20th September 2008: SPCA Campaign Meeting, Shelter News and Hui-Min’s BBQ.
My cousin, Boy Scout, had come to stay with me at the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters for a week, as he had to sit for his exams in the city. I was glad to have him around, as I wanted the cats, especially the younger ones, to get used to having company around. I managed to successfully litter train Mini-Me and Shadow, which impressed Boy Scout no end. Keisha, on the other hand, would be going to a good friend of mine, Hui-Min.
I left for the SPCA early on Saturday morning after having fed and cleaned up after the cats. I was to attend a Campaign and PR team meeting at the shelter office first before doing my usual kennel work. It was a fruitful meeting on several campaigns that would last all of 2009. I put forward my proposals for the rebranding of adopters as ‘animal heroes’, and of shelter animals as ‘rescued animals’, and the strategies in promoting responsible pet ownership, encouraging voluntarism and the adoption of animals in need. My ideas were well received, and I could tell the team was pleased to have me on board. I have also assumed the responsibility of planning the SPCA Christmas Party to reach out to young people and young families, instead of merely our usual corporate sponsors.
The meeting over, I commenced animal care work with Rose and a gem of a new volunteer, Fiona. We bathed and tickwashed all the dogs in Mummy Dogs 1 and Mummy Dogs 2. Then I scrubbed and washed the kennels and cleaned the food and water bowls. Fiona assisted me in soaping and cleaning the Maternity Kennels while I did the Puppy Area, and later, she cleaned the front Reception/Admin office area while I cleaned the Cattery. I cleaned out all the cat baskets and litter trays as well, unclogged the gutters, and scrubbed and disinfected the whole place.
Cleaned myself up and left the shelter by 1715 hrs, as I was supposed to be at Hui-Min’s place by 1800 and I was nowhere near ready. Drove like a rally driver back home, cleaned up, put my contributions for the BBQ in my cooler box, lured Keisha into a carrier, loaded Keisha’s things into the Battletank and off I went to find my way to Hui-Min’s apartment.
Keisha had a little accident in the carrier due to stress, and I had to clean her up as soon as we got to Hui-Min’s place. Cleaned up the carrier and Hui-Min’s bathroom as well, dried Keisha off with a towel and set up her litter tray and scratching post for her in what was to be her new room. She was timid at first, but soon warmed up to Hui-Min and took to purring whenever Hui-Min sat near her or talked to her. I will miss Keisha, although I am happy that she found herself a wonderful loving home. Still, I will be seeing Keisha quite often, as Hui-Min will be sending Keisha over to my place for boarding whenever she needs to be out of town. So Keisha, essentially, has two homes now.
Once Keisha has settled down, we adjourned to the Clubhouse where the party was to be held. The party was in full swing sans the birthday girl because Li-Ann and Ben managed to get the grill going really well. There was enough food to feed hundreds. The company was great, the view fantastic and the food scrumptious. We really couldn’t ask for anything more, except perhaps more guests to help finish the food.
Left the party around 2330 hrs as I was tired after a full day’s work at the SPCA shelter, and was much heartened and relieved when Hui-Min sent me a message after the party to inform me that Keisha is adjusting well to her new environment and very affectionate.
Covert Operations, Over.
Monday, 22nd September 2008: New Job, New Beginnings
I attended a job interview on Monday with an intergovernmental organisation. As I have mentioned before, I want to do well at my current firm, but my progress here has just been stymied by too many factors. I finally decided that it was in my best interests to seek employment elsewhere. I aced the interview at the organisation and was offered the position of a junior legal counsel, which I accepted. I will be starting my new job in November. I believe that I will be able to capitalise on my strengths and produce the results I will be happy with at my new job.
I tendered my letter of resignation to the Managing Partner (Covert Boss) the day after. As I was faced with stony silence on the day he read my letter, I braced myself for an earful for when he was ready to address the issue.
