Friday, 27 February 2009

Adieu, Sweet Angel

Angel (200?-26th February 2009). Photo taken by SPCA volunteer photographer MingChien Ng.

Dearest Angel,

When you were first rescued by the SPCA Inspectorate, they didn’t see you as another battered but breathing body that had to be put out of its misery. The vets told us that after the brutal and senseless attack on you, you would never be able to regain your eyesight or the use of your hind leg. It would be better, they had advised us, to euthanise you. Euthanise. What a gentle-sounding euphemism for such a needless deed. Thankfully, the Inspectorate was adamant that their work was to save lives, not to terminate them.

The SPCA Inspectorate and Department of Veterinary Services tried to prosecute your assailant but failed to secure a conviction due to lack of evidence. Apparently, your broken leg didn’t count as evidence. Your missing left eye didn’t count as evidence. Your swollen and infected right eye didn’t count as evidence. The scars on your little body didn’t count as evidence.

We lost the court case, but we gained YOU. You were our little victory. Our prize. Our ray of sunshine. When you came to live with us in the SPCA Bungalow, you reinforced our determination to protect living beings and to end cruelty against animals. You had no voice and no suffrage, but you were so full of courage, love and trust in those of us who now looked after your needs that it filled us with resolve to improve animal welfare standards in this country.

You became a quick favourite among the Shelter and Bungalow regulars. Your ability to love and trust humans again was astounding, given the unspeakable violence that had been committed against you. You were attacked simply because you were there. You were an easy target. You were fair game. When you came to live with us, we realised instead how easy it is to love you and care for you, and how effortless it was for you to nurture the best in us. I find it hard to reconcile this with the fact that it is widely believed that it is us humans who are endowed with superior reasoning powers.

The SPCA Inspectorate and Marketing/Communications Team were wise enough to know that saving animals wasn’t an either-or situation: We didn’t have to either rehome animals or euthanise them. You weren’t just a rescuee or ward to them or to me. You were, and still are, a friend; a pal; an honorary family member. We derived so much pride from watching you navigate your way around the Bungalow, from the way you made friends with the other cats and dogs and the ecstasy with which you demolished each squeaky toy.

I took especial pride in showing you off to Shelter guests and volunteers. You provided more than a lesson in cruelty against animals. You taught us about unconditional love. You opened the hearts of visitors to animals that were physically less than perfect. During the Christmas Paw-ty that I organised, you may have caused our guests to shed tears of pity, but you had also brought us closer together and touched the hearts of many.

When Meem told me they found your lifeless body in the backyard this morning, I felt a curtain of darkness fall over me. There is now a hole in my heart the size of a little mongrel with sightless eyes. It was to me unfair that you died before we could do more for you. I had wanted to bring you to live with me as soon as I had acquired landed property of my own and made it secure and comfortable for you. We had wanted to bring you to the vets to see if something could be done for your right eye.

Your death left us with so many questions. Did we do enough for you? Could your death have been prevented? As they say, it is now too late for regrets. Angel dear, we hope to do better by you in another lifetime.

Angel, your time with us was too short, but not in vain. I hope that each person who has had the privilege of meeting you will join us in our fight to protect and help animals. I hope that each person you have endeared yourself to will help us spread the word about adopting shelter and rescued animals.

Little Angel, you are running free at last. Don’t forget to wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge. Until then, you will live on in our hearts.

Requiescat In Pace, our beloved Angel.

Silver Linings

I find that when you make an effort to look for silver linings in each unpleasant episode, you are bound to find them. The misfortune and injustice that had befallen me last week is not without its unique advantages. I have stopped trying to determine if I have been at fault in any way. I have come to terms with the fact that some things happen without any party being to blame for its occurrence, and that it would only be a matter of time before it happened, anyway.

I no longer think that the perpetrator of my misfortune owes me an explanation. When you expect nothing, you don’t get disappointed when people do not respond as common courtesy demands that they should. I have stopped expecting that when you treat someone with respect, loyalty and concern, you will be entitled to at least some semblance of fairness and consideration from them in return.

I count my blessings, and there are many. I find myself surrounded by incredibly caring, generous and supportive friends and family members. I find that I suddenly have time for walks in the park, days out with the SPCA inspectorate team, long lunches with good friends and weekends that seem to last forever. I remind myself that I am not yet in any grave financial need. I am grateful that new opportunities have presented themselves, and that the people I met and am to meet soon are not inquisitive about my misfortunes, only my qualifications and potential.

It is with good reason that one of my favourite sports is skateboarding: Skateboarding teaches you that you have to take a few hard falls before you can start improving your technique.

I have picked myself up. I’m not looking back.

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Wednesday, 18th February 2009: Day Out With The SPCA Inspectorate

SPCA Shelter Animals Up For Adoption This Week

My day as an SPCA Volunteer Animal Inspector began at the Bungalow at 1000h when I helped Cunera and Murugan load cages containing 2 stray cats and 2 formerly stray dogs, Girlie and Bubbie, into the Vanette so that we could bring them to the City Hall-SPCA Low-Cost Neutering Clinic in Setapak for spaying.

We arrived at the Low-Cost Neutering Clinic and began unloading our animals. There was a minor altercation between Murugan and one of the City Hall staff over the way City Hall was treating animals in their custody. There is so much that is wrong with the way the Animal Control Unit was conducting their affairs that it was good that everything became public a few weeks ago. Now those in power will have no choice but to implement more efficient monitoring and surveillance measures, and take action against those found to have committed any wrong, whether against animals or against public funds and trust.

We left the animals with our good vets so that they could get the surgery done, and went in search of a pet store in Setapak that had several reports lodged against it with the SPCA and Department of Veterinary Services for trading in sick or dying puppies. We finally located the elusive shop but it was locked from the outside. I went round to the bike shop next door to make inquiries and was informed that the pet store had not opened its doors for some time. I suggested to the others that we go round the back of the shop. We found the back of the shop guarded by a fierce mongrel and surrounded by CCTVs and barbed wire, an indication of guilt and wrongdoing, perhaps? We put on our jackets and caps and went rapping on the back door. A scared-looking employee appeared and then disappeared back inside. We waited for what seemed like an eternity before a lady came out to grudgingly open the door and let us in. The place was devoid of animals and was sterile, a fact which I could not reconcile with the number of CCTVs and all the precautions against intrusion and inspection. It was quite likely that the animals were kept somewhere else and only transported to the shop upon an order for a particular breed being placed. There was no action we could take against the managers of the shop, but we did make arrangements to take the aggressive watchdog away for rehabilitation and rehoming, as it had already bitten passersby.

