O THIAM CHIN
In The Dogs, Guan, a middle-aged man, decides to move back into the flat that had once belonged to his late father, who had died in it a few months back. He sells off his old flat and, in the process, estranges himself from his own son, who is at a loss over his father’s sudden decision. While trying to settle in and to make sense of the new surroundings, Guan slowly gets to know the residents of the block and becomes acquainted with a neighbour, an old lonely man who dresses in his dead wife’s clothes. As Guan explores and discovers more of the estate he lives in, through his long walks, he starts to have flashbacks about his past, vividly remembering his childhood in a kampong in Singapore in the 1950s, and his close friendship with Heng Chong, a schoolmate. He recalls the pranks and games they played, the mischief they got into—prowling the Sembawang Hills estate and setting the dogs free from the big houses in that estate—and the secrets they shared, one of which was the mysterious death of Heng Chong’s baby sister who died during birth, something which set the boys on a quest to find the truth behind it.
As they delved more and more into their investigations, the friendship between them was slowly tested, gradually revealing the cracks that began to tear them apart. The arrival of a stray dog in their kampong, one that the boys adopted as their own, soon proved to be the catalyst that sparked off a chain of events that led to the dissolution of their friendship, and the unforeseen death of a loved one that cast a long, indelible shadow over Guan’s life subsequently. As Guan looks back into the past to find the answers to the mystery that surrounded this tragic death, he also comes to a clearer understanding of his present predication and learns to cope with his own personal losses and find ways to redeem himself from his past acts. In the act of negotiating his past and his pain, Guan finds new hopes in his solitude, and a new life he’s slowly building with hard-won resilience, fortitude and purpose.