Covert Boss called me into his office the day after. I had expected him to be bitter and accusing, but he was surprisingly gentle and kind. We talked about work, and he offered to train me to take up more responsibilities if I were to change my mind and continue with his firm. I declined politely, saying that I have already accepted another job. We talked about what my new job would entail, and he agreed that it would suit me better. He said he was sorry to see such talent leave, and that he hoped we would remain friends and that I would drop by the firm and visit them sometimes. While I do not regret my decision to leave, I have to admit that I felt apologetic about having to leave. I have said many times that Covert Boss is a good man. The problem lay more with my direct supervisor, the clients and work that was assigned to me. I had wanted to succeed in this firm but I guess things don’t always work out the way we want them to.
I was, however, very glad that the meeting was an amicable one. I did offer to help Covert Boss out with the firm’s corporate profile, as a final propitiatory contribution, and the Human Resource team was right glad about it. In the meantime, I intend to complete my final month with the firm with utmost commitment and diligence.
Covert Operations ~ We’ll do our best!
Saturday, 27th September 2008 – Sunday, 28th September 2008: My Wonderful Semai Children
Washing the bottles in the river so we could either reuse them for Arts & Crafts or sell them off for recycling. I showed the children what a great cleaning agent river sand is. We scrubbed the bottles clean and removed the labels by rubbing them with wet river sand.
An aerial view of the washed bottles being put out to dry in the sun. The Red team won with a total bottle count of 137. The Blue team was a close second with 136.
For photos of the village and the children, please go HERE
It was during the Bushcraft Knife and Parang Safety Course that Vegan Eugene asked me if I would be able to assist him with an environmental education camp for the Semai children of the indigenous community of Ulu Geroh, Perak. I was happy to accept his invitation and asked him to come over to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters to borrow my 3R Game board and pieces.
We spent the next two weeks preparing environmental games, arts and crafts supplies and equipment and slides for the camp. I tried mooching old premiums (crayons, school supplies and toys) that no longer have market or resale value off food manufacturers, as the children we will be working with (age 4-15) lack many things and would be very happy with a few simple gifts.
We were finally ready to roll on the morning of 27th September. After a tiring 6-hour drive, the final hour of which was almost entirely offroad, we arrived at the village community hall and were greeted by the village elders. The children started arriving on bicycles and on foot, all grins and giggles. The volunteers and I got our things organised and got the kitchen ladies to bring in the food. Then we served the food on plates to the children, as many were very young.
After lunch, we divided the children into their colour-coded teams and tied coloured ribbons around their wrists. We briefed them on the importance of recycling and not littering and sent them off in teams to collect recyclables from around the village. Littering is rife among indigenous and coastal folk, because ours is the first generation to use non-biodegradable goods extensively. In the past, the villagers could pile their waste up in a faraway corner and it would turn into rich compost within weeks. Now we have rubbish that wouldn't just disintegrate, and villagers who haven't learned that such rubbish is harmful for the Planet, and we need new ways of teaching them how to deal with disposables.
There were hundreds of bottles left lying around, the reason being that many of the logging and plantation companies employ indigenous men, because indigenous men are known to have immense strength and stamina. They are then paid in cash and kind -- mostly things like rice, tobacco and alcohol (toddy, beer and Guinness Stout) -- to keep them dependent and subservient. The bottles we found are mostly alcohol bottles left lying around after payday. We still have to find a way to keep the community self-sufficient, resilient and proud enough not to depend on the logging and plantation companies for their livelihood.
In the course of the village cleanup, my love for these beautiful, highly-evolved, nature-aware, sure-footed, sharp-eyed, soft-spoken, big-hearted Semai children grew. We put the washed bottles out to dry in the sun after counting them, and then we returned to the community hall for other activities. We played the 3R Game with the children. They had a good grasp of what items should be reduced, reused or recycled, and we hoped that they would bring this knowledge home to the adults in their families.