Again, a case such as that of the pet store has only served to reinforce my view that there should be laws to severely restrict the retail sale of pets. Stores without vets and other health and safety measures should only be permitted to sell pet supplies and provide services such as grooming. If there were legislation in place to regulate animal breeders and to steer would-be pet owners to the premises of the breeders to see the pet-breeding operations for themselves, there would be fewer opportunities for animal abuse and neglect by animal breeders.

Our next case for investigation involved a small hotel within the city. A complainant reported that the hoteliers were keeping penguins in less than favourable conditions within their premises. The hotel staff and managers were cooperative and polite, and quite mystified by the complaint lodged against them. We inspected the penguin enclosure and found that although it was rather small, it was not in violation of any laws or guidelines. The hotel had all the necessary papers and licenses to keep wildlife in their premises. The animals were very well cared for, and were visited by one of the best veterinarians in the country 3 times a week. Perhaps the complainant didn’t like the fact that there were no icebergs for the penguins to sit on? We left the hotel after shaking hands all around. Until there is a ban against the export, displaying and keeping of wildlife by private individuals and commercial enterprises, there really isn’t any action for us to take against the hotel. Not liking having to witness wildlife being kept in captivity is still very much a matter of personal opinion and not an offence against animals that the SPCA can take action against. It is the duty of citizens’ action groups, non-profit organisations, the SPCA Humane Education arm and members of the public to lobby against the keeping of wildlife in captivity in resorts, amusement parks and shopping centres. Until a ban or certain guidelines have been given statutory footing, there really isn’t much the SPCA Inspectorate could do.

Our final case for the afternoon took us to a large pet store in a popular shopping mall. Someone had complained that the hamsters were kept in overcrowded enclosures and some had sustained injury from fighting. We inspected the enclosures and found them to be adequate. The hamsters had sufficient food, water and clean hay for bedding, and being nocturnal, were mostly slumbering peacefully. Again, there was no evidence of injury, illness, poor treatment or lack of care in this case and therefore nothing for the SPCA Inspectorate to act against. Until the breeding and sale of small animals becomes a regulated trade or activity, there are no laws to stop breeders from raising hamsters and pet stores from selling them.

While pushing the government for restrictions on the retail sale of pets is on the SPCA’s agenda, it is unlikely that such a law will ever be codified, as many people depend on the pet trade for their livelihood and the government will have their votes to consider. Banning pet stores and animal parks is hardly going to make the SPCA a very popular organisation, so right now our priorities will have to be on educating the public and working with people in the animal trade to come up with guidelines.

We returned to the Low-Cost Neutering Clinic to pick up our animals before the clinic closed for the day. We loaded the cages full of whimpering, disorientated cats and dogs into the Vanette. We arrived at the Bungalow, and Glyn and Meem came out to help us with our post-surgery ‘girls’. Glyn and I put clean food, water and bedding in a large cage in the Bungalow cattery for the two tabbies to recuperate in and I cleaned the cages and carriers. Meem prepared Girlie and Bubbies’ “rooms” for them so they could rest until they have recovered from the effects of general anaesthetic.

Zack, Tesco and Angel were beginning to smell rather ripe, and so I got shampoo, a leash and a towel from Meem so I could give them baths. I washed Zack and Angel but Tesco was baring his teeth at me so menacingly that I told him he could go on smelling of old gym socks for all I care.

Zack (foreground) and Tesco (back) taking five at the back of the Bungalow. Photo taken by SPCA volunteer photographer MingChien Ng.

Cu and I showered and got ready to leave the SPCA by 1745h, as Jacinta had invited the lot of us to her house for dinner. Cu and I were the first to arrive, and Meem, Glyn and Nicole arrived later with a huge raspberry cheesecake in tow. J.’s house is beautiful and perfectly kept and we were pleased to have been invited to dinner. We were supposed to watch a DVD together but we were more interested in playing with her furkiddos and going through her wedding photos. J. made a scrummy potato salad, vegan lasagne and vegan canap├ęs and lots of veggies, but there was also store-bought roast chicken for the non-vegetarians in our group. For dessert, J. made glorious chocolate mousse which left us silent with ecstasy. All you could hear was the clinking of spoons against dessert glasses and soft sighs of pleasure.

J. and Moses’ adorable one-eyed rescuee, Wazoo, exploring their gaming station at home. Photo taken using J.’s cellular phone camera and reproduced with permission.

We left her house around 2300h although we would have loved to stay longer if not for it being a Wednesday night. I have expressed my willingness to come by and help J look after her animals when she needs to be away, so it might not be long before I get to see Gizmo, Angel, Wazoo, Bushy and gang again. I realise I am lucky indeed to be part of a circle of such good people and good friends.

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Saturday, 21st February 2009: Malaysian Nature Society Branch Annual Dinner

I realised sometime last year that the amount of effort we put into the MNS Branch Annual Dinner is always disproportionate to the duration of the dinner party itself. For instance, I had been cutting out perch fishes and sea turtles out of once-used paper and card since the Lunar New Year vacation to decorate the dinner venue with, only to have everything removed and disposed of after the 4-hour long dinner.

In addition, I recalled being very hungry after the dinner last year, as I was the Games Master and did not have the time or opportunity to eat. Not wanting a repeat of the same this year, I had a sandwich and a glass of milk at 1730h before leaving the BOQ to decorate the dinner venue and get the games and prizes ready. However, things were no different as I was again so hungry by 2300h that I could eat the steel rims off the Battletank when it was time to go home.

A thunderstorm was in full force when we started the dinner party at 1900h. Name tags that I had painstakingly embellished with dolphins (in line with the dinner theme of “Under the Sea”) were given out to each guest before they entered the hall that I had covered with paper fish and turtles.

