Monday, 28 April 2008

Earth Week @ the Ikano Power Centre

Saturday, 26th April 2008 - Sunday, 27th April 2008: Earth Week @ the Ikano Power Centre

The MNS Corporate Communications Head had e-mailed me in early April asking if I would be willing to render a talk on environmentally-friendly practices on 26th April at the Ikano Power Centre in conjunction with an Earth Day Carnival organised by an organic products store. Believing that I would have the time to go to the SPCA for my usual 6 hours of animal care and kennel work after the former event, I assented. Not only did I agree to deliver a presentation, I actually invited the Parents over to Ikano on the said day, so I could take them out to lunch and perhaps do a spot of shopping for essentials. Oh joy. I have just invited 2 English teachers over to parse my sentences and criticise my grammar.

I didn't expect a big audience on the day. Public speaking and delivering presentations on Green Living is old hat to me, and I know that talks such as that I was about to deliver would be effective only if I had a captive audience, such as at a Residents' Association gathering, not an ambulatory crowd of shoppers. I did, however, manage to get a gaggle of interested visitors as well as product promoters from the Earth Day Carnival booths to sit through my presentation, which covered the following topics:
1. Environmental conservation and protection: Whose duty is it?
2. Climate Change and how it will affect us.
3. Our duties as consumers and good citizens.
4. Priorities identified by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
5. The Climate Change Action Survey.
6. Take the Green Living Challenge.

My CD wouldn't run in the organiser's laptop, so we had to do without the video screening of "The Story of Stuff" (visit I had to rely on the interactive nature of my oral presentation to capture the attention of the audience instead. The parents both thought the presentation was informative and well-rendered, although Dad did have a few things to say about my grammar. I’ve never been any great shakes at keeping track of my tenses and singular and plural nouns. Well, at least the parents now understand a little of what I do as coordinator of the Green Living SIG.

It was rather late when I was done, and seeing as that it wouldn't make sense to drive all the way to the SPCA just for 2 hours of work (and what with the pulled muscle in my left shoulder and all), I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon with the parents instead. Dad was fidgeting to go home because the Streamyx serviceman would be stopping by the parental home to help hook the parents' laptop up to the Internet, so we told him he could go home and leave the shopping to us.

Mum and I spent an enjoyable afternoon trawling the mall. I bought us ice cream and a dishwashing brush from Ikea but was quick to point out all the things we didn't need and could live without. I've never been an impulsive shopper and have never been easily influenced by advertising or other people's wheedling. We had a ridiculously-priced tea at Absolutely Thai and I insisted on going through every aisle in Ace Hardware before we called it a day. Had a pizza dinner back at the parental home and spent the evening teaching the parents how to Google travel destinations and gardening tips.

Sunday was spent at the parental home letting my injured shoulder recuperate. Did some yard work, gave Amber a bath, dismantled and cleaned the cookerhood, cleaned the living and dining rooms, polished the furniture, sorted the recyclables, took Amber on a car ride and a walk and taught Mum how to do error-free Sudoku. Same old, same old.

Left the parental home around 2130 hours with a foldable cage in the back of the Battletank to be delivered to Wolfhound's hostel in Section 18 Shah Alam. The kid had been fostering kittens in her dorm room without a proper cage, and her roommates have not been overly happy about it. It took me an hour to locate her elusive college and I managed to talk the security guards into letting me in with the well-disguised cage. The security guards decided to play silly buggers with me and tell me that I was obliged to 'cover up' and wear a long-sleeved article of clothing in order to enter the premises. I laughed and responded that I am not a hostel occupant, a student, or a Muslim and will not be subjected to their preposterous regulations. Long sleeves, forsooth! That will be the day when I wear long sleeves! The cage was safely delivered into Wolfhound's hands and she reported later that the kittens were quite comfortable in it. I went back to the Bachelor Officer's Quarters, cleaned up after the cats, did the laundry, tidied the place up and repaired to bed with a cold bottle of beer.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

A word on volunteering...

I am continually amazed by people who express disappointment that their employers are not 'supportive enough' of their volunteer / pro bono work, or are 'interested only in profits'. Of course a company is interested in making profits! Why else would a company be set up? Agencies and firms are not incorporated for the sole purpose of looking after their employees' welfare, or squandering all their capital 'giving back to society', or boosting the self-esteem of their ever-fickle employees. Any good company would of course wish to provide sufficient incentives to retain key staff and carry out corporate social responsibility projects both for tax reasons and to improve their corporate image. But to expect one's employer to consistently make concessions for one because one wishes to concentrate on one's community work is unreasonable and unrealistic. It is not fair to one's colleagues when one does pro bono work on company time, or complains about low morale when one is assessed poorly for work performance because one fails to demonstrate commitment and is lacking in focus and progress.

There are of course, exceptions to the rule. If your employer is disapproving of your involvement in a trade union or PeTA or GreenPeace because he alleges that these organizations are ‘militant’, or believes that any affiliation with a non-profit will brand the entire outfit as ‘leftist’ (i.e. bad for corporate image), then it’s probably time for you to go. However, if the complaint is about you spending ‘too much time’ on volunteer work, it probably means you are. So stop e-mailing or making phone calls on company time. If you believe in truth and justice, then it would have to start with you not running personal errands or doing non-work related things on company time.

