Wednesday, 17 December 2008

30th Birthday - Saturn Return

“There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,”
- “A Thunderstorm”, by Emily Dickinson

Judging by the number of transgressions the Malaysian government has committed against the environment, we’ve been let pretty lightly off the hook so far. As you can tell from previous blog entries, it has been raining incessantly for the past few months.

Mother Nature is angry, and it may be too late for us to heed her warnings. Two sleeping sisters lost their lives when a landslide buried their house in Ulu Yam on 30th November. Hardly a week later, a landslide at Jalan Semantan buried and wrecked at least 11 cars, on 5th December. There were, fortunately, no casualties.

The very next day, a massive landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa destroyed at least 14 houses, killing 4 people. For years, concerned people including environmental action groups have warned of the dangers of hillslope development. The government and local authorities must have found the prospect of receiving kickbacks too attractive, because permits continued to be issued for hillsides to be cleared and logged and for homes to be constructed in patently dangerous locations. The recent landslide tragedies are a frightening reminder of what can happen when one puts profits before people. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the landslide tragedies.

You can read the news report here: The Star, Dec 6

The SPCA Inspectorate has moved in to rescue the pets left behind at Bukit Antarabangsa when the people were evacuated. It is sad that some people did not think their animal companions were important enough to bring along. For the others who did not have access to a shelter where their pets would be welcome, the SPCA set up a temporary shelter nearby to house, feed and care for the pets until things return to normal and the animals’ caregivers could come back to get them.

I was on standby duty last week to assist the SPCA team in the event the animals had to be removed and brought to safety at short notice. Some of my friends had registered as volunteers and had been manning the SPCA’s Missing Pets booth that would enable worried people to report missing pets and request that our team rescues or feeds and cares for the animals they had to leave behind.

You can read about the SPCA’s animal rescue efforts here: The Star, Dec 8

As at the time of this blogpost, we are optimistic that the worst is over and that the animals will be reunited with their people soon.

Saturday, 6th December 2008: Eco Kids Preschool Programme

Playing the Green Living Guessing Game: Learning the advantages of using cloth shopping bags over plastic bags.

Getting the kids to help pick up litter wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated.

(For more photos of the Eco Kids Preschool Programme, please go to: my MNS activities photo album)

The Principal of a kindergarten had contacted our MNS Branch Chairman in November, requesting that our Special Interest Groups assist in conducting a half-day nature appreciation programme for their pupils. Nature Guides and Green Living accepted the challenge, although I have never conducted a programme for children this young before.

Due to my hectic schedule, my preparations for the preschool camp were entirely last-minute. My wards are obviously too young to be challenged with the 3R Game, which requires sophisticated knowledge and reading skills. I decided to improvise and create a new game instead, so I tweaked the Blindfold Guessing Game to include environmental lessons, and with Serina’s help, I managed to get a large variety of items for the game.

Serina and I arrived at the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park early to set up.

The children arrived by bus with their parents and teachers. We got them to assemble and then divided them into 2 groups. The first group followed Mariam into the forest for their nature walk, while we conducted games with the second group. First, I talked to the children about littering and showed them pictures of landfills and got them to empathise with the trees and living things. Then we got the children to pick up litter, accompanied by the parents, around the Park. We then bagged up the litter, congratulated the children, and had them disinfect their hands with water-free hand sanitiser. We followed up with a Circle Time where we analysed the rubbish and discussed what could be recycled, what packaging was unnecessary, and what alternatives we have.

Our next game was Water Savers, for which I had to use coloured crystal beads because a good-for-nothing-so-and-so whose identity I do not yet know has borrowed and misplaced by entire bag of Green Living – Eco Kids games equipment and Water Savers tokens. The anklebiters did okay on this one, although I am amazed by the difference in the level of ability in children of the same age group. There were 4-year-olds who could confidently tell me that “we should use low-flow taps and showerheads”, and then there were 6-year-olds who would stand mutely in front of me with inscrutable eyes, palms out, asking for a game token without proposing a home water conservation solution. Serina wisely advised me not to give out any prizes for the games to avoid the tears and tantrums that come easily at that age.