Lillian was our very capable and engaging Master of Ceremonies, as she has been for years. The Chairman and President were invited to give speeches and then Honorary Memberships were given out to certain deserving individuals. The first round of food was gone before I had the chance to even smell it, and by the time the second round of food arrived, I had to go up on stage to conduct the games because Lillian had already completed the first round of Lucky Draw and the guests were impatient for the party to really get started.

I started with an icebreaker game, People Bingo, which required the guests to meet new people in order to cross out categories on their bingo scorecards. It was a noisy and boisterous game which lasted hardly 3 minutes. Lillian announced the 3 winners because I was all out of breath by then, and we invited the Chairman to give out treasure chests full of chocolate gold coins to the winners.

Lill then had the President draw another 8 names from a bowl for the Lucky Draw, and I was thrilled to find that I had won one of Carol’s highly sought after handmade tapir cell phone accessories. Carol is a talented artist who could make even polymer clay figurines have different facial expressions.

After the 8 lucky guests had received their prizes, it was time for another game. I had planned the “Under the Sea Observation Game” to come with a twist. I recruited Hui-Min as my stooge for the game and decked her out in marine-themed necklaces, stickers and accessories. Then I sent her out to each table with a tray of plastic sea creatures and an assortment of seashells. The guests naturally assumed that this was to be played according to the rules of Kim’s Game and they wasted no time trying to memorise all the items on the tray. Once Hui-Min had returned backstage to remove all the supplementary accessories, I quizzed the guests on Hui-Min’s necklace, pendant, button badge, wristwatch, earrings and so on, in addition to the items on the tray. Groans of dismay rose from the crowd when they realised that they had been so absorbed in looking at the tray that they had failed to notice they bearer of the tray! The women were better than the men at this game and prizes were given out amid much laughter and applause.

The last round of Lucky Draw was conducted, by which time all the food had been taken away and I was hungry enough to swallow the entire Pacific Ocean -- ocean liners, trawlers, aircraft carriers and all.

I went back to the BOQ to find my housemates contentedly watching TV and joined them on the couch with a large cheese sandwich and glass of milk. Next year, someone else can be the Games Master.

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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Crisis Week

20th February 2009: Night Out with the Lads

Clockwise L-R: Luis, Lim, Wing, me, Zawalan and Max.

One of my mottos in life that has stood me in good stead is to never turn down an invitation for beer. And so when Luis invited a bunch of us for drinks at the Rainforest Bistro on Friday after work, there was no reason for me to decline.

Despite the fact that there was nothing sylvan or natural about the Rainforest Bistro, the 8 of us – Luis, Wing, Lim, Jeremy, Max, Doc, Zawalan and I – were happy to sit under the artificial plants and gaudy foam parrots and toucans and gaze affectionately at the beer tower on our table, the contents of which were depleted and replenished with astounding regularity. Curly fries, spicy wedges and other scraps of personal Kryptonite vanished off platters and baskets and threatened to send our respective blood pressure counts skyrocketing.

The conversation started off naturally enough in the universal male language of cars and football, but by our third beer tower we were drinking toasts to our friends who had passed away. We drank to Charlie, Thomas and Chris, who we lost in a 4x4 accident and to heart attacks respectively. You know you’ve reached the maudlin stage when you start drinking to all your departed friends. I suppose the ‘buzzed’ stage is when you are hitting on all the waitresses despite knowing that you are middle-aged, balding and beer-bellied.

Must be great to be a man. It would take a fair bit of work to deflate a man’s ego. With men, willful ignorance really is bliss.

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Saturday, 14th February 2009: SPCA & Steamboat Saturday

The SPCA Inspectorate Meeting had already started when I arrived at the Bungalow at noon, and I was asked in after a short wait so we could discuss the possibility of me going on inspections with the team as a supplementary or assistant Inspector if and when the need arises. Nothing has been confirmed so far and it isn’t anything very urgent in my book, but I will be there for the SPCA Inspectorate when they require my help.

I went down to the Shelter to help Rose and Thean wash the dogs. The place was in chaos. A group of students had come with their teachers to repaint the outside walls of the shelter. I wonder why people find it appropriate to repaint kindergartens, community centres and animal shelters in the most garish of colour combinations. When the Sai Baba Society repainted our walls on New Year’s Day 2008, they made it a violent shade of turquoise, and we ended up with turquoise dogs running around for the subsequent week. This time, this group did a neater job of it and had actually used traffic cones to warn people of wet paint, and plastic sheets to act as barriers. It was just the colour combination that was a bit iffy – it was bright orange with bold red, and it made the shelter look like a Chinese temple. Still, at least it won’t be a challenge for people who want to try to locate the Shelter in the dark now. They just have to look out for the ‘Taoist temple animal shelter’.

Jacinta and I went out to the stalls for lunch and met Rose, Jane and Erica there. There was a stray tomcat scavenging for food under our tables, and he seemed to have quite a bad cold. I picked up the cat, put him over my shoulder and brought him back to the Shelter clinic for treatment. Dr. Pushpa gave him an Ivermec injection and asked me to return the cat to the stalls, and reminded Jacinta to locate the cat and bring him back in ten days for a booster shot. There wasn’t much point in keeping him in our overcrowded shelter because he’s either going to catch something worse, or he might spread his ‘flu to the other cats. Found a heavily pregnant female cat on my way back after returning the sniffly cat, and picked the female cat up so she could give birth safely at the Cattery and be spayed after that. I brought the mother cat round the back to the Cattery and explained the circumstances to Mazni. I made a sign for the mother cat’s cage door, gave her fresh food, water and bedding, and instructed the vets to inform me of the cost after the surgery.

A shelter dog awaits adoption. Photo by SPCA volunteer photographer MingChien Ng.

Our adoption rates remain commendable, and since 1st January 2009 we have had 605 surrenders and 223 adoptions, which is pretty amazing by any standards. This is why it is so important for the Shelter to cooperate with the PR/Communications team: There is no point in asking people to come adopt from your Shelter when the place is filthy and the animals are in poor health. When we all work together to improve the living conditions of all animals, everyone wins.