To me, our volunteer and pro bono commitments should provide us with a sense of balance and meaning that carries over to our work. Being a volunteer should make us better able to focus on work and make us feel more rested and fulfilled by the time Monday comes around. My take is that if you're getting a lot of stick at work for your pro bono work, you probably have not been giving your job due importance. Our day job is a steady source of income, without which we would not have the resources to perform our volunteer duties or carry out community projects. Think about it. Being a volunteer makes me try harder at work, because I have a sense of purpose and the motivation to better myself in all respects. The more I earn, the more animals/ disadvantaged women and children/ community centres I am able to help. There's nothing complex or esoteric about it.

Friday, 25 April 2008

One Big Happy…

On Thursday (24th April) night, I was in the middle of cleaning the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters and bagging up footballs and sports equipment that I no longer use for a Boys’ Home when I heard Keisha moaning. I scurried out to find her pacing her cage and making a nest out of the newspapers lining her cage. I gave her a towel to lie on, bit my lip, and waited. And waited. And waited.

At 0125 hours on Friday morning, while I was sorting paper for recycling, a little leg emerged from under Keisha. She gave me a warm, loving look with none of the aggression Halle displays whenever anyone as much as smiles at her precious kittens. Jessica and I crouched by Keisha, uttering words of encouragement.

“Attagirl, Keisha! One – two – Push!” we urged. Keisha gave us another benevolent look and made no attempt to hurry the delivery. She didn’t seem to be in any pain and was not hyperventilating the way we see women do in the delivery wards on TV.

A white kitten appeared and Keisha licked her baby clean. There was obviously more kittens on the way. I tried to make a bet with Jess on the final number of kittens but we had both guessed 4, so the bet was called off because we weren’t about to change our minds.

The second kitten, a dark tabby, plopped out 35 minutes later. Jess and I were still keeping up a running commentary and offering all sorts of advice to Keisha. Halle and Felicity stared in fascinated horror as the second and third kittens emerged. “You’ve gone through this before, Halle, say something! Don’t you have any words of comfort or advice for Keisha?” admonished Jess, while I rolled on the floor laughing.

The total kitten count at 0405 hours on Friday morning was 4, which means both Jess and I had been correct. We should advertise ourselves as feline experts or something. When I left the cats to go to work, both Keisha and Halle’s kittens were nursing peacefully. Halle has 6 and Keisha has 4, which brings the total number of cats in the Officers’ Quarters to 16.

As Reve said, it was meant to be that the cats came to me. Animals know instinctively if they are going to be safe with a person, and I believe all these cats came to me for a reason. Once again, Keisha, Halle and all the street animals under Project Second Chance would like to thank you for your help.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Rescue Ops: Keisha

Was having breakfast at the Shah Alam court cafeteria when I noticed a heavily pregnant calico cat outside the cafeteria. I asked the cafeteria operators about her and was informed that she has been there for a few weeks. Occasionally the cat gets fed, but often she is robbed of her food scraps by the bigger, stronger tomcats in the area. Once they found her trying to get across the car park but she was almost hit by a car because she couldn’t move fast enough.

That’s all I needed to know. I scooped the cat up in my arms and deposited her in the pet carrier I always keep in the Battletank for emergencies like this. I brought her home, put up a cage for her, made her comfortable and gave her food and water and left for the office.

I have named my new calico cat Keisha. Like other beneficiaries under Project Second Chance, Keisha and her soon-to-be-born kitten will live with me until they are strong and healthy enough to be vaccinated, neutered and rehomed. Keisha probably wouldn’t have much of a chance of making it as a stray and I will make sure that she will never have to be a stray again. She is a lovely, affectionate cat and I will go to the ends of the Earth to find her a good home.

Project Second Chance would like to thank all its donors, sponsors and volunteers for their contributions, assistance and kind support:
1. Bernadette Chin
2. Lillian Danielle Khoo
3. Serina Rahman
4. Zawalan Razak
5. Jacobus Raj
6. Jessica Ng

Thank you – your generosity and compassion have permanently changed animal lives for the better!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Mom’s birthday and SPCA news.

Saturday, 19th April 2008 - Sunday, 20th April 2008: Mom’s birthday and SPCA news.

Went back to the parental home on Friday night to spend some quality time with the folks on the occasion of Mom's birthday. Took the parents out to a buffet lunch at Nikko Hotel on Saturday afternoon. The variety wasn't as large as I had hoped it would be, but the quality of the food was high, and there was hardly anything we didn't like. I was more than satisfied with their chocolate fountain (really, I should get one installed in my bedroom) and dessert bar, and the parents and I left our plates clean as a whistle because of my vehement objections to food wastage.

Seeing as that I have given Mom almost everything she has ever hankered for, I gave her cash instead so she could buy herself a nice present. Spent the rest of Saturday cleaning the parental home, polishing the furniture, bathing Amber, washing the cars and tidying the garden.

Sunday was my SPCA day. I brought Felicity with me for her vaccination, as she has since been dewormed and declared free of infection. Felicity was vaccinated against feline panleukopenia and I left her to rest in the carrier while Rose, Reve and I took dogs out for walks and gave them baths. As usual, I doused the dogs with anti-tick solution and treated them for ear mites and any injuries.

Chelvy’s recovery from dengue had been quite remarkable considering the danger she was in of losing her life. She has since returned to active duty at the shelter, and no one was gladder to have her back than I was.

