From a young age, Ms Tan Sze Wei, 43, has always loved books and dogs, adopting her first stray when she was 13 years old. 

Sze Wei and her first dog, Happy, whom she adopted from the streets. (Photo Credit: Tan Sze Wei)

So when she learned from a friend who volunteers at the Forget Me Not Shelter that it costs about $450 monthly to care for a stray, she wanted to help ease this financial burden. 

“I initially wanted to raise funds with one of my son’s space-themed paintings featuring a dog, but I realise one painting might not suffice. So I thought how about I write a book?” she said. 

Last June, Sze Wei dedicated her evenings after work to craft the children’s colouring book “Brownie Girl’s Space Adventure”, a heartwarming tale that has been supporting the Forget Me Not Shelter since December 2023. 

Cover Page of Brownie Girl’s Space Adventure (Image Source: Sze Wei and Yu Cheng)

The narrative follows Brownie Girl, a beloved resident dog at the Forget Me Not Shelter, whose fascination with stars catapults her into a captivating journey through outer space with a young boy named Lucas. 

Beyond a means to support the shelter, Sze Wei hopes to drive the message that dreams, even for dogs, are achievable with the support of others. 

“I hope children who read this story will also learn to be bold enough to help their friends,” shared Sze Wei, “sometimes we are too shy to extend a helping hand, or we think we are of little help but that is not true.” 

Adorned with delightful illustrations by her 10-year-old son Yu Cheng, the book is a testament to the numerous charitable projects the mother-son duo has undertaken together. 

Yu Cheng painting the cover page of Brownie Girl’s Space Adventure (Photo Credit: Tan Sze Wei)

Their shared passion for volunteering has led them to raise funds for organizations like ACRES and Guide Dogs Singapore in the past. Additionally, their commitment to fostering a love for literature led them to establish a small free library at their lift landing, extending their collection to neighbours. 

“My goal as a parent is to instill values like compassion and kindness in my son, passed down to me by my parents,” said Sze Wei.  

For Yu Cheng, who has been taking art classes since he was four, art is both a passion and a way to contribute to the community. While he admits that it was challenging to draw the characters in the book, he feels that he should do his part to help whenever he can.  

“I hope more people can help the shelter dogs, and even give them a home,” said Yu Cheng. 

The Forget Me Not Shelter was started in 2016 by Mr Dennis Cheow when he decided to provide refuge to 10 abandoned dogs with aggressive behaviour. Over time, the shelter extended its care to stray puppies, injured mongrels, and abandoned dogs.  

Dennis and Moonie, a rottweiler mix he helped to rehome. (Photo Credit: Dennis Cheow)

Yet, the trials posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of manpower and finances persist today. As such, the shelter can only accommodate up to 15 dogs at a time to ensure their well-being.  

Despite these adversities, a devoted team of six volunteers dedicate their weekends to training and bonding with the dogs, aiding in their transition to becoming beloved pets. 

Dennis said: “We used to be able to conduct educational tours for universities and companies and we want to do it again, but it has been difficult to get things moving with the lack of help.” 

Brownie Girl, affectionately known as “Lao Lao” to volunteers at the shelter. (Photo Credits: Forget Me Not)

One success story from the shelter is Brownie Girl herself. Initially arriving at the shelter as an abandoned and aggressive dog, she underwent treatment for infections while receiving crucial behavioural corrections from the team. Although she was ready to move into a home environment, Brownie Girl developed a deep attachment to the shelter which she now considers her haven. 

Speaking about the book fundraising project, Dennis said: “It’s very touching that they want to help the shelter by doing a book. Nowadays it’s hard to find someone at Yu Cheng’s age who wants to do more volunteer work, especially for the voiceless.” 

As the father of a six-year-old daughter, Dennis has been fostering her love for strays and hopes to share the book with her soon. 

“It’s easy to forget about the stray and shelter dogs in our daily lives. If we don’t help them then who will help them?” he said.  

Sze Wei and her son, Yu Cheng with the hard copies of the book they worked on together. (Photo Credits: Tan Sze Wei)

“Brownie Girl’s Space Adventure” is available for purchase at $30, with all proceeds benefiting the Forget Me Not Shelter. Orders or donations can be made by reaching out to the shelter via Instagram. 

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