I got the shampoo, Tactik EC and pails ready for washing the dogs after the cat rescues. Most of the other dogs had already been bathed and tick-washed the week before, so Rose and I only had to do the ones in the Sick Bay. Washing Sick Bay dogs are especially time-consuming because the dogs in Sick Bay, though not really sick, are less used to human contact and can be very skittish or aggressive, or both.

As I was washing my 5th dog, 3 boys on a volunteering stint from a nearby college asked me if they could help. Ah! Young ‘uns who are not afraid of hard work! I recruited them to wash the more mild-mannered dogs while I took the risk of washing the more belligerent ones so I could get some exercise prancing nimbly around the angry soapy beasts and dodging their snapping teeth.

The boys were another story. Each time they came anywhere near the male dogs’ nether regions, they would warn one another: “Don’t touch his thing!” “Why not?” Another boy would innocently ask. “Just don’t!” his two confederates would warn, in a near panic. I turned my head so they wouldn’t see my mouth twitch. Yes, why, pray tell? Washing a dog’s nether regions is not going to make you anything other than heterosexual, guys. The dog is not going to press charges against you for molesting him.

The boys stayed for an hour more and I have no complaints about the quality of their work. We finished washing all 22 dogs and I rinsed out the pails and put the shampoo bottles away. Thean, Dr. Lim and The Kindest Man In The World (I learned his real name is Roland) were in the Front Office, so I asked them if they would like to come out for tea. We had a quick tea break at the warong before I went back to the Shelter to resume work.

Reve and I soaped and disinfected the cages and kennels. I scrubbed and cleaned out the Cattery, the cages at the back of the office and the front Reception/Admin area. I finished cleaning the Shelter around 1930h and then showered and changed at the Bungalow before barrelling back to PJ.

Sunset over Sunway

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Friday, 13 February 2009

Battle of the Nak Muays

Sunday, 8th February 2009: Battle of the Nak Muays

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

It would never have occurred to me to attend the TM-World Muay Thai Council Kuala Lumpur International Muay Thai Challenge 2009 if not for the gentle exhortations of my Blogspot buddy, Zawi. I have always been a fan of all martial arts forms, and I think Muay Thai, although arguably the most difficult to learn, is the martial art with the greatest practical and ‘street’ value.

Let me reiterate that there is nothing violent about Muay Thai and other combat sports. Like all sports, Muay Thai has the capacity to cause injury and death even to the most skilful participant. However, to me, there is nothing violent about a sport where the contestants undergo stringent health checks and are informed and skilled adults/young persons who have undergone rigorous training and understand the risks they are taking. In my humble opinion, rodeos, deer hunting, bullfighting, dogfighting and pig wrestling are violent sports. The animals have no say in the matter and are not willing contestants in the 'sport'. It is fun for the spectator but spells death or lifelong injury for the uncomprehending and frightened animal. That is violence. Skilled fighters signing up to compete in a tournament is a valid sport and a glorious art form.

And so I made my way to the event venue from the SPCA Bungalow after a full day of volunteering. I had booked tickets for myself and 9 others, and the 10 of us were to meet up at the Cheras Badminton Stadium. The event organiser, Muss, had upgraded our tickets from terrace seats to ringside seats, because, according to him, he liked me. w00t!

My departmental secretary Ainul arrived with her brother Joe and their friends, and Nicole and Glyn (i.e. Glycol!) arrived at the Stadium after their SPCA Outreach duties in Shah Alam. It was at the ringside seats that I finally got to meet Zawi, who was to take photographs and render a write-up of the event for the Boxxtomoi Magazine.

From left to right: Nicole, Glyn, Ainul and me. Mad Props to Zawi for taking this photo and allowing me to have it!

The pre-match entertainment was frightful. A geriatric band that sounded as though they had inadvertently left their dentures at home took the stage and sang rock and roll numbers. What they lacked in talent, they made up for in volume. They were just screaming unintelligible lyrics at us. At first I thought that they were singing in Bahasa Indonesia to the tune of Chuck Berry’s “Lucille”. Later I realised that they were indeed singing in English. My gang and I doubled up laughing as the band warbled an Eric Clapton staple: “My dolling, you look What A Fool toniiiight!”

Once the match started, however, we realised that our view of the ring was blocked by photographers and the nak muay’s cornermen. We ran up the stairs to the terrace, where the view was unobstructed. For the rest of the night, we were inveterate nomads, moving from one location to another that could offer a better view.

A view of the boxing ring taken from our ringside seats before the match. Photo taken by Glyn.

I remembered going through the fight schedule so that we could have dibs over the fighters of our choice. Some of the nak muay’s fightfaces couldn’t scare a newborn rabbit.

The first fighter, for instance, Alex Lim, was all toothy grins and looked like someone I went to school with, and that’s not intended to be a compliment. I can’t think of anyone that I went to school with who could do battle with someone who was bound, gagged and wrapped up in a bin liner. Unsurprisingly, Alex fought 5 rounds with Joher Hussein of Senegal and lost on points.

Fight 1: Photo taken by Glyn.

(I found out later that Alex broke a bone in his left forearm but continued with the fight nevertheless. It happened in Round 2. Oops. Sorry, mate.)

During the break, Nicole and I had an argument over whether wearing a jockstrap was a requirement.

“They’d have to”, I argued. “Look! Almost all of them get hit at least once in the groin in each round. A few more kicks like that and it’s bye-bye, birdie. They wouldn’t have a next generation of nak muays after that.”

“Maybe only for this competition,” countered Nicole. “The ones in the Thai villages are so experienced and so tough that they don’t need jockstraps. Maybe a jockstrap would restrict their movement. They are tough because they practice kicking and striking banana plants until they don’t feel pain anymore.”

I don’t see how being ‘tough and experienced’ has anything to do with not needing a jockstrap. Kicking a banana trunk increases one’s pain threshold in one’s limbs, not in one’s Crown Jewels. There wasn’t any exercise you could do to not feel pain there.