Next, we played the Bamboo Towers Game, and prizes were given out for the tallest bamboo towers constructed. In the late afternoon, we taught them how to make the first of the 3R crafts, and together we made thousands of paper beads using junk mail and paste. Then it was time for tea, and we doled out noodles, chips, fruit and tea to the children.
After tea, we had the nature guide take us all to the sustainable village farm where the villagers grew rice and other food crops on a rotation basis, thus eliminating the need for the traditional slash-and-burn method. We talked to the children about the importance of keeping primary forests intact, and discussed what they could do when they inherit the community farm one day.
We let the children go home after that and they ran off gleefully to play in the river. The volunteers and I tidied up the things before going to the river to bathe. Later after dinner, we cleaned and dried the bottles that weren’t quite clean enough, tidied up the supplies and games equipment, and sat in a circle to make more paper beads because the children didn’t make enough. I retired by midnight, almost blind from making beads in the dim light.
We put our camp beds and sleeping bags away on Sunday morning, washed ourselves and helped the kitchen ladies bring in the breakfast for the children. We sorted the children into their teams again and gave them breakfast. Excitement came in the form of a van carrying the teachers and lecturers from the Institute for Early Childhood Education, who could not come on Saturday due to lectures. The children are fond of the teachers and helped them carry the boxes in. The teachers then took over to conduct the 3R crafts sessions. We assisted the children in making bead necklaces and leaf bookmarks and in decorating bottles with punched-out craft shapes. These gifts will be given away to the (gormless, corrupt and ignorant) government officials who will be visiting the village on Oct 12.
I have been conducting children's nature/environment camps since 2005 and have yet to be as moved by my wards as I have during my weekend in Ulu Geroh. I learned so much from my beautiful Semai children in those 2 days. While the other teachers were teaching the children a song about river pollution, 2 of the teachers, Heng Lan and Kim, and I made 6 pretty necklaces to give away to the kitchen ladies, to teach the children about appreciating people who help us. We assembled the children and I suggested getting 6 of the smallest children to present the necklaces to the kitchen ladies. There was much cheering and clapping as the little ones put necklaces around the necks of the kitchen ladies, who looked visibly moved.
We had taken hundreds of photos over the weekend and compiled them into a slideshow, which we screened at the closing ceremony, to the music of "We're All In This Together," from High School Musical 1. Being the big softie that I am, I got all emotional during the slideshow and had to leave the community hall for a little while, so that my beautiful children could not see how much I would miss them. We got the children to help us tidy and pack up in the evening and waved them goodbye all the way down the village road, knowing in our hearts that they have done us as much good as we have brought them knowledge and cheer.
My wish for my country is to see inclusiveness being made a critical developmental goal. I want to see that the indigenous peoples, with all their skills, wisdom, knowledge and traditions would be appreciated and respected as original settlers, and not marginalised and treated as second class citizens as they are today.
Covert Operations, Over!
Wednesday, 1st October 2008 – Sunday, 5th October 2008: Fasting, Feasting
Our firm had 5 days off work (2 days being public holidays) on the occasion of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. We have all been looking forward to the long festive break.
I spent Wednesday, the first day of Hari Raya, at the SPCA. I had just learned from the shelter staff that the Admin Assistant had resigned after she was discovered to have tampered with the accounts. I believe in the innate goodness of people and find it hard to believe that such an affable young lady could be capable of pilfering. I think it could have just been carelessness and neglect of her work on her part.
There were no other volunteers around, so I assisted the vets with some official correspondence and got to work bathing and tickwashing the dogs in the Central Area. I had fortunately finished washing 12 dogs when it began to drizzle in the evening. I then proceeded to spring-clean the Cattery and scrubbed all the sleeping baskets and litter trays clean. After washing and disinfecting the Cattery, I cleaned the Maternity Kennels, Puppy Kennels and front area. I cleaned myself up and left the shelter with a pot of wheatgrass which Jacinta gave me as a gift.
