Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Yeah, Well, Bite Me!

The past month has convinced me that the world is an insane, arbitrary and chaotic place. It doesn't help that my daily schedule is insane, arbitrary and chaotic. Every day is an endless stream not of cigarettes and magazines, but of research papers, assessments, volunteer commitments, needy rescued animals in need of medical treatment, local political issues, world political issues, home repairs, car repairs, housework, yardwork, animal care work, Trap-Vaccinate-Neuter-Rehome arrangements and promises and favours that I was wheedled into agreeing to. My flabber is totally gasted.

As for the title of this blogpost: I was bitten by a dog at the SPCA on Saturday while trying to break up a particularly vicious dogfight. I was in the midst of giving the Sick Bay dogs baths and tick treatment when a fight broke out between Bubbie (the victim) and Paris, Suki and their gang. We tried to separate the dogs using mops, brooms and streams of water from the hose, but it didn't work. I jumped into the affray because one dog had Bubbie by the ear and another dog had her by the neck. I was afraid Bubbie was going to die so I grabbed her and held her and tried to carry her to the surgery. Somehow I got bitten and sustained a very deep wound in one of my fingers. Now my finger has been cleaned up and stitched, but it is still in a lot of pain and I can't apply much pressure on it, so this adds to my irritability. Trust my hand to get injured when I have so much to do. Tsk.

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August 6, 2011:

Have you ever had the feeling that you have known a blogging buddy all your life, even though the two of you have yet to meet in real life? Have you ever felt that a blog friendship was somehow more supportive and more real than some of the acquaintances you have made in real life?

Zara and I felt that way about our friendship from the time we started blogging (on another hosting site) in 2002. We found more and more in common with each other after she graduated from law school and started legal practice. So when she disclosed her plans to visit Malaysia with her boyfriend a few months ago, I was elated. We finally got to meet a few weeks ago and she was every bit as I had imagined her to be. I was thrilled to play host and tour guide and I hope Zara and Rohan enjoyed the time they spent with me as much as I did with them.

Zara came bearing gifts of a huge bundle of Amar Chitra Katha comics and a box of soan papdi from Mumbai. I was overjoyed with her gifts -- it was like my birthday, Christmas and Lunar New Year all rolled into one. She didn't leave empty-handed either, as I had already purchased gifts from the Malaysian Nature Society gift shop for her, along with a copy of Lat's "Kampung Boy" and lots of zany band-aids, which are not available in India.

Our first stop for the day was Batu Caves. Despite the fact that the Battletank's radiator had a leak, we managed to arrive safely at a workshop and spent a few hours exploring Batu Caves while waiting for the radiator to be repaired.

I drove everyone crazy with my questions: "Why does Lord Muruga have a poonal? Can a deity be a Brahmin? If Brahmins are humans who are believed to be imbued with divinity, but the reverse is not true, then how can it be that Muruga wears a poonal in this image of Him? True, some humans can be incarnations of deities -- Krishna often appeared in human form -- but he is still an incarnation of Vishnu. Here, Muruga appears as himself. Not as a human incarnation. Why, then, does he wear a poonal?" I guess I'll have to ask the temple priests that one.

Taking a breather in the cave temple. This photo was taken by a young man we met in the temple. Trust Zara to find herself a stalker almost as soon as she arrived in Malaysia! The young man tried to maintain contact with me. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I am 7 years older than he is, and the terms of endearment he used were way out of line.

Guess who's up and about! Rohan finally overcame his jet lag and managed to meet up with us. Here they are outside Tugu Negara, the national monument.

Zara and Rohan at the ASEAN Sculpture Gardens.

Zara and me outside Central Market.

Rohan and me at their room in Trader's Hotel, with KLCC in the background.

Although the time they had in Malaysia was so short, I believe that we shared good memories of the time we spent together. I hope we'll get to meet again soon. Until then, my dear friends and I will harass each other on Facebook. Here's to friendship and Facebook!

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Project Second Chance Updates:

Napoleon the Puppy thinks my full-time job is to play with him. I must go and visit him again soon. Thank you to everyone who contributed towards his medical bills. You saved Napoleon's life. He is a "mere stray" no more. Whenever confronted with the choice of doing the easy thing and doing the right thing, always try to do the right thing, even if it costs more and is more inconvenient. If you have the determination to do it, you will almost always succeed.

This is the face of the little dog who was almost euthanised due to his injuries. Thanks to everyone's kind donations, Napoleon the Puppy now has a new lease of life and can look forward to a life as a happy, healthy pup in a loving home. Next mission: A good home for Napoleon!