The second fight was between Aik Salsaloon of Thailand and Che Pol M150 of Malaysia. Che Pol fought stylishly and well, and won the fight, also on points. We were by now itching for a K.O. and the third fight between Falicit Sor Pekdam of Thailand and Awie M150 of Malaysia did not disappoint. Falicit went down in Round 2 and failed to get up within ten seconds. Awie ran around the ring pumping his fists in the air while we cheered and pumped our fists in reciprocity.

Fight 2: Flash Knockdown! Photo taken by Glyn

I had been looking forward to the match between Abbas Ahmadi of Boxx Warriors Malaysia and the hitherto undefeated Faizal Ramli of Malaysian Tigers. The match was an anticlimax. The 2 nak muays merely glared balefully at each other, skipped around a bit and jiggled their knees for all of Round 1. The audience turned ugly and edgy. Jeers reverberated around the Stadium. It looked like some of those in the front row were on the verge of throwing their plastic chairs into the ring just to stir things up.

“I am going hoooome!” I howled at the fighters, hands around my mouth like a megaphone. “To sleep! And the two of you can settle it by rock-paper-scissors!” Patience is not my strong point.

My friend Ainul was laughing her head off. “Maybe he (Faizal) is undefeated because he never had to fight,” she hypothesized, “maybe all he had to do was skip about, looking aggressive, and wait for the other guy to go down.”

In the end, Faizal did win the match on points. Abbas didn’t look as though he was trying at all.

(It transpired later that Abbas had been unwell and was still having a bad cough right before the match. Double Oops. Sorry, mate.)

The penultimate match was between my fighter of choice, Chaowalit of Boxx Warriors Malaysia, against Seethanonchai Sor Chitlada of Thailand. The body and head blows were really getting to Seethanonchai. In Round 2, Chaowalit delivered a hard, direct kick to the chest of Seethanonchai. Seethanonchai looked winded but remained standing. He shook his head. “No”. No? No! He couldn’t go on. He was holding his shoulder in pain. The kick had dislocated his shoulder. His cornerman threw in the towel and the judges called for a Technical Knock Out because he was in no state to continue. Chaowalit, good sport that he is, looked in on Seethanonchai to make sure that he was okay, before he celebrated the fact that he had won the fight. We clapped and cheered along with him.

In the final match, 19-year-old nak muay Fauzan Zabidi of Boxx Warriors was outclassed by his more experienced opponent, Mathias Galocassarino of Italy, and the judges had to declare a Technical Knock Out when Fauzan fell 3 times in Round 3.

And so my first experience of watching a live Muay Thai tournament came to an end. I thought it was very well-organised and that the fighters were very fit and competent. Ainul, bloodthirsty wench that she is, had actually expected more aggression, more K.O.s and more serious injuries. Nicole and Glyn had to leave by 2300 hrs but found it all very awesome and inspiring and could not wait to watch the next fight that comes to town.

Nicole did ask me if I would be interested in signing up for Muay Thai classes at Jalan Memanda, near the SPCA. I thought about Alex’s broken forearm. I thought about Seethanonchai’s dislocated shoulder. I thought about all the blows the fighters received to the head. One blow to the head like that, and I’d never be able to draft an academic paper again.

I shook my head and declined Nicole’s proposal. Naaaah. I’d stick with Sudoku.

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Things Fall Apart, The Centre Cannot Hold

Democracy isn’t alive and well in Malaysia after all. I had been needlessly optimistic. The Star, 6th February 2009

The Sultan has ordered the Perak Menteri Besar and his state executive council to step down, rather than dissolve the state government and call for a re-election. This is the first time in my life that I am persuaded that a constitutional monarchy would be an obstacle to democracy. My country is descending into a Ruritania of sorts, with its high drama, political intrigue, deep social divisions and power struggles that should never have occurred.

Two wrongs could never make a right. You do not bribe the already corrupt and then present him to us as our elected representative. That is an outrage. The only right, just and honorable thing to do is to dissolve the state government and call for a re-election, and let the people decide. But as you can see, the gentlemen of the ruling coalition could not even muster the moral courage to do that.

”When two elephants fight, the mousedeer in between them is trampled to death.” – Old Malay Proverb.

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Friday, 6th February 2009: Meeting Blog Buddies IRL

With Pat’s furgirls, Sonya, Sasha and Missy. Chuan is trying to get Missy to sit down and hold still for the photo. Photo taken by Pat and nicked from her blog.

Blogpost Buddies meet in real life: me, Patricia and Zaharan. Photo taken by Chuan and nicked from Pat’s blog.

I started my Blogspot blog in December 2007 as a public blog for the benefit of friends in Malaysia. Through Blogspot, I had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of 2 very special people, Patricia and Zaharan. We became good friends within weeks and could always count on each other for a kind word and cheering comment even when the Malaysian political situation seemed bleak.

Zaharan and I had the privilege of being invited to Pat’s house for tea on Friday, 6th Feb. Due to the unrelenting rain, Zaharan, whose main mode of conveyance is by motorcycle, had initially opted out of the meet-up, but being the stubborn creature that I am, I insisted on driving into the boondocks of Puchong Permai to locate him and pick him up, despite the fact that it had been raining like it was to be the next Great Flood and my El Cheapo Cracker Jack cellular phone decided to give up the ghost when I was trying to confirm his coordinates.

We finally got to the lovely residence of Pat and her husband Chuan sometime after 2200h, and they were gracious enough to serve us a scrumptlicious meal despite the fact that we had arrived absurdly late. Pat’s dear Mum greeted us warmly and her dogs went wild with excitement when they realized that they now have two more people to play with.

We had a long chat during the very gratifying and lovingly prepared meal of spaghetti, sandwiches, chocolate-and-marshmallow cake and apple-and-cinnamon scones. It was absolutely super of Pat and Chuan to have us over, and I hope I will be welcome to come over again sometime to play with the furgirls!

I deposited Zaharan back at the fuel station where his bike was parked sometime after midnight, drove back to the BOQ and spent the rest of the night in fascinated glee watching the Rowdies demolish the scones that Pat had sent me home with. Did you know that cats like apple and cinnamon scones? Well, now you do! Mad Props to Pat and everyone at her English Cottage!