In the evening, after the staff and vets had gone home, Reve, Linda and I let the dogs out to play in the compound and cleaned the animals’ living quarters. We soaped and scrubbed all the enclosures, litter trays, bowls and baskets. Then I swabbed and cleaned the shelter floor, fed the semi-feral cats outside the shelter, unclogged the drains and removed all the leaves and twigs blocking the passages and disposed of the rubbish. Reve helped me rinse the shelter floor while I had a quick shower. Went home, reinstated Felicity in her cage, fed and cleaned up after all the kitties, fixed myself a pasta dinner, tidied the house and spent the rest of the night reading the latest issue of the Malaysian Naturalist.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Axis Shift

(Image reproduced from The Star, without permission, but in accordance with the principles of fair use.)

Occasionally I feel as though the Earth has shifted on its axis since the General Elections. I have never thought it possible to witness in my lifetime the current government making amends for its past transgressions. The ex-gratia payments to the judges who were affected by the 1988 Judicial Crisis may fall short of an official apology, but it does demonstrate a degree of humility and a willingness to put things right. 20 years is a long time to wait for an apology that is not forthcoming.

20 years ago, our judiciary was seen as a venerable institution. Our then Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas, was sacked by the then PM for attempting to uphold justice and the principles of separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Since then, the subsequent Chief Judges were largely political appointees who lacked the integrity and acuity of their predecessors and failed to inspire confidence in those who sought redress in the courts of law. Judges were seen as corrupt and corruptible flunkeys of the executive.

I do realise that this move by the current Prime Minister is an ingratiating attempt to win back some popular support, and to thumb his nose at the previous PM, but it is still a heartening gesture and being irreversible, sets a good precedent.
Our collective wish is to see a better, more honest civil service and an intelligent, impartial and honourable judiciary.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

"Three" at the KL Performing Arts Centre

Photo reproduced from The Star, without permission, but in accordance with the principles of fair use.

Lynette's sister, Alicia, had very kindly extended an invitation to me to watch a play with her at the KL Performing Arts Centre ("KLPAC") after work on Tuesday.

Her invitation was graciously accepted and we had a dinner of tapas and beer (for me) and wine (for her) before adjourning to the theatre.

Much as I believe the developer of Sentul West, YTL Corporation, to be an environmental offender that is only marginally more mindful than the other property developers, I do think KLPAC is one of its biggest successes. It has managed to reclaim and preserve old heritage buildings and trees and incorporate the Performing Arts Centre into the design without destroying any of the existing flora or structures.

I wasn't terribly impressed by the dinner, and although the play wasn't exactly the Harold-Pinter -GB-Shaw-Tennessee-Williams fare that I am used to, I did rather find it not without its merits. This is my first experience with 'physical' theatre but had little difficulty in interpreting and appreciating it.

The play is loosely based on Mitch Albom's "Five People You Meet In Heaven". In the first scene, the female protagonist lies on the stage floor, palpably dead, while images of defining moments in her life and the fateful flight she last took are projected onto the stage floor. Enter a male angel-figure (Note: No pantomime-style costumes are employed here. The cast are all in white or black yoga-type outfits), who tries to help the protagonist come to terms with her death and her afterlife. It is important to note that the angel-figure does not play an active role in mediating the reunion of the protagonist with the other people she is to meet.

A femme fatale (Satan perhaps? Or just Sin, Lust or Temptation, personnified?) is the first person the protagonist encounters. Satan/Sin has the power to harm others and put them under her control. Our protagonist fights back and finally emerges victorious (or Satan/Sin lets her win, one couldn't tell for sure) but is angry with her angel for falling for the temptress and failing to protect the protagonist.

The next character the protagonist meets is her mother. The mother-figure mimes the actions of preparing food and drink for her child with benignant elegance, while the protagonist appears, through her actions, to have regressed to the age of a young child. There is a possibility here that the protagonist's mother had died when she was very young, and thus she never had the opportunity to say goodbye. Here in the afterlife, however, the protagonist finally gets to thank her mother and bid farewell, and move on, having resolved her feelings of guilt and abandonment.

The final person the protagonist meets is her lover. I cannot say for certain if there is an intimation of same-sex relationships here, because the cast of this play is, to me, asexual. The reunited couple moves in natural harmony with each other. Their movements are, in the beginning, synchronous, but the protagonist's moves soon become harsh and discordant, while the lover's remain tender. The lover grows agitated but the protagonist is hostile and unmoved. This rejection sends the lover running off in grief. It is not clear if the lovers had parted within the protagonist's lifetime, or if they had to part due to the protagonist's untimely demise, but we do know that both parties had to accept the separation and move on as individuals.

The protagonist realises that her experiences have made her the person that she is, and that she had taken the path of her own choosing. On her own again, the protagonist peels off her skin, signifying release from her corporeal self, and walks towards the light.

Not so much existential as formulaic -- I wonder what they will come up with next: Dale Carnegie's lectures in dance form? -- but still an effective, engaging and accessible play.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Project Second Chance

Saturday, 12th April 2008 - Sunday, 13th April 2008: Project Second Chance

Since the General Elections results were announced on 9th March, there has been a tangible power shift in many institutions that have previously benefitted from their 'connections' with people with political leverage. My firm has been able to weather the storm so far but we must step up our marketing efforts and productivity levels to remain competitive. Being in the legal profession is much like being Alice in Wonderland. Once you stop running, you don't end up standing still. You fall backwards.

Outside of work, the changes we have been experiencing are thus far highly positive ones. Non-governmental organisations and environmental groups are given due consideration by the authorities and there now seems to be greater tolerance for dissent and fair comment. My weeknights and weekends have not changed much, and I am still much occupied with animal care duties and volunteer commitments.