Went back to the Bachelor Officers Quarters, gave the cats their wheatgrass pot, fed and cleaned up after the cats, tidied the place up and rolled on over to the parental home at night. Had dinner, did the washing up, cleaned the kitchen and played with Amber and Little Big Dog.
Spent Thursday (2nd October 2008) spring cleaning the parental home. Cleaned the kitchen cabinets and fridge, polished the furniture, cleaned the living and dining rooms and took the dogs for walks.
I had promised Covert Mum and Covert Dad that I would take them out on Friday, and so we went to Berjaya Times Square on Friday for a spot of window-shopping and grub. I treated them to lunch at Dome and we had gourmet pies and coffee, which the parents enjoyed tremendously.
Dome Gourmet Chicken & Mushroom Pie
We adjourned to the cinema after lunch, as I have got all of us tickets to watch “Mamma Mia!” It was a light-hearted movie that didn’t require any cerebral effort on our part but was positively delightful to sing along to.
Mamma Mia: The Movie!
We had tea after the movie and went home on the train after that, arriving home in time to take the doggies out for walks.
Saturday, 4th October, was another industrious day at the parental home. I swept the garden and compound and composted the sweepings, bathed the dogs, did the laundry and ironing and spring-cleaned my bedroom, the spare room and the study. Then I sorted out the things for recycling or to be donated to charity. In the evening, I did the washing up and cleaned the kitchen and disinfected the garbage cans.
I left the parental home for the SPCA animal shelter on Sunday. I learned from Dr. Pushpa that the 8 stray puppies brought in by my good friend Hurnain have all been adopted, and I wasted no time informing Hurnain of the happy news.
Rose, Reve and the other volunteers and weekend staff were all at the shelter as well, and so Rose and I spent a productive afternoon bathing and tick-washing dogs. It began raining heavily in the evening, so I turned my attention to cleaning the shelter instead. I cleaned out, scrubbed and disinfected the Hospital, Puppy Kennels, cages, pound, cooking area, Cattery and front Reception/Admin area.
I took a short break to go to the convenience store for a soda after cleaning, and spotted a few tame stray cats in the area. I returned with some kibbles and fed them. I picked one up for neutering and returned to the shelter with the trusting cat. I put her in a cage with food, water and a litter tray and requested that she be spayed the following day. I will come to settle the bill next Sunday, and bring Shadow and Mini-Me in for neutering as well. Project Second Chance has been sailing smoothly for the past month and I hope to achieve more success with my neuter-and-release project.
Went back to the Bachelor Officers Quarters at night, stopped by the night market for junk food, cleaned the ‘Quarters, cleaned up after the cats, got ready for work the following day, waited for Hui-Min to come pick Keisha up (who came over to the Bachelor Officers Quarters for boarding during the festive break), puked my guts out, took 2 activated carbon pills and a paracetamol and slept my sickness off.
Gung-Ho, Gung-Ho! Good work, Commando!
MY REPORT ON THE ASIA FOR ANIMALS CONFERENCE 2008, TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE NEW STRAITS TIMES
~ Animal Welfare Symposium in the Isle of Gods ~
By Wong Ee Lynn
A gamelan music troupe welcomed the SPCA Selangor delegation to the Sanur Beach Hotel on 26th August 2008, the evening before Day 1 of the Asia For Animals Conference 2008
(“AfA”). SPCA Selangor was represented by a contingent of 6 officers and senior volunteers who were selected based on their ongoing contributions to the organisation and their role in specific animal welfare campaigns in Malaysia. We were pleased to meet fellow Malaysians Dr. Ismail from the Department of Veterinary Services and two representatives from Ipoh Street Cats and Dogs at the Conference.
The biennial AfA Conference is by no means a pleasure junket for animal-lovers. It is, rather, a forum to bring together veterinarians, animal welfare/rescue professionals, government agencies and animal welfare organisations in Asia to develop winning animal welfare strategies. Many animal-related issues are unique to Asia, for instance, dog meat consumption, for which the developed world has not been able to offer a solution. Also, in the case of impoverished communities such as the Qalandars in India that have for generations trained performing bears, enforcing harsher penalties would be cruel if an alternative livelihood were not offered to the offenders. A forum such as AfA is therefore critical to the process of assessing and formulating animal protection policies that are socially acceptable and that take into account human needs.