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Saturday, 7th February 2009: Last of the Chinese New Year festivities

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, my plans to drive up to Magick River for a swim went kibosh, and so I decided to make the most of the day by going skating at Sunway Pyramid instead after having done the housework and fed the Rowdies.

The rink was crowded so I went up to the piazza to take photos of the Sunway Lagoon theme park, which I last visited in 1993. I wouldn’t mind checking out the amusement park and water park again, although some of my friends in the Malaysian Nature Society object to the fact that they have wildlife in captivity in their petting zoo. There must be a better way of engaging corporations than just ostracising them.

Water slides – Race you to the bottom!

Water slide tubes – Inane, plastic fun!

Aerial view of the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park. Anyone else keen for an afternoon of manufactured fun? Gotta love that huge-ass suspension bridge!

The Selangor State Government and local authorities were holding a Chinese New Year open house celebration at the open air car park next to Sunway Pyramid, so despite the fact that I was supposed to join my 4x4-loving confederates at Jeep Club Jeremy’s house later in the evening for a Chinese New Year dinner party, I decided to stay on at the open house to meet my elected representatives. I waited at the entrance for our embattled Menteri Besar Tan Sri Dato’ Khalid Ibrahim to arrive so I could shake his hand. And shake his hand we did. I let him know that he has our support and that we were glad to see him there, beleaguered with false accusations as he is. We shook hands and exchanged words of support and encouragement with the state assemblymen as well and thanked them for all the improvements they have made to their respective constituencies.

A very skilful and acrobatic lion dance performance by teenagers of different ethnicities.

Pole-dancing, lion-style!

Fireworks display sponsored by Sunway Pyramid

Pyrotechnics for the enjoyment of a large number of people is far less harmful to the environment and less offensive to public order than the setting off of firecrackers at ungodly hours by an antisocial few.

I noticed that the food was served in disposable/biodegradable starch tableware, and not Styrofoam products, and I know we have our Subang Jaya state assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh to thank for it. This is just another instance of a small yet meaningful difference made by one individual who was accorded power in a responsible and democratic manner.

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Sunday, 8th February 2009: SPCA and Muay Thai Sunday

I realised today that the economic recession could work both ways for the SPCA animal shelter. So far, we have not seen a sharp increase in the number of animal surrenders, and I can attribute this to 2 reasons:
(i) People can opt to switch to cheaper or generic pet products to cut down on pet care expenses, rather than give up their beloved animal companions entirely;
(ii) Thanks to the SPCA’s ongoing Early Spay and Neuter campaigns, many people have had their companion animals neutered, or plan to rely on neutering, to bring down the pet population and thus avoid the cost of unwanted pregnancies and caring for extra animals.

So far, we have had 545 recorded surrenders this year and a whopping 191 adoptions, which is a cause for celebration in itself. I speculate that the economic recession hasn’t stopped people from wanting companion animals, but it may have changed people’s minds about purchasing from pet stores, and adopting from shelters and pounds instead, especially since the SPCA’s adoption fee covers vaccination, deworming and neutering.

We have also seen an increase in institutionalised volunteer groups in the past month. If the way corporations and institutions choose to give back to society in a difficult and uncertain economic climate is by encouraging or requiring their people to volunteer, then I think it is a very commendable trend that should be sustained.

Together with Thean and Rose, I supervised the volunteers who were there on Sunday to help wash the dogs and clean the kennels and catteries. I handled the dogs in Kennels D, E and F. Together with 8-10 volunteers, we managed to wash all the healthy dogs in the SPCA and give them tick baths. Some of the girls who came to volunteer also helped me soap, disinfect and rinse the kennels and enclosures, and I thanked them for their help. I told them earnestly that their good work changes animal lives permanently, and that if an animal gets adopted today or the day after, it would be because of the effort they put into making the animals and shelter clean and healthy. The girls flushed with pride and pledged to come and volunteer again soon.

A very large family came to adopt a very small puppy, which was scheduled to be euthanized the next day if not fostered or adopted immediately because she was badly infested with ticks. I took the puppy into the surgery, saturated her fur with Frontline, and picked all the ticks out of her skin and the inside of her ears using a pair of tweezers. I then advised the family on how to care for their new puppy, and the correct anti-parasite solutions to administer.

I finished cleaning the shelter and went up to the SPCA Bungalow to shower by 1800h, as I had tickets to watch the WMTC KL International Muay Thai Challenge at the Cheras Badminton Stadium. And it was such an exciting and novel experience for me that I shall have to write a separate blog entry on it.

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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ushering in the Year of the Ox

Welcoming the Year of the Earth Ox

The week preceding the Lunar New Year was remarkable to me only because it had nothing to do with the Lunar New Year. Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the USA was an uplifting affair, not least because of the presence of Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger and Bono at the inauguration concert.

Things at home are less encouraging. We are a nation in crisis, as evinced by the violent assault on and subsequent death of 22-year-old suspected car thief A. Kugan while in police custody. The investigation into the allegations of police brutality seems to have proceeded along racial lines. One camp asserts that the deceased was a victim of systematic discrimination against and persecution of Indians. The other camp, to which some of our elected representatives belong, believe it justified to perpetrate violence against detainees because ‘the police have to do their job’, and it is not their fault if the majority of detainees who died while in police custody are of Indian heritage.

That’s rich. I have always thought that the responsibility of police officers was to interview suspects, collect evidence and commence court proceedings, not murder people in their custody. If violence is routinely used to elicit confessions from detainees, then I wonder how many people in our jails have actually been wrongly incarcerated (and executed, perhaps?) due to confessions made under duress. If police brutality really were a solution to crime, why is it then that our crime rates are higher than ever before?

We need to professionalise the police force. We need to retrain the force and sensitise them to issues concerning marginalised communities. We need to cull the corrupt and power-crazy from the force. While police brutality is not restricted to Malaysia, it is a matter of grave concern that we have Parliamentarians who rationalise it as necessary, or take on the attitude that the blame lies on the victim for having been suspected of a crime in the first place. What a morass modern Malaysia is, sometimes!