Woke up early on Saturday, 12th April, to go to the wet market. I now buy garlic and pumpkin to be cooked with the SPCA shelter animals' food to fortify their immune and digestive systems and to prevent tick, worm and flea infestation. I stopped by to ask the Charity Van man to come to my house later to pick up the couch Jake no longer needs, plus a few other bulky items. Weeded the lawn and gave Chloe, Daisy and Pixie their monthly baths. It took all three of us -- Jake, Jess and me -- to remove Pix from the bathroom window ledge. Who would have imagined that such a chunky cat could jump so high?

Made a stopover at the National Blood Bank to donate blood, as it has been over 3 months since my last donation. My haemoglobin count this week is 14.8, which is excellent for someone whose main source of iron is dried apricots and cranberries. It took me only 3 minutes and 11 seconds to fill up the bag. The nurses there are remarkably efficient and friendly, which is more than I can say for other members of the civil service. I was given nasi lemak, a slice of cake, an apple and coffee at the cafeteria, together with the customary iron and folic acid pills and yet another Blood Donor keychain. I now have a box full of Blood Donor pins and keychains that I don't do anything with.

Was at the SPCA by noon. Handed the garlic and pumpkin over to Mazni, who is in charge of food preparation. Rose and I started bathing and tick-washing the kennel dogs with the efficiency of a factory conveyor belt. I took a number of the dogs out for walks later to help them dry off faster.

I had just finished bathing another two dogs when a lady and her husband came in with a cage bearing a semi-Persian cat with 6 kittens. The cat and her offspring had been abandoned by their former owners/care providers, who had moved away and left her behind. The neighbours fed the cat for 2 weeks in the hope that the owners would return for her. They didn't, and so the unfortunate cat was captured and brought to the SPCA.

The vets were keen to save the cat and her babies but acknowledged that it would take months before the cat could be spayed and her kittens vaccinated and rehomed, and our animal shelter is often not the healthiest of environments. I offered to take her and her babies home and care for them until they could be safely innoculated and neutered. Dr. Pushpa and Dr. Lim were initially concerned that I may have too much on my plate already, but Reve had full confidence in my abilities and I made preparations to bring my cat family home.

It started to rain in the evening, but Reve, Linda and I locked up the gates and let the dogs out to play within the shelter compound anyway. I soaped, scrubbed and disinfected the Cattery, Maternity Kennel, adult dog kennels, Hospital, Reception/Admin area and Central Area. I cleaned the shelter, took out the trash and put away the donated newspapers before having a wash and driving on home with my 7 new cats.

Sometime during the drive home, I bestowed names on my new cats: the mother's name would be Halle, while her babies are Heath, Heidi, Henry, Hayden, Heather and Harriet. Bought a big new cage to accommodate the kitties. I am convinced by now that part of my life's work is to help and heal animals that would otherwise be euthanised, overlooked or abandoned. The priorities of Project Second Chance are to render medical treatment, rehabilitate, vaccinate, neuter and release or rehome the neediest of stray or shelter animals, namely:
1. Pregnant, injured, nursing, sick or vulnerable shelter animals that would otherwise have to be euthanised;
2. Pregnant, injured, nursing, sick or vulnerable stray animals that would otherwise not survive on the streets; and
3. Stray animals, healthy or otherwise, that would otherwise procreate and be treated as an environmental nuisance.

As time passes, my role as a protector of those without suffrage must evolve as well. It is no longer sufficient for me to care for my own companion animals, volunteer at the animal shelter for a mere 6 hours every weekend and write Letters to the Editor. Project Second Chance is my personal initiative to help at least 50 animals each year, to reduce the burden on our overcrowded animal shelters.

Once my animal charges were fed, groomed and cleaned up after, I made my way back to the parental home. Spent Sunday with Amber and the parents, mostly cleaning the house and yard and tending to Amber's needs before going back to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters at night.

Good Work, Commando!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Response to the ‘Mongoose’ letter.

My Letter to the Editor on restricting the retail sale of pets and banning the sale of wildlife (see previous entry, dated March 27) has elicited this official response from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment:

Pet shops: Laws being reviewed for better control
By DR AMERJIT SINGH, for Natural Resources and Environment Ministry
10 April, 2008

WITH reference to the letter "Restrict sales to certain shops" by Wong Ee Lynn (NST, March 28), I wish to make some clarifications based on the input provided by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Licensed pet shops can only trade in limited species of wildlife listed in the "protected" category of the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972. They are not allowed to buy and sell any "totally protected" species such as the mongoose.
However, the public should also be aware that many pet shops buy and sell wildlife that is not protected under the act. If exotic foreign wildlife is traded, the department ensures that provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) are followed.
It is acknowledged that more professionalism is needed among pet shop owners, especially in the care of animals in captivity. The Wildlife Department sees it as one of its main responsibilities and priorities. In addition to providing guidelines, regular awareness programmes are also carried out to ensure traders comply with the guidelines. Together with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, the department is at present reviewing the Protection of Wildlife Act. Therefore, the writer's suggestion to make such guidelines binding will given due consideration.The writer mentioned that there are pet shops that are illegally selling protected wildlife. The department urges the writer and members of the public to pass on such information to us for immediate action.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Very encouraging indeed. We may be on our way to attaining developed nation status after all.

Whiskey Echo Lima – Out.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Felicity and other new family members.