Keeping warm at the SPCA shelter on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Aug 13. I was in the middle of cleaning cages and kennels when these 2, Fajar and Sherry, decided to come and keep me company.

This Mama Cat gave birth to her litter in the back alley behind my friends Seng and Carol's house. My friends sought my assistance and so I brought the whole brood to the vet for vaccination and am currently fostering and deworming them in my home. I posted adoption notices in PetFinder, a local non-profit pet adoption portal, and found homes for 2 of the kittens almost immediately. The kittens are now over 2 months old and well able to eat on their own, so I will be getting the Mama Cat spayed this coming weekend.

Right now besides the Office Feral Cats that I am trying to trap for neutering and Mama Cat and her remaining two kittens, I am also providing post-neutering care for the cats who live with the Burger Stall Couple.

Somebody. I need help. I am turning into the crazy neighbourhood cat lady that your mother warned you about.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Shine On For The Fireflies of Kampung Dew

I attended the inaugural Malaysian Nature Society Firefly Festival at Kg. Dew, Taiping, to support the conservation and environmental education efforts of our counterparts in Perak. I also had to reconnoitre the event for the purposes of Selangor Branch's very own Firefly Conservation Festival to be held this October.

Kg. Dew is located along Sg. Sepetang, around 20 minutes away from Taiping Town, where firefly-watching activities on a limited scale are being carried out by some boatmen from the nearby villages.

I managed to persuade CovertMum and CovertDad to join me. I told them:
"There's nothing you won't like about this trip. There's nothing dangerous, difficult or dirty about it. There will be fireflies. There won't be any leeches, snakes or crocodiles (Disclaimer: As long as you follow our safety instructions). I won't make you hike, swim, climb or camp. I will take care of you. Trust me."

And so we had an idyllic and enchanting weekend away from the city at Kg. Dew and Taiping Town. I trust ecotourism events such as this Firefly Festival will bring a glimmer of hope to firefly populations and encourage local communities and the authorities to conserve firefly habitats, maintain cleanliness and eliminate threats to firefly populations. Like birds, frogs and many other specie that are frequently taken for granted, fireflies are a good indicator of the environmental health of an area. A healthy and thriving ecosystem will benefit human, animal and plant populations.

Kg Dew is a tiny village mostly planted over with oil palm.

Booths and a banquet tent in the middle of the little village.

Display materials with natural history information.

Samples of mangrove flora at the exhibition booths. The local community also took the opportunity to produce handicrafts and local snacks for sale.

The local community took the opportunity to set up refreshment stalls.

A mangrove charcoal kiln! This is the first time I have ever been in one!

Charcoal is traditionally produced in these beehive-like charcoal kilns. It smells awesome. Like a combination of hashish, opium and mesquite barbecue. I feel sorry for the poor charcoal-maker's lungs. All that soot.

Kg. Dew jetty with its little passenger boats. It is commendable that MNS decided to carry out its ecotourism project here. The river was rather polluted with litter, and the local community needs to be educated on waste management and sustainable tourism. They don't know the gold mine that they are sitting on.

CovertDad and me at the jetty, waiting for the safety briefing and our lifejackets after the official opening ceremony.

Moon River / Wider than a mile / I'm crossing you in style / Some day.

CovertDad and CovertMum finally get their lifejackets. What an awesome boat ride it was. The firefly population at Kg Dew is at least 3 times denser than that of Kg Kuantan, Sg Selangor. There are over 133 Berembang trees along the 6km stretch and the trees lit up like parade floats when the fireflies did their synchronised flashing. From afar, the trees looked like they were generating lightning. All the participants and passengers agreed that it was a magical experience and expressed surprise at the density of the firefly population. Let's hope it stays that way.

We checked out the Taiping Lake Gardens the following morning. Our hotel was located within the Lake Gardens. Here I am, walking purposefully in search of vegetarian food, surrounded by majestic raintrees (Samanea saman). Inexpensive and nutritious Chinese vegetarian food is widely available at the food courts in Taiping Town.

The branches of the raintrees formed a natural tunnel for motorists through the Lake Gardens.

Taiping Lake Gardens, with the Titiwangsa Mountain Range in the background.

Paddleboats for rent. Look at the reflection of the mountains in the lake.

An old-timey snack stall on wheels at the Lake Gardens parking lot. Makes me feel like buying a cold garishly-coloured cordial drink, a box of DingDang (a new toy every week!) and a packet of "potato chips" that doesn't have very much real potato in it. Please raise your hand if you know what I am talking about!