Saturday, 24th January 2009 was Lunar New Year Eve, and I had to relinquish my weekend of caring for shelter animals in order to clean the parental home and get things ready for the New Year. Being the genius that I am, I had applied potassium permanganate to Amber’s inflamed skin after her bath without having first put on gloves. I was knocked for six when I found my hands stained an indelible dark brown as a result. What was I to do? Even my nails were brown. I couldn’t go out for the reunion dinner with hands resembling a chimpanzee’s. I would probably have to walk around with my hands stuffed in my pockets and nod hello to everyone.

Thankfully, after a few more hours of scrubbing and cleaning things at the parental home, my hands returned to almost its original colour. The Covert Family had its reunion dinner at the same restaurant that we had been patronising for the Lunar New Year for the past 2 years.

I spent the first day of the Lunar New Year at the parental home with the dogs and managed to get some research done for work and some correspondence drafted. Watched “300” on DVD, which was awesome inspiring stuff, although I don’t think it was actually acceptable for me to shout words of encouragement for Leonidas to kill Xerxes on an auspicious day like the first day of the New Year.


There was supposed to be a partial solar eclipse between 1600 and 1900 hours, and so I dutifully went outside with my Killer Loop shades on and walked around like the big dork that I am trying to see the eclipse that wasn’t there. Finally gave up and went cycling in the evening after taking Amber and Chocky out for walks. Took my T-Bolt on some of the rougher terrain and did mostly uphill cycling for about an hour.

My T-Bolt offroad bike parked in the parental living room on the first day that I acquired her, in 2002. I won her in a newspaper competition.

A photo of my bedroom in the parental home taken in 2003 shows my T-Bolt parked in front of the bookcase because I didn’t want to leave her outside exposed to moisture and the elements.

Preposterous haikus I made up while riding my bike:

T-Bolt Haikus

Steed of black and yellow
You propel me noiselessly
Over obstacles.

Slick with rainwater
Pedals chain spokes drive away
Gunmetal gray clouds

The derailleur whirrs.
I release the handlebars.
Smiling. Victorious.

Woke up on time on the second day of the Lunar New Year to watch the World Lion Dance Championships on TV. Lion dances are probably the only reason why I continue to look forward to the Lunar New Year. Traditional songs and other Sinocentric art forms leave me cold, but lion dances seem to get better and more sophisticated each year.

Spent a good part of the afternoon trying to set upright one of the potted agave plants that had fallen over. Covert Dad and Covert Twin had tried unsuccessfully to get the pot back up. I wasn’t about to give up as easily, and as a rule, I like to do things solo. I used my jeans belts to strap the pot around the middle, just as I do in winching and tree-strapping exercises while on 4x4 expeditions. When the pot still wouldn’t move, I slid a sturdy metal rod under the brim of the pot, strapped the belts to either side of the rod, and pulled the plant upright. It still fell over because it was too heavy and unbalanced, so I took out my trusty Mora knife, asked the plant for permission, and lopped off some of the thick fleshy leaves that were preventing the pot from staying upright. Now I fastened the straps around the pot again and shifted the pot to the side of the compost pit before tying the pot around the middle and securing it to the brick wall to stop it from toppling over. When the parents asked how I had single-handedly gotten the 70kg pot upright again, I merely replied: “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. I wore the long scratches on my knuckles and forearms like a badge of honour. I had done battle with a thorny succulent and won. I spent another hour or two riding my bike again in the evening.

Went back to the ‘Quarters in the evening to clean the place up and spend time with the Rowdies. Returned to the parental home by midmorning to spend the last day of my festive break with the family. Cleaned the parental home, walked the dogs, and rode my bike again. Challenged Big Bro to two diabolical Sudoku puzzles and only just managed to solve them ahead of him. I attribute that to good luck as he is usually so much faster than I am at solving the puzzles on his cellular phone. Completed some letters and reports but deferred completing my research paper as I did not have adequate resources.

If tradition were to be observed, the fact that I have spent much of the Lunar New Year festivities agonising over my research paper is probably an indication that I will spend the rest of the year agonising over research papers. Let’s just hope it’s not going to be the same research paper. I’d like to get a move on with this one.

(Postscript: For those of you who are curious, I am drafting a paper on institutionalised rules for commercial arbitration.)

Saturday, 31st January – Monday, 2nd February 2009: Federal Territory Day Weekend

We had another long weekend thanks to Federal Territory Day . Took the parents shopping on Saturday, which I sometimes feel I am doing as a form of penance. Covert Mum had wanted me to buy new workclothes. I can only try on 3 shirts, max, before my brain starts to shut down. Why can’t I just try on one shirt, and then buy 3 others of the same size, only in different colours? By a stroke of good luck, we got to watch a sterling lion dance performance in the concourse area. I believe the troupe was one of the finalists of the previous year’s world lion dance championship.

Covert Uncle and his brood came over for lunch on Sunday, after which I washed the dogs, cleaned the parental home and walked Amber and Chocky again before going back to the ‘Quarters.

New merchandise at the SPCA. Come and get ‘em!

Arrived at the SPCA on Monday bearing gifts of festive treats for the staff. The vets weren’t around, but I entered the surgery anyway and mixed up a batch of Taktic EC to use on the dogs. I shampooed and tick-washed the dogs from the Central Area and Back Office, two-by-two.

The Kindest Man in the World (I still don’t know his name but I overheard Reve calling him Wally, which I don’t think is his real name anyway since Reve has a tendency to mix names up) was cleaning the puppy cages and he asked me if I could wash two mangy dogs from another kennel. I was, of course, only happy to oblige, and soon the dogs were clean and comfortable again.

I finished washing and tick-rinsing 16 dogs before the unpredictable sky got dark again. When I was in the midst of cleaning and disinfecting the Cattery, Reve approached me and asked if I could give our SPCA general worker, Jane, a lift home. Jane was to bring a family of cats home for fostering to prevent them from being euthanized the following day, and she could not bring them home on the bus. I agreed to drive her home as soon as I finished cleaning the Cattery. Reve offered to clean the rest of the shelter so I could concentrate on getting Jane and her cats safely home.