There was good news when I arrived at the SPCA today around noon. Apparently Chelvy has been making steady improvements since being discharged from hospital a week ago, and yesterday she had visited the SPCA for about an hour. She isn’t fit to return to work just yet, but at least she is really keen to and looking chipper! I am sorry that I had missed her by one day.

I went to the food stall across the road from the SPCA to have a coffee and found a kitten begging for food. One of her eyes was glued shut with discharge. In its early stages, eye infection in young animals is highly treatable, but without medical attention, the virus soon attacks their eyesight. This explains the number of blind strays in the streets.

I brought the kitten back to the shelter and asked Dr. Pushpa if she could administer medicine, as I intend to keep the kitten. Kind Dr. Pushpa cleaned the kitten’s eyes and we were relieved to see that she still has vision in her infected eye. I applied eye ointment and Dr. Pushpa gave her a vitamin B jab. The good doctor then gave me some Doxycilin to administer to my new kitty daily and then I housed kitty in a pet carrier with food and water so I could continue with my animal shelter duties. I have decided to name her Felicity because that is my wish for her – Happiness.

Rose and I bathed all the dogs from the Maternity kennels as the new arrivals had brought ticks with them. We soaked all the dogs with tickwash and checked them for signs of any other infection or injury. We also bathed and tick-washed all other new arrivals and other kennel dogs who were in need of a wash.

At 1700 hours, Reve and I locked the gates, let the dogs out to play in the shelter compound and began cleaning. I scrubbed and disinfected the Cattery, Mummy Kennels, Central Area, Puppy Area and Reception / Administrative areas. Then I put away the donated items and newspapers, took out the trash.

It was while Reve and I were cleaning the cooking area that we had a conversation about snakes. I like all non-poisonous snakes, but Reve, being Belgian and civilised, was repulsed by snakes.

“There was a banana snake in my house the other day,” she reported.
“A banana snake?” I echoed, mystified.

My mind raced through every page of my Field Guide to Reptiles of Southeast Asia but I have never read or heard of a banana snake. If it were a black and yellow snake, it could be either a cat snake or coral snake of some sort, though I have never heard of those snakes being near human habitation. We normally find only keelbacks, bronzebacks and whip snakes in the city.

I asked Reve for a description and she described it as being a long, slender, green snake with a triangular head. It was an Oriental Whip Snake after all! I wonder how she came up with a ‘Banana Snake’. I was half expecting a yellow snake with black speckles, and which peels its own skin off periodically. A banana snake, forsooth!

As I was rinsing off the soapy shelter floor, Reve asked if I could find a foster home for a month-old puppy. If not fostered, the little guy would be too weak to make it in the shelter without a mother, and would have to be euthanised by next week. The puppy is brown and cuddly and has a rounded and ursine appearance. We had to save him by tonight. I agreed to take him home, but because I could not risk him contracting Felicity’s flu and eye infection, I had to get him a foster home immediately. And so I made urgent appeals by text message to friends, asking if they could foster a tiny puppy for a month.

Twin Bro responded within minutes, having passed on the message to his friends and receiving the response from his old buddy Prahasan that they would like to foster the puppy. With much relief, I brought both Felicity and the teddy-bear puppy home.

I put up cages for Felicity and Bear in a sheltered area in our porch at the Officers’ Quarters, and gave them fresh food and water and clean bedding. Felicity crunched up her kitten kibbles and Bear stuck his entire upper body into the dish of puppy food and started lapping heartily, much to my housemate Jessica’s delight, because this means Bear would have a higher chance of survival without his mother.

I cleaned the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters while waiting for the Twin and his Girl to come over. They arrived around 2300 hours and were thrilled with the puppy, although I am surprised to see how little the Twin knew about the care of young animals. He had expected to bathe and walk the puppy, and I had to inform him that the former would weaken the puppy and possibly kill him, while the latter would injure the puppy’s neck and spine and possibly kill him, too. The Twin hadn’t realised that at 1 month, puppies have no use for baths and walks yet, and both would do them harm.

I handed the Bear (in a carrier) to the Twin’s Girl and the foldable cage and puppy food to the Twin. We bade Bear goodbye (Jessica was missing her Bear already) and I went back in to tend to the Rowdies’ needs.

I cleaned the Quarters, got my things ready for the workweek and retired to bed with a copy of the Sunday papers. It has been a rewarding day. Together, we managed to save two little lives today. Who knows how many we will be able to save next week.

Whiskey Echo Lima – Out.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Nature Day Camp for the National Dyslexia Foundation

Was up by 0600 hours on Saturday as I had somehow been persuaded and cajoled into helping out with a Nature Day Camp at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) for 77 children from the National Dyslexia Association.

These are not underprivileged children like the ones I am used to working with, and most are from families of means, so it means these children are not as used to being in the Great Outdoors as the children I have worked with. Most of these kids have just dyslexia or dyspraxia, although there were at least 5 slow learners in the Junior Group that I was to assist with.

Suzanne and Najwa, our MNS Enviro Education staff, had arranged for the Senior Group (ages 10 – 14) to do the Canopy Walk and Scavenger Hunt, while the Junior Group (ages 5 – 10) were to do the Jungle Walk and Stream Ecology. Both groups were to do the Blind Trail and Paper Recycling after lunch.

The funny thing I learned about fear and phobias is that children who have never had any prior encounters with leeches, or better yet, have never heard of leeches before, have no fear of them. They were intrigued when Suzanne picked one off her arm and showed it to them, but not really afraid. The only exceptions were those who have been scared into submission by stories of ‘bloodsucking worms’ told by parents who were initially reluctant to let their offspring join the Day Camp.