Our third game was the Green Living Guessing Game, as a substitute for the 3R Game. We put various objects including a bulb of garlic, a stuffed dog and empty cans in a cloth bag, seated the children in a circle around us, blindfolded each child in turn and let them take an object out of the bag and try to guess what it is. Once the blindfold is off, we discussed the environmental lesson to be learned from the object (E.g.: Rubber lizard: “Lizards eat insects such as flies and mosquitoes, which carry and spread disease. We should not kill lizards because they are providing an important service. Lizards do not carry disease. Pollution and pesticides can cause frogs and lizards to be born with deformities.”)

Once the first group returned from their nature walk, we swapped groups with the Nature Guides and conducted the second session for the kids. When it was all over, we handed out gifts to the children and thanked them for helping to clean up the Park. Serina and I packed the things up and waved goodbye to the KDCF Park until our next nature programme.

Sunday, 7th December 2008: My 30th Birthday Pawed-Luck Paw-ty!

Paw-ty guests signing the Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare.

Pawed-Luck Paw-ty: Mun Yee emerged the winner of the Dog Biscuit Guessing Competition!

(For more photos of my birthday party, please go to: Stepping Into My Third Decade)

My thirtieth birthday would mark the end of my Saturn Return, and I felt it fitting to celebrate my birthday with my family and friends both to welcome my third decade and to mark a new chapter in my life upon my departure from legal practice to serve in the legal team of the Regional Centre for Arbitration.

I decided to celebrate by organising a benefit birthday barbecue-cum-potluck party in aid of the SPCA animal shelter, and so I booked the Taman Mayang Jaya Community Hall up the street from the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters for 7th December and invited approximately 50 of my friends using e-vite. As it was to be an environmentally friendly party, we tried to keep waste down to a minimum and declined gifts for the hostess. Even the party favours were those left behind by the revellers at our usual pub after our last New Year’s Eve countdown there.

Over 35 of my friends and family members turned up, and I like to think that we had a good time. Guests were encouraged to bring presents for the cats and dogs of the SPCA animal shelter, and my donation baskets were soon full of goodies, thanks to my friends’ generosity. In addition, we managed to get over 30 signatures for the UDAW Petition.

Some friends helped me get the food ready and the barbecue going. I had invited 4 people-friendly dogs to my Paw-ty, but only one could come. Jacinta and Moses brought Gizmo over, and Gizmo became the second attraction of the night after Cerys, Cindy and Teck Wyn’s baby.

Covert Twin and his girl set up a root beer float station and delighted everyone with rich root beer floats to go with the barbecue. Lillian and Jack were kind enough to buy me a cake, and I got Covert Twin to join in our cake-cutting ceremony.

At 2000h, I started the games. I played a list of songs with animals in their title, such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” and “Eye of the Tiger”, while guests had to guess the songs and the artists. The first ones to answer correctly received “No More Homeless Pets” folders that I had purchased from the SPCA.

The next game was “Animal Idioms”, and we pushed the whiteboard out to the middle of the hall so guests could illustrate idioms and proverbs such as “Till the cows come home”, “Dog in the manger”, “Wild goose chase” and “Cock and bull story”. If the artist is successful enough in rendering his or her drawing that someone manages to guess it correctly, both the artist and the guesser gets a prize.

Throughout the evening, I had also invited guests to guess the number of dog biscuits in a transparent jar. To end the Paw-ty in a subtle way, we went through the answer slips and announced the winner. Mun Yee guessed the number of dog biscuits correctly and won herself a limited edition World Animal Day t-shirt with a “Champion Dog Biscuit Guesser” medal that I had made.

Li Li, Eugene, Jess and a few others stayed behind to help me clean up. It wasn’t difficult, as we had supplied takeaway containers for the guests to bring the extra food home in.

Jess, Yi Hwa and Jake helped me sort through everything when we got home and I ended up with a carload of goodies for the SPCA animals. What a blessing it is to have friends like mine! I feel happy and truly blessed that my family and friends came together to help me usher in my third decade with so much love and laughter.

Tuesday, 9th December – Wednesday, 10th December: Birthday Week

A large bouquet of roses from Covert Boss, and a pet mouse from the colleagues.

