Ashlogue Chats with Marie Choo: Woman On A Mission

This is definitely not our first. Our conversation started a year ago when Ashlogue found out how she was more passionate about rescue dogs than being a high-powered woman. Since then, we have witnessed Marie’s continuous outpour of love towards the woofies.

Making the big leap to start a new life as an activist is not a straightforward decision by anyone’s standard. I’ve then come to the realization that life is not about living posh, it is about making a worthwhile contribution to anyone who deserves it.

This year, Ashlogue is honored to be part of Marie’s initiative to raise funds for rescue dogs. It was such a pleasure to have spent our first Sunday with Marie and her family including Butter & Ash for our CSR campaign with their Sunday ritual. Hear what the strong-hearted sport has to say about her inspiration behind her life story and the journey of her transition.

What inspired you to do this?

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M: I started working with rescue dogs in 2011. That was when I was shocked to find out that there are so many independent dog shelters that care for rescued stray and abandoned dogs. Working hands-on as a volunteer at some of the dog shelters had inspired me to want to do more to create awareness about the plights of these dogs and to raise funds to help these shelters. Dog welfare in Singapore is not financially aided by our Singapore government and the dog shelters are managed by kind hearted souls who used their own money or savings to rent kennel space to house and feed these dogs. If not for my volunteer work, I wouldn’t even know about the existence of these dog shelter. Hence, I wanted to use the skills from my previous profession as a PR professional to create awareness by getting media coverage. Since I started running about 3 years ago, I wanted to run my races with intention. I dedicate my races to helping rescue dogs and do fundraisers with every full marathon that I run.

How are you planning to utilize the fund?

M: For the past 2 years, I use the money raised from I RUN FOR RESCUE DOGS marathon fundraisers to buy food to feed the hundreds of rescue dogs seeking refuge at selected dog shelters, namely SOSD, Mdm Wong’s Shelter and Friends (MWS), Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter (OSCAS) and Uncle Khoe’s K9. For this year, I am doing my first ultra trail marathon and will be dedicating it as an exclusive fundraiser for SOSD. The money raised will go towards helping SOSD run its shelter, which includes feeding the dogs and medical care. Ultra is anything more than a marathon distance (42.195km) and trail means off road running. The race that I will be doing on March 11 is Tranlantau50, a 50km distance on Lantau Island in Hong Kong.

You mentioned, you’re sort of done with the corporate world. So what are you currently pursuing? 

M: Since I retired as a PR professional and wound up my own PR agency in 2015, I have been doing a couple of things, I am now a part time lecturer at LASALLE College of The Arts , as well as being The Dog Alchemist, working as a dog behaviourist and trainer. I also never stopped learning and got myself certified as an ISSA (International Sport Sciences Association) Fitness Trainer last year. I would like to eventually do some work in the fitness industry.

What was the ultimate element that motivated you to take the leap of faith to start a new life all together?

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M: I started running in April 2014. I literally did a ‘Forest Gump’ because I was at the crossroads of my career. I have evolved as a person over the years and my interests have shifted into helping rescue dogs and leading a simple life. My job as a PR professional was cause some internal conflicts in me as I worked with luxury brands and had to entertain at high society events, and my work required me to be in the social scene and limelight as part of my job. I thought running will take some stress away and give me the clarity that I seek, so I started running to avoid falling into a depression.

I usually run alone on most days and my runs act as meditation sessions. I began to have more clarity about what I would like my life to be, which led to the eventual decision for me to close down my PR agency in June 2015 when I fulfilled all the contracts for my client. Since my retirement from the PR work, I could spend more time to do things that I choose to do, such as being a part time lecturer, studying to be a fitness trainer, training to be a better runner, fundraising to help rescue dogs, and training dogs for private clients.

How does your typical day look like now? 

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M: A typical day will start off with walking my dogs for 40 minutes, followed by some sort of fitness activity such as running. I can usually be found at TripleFit attending the calisthenics or pound classes, when not doing yin yoga classes at PURE Yoga. I lecture twice a week at LASALLE. I will also do another walk with my dogs in the evening. I try to catch up with friends over lunch when I can.

Why Butter & Ash?

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M: A dog is a man’s best friend. What makes having a dog even better is having two dogs. My husband and I got Butter as our first dog 6 years ago. After a year, we decided to get a second dog as Butter’s sibling. Getting Ash was a great decision because we can truly see how both dogs enjoy each other’s companionship.

What was the feeling when you first brought them home?

M: Sheer happiness. After we got Butter, I was inspired to become a dog trainer because I wanted to teach her well and guide her to be a good canine citizen. After we got Ash, I expanded my experience in dog training and learnt how to manage a multi-dog household. I did a correspondence course and got myself certified as a dog behaviourist and trainer because I want to be a good pawrent to Butter and Ash. Learning the art and science of dog training has allow me to have a better relationship with them.

How do you cultivate your relationship with your woofies? How do you divide the work with hubs?

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M: Exercise, training and love. To have a good relationship with any dog, you will have to walk them. Walking the dog is part of the bonding process. Training them to understand basic obedience and instilling discipline will ensure a great relationship because you can eliminate the unnecessary stress of having to deal with dog behavioral problems. Showing them love and treating them as family members will bring the relationship to the highest level.

I will usually take care of the dogs on weekdays while hubs is out at work. On weekends, he will help with the walking duties while I am out training on trails for my upcoming race.

What’s the best way to train your dogs to be obedient and disciplined?

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M: Start training from day 1 of getting the dog, if not as soon and as young as possible. What I practice as The Dog Alchemist is to first teach the dog some basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, wait, down, ok, no. Basic obedience commands act as a language for communication. Once a dog can understand and follow the commands, I can then use it as a tool to convert a dog’s undesired behavior into a desired one, using positive motivation rewards such as food treats or affection. Discipline will come with consistency of the owner’s training of the dog. How we behave will affect how a dog behaves. There must always be a consequence for every action. For example, if you ask the dog to sit and it will receive a pat on its head or a food treat, the dog will be happy to sit for you. However, if the dog doesn’t sit but you still give it a food treat, the dog will learn that not obeying you does not yield a negative reaction or consequence.

How do you and your hubs spend time with B&A?

M: We go on walks with them. We hang out with them and play with them at home. We give them kisses and cuddles all the time.

What do you love most about dogs?

M: Their resilience, intelligence and their ability to love us unconditionally.

Do you think Singapore is a conducive environment for the welfare of dogs?

M: There is definitely lots of room for growth in the dog welfare aspect in Singapore. On a positive note, more people are learning about dog welfare and doing their part to help the less fortunate dogs in Singapore. Dog owners are learning to be better and more responsible, which helps in the reduction of abandonment and abuse cases. More people are also choosing adoption over the purchase of dogs from pet store and puppy farms.

If you are a dog lover yourself and would like to be part of this campaign, act here before it’s too late.

Credits:
Photo courtesy of Shaun Tay | @sk_shaun

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