved the pressure in his abdomen and he got back some of his strength and energy. It was the old noisy and hungry Mai Mai back again! However, that didn’t last long as he started to slowly lose strength and appetite from the beginning of the second month after surgery. We brought him back to the vet to get various medications including pain-relief pills to keep him as comfortable as possible.

He loved his walks but as he started to lose strength, he lost his enthusiasm to go out. We then put him in a stroller to push him around. We had very little time left with Mai Mai so we tried to make full use of it. Tomorrow might never come…

Mai Mai’s condition gradually deteriorated.

Mai Mai’s condition deteriorated from the beginning of February. He started to lose his appetite for food, would sometimes vomit what he ate and would poo and pee around the house. He was starting to have trouble controlling his bowels and bladder. The pain medications would help and we continued giving them to him. We consulted the vet again sometime in early March 2021 and and this time, he told us to consider letting Mai Mai be “put to sleep”.

This was an idea that we never entertained because we could never take Mai Mai to the vets to be killed. But now that he was suffering, we couldn’t completely rule it out.  My wife and I then came to an agreement that as long as we could still keep him reasonably comfortable with a very soft bed and medications, we would not let him be put to sleep.

The reason why we wanted to let Mai Mai pass away in his own home and not be “put to sleep” in the hospital.

Mai Mai had suffered much in his life; he was abandoned at the pound, stayed there for a month and was almost destroyed before the kind volunteers rescued him. He was adopted by a family only to be returned to the shelter three days later. He also had medical problems that affected his life and caused him much pain. Mai Mai had suffered much in his life and our goal now, as his life was coming to an end, was to keep him comfortable and let him pass away in his own bed, in his own home, and surrounded by his own family. His own family that loved him unconditionally.

The day came and our hearts broke.

On the afternoon of 31st March 2021, I was hand feeding Mai Mai when his body suddenly went limp. He collapsed in my arms and his head just flopped over the other side of my arm. I panicked. His body was soft and there was no life left in him. I shook him and begged him not to go. We were not ready to let him go yet, I cried to him. I laid him on his bed and tried to revive him. I did chest compressions on him but there was no response. I then called my wife and she cried with me over the phone. We knew this day was coming and we tried to prepare ourselves as best we could. But, as hard as we tried, we were not ready to lose Mai Mai. Our hearts were broken.

We said our goodbyes.

We said our goodbyes to Mai Mai at one of the pet crematoriums in Macau. We had already told him everything that we wanted to say when he was still alive. This time we just told him how much we loved him and how painful it was to let him go.

He was always more than family and we miss him every Single day.

Mai Mai shared every moment with us good and bad. We spoke to him about everything and he was always there to listen. He had been with us for only five years but in those five years, we shared and experienced so many milestones together, so many ups and downs. The time we had together and the memories we created during those times would be forever cherished by us.

Thank you Mai Mai, thank you for choosing us, for teaching us, for being a friend and for being our family. We know you are in a better place now, somewhere where you can run and bark as much as you want. We love you Mai Mai, remember to be a good boy in heaven ❤️

A special thanks to the volunteers May, Ada and Emily who introduced and brought Mai Mai into our lives. We are most grateful to them for saving Mai Mai from the municipal pound and looking after him till he found his forever home. Here are the posts they did for Mai Mai.

if you cant help a hundred people then help one

If you can’t help one hundred dogs, then help just one. And if you can’t help one then please please don’t harm them in any way.

To honour Mai Mai and to give another homeless dog a home, we adopted another senior dog from the shelter a month after Mai Mai passed away. We adopted a girl this time and her name is Dao Dao (bean bean).

I Thought of You Today

Author unknown

I thought of you with love today but that is nothing new, I thought about you yesterday and days before that too, I think of you in silence and I often speak your name. All I have are memories and your picture in a frame. Your memory is my keepsake with which I’ll never part. God has you in His keeping, I have you in my heart.