Looks like the celebrations weren’t entirely over yet. Covert Boss (my new Covert Boss) was away on my birthday but she had a huge bouquet of purple roses delivered to me instead, and 2 of my colleagues gave me a white mouse coin saver because they thought I was such a kitty cat.

On Wednesday, my colleagues threw a surprise tea party for me (all the more surprising for me, as I have only been working here for 5 weeks) and gave me a gold-plated and engraved Parker pen because they know how much I love my luxury fountain pens and how much pride I take in my penmanship.

I was reeling already from all the attention and good things which I have done nothing to deserve, and my cup of happiness overflowed when Vegan Eugene took me out for a birthday dinner at Tian Yan Cafe . The food was amazingly good and Eugene was pleased when I told him that I could eat the tempura mushrooms every night for the rest of my life and never get tired of them.

I feel so loved, and I know, as I always have, that I am fortunate beyond measure. I hope that I can love my friends as much as they love me, and be as good to them as they are to me.

Saturday, 13th December – Sunday, 14th December 2008: Another SPCA Weekend

Chinese New Year is a month away, and realising that I could not cope with spring cleaning the parental home all on my own with my busy weekend schedule, I decided to pay my parents’ weekly domestic help to come in on Saturday morning to help me with the cleaning. In the space of 5 hours, we managed to turn out and clean all the kitchen cabinets and storage cupboards. There were many things to be disposed of, donated, given away or sent for recycling, and the domestic help was quite pleased to go home with a new travel trolley suitcase that we never got around to using because it was too small for my parents’ bulky winter clothes.

Gave Amber and Chocky a bath on Sunday morning before going to the SPCA. Nicole and I were excited about putting the goodies for the animals (from my Birthday Pawed-Luck Paw-ty) under the Christmas tree, and we distributed dog biscuits and cat toys to the cats and dogs at the Bungalow.

I then went down to the shelter to assist with the animal care work and the cleaning. There was a slightly-used cat tower at the Charity Shop which was in good condition, and I bought it as an early Christmas gift for the Rowdies. Only the week before, I was a little disappointed when I relinquished the covered litter trays to Jane and Rose, who wanted the trays for their own cats. Now karma had brought the cat tower to me, for which I am over the moon, because I have been spending so much on vet bills and premium pet food that I can’t afford such a lovely huge cat tower otherwise.

Rose and a few volunteers had been washing the dogs at the Sick Bay, but we had to stop around 1500 hours because it began to rain torrentially. I mixed a pail of soap and disinfectant and started cleaning the Cattery. I removed all the cat baskets and litter trays for a good scrubbing and then washed the rest of the Cattery.

I gave the cats fresh bedding, clean water and more food before I proceeded to clean the Maternity Kennels. It was in a terrible state because so many dogs were infested with ticks during the rainy season that the ticks had adhered themselves to the kennel walls like swarms and hives of red spiders. It was horrible having to kill the ticks, and I left a note for the vets to get the general workers to give the dogs a proper tickwash ASAP.

Later, I cleaned and disinfected the Hospital, Cooking Area and Central Area. When I was cleaning the Front Reception/Admin area, a lady came in with a cocker spaniel with the worst case of demodectic mange I have ever seen. The poor little dog was hardly a year old and had previously belonged to someone else. When the dog was found to be suffering from mange, the original caregivers had given the dog to the lady’s cousin. The said cousin had been caring for the dog since August. Although she had been taking the dog to the vet for treatment, she had not changed the poor dog’s diet or shampoo. This caused Ruffus’ (for such is the dog’s name) condition to deteriorate until he was soon a semi-bald dog. The cousin then went into hysterics and claimed to be unable to cope with Ruffus’ worsening condition. The lady who brought Ruffus in was the cousin of the adopter, and had decided that surrendering Ruffus to the shelter to be put down was the most humane thing to do.