We did a short jungle walk and pointed out a dusky leaf monkey, creepers, bamboos, certain tree specie and crown shyness patterns to the children before we arrived at the second stream for their stream ecology lesson. My job, besides being a sweeper and pack mule, was to assist and guide the children and explain and repeat information to the slower ones. At the stream, I had to corral the children to make sure they did not wander off into deeper waters and I had to teach them how to collect fishes, shrimps and other small animals in their nets without killing their catch. Some of the children were more interested in throwing fistfuls of river dirt at one another. They executed enough mud-slinging to qualify as Democrats.

We released the animals back into the stream after the session and led our charges back onto the hiking trail to remove the leeches from their feet and legs. Most children were not unduly alarmed, although those who had fear of blood or of any invertebrate in general were hyperventilating with terror and had to be restrained and calmed.

The Junior Group had their lunch of fried rice, chicken nuggets and fries and I commented on the lack of vegetables and healthier options to the organisers. As the teachers and remaining adults were able to handle the post-lunch Blind Trail and Paper Recycling sessions, I asked to be excused as I had a very hectic weekend schedule.

Went back to the parental home before the parents reached home from Penang, gave Amber a bath, cleaned the house, did the laundry and sorted out the recyclables. The parents got home around 1730 hours. I took Amber on a car ride and a walk before it rained, had dinner with the family and spent the rest of the evening reviewing documents and sorting out my vouchers and receipts for income tax assessment.

This here soldier is tired out from having to wake up early on a Saturday. Whiskey Echo Lima -- Out.

The Latest on Marmaduke


We have updates on the mongrel we met at the MNS HQ on Sunday. Serina, Ravinder, June and Suzanne were at the HQ on Monday and lo and behold, the mongrel was still there, and his ear was still bleeding. The ladies fed and bathed him, sprayed medicine on his wound, bandaged his ear and named him Marmaduke. Next, they took him to the vet to be vaccinated and to have his torn earflap stitched. For the time being, they housed him in a Buddhist temple in Puchong. Then, they sent out an appeal for adopters and foster homes. I did recommend putting flyers with his photo on it in mailboxes in the area, so his owner could come to claim him, but the ladies did something even smarter. They got a reporter from the Metro pages of The Star (Jake’s paper!) to do a write-up on Marmaduke in order to trace his owner and to find him a new home.

The good news first: 5 families called up, offering to adopt him. Even the Reverend of the Buddhist temple, after having Marmaduke with him for 3 days, expressed the intention to keep the dog.

The bad news? The owner called up, and alleged that he had taken Marmaduke to the vet before, but Marmaduke kept scratching the stitches open again. Exasperated, he gave Marmaduke away to a friend. His friend then abandoned Marmaduke at the MNS HQ and the owner did not know of this until Marmaduke’s photo came out in the papers. He now wants Marmaduke back.

I have advised the ladies not to return Marmaduke to his owner. If that good-for-nothing so-and-so had given his dog away before, what’s going to stop him from giving Marmaduke away again when Marmaduke gets hurt or falls sick? Also, I believe the whole story of having given the dog to his ‘friend’ is fictional. I believe he has abandoned the dog himself, and when confronted by neighbours who recognised the dog from the photo in the papers, felt embarrassed and compelled to call Suzanne up. If he thinks we are so stupid as to hand Marmaduke back to him, well, he’s mistaken. In fact, we should be reporting him to the SPCA and getting him charged in court for abuse and neglect of a companion animal. Marmaduke would definitely be happier in a new home.
I trust the ladies will make the best decision in Marmaduke’s interest and that Marmaduke will be very happy in his new home.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

I Feel Like A Thousand Bucks

Was listening to my favourite radio station Lite FM on my phone radio when I decided to call in and answer a quiz question. I happened to be the lucky 9th caller through, and so I spoke to the DJ and gave him the correct answer to the question. I hadn’t thought it would be so easy, but it was, and I won myself a thousand bucks. Looks like I may not have lost my Lucky Streak entirely. I really am grateful for this. I wonder if there will be any conflict of interest if I were to send the radio station’s announcers a goodie basket to thank them for the good work they are doing.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Choking Charlie and other First Aid Adventures

Saturday, 29th March 2008 – Sunday, 30th March 2008: Choking Charlie and other First Aid Adventures

Had to disappoint a friend who had asked to join me for a weekend of backbreaking menial animal care work at the SPCA this week as I would not be at the shelter on Saturday.

The Selangor Branch of MNS had very generously decided to pay for the committee members and Special Interest Group coordinators to attend a Basic First Aid Certificate Course on the weekend of 29 – 30 March, and I’m really grateful to be afforded this opportunity as it is one of my goals for this year, having attended several First Aid courses but not having sat for the exams yet.

Our trainers were Mr. Chellayan and Mr. Rajah of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society and we could not have asked for better instructors. They had us in stitches most of the time, and we enjoyed the lessons tremendously. I am sure the feeling was reciprocated, because they intimated to us later that we were far more passionate and knowledgeable about rendering First Aid than most of the participants they have instructed before. Well, that goes without saying, because we are after all, volunteers for the Malaysian Nature Society, and not mere mortals! There were, of course, other participants, namely other MNS members who do not hold any office, and the employees of a professional cave guide company.

