The recent Christmas festivities had been an opportunity for me to rekindle and nourish old friendships, renew my resolve to work to improve animal welfare and environmental awareness and make use of the prescribed vacation time to carry out volunteer and campaign work. As you could see from Nicole's Christmas Blogpost, the only unfortunate side effect of the festive season was that it was also an opportunity for me to cultivate a pot belly.
In observing the spirit of the season, I organised a New Year's Eve Campout at the Bentong Farm Sanctuary to encourage my friends and associates in the City to visit and help out at the Sanctuary. Shahrul and Jorg have recently taken in another 20 dogs from the SPCA Selangor shelter that were reported to be on the list to be euthanised due to their age and limited rehoming prospects. Shahrul and Jorg's grim determination to save animal lives despite their limited resources earned my respect and admiration, and so a number of us rallied together to collect donations of pet food and pet supplies for the Sanctuary to make these dogs' final home a happy and comfortable one.
Some of the guests came to the Sanctuary as daytrippers, while some of us chose to stay the night and camp out. Some came as volunteers, but others who were less accustomed to animal care work needed time before they could commit to any challenging activity. Flexibility and autonomy are valued in our group, so everyone was allowed to contribute and participate in his or her own way, according to their comfort levels. And this, my friends, is the recipe to a successful and joyous New Year's Eve Campout!
Our first stop was CK Ice Cream House in Bentong Town, where I made short work of 5 scoops of ice cream -- peanut, vanilla, chocolate, pandan and yam!
My new friends, Melissa and Brigitte, aver that they found the directions to the Sanctuary from my blog! Hurray! So my blogpost did help me make new friends and the Sanctuary find new supporters and fans!
We convoyed to the Sanctuary after our ice-cream brunch to be greeted by the friendly dogs outside the Farmhouse!
My friend Audrey arrived with her friends Arthur and Yien Lee after I invited them via Facebook. The internet is, to me, unequivocally a force for good!
Audrey and Yien Lee hand out treats to the thrilled pooches.
Shahrul's husband and Papa to the animals, Jorg, reminds the dogs to behave in the presence of company.
My dear friend and fellow volunteer, Roli, reciprocated the dogs' unconditional love with hugs, kisses and kind words.
Yen and Roli take the erstwhile SPCA shelter dogs for walks on leashes as the said dogs are still nervous and not used to being free-range animals.
The Sanctuary's cats are bold, friendly and unafraid of dogs or people.
My buddy Serina would be pleased to see that her scratching post has been put to utmost good use -- the cats have scratched it to bits by now.
Shahrul and I prepare the dogs for their medicated baths and tickwashes.
Puteh was so afflicted with demodectic mange when he first arrived that he didn't have a patch of fur on him. See how good he looks now, after regular baths using Malaseb and Tacktick EC tickwash!
Roli cuddles his beloved Laika, who was scheduled to be euthanised for want of a new home. We are grateful indeed to Shahrul and Jorg for opening their home and hearts to the Last Chance Dogs.
My MNS buddy, Leo, helps to shampoo Hitam.
Sasha, no longer a stranger to the Sanctuary, helps to bathe Frowny.
These chickens, saved from slaughter, are free to engage in natural behaviour like scratching, dust-bathing and preening.
Ripe for the picking, these crispy and sweet jambu air, or "water apples" (Syzygium samarangense) entice us as we walked past the fruit orchards to the goat pens.
"I am the King of the Through!" announces a billy goat, while his companions look unimpressed by his unilateral declaration of sovereignty.
Safe in my embrace, J.C. (so named because he was born a week ago, on Christmas Day) bleats for his mother.
Here's looking at you, kid!
Free-range cows, also saved from slaughter, chew their cud contentedly in their enclosure after roaming the Sanctuary for much of the day.
Nancy's oldest son, Jien, demonstrates that you can actually hear a tortoise's heartbeat through its plastron.
Nancy (right) and her two youngest children play with the quarantined puppies behind the Farmhouse.
Ee-Tan, Roli and I make a fuss of Susu, a friendly 3-month-old retriever cross.
As evening falls, the smell of sweet potatoes roasting over a charcoal fire permeates the air! Nancy and her family had very kindly supplied most of the food for our cookout. Scalloped potatoes, noodles, cakes and fruit were some of the things we had for dinner.
Once most of the dinner things had been cleared away and washed up (by yours truly), it was time to toast, or rather, char, our marshmallows by the fire. Marshmallows are best toasted until they are brown and swollen -- that way, you can be sure that the outside will be caramelized to a chewy crisp, while the inside is creamy and liquid.
As the clock struck midnight, we yelled "Happy New Year" and released hot air lanterns to carry our wishes into the night sky.
The party continues inside the Farmhouse, far from the madding crowd of the City.
Nancy opts for a hammock instead of a conventional tent, and uses the shrine pillars for support.
For those who are too tired and too lazy to set up a tent or hammock, camping in one's car is cosy and comfortable enough an option!
The dogs are not ready to turn in yet and continue partying into the night. Speedy plumps for healthful apple cider vinegar since alcohol is forbidden from the Sanctuary grounds.
Dolly sure knows how to have a good time! Won't you join in our Dogs' Masquerade Ball too?
The party was a bit too wild for poor ol' Uncle Dog. And so we bid you goodnight, and adieu 2010!
May 2011 be a year of integrity and justice for our country, and abundance, joy and contentment for each of us!