I pleaded with her to change her mind, as Ruffus is still a young and otherwise healthy dog and does not deserve to die. I listed all the things that they should be doing to help Ruffus’ condition improve, as I have successfully brought Amber and MJ’s demodectic mange under control using the same methods. But the lady had given up hope and would not consider giving good-natured little Ruffus a second chance at life. She cried a little, signed the surrender form, made a cash donation and walked out of the shelter with Ruffus oblivious to his fate. Ruffus jumped up and down and yapped excitedly, tail wagging, assuming that she would be taking him with her. I held Ruffus and said to him, “I’m so sorry, Ruffus, I’m so sorry. I wish things could be different”.

I could not afford to adopt and look after Ruffus, but I know the lady and her cousin are people of means and would be able to afford the expense, but they were just too preoccupied with their own sorrows to consider that Ruffus’ life is in their hands. I wish people would stop despairing and moaning about how sad they feel to see their animal companions being unwell, and try out every option available instead. In Ruffus’ case, they could change his diet to a lamb or vegetarian-based diet, bathe him twice a week with Malaseb or Triseb, and douse his fur with any anti-parasite solution such as Tickcide or Tactik once a week. Some people recommend dousing the affected dog with a mixture of sulphur, hydrogen peroxide and Borax, but I haven’t tried that and would not recommend it.

I just wish that everyone would put themselves in the place of their animals. How would you feel if following an illness or disability, you were taken away from the only home that you have ever known by the master/parent you have always loved and then left behind in a strange place full of hostile dogs, and you learn later that dogs that are taken to the Surgery never come back out alive, and that any day soon, it would be your turn to be executed? How would you feel if you were losing your eyesight or hearing, or suffering from a tumour or an incurable disease, and then abandoned outside the home you have depended on for love, food and shelter to fend for yourself because you are no longer healthy or attractive? If we don’t subject our aged parents or young children to such callousness, what have our faithful, loving pets done to deserve such cruelty?

I was feeling really down by the time I finished cleaning the rest of the shelter. I went up to the Bungalow to shower and change my clothes, and then joined Nicole and Glyn for dinner. We went to Kim Gary at the Hartamas Shopping Centre for a Baked Cheese Rice dinner. Ended the evening with some confectionary from a Japanese specialty shop.

Returned to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters around 2230h. Jess came to help me get the massive cat tower out of the Battletank. I brushed the hair and dirt off the cat tower, cleaned it with disinfectant and brought it indoors. As I was lugging it in, I felt the cat tower increase in weight. I looked down to see all 5 of my Rowdies clinging on to the cat tower – they were that impatient to start playing on it! Cleaned the BOQ, did the laundry and got my things ready for the coming workweek.

~ Semper Fi ~


Ellen Whyte said...

Happy birthday! And welcome to wrinklier side of life :-)

See you've been busy again. Did the kids enjoy learning about nature or where they of the "if you can't eat it why bother?" school?

Please drop by my blog today and if you can, cut and paste the bit about yvonne and stick it on your blog. She's my neighbour, I know her, and it's a real good cause.

Merry Christmas to you and the fuzzies - and many happy hours climbing their tower.

Everycat said...

Poor little Ruffus. How little effort it actually is to transform the life of a little dog. Diet change, bathing, lotions... it hardly needs a gargantuan effort. For some people though, any effort that takes them away from their own egos and indulging their own misery is too much. Thank you for the work you do to make animals lives better.

Mat Salo said...

You guys are doing a great job with the animals. You have my deepest respect and admiration.

Take care and Best Wishes for a new year.

Everycat said...

Thanks for visiting us and your kind comments! We have bookmarked you so we will be coming here regularly.

We hope your Christmas was happy and we wish you a Happy and Peaceful New Year!

Whicky Wuudler

Pak Zawi said...

Really admire what you are doing.
Since you are an active member of MNS do you know my friend Nik Maseri?

nat said...

Happy Belated B'day! Didnt know ur 30 already. Always thought you were like 23 or something... ;)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Re Everycat: Thanks Whicky! I am blogrolling you too. Please send my best Christmas and New Year wishes to Oliver and Gerry!

Re Zawi: Yes, Encik Nik Maseri was our former Head of Science and Conservation! How is he keeping these days? Please let him know that the Green Living Coordinator says Hello!

Re Dr. Nat: Gaaah! How could you think I look 23?!? What an affront to my 30-year-old dignity!