So off we roared in the Battletank to Taman Bukit Anggerik in Cheras, Jane chatting nineteen to the dozen and making my left ear go progressively deaf. We arrived at her house and I brought the carrier down. Her dogs went ape when they saw me come in with cats. Her house was full of bric-a-brac and smelled really malodorous, but I guess that is to be expected of someone with multiple pets who devotes more time to looking after animals than keeping her house spotless. I have never really gotten used to the smell of pet waste to be able to live with it, which explains why the ‘Quarters is cleaned several times a day.

A few diary entries ago, I talked about how I had spotted the covered litter trays first at the SPCA Charity Shop but had relinquished them to Rose and Jane. Well, it turned out that Jane’s cats never really took to the covered tray, so I bought it back from her and went home with my new purchase. It was raining so hard on my way home that it looked as though there was a solid opaque white wall in front of me while I was driving.

Reached the ‘Quarters, cleaned the newly-acquired litter tray with soap and Dettol, did the laundry, cleaned the house, played with the Rowdies, set up the now washed-and-dried covered litter tray, did the mark-ups for a letter I was reviewing/helping to draft, sorted out some correspondence related to the MNS and Green Living and waited up until 0500 hours for Jake to be sent home from the hospital after treatment for knee injury.

I am so going to fall asleep at the wheel tomorrow. If it weren’t for Red Bull, I would be a dead Commando by now.

Wednesday, 4th February 2009: A guide to a companion animal ‘custody’ dispute.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog entry is NOT legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied in any specific factual situation. Any use of the information provided DOES NOT create or constitute a Solicitor-Client relationship between this Blog Administrator and the User/Reader. As the law differs in each legal jurisdiction, any information relayed in this Blog Entry cannot be a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. The Blog Administrator is not responsible for any liability, loss, injury, damage or claim arising or resulting from the use of the information provided.

I received a phone call from a stranger today, which is not exceptional ever since I started being interviewed by newspapers and magazines a few years ago for my volunteer work. Well-intentioned strangers often call or e-mail me with inquiries, offers to volunteer and requests for assistance, often in matters where I am powerless to intervene.

In this situation, the Client of the caller (hereafter, “Client”) had been separated from her partner (hereafter, “Partner”) with whom she shared the guardianship and care of a dog (hereafter, “Dog”). There is now a dispute over the ‘custody’ of the Dog.

The Client therefore wishes to know what her prospects of gaining custody of the Dog are, and if there are any specific laws governing the guardianship of companion animals.

I was silently thrilled to know the facts of the case, because for once I am dealing with a companion animal that someone actually wants. For once, I am not dealing with an animal cruelty, abuse or abandonment case.

Sadly, Malaysia, as with most developing countries, does not have specific laws concerning the care and custody of animals. Even our animal protection and welfare laws are grossly outdated and inadequate. Animals are chattels without locus standi and are not treated as companions or ‘children’ whose interests are to be protected in a custody dispute.

This matter is therefore a dispute over ownership of chattel and the matter should be referred to the High Court for a declaration.

Client’s solicitor would be well-advised to proceed by issuing a Writ of Summons against Partner, stating its intention to proceed to apply for a declaration for the ownership of the Dog, and any additional or alternative claims, monetary or otherwise, against the said Partner.

In the Writ of Summons and Supporting Affidavit(s), Client’s solicitor should include facts to support the claim, such as whether the Dog had been in the care of Client before the relationship, whether Client was the one who had purchased or adopted the Dog, and whether Client had been the primary caregiver of the Dog. Client should also add information that will work in her favour, such as her ability and financial means to care for the Dog, and append evidence to support the claim, such as adoption certificates, receipts, and veterinarian’s invoices.

If the Partner files an Affidavit In Reply annexing an adoption/live animal purchase certificate in his or her name, the Client’s solicitor should respond by appending receipts for veterinary treatment, pet supplies and other purchases, and submit that the purchase of the Dog was by the Partner as a gift to the Client, but the Client remained the primary caregiver and provider. It’s rather like arguing that a vehicle registration card was issued in someone else’s name but you had been the one to service the loan repayments, and therefore, have an interest in the property.

Do NOT use emotional arguments such as the fact that the Client plays with the Dog more, or loves the Dog more, or is distraught over her separation from the Dog. You do not want anyone to question the Client’s emotional fitness. Remember, you are here to establish that your Client is the OWNER, not the PARENT, of the Dog. Play your cards right. Use all your lawyerly resources.

Once a declaration has been obtained for the possession of the Dog by the Client, it should be served on the Partner and a request for the immediate surrender of the Dog to the Client should be made.

As you can see, it is all very clinical and merciless, and no thought is given to whether there is a caregiver, child or other companion animal that the animal may have grown attached to. But if you draft your cause papers well and refute the defendant/respondent’s defence/counterclaim point-on-point, you may be able to persuade the Court, regardless of whether you are the best person to look after the animal, that you have established ownership over the animal.

And you know as they say, possession is still nine-tenths of the law, especially where a straightforward ownership dispute is concerned.

Note: A companion animal is not just any ‘movable property’ and will be traumatised by the proceedings and the shuttling from one caregiver to the other. Speaking as an animal care provider and not a lawyer here, I would advise the parties to any dispute over a companion animal to work out an amicable settlement in the best interests of the animal, where the animal remains in the care of the primary caregiver, in the home that it has been living in and in the company of children/other animals whose companionship it has grown to depend on. It is quite foreseeable that legal proceedings could easily turn into a source of great distress, confusion and misery for the animal concerned.

CO78, at your service. Over!

Wordle: My Favourite Things

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Rowdies on a Roll!

Photos of all six of our Rowdies, taken by my housemate and buddy Jessica.

Shadow loves sitting against black surfaces and then jumping out and scaring the bejeezers out of us.

Pixie, who I must clarify, is male. Blame Jake for the androgynous name.

Mini-Me, Shadow's sister, is so named because she is the spitting image of her mother, Keisha. Keisha has since been adopted by Hui-Min.

Halle stands guard on the porch. She is too wild and too much of a free spirit to be kept indoors. I tried.

Daisy is so named because her colouration resembles that of a Friesian cow.

Chloe, when she's not busy opening cabinet doors and pulling out chests of drawers.

Chloe, winner of the Fuzzy Tummy Contest!