The 2008 AfA Conference was scheduled right in between two Balinese festivals, Galungan and Kuningan, and the Conference participants were delighted to encounter decorated shrines and ‘canang’ (offerings of flowers, fruit and incense) at every turn. The election of Bali as the Conference venue was appropriate, as Bali is rich in contradictions. Bakso carts share the sidewalks with ‘penjor’ (decorated bamboo poles bearing offerings), and the gentle Balinese people, who make time for daily worship, also touched us with their love of nature and animals. Yet for every well-fed street dog we saw, there were always others suffering from disease and malnutrition. And while we loved the island for having reclaimed the tale of Yudisthira, the noble king who chose to renounce Heaven unless a loyal stray mongrel was also allowed entry, we were also aware of the island’s animistic tradition of animal sacrifice, including the ritual slaughter of dogs in the rural areas. Bali therefore was a good metaphor for the complexity of the challenges we face as animal care providers in the developing world.
Day 1 of the Conference was kicked off with the reading of the 2007 Conference resolutions, followed by ice-breaking activities coordinated by Profauna Indonesia. After 4 team-building challenges which involved much spilling of water and messing up of clothes and hair, we returned to the Conference hall bedraggled and grimy to debate topics such as sustainable animal advocacy and activism, animal welfare journalism, the consumption of dog meat in China and Korea and the need for Asian solidarity in speaking up against the practice.
In the evening, we were honoured with the presence of Shaun Monson, award-winning director of the 2005 animal rights documentary, ‘Earthlings’. The screening of ‘Earthlings’ left most of the delegates in tears, but Monson received a standing ovation nevertheless after the closing credits. After a final Q&A session, the Conference participants adjourned to the beach for a candle-lighting and blessing ceremony for departed animals, followed by a vegetarian dinner.
Day 2 of the Conference saw the SPCA Selangor delegation split into 2 working groups: Companion Animal Track and Wildlife Track. The Companion Animal Track workshop participants departed on the bus in the morning to visit the Yudisthira Field Clinic, and returned to the Conference venue after lunch to observe the live keyhole spay demonstration. Dr. Natasha Lee, formerly of SPCA Selangor, delivered a presentation on the SPCA-DBKL Klinik Kembiri Low Cost Neuter Clinic, while SPCA Selangor’s officer Jacinta Johnson shared the lessons learned at the South Pacific Humane Education Conference and related how the information was used to improve animal welfare education programmes in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the Wildlife Track workshop participants laboured over topics such as assessing wildlife in captivity, establishing a wildlife rescue centre, establishing an Asian Sanctuary Alliance and wildlife rehabilitation. The Wildlife Track participants went on a field trip to the Bali Zoo in Singapadu in the evening to conduct a Zoo Check exercise to evaluate the well-being of the wildlife in captivity.
On the final day of the Conference, we worked on the more results-orientated issues such as law enforcement, working with the government, enlisting volunteers, disaster relief and response and campaign planning and preparation. The final programme for the Conference was the drafting of the 2008 Resolutions. Contributions from SPCA Selangor included implementing and enforcing better laws on, and restrictions against, the retail sale of pets.
The Asia for Animals Conference 2008 was officially closed at 6 p.m. on 29th August, and the SPCA Selangor team returned to Malaysia with the intellectual resources necessary to promote responsible pet ownership, animal welfare, disease prevention and effective wildlife management in Malaysia. Without the AfA conference, much time and resources would have been squandered on conducting campaigns and projects on a trial-and-error basis. Our heartfelt thanks go out to our sponsors and supporters for their assistance and encouragement, and to the Conference speakers and workshop facilitators for the knowledge they shared and disseminated so generously.