Traveller's Palms at the Lake Gardens.

The view from our hotel room window. Love the midday shadow of that tree over yonder.

A colonial building with neoclassical features and nature-inspired Art Novveau plaster mouldings in Taiping Town.

Another colonial building with neoclassical features in Taiping Town. Note the Art Deco horizontal banding and the Deco archways, which suggest at an inchoate sunburst motif.

Interested in visiting Taiping and Kg Dew? Click on the links or follow the contact information below:

Kg Dew Firefly Ecotourism
Contact person: Khairul Salleh Ahmad
Mobile Phone Number: 012 514 5023

Flemington Hotel, Taiping Lake Gardens
Address: No. 1, Jalan Samanea Saman, 34000 Taiping, Perak Darul Ridzuan,
Telephone: +605-820-7777
Fax: +605-808-0177
My ratings: 4 stars out of 5, absolute value for money.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rest in Peace, Darling Hopscotch

Rest in Peace, Darling Hopscotch
(April 2011 - 3rd August 2011)

Hopscotch came into my life in late May 2011. I named him after the blog title of my dear departed friend, Louis Sellier. I found Hopscotch in the space behind the condenser of one of the air-conditioning units in my office.

He was a sickly kitten, and full of fleas. I had to treat him for the fleas before I could bring him home. He survived the flea bath. I took him to the vet for his first vaccination. He survived the vaccination. He couldn't eliminate waste properly. So back to the vet we went, and after being treated with laxatives and dewormers, he was finally able to use the litter tray. Then other problems flared up. Poor little Hopscotch had such a high worm load that he could hardly eat and digest his food. So I had to administer the highest safe dosage of deworming medicine possible.

Once Hopscotch was clear of worms, I started worrying about his weight. He seemed unable to gain weight or grow, and was rather quiet and pensive for a kitten of his age. Still, he was an affectionate and loving kitten who was content to sleep against my neck or arm all night.

I left him in the good hands of my dear friend, Nicole, when I left for the Asia for Animals Conference in China in June.

Upon return from China, we found that Hopscotch had lost some weight, perhaps due to anxiety in my absence. We tried to make it up to Hopscotch with more cuddles, attention and yummy food.

When Topsy and Turvy, the rescued kittens, succumbed to parvovirus, I wasted no time in getting Hopscotch a full medical checkup and antibiotics to stop the secondary infection, even while I was still grieving for Topsy and Turvy. I was determined that Hopscotch should live, and I was pleased to see how well he socialised with other cats and humans. He was, to me, the ideal kitten.

Hopscotch's condition continued to deteriorate in July and soon he was practically skin and bones. I was horrified and soon vet visits became an almost daily affair. Hopscotch was constantly dehydrated and needed intravenous injections of glucose and fluids to stay alive. With grim determination, I pledged to spend less on my own needs and to direct all my resources towards saving Hopscotch instead.

Hopscotch was hospitalised for the final time last Saturday, 30th July. By then, he was so weak he could hardly meow. His gums were white and his pupils dilated. His body temperature was low. He was severely dehydrated despite all the vitamins, supplements, good food and filtered water that I provided him with. His lymph nodes by then were starting to show signs of enlargement. Amidst fears that he may have feline leukaemia virus, I begged the vet to put Hopscotch back on drips and keep him warm until the good vet was able to draw enough blood to test him for feline leukaemia virus and other retroviruses.

Hopscotch responded to the drips and antibiotics and started eating again in the next few days, but his breathing remain laboured and his kidney function was poor. A blood sample taken from an ear-prick showed that Hopscotch's white blood cells have not mutated, thus reducing the possibility of feline leukaemia virus. However, Hopscotch was so frail and his blood vessels so weak that a better blood sample could not be taken for confirmation. Still, there were enough signs for the vet to give a preliminary diagnosis of congenital polycystic kidney disease. Hopscotch's kidneys were failing in stages, and it really was the drips, medication and our love and care that was keeping him alive.

The vet called me this morning with the unfortunate news that my darling Hopscotch was no more. Never again will he lie on my tummy as I type out my assessments on my netbook. Never again will I get to feel him curl up against my neck as I sleep. Never again will I rush to prepare his wet food in the mornings and evenings and watch with satisfaction as he eats it at his own slow but steady pace.

My little Hopscotch is suffering no more. He is free of pain now, and he probably understands that I did the best I could afford for him, and loved him unconditionally.

Hopscotch, dear, if you ever get reborn as another cat or other animal, I would take you back and care for you all over again, in a heartbeat.

Rest in peace now, my