Our course covered the usual topics: First Aid Principles, Injuries, Open / Closed Wounds, Fractures, Poisoning, Electrocution, Sudden Illness, Shock, Animal and Insect Bites and Stings, Choking, CPR and Rescue and Recovery. The classes were mostly conducted in the Auditorium of our Urban Nature Centre but there was also an outdoor session where we learned the correct technique of carrying a victim to safety. Cave SIG’s Rajiv played the role of our victim and we threatened to leave him behind to be eaten alive by the mosquitoes in Heritage Trail, after leaving him strapped to the emergency stretcher. “Bye Rajiv”, we waved. “See you on Monday”.

Rajiv was duly rescued and we continued with our lessons. We practiced the Heimlich Manoeuvre on a Red Cross dummy named Choking Charlie, who I developed a fair bit of affection for. Sometime on Saturday evening, I had a moment of insanity and tried the Heimlich on myself. I put my right fist against the lower third of my sternum and hit it hard with my left hand. The pain sent me rolling on the ground, gasping for air. It was enough to make me want to regurgitate the peanut butter sandwiches I had for lunch. Well, at least I now have categorical proof that the Heimlich Manoeuvre really does work, and is extremely painful.

Went back to the parental home on Saturday night after the Day 1 of the Course. Saw to Amber’s needs, cleaned my parents’ home and, instead of studying for my test, spent the night reading ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’, which is an entertaining biography of a highly disturbed homeless man.

We had an unexpected guest at the MNS Headquarters on Sunday morning. A large mongrel with an injured ear was taking shelter at our HQ, and we fed him our sandwiches. He looked like a stray but didn’t behave like one, so we speculated that he could be an abandoned pet.

Classes started at 0900h so we had to leave the old boy at the car park while we went in for lessons. We practiced doing CPR on a Red Cross CPR dummy, and there was so much ribbing, giggling and vulgar insinuations going on that woe betide anyone actually needing us Fruits and Nuts to render CPR to save their lives.

The theory test itself was a doddle. The CPR practical test was far easier when done in a room with just you, the dummy and the examiner, and without your friends wolf-whistling, laughing, pointing and carrying on.

Completed the test and said cheerio to my friends at 1530 h. Went back to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, fed the Rowdies, tidied the place up and went out to the vegetarian food stall for a late lunch. One of the stall owners have managed to catch a stray cat for me to bring for neutering, but unfortunately I won’t be going to the shelter until next week and we had to let the cat go free for the time being.

Breaking News: I have spotted Ninja (see last entry) twice so far. He is back at the food stalls and is in good health. He took food from me but would not let me touch him. I don’t blame him for being angry with me for preventing him from sowing his wild oats anymore.

I called up a 4x4 buddy to see if he wanted to go for a spot of offroading and birdwatching. He did, and he agreed to take me to the mining pool where he spotted all the herons and little grebes.

We drove on a dirt track on the fringes of Shah Alam leading to Klang, often along a relatively unpolluted river populated by cattle egrets, swamp herons, black-capped night herons, white-breasted waterhens and white-throated kingfishers. I spotted a greater coucal in the long reeds as well. Along the dirt track, long-tailed macaques sat on telephone poles and watched us with churn up dust.

As we drove past oil palm plantations, I realised what a hotbed for Islamic deviationist cults the boondocks of Klang could be. Only last year, the State Religious Dept (which has jurisdiction only over Muslims) announced the demise of a Noah’s Ark cult after the death of its charismatic leader, and had to tear down the cult’s commune, constructed in the shape of an enormous seagoing vessel, in the middle of a secondary forest. There were other cults involving polygamous or adulterous charismatic leaders as well, which is not really that unusual as far as religious cults are concerned, and then there are the more bizarre cults that worship certain totem animals or construct unusual monuments and places of worship. I marvelled at the strangeness of the mansions I saw in Klang, set in walled-in cloisters facing mosque-like structures. These pseudo-religious communes typically had animal pens on one side, as they are intended to be self-sufficient.

They are fine as they are, but if the cult leaders start making too much money, we’ll soon have the State Religious Dept getting shirty and running after them for apostasy and insulting Islam. It’s safe to be a cult leader as long as you remain poor. You don’t start becoming a threat to National Security until you become a millionaire.

We drove on to Pulau Indah in Klang in the hope of spotting shorebirds, but all I saw were giant mudskippers and blue-spotted mudskippers, and the odd Brahminy Kite. It soon began to rain and I was thus hindered from visiting sea-gypsy Orang Asli villages.

Spent the rest of the night cleaning the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters and then reading up on IT contracts while lying in bed with the rowdies. I have one more week to decide whether I wish to apply for the post of a local councillor to serve my community better.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Easter Week

Thursday, 20th March 2008: Public Holiday -- Maulud Nabi

Had another split workweek thanks to Maulud Nabi (i.e. Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday) falling on a Thursday. As agreed with the food hawkers in my neighbourhood, they would help me catch the stray cats around the food stalls for neutering under SPCA’s Mission Help. However, we didn’t manage to get any suitable candidates for neutering today, as the only one we managed to catch was a nursing tabby. I will come back for her in a month or two, and her kittens within the next 3 months, but for today, I won’t have a cat to bring in because they are all too skittish.

Arrived at the SPCA and was accosted by the Chair, Christine. I could tell she wanted something from me, because she started complimenting me excessively and being unnaturally nice to me. She needed my feedback on implementing the 4-point action plan for a Stray-Free Malaysia, and in the end I agreed to draft a memorandum to the state government, state assemblymen and local councils to support, fund, implement and enforce certain proposed measures including setting up low-cost, high volume, community spay-and-neuter clinics in areas with a high low-income human population. I’m not sure what the committee members and paid staff (education, public relations and corporate communications officers) are working on that I have to be persuaded to take on this assignment, but I agreed to do it anyway because it will ultimately promote the cause of animal welfare.

Dr. Pushpa and I left for the Pandan Mewah Hospital around noon to visit Chelvy, who is still in the Intensive Care Unit. Chelvy was conscious but couldn’t speak because she had an oxygen mask on, and tubes inserted into her nose. Tears trickled down her cheek when she saw me, and I was shocked to see my friend so changed and weak. I have visited friends infected with dengue before, but they were all sitting up in bed having soup or watching TV or reading magazines, so why was Chelvy in such critical condition? We sat and chatted with Chelvy for a while and assured her that she would soon be transferred to the normal ward and then bade her goodbye so other visitors could enter the ICU as well.

Went back to the shelter and resumed work. It took me over 3 hours to walk, bathe, groom and tick-wash all the dogs in Kennels G and H. Then it was time to clean the shelter. Thankfully, Reve is back from visiting her grandchildren in Australia, so she could help with the adoption and surrender counselling and attend to the care and feeding of the baby animals.

I soaped, scrubbed and disinfected the cages, maternity kennels, cattery, puppy kennels, admin/reception area and cooking area while the dogs frolicked and played in the shelter compound. Reve offered to help me hose and rinse the soaped areas so I could go home in time to have dinner with Vegan Eugene.

Reached home, cleaned myself up and went over to Marco’s Pizza down the road from the Officers’ Quarters. Vegan Eugene had a voucher for a free pizza on him so we demolished 2 large pizzas between us. I’m not too impressed with the service at Marco’s and would not have patronised their shop if not for their pukka pizzas.

After pizza, we went back to Eugene’s place for a bit of a chat with his beautiful black cat, Pearl. Spent the rest of the night back at the Officers’ Quarters cleaning the place up and washing the Battletank with rainwater collected over the course of 3 days.

Saturday, 22nd March 2008: SPCA and Mission Help Sorties

Back at the SPCA on Saturday morning. This time, I managed to catch a stray tomcat (black with white socks and chin) for neutering. He wasn’t a happy trooper at all about being caught and held captive. In fact, he was a spitting, hissing ball of rage. Once in Dr. Pushpa’s surgery, Ninja Cat made a spectacular leap out of the carrier and ran wildly all over the inside parameter of the surgery, knocking over anything that wasn’t nailed down. Muniandy had to be called in to help catch Ninja.

Ninja was duly neutered and left to recover from the anaesthetics in the carrier while I resumed my animal care duties. A whole busload of secondary school students had arrived at the shelter today to volunteer, but none of them were capable of doing anything of real value. They were afraid of being bitten by dogs, scratched by cats, bitten by ticks, soiled by animal waste, sodden by soap and water and otherwise harmed by sunshine and fresh air.

I blame the general ineptitude and fearfulness of today’s young people on their parents. Youngsters today are mollycoddled and bubble-wrapped by helicopter parents who prevent them from taking any risks and assure them that their only responsibility in life is to get good grades. The country now has an entire generation of pansies and cry-babies who don’t even know how to work a manual can opener.

I swore under my breath at the pale-faced ‘volunteers’ who provided Rose and I with an audience as we bathed the tick-infested dogs in the Sick Bay and dunked our canine charges in Tactick solution. I made some of the kids run errands, fetching pails and turning off taps, but even the simplest of tasks was executed as though in slow-motion.

The dogs in Sick Bay, being mostly pound dogs and abuse cases, were understandably not appreciative of our efforts. Rose and I were bitten by 3 of the terrified dogs, the sight of which sent the ‘volunteers’ scuttling in fright, although there was a 5-foot-high wall between them and us in Sick Bay. I do declare that these ‘volunteers’ are lousier than any louse-bitten stray I’ve met.

It started raining around 1400 hours, right after we had completed bathing all the dogs in Sick Bay. I proceeded to clean and disinfect the kennels at the back while waiting for the rain to let up. Next, I cleaned the Cattery and the bathroom. Sugen, Reve and I fed the animals and washed the first round of dirty food bowls, and then Reve and I checked all the cats and dogs for signs of injury or illness and rendered medical treatment accordingly. After the vets and staff had left, I cleaned and mopped the office, admin/reception areas and puppy areas, while Reve cleaned the remaining kennels and cages.

The rain subsided around dusk. I brought Ninja Cat back to his new home at the Officers’ Quarters. You would think he’d be happy about that, but he refused to come out of the carrier and clawed me when I tried to coax him out. I tried to tip him out of the carrier into the cage (he was by now fully alert and recovering quite well from the surgery) and out he came – a black ball of fear, fury and hostility. He screamed and hissed at Pixie for a full 15 seconds, and dashed into the vacant house across the street.

I called the vet, Dr. Lim, for advice and she assured me that as long as Ninja is no longer stumbling, he will be okay. He escaped only 150 metres away from his previous home (the food stalls across the playground) and can navigate his way home. The castration process left him with a mere superficial skin cut, which will heal in days, especially since the cut has been medicated and sprayed. I was relieved to hear that but put some food out for him all the same.

Showered, cleaned the Officers’ Quarters up, drove out in the pouring rain to hand over a recycling directory to an MNS member Sharath, who has initiated a 3R project in his office, and barrelled my way back to the parental home for the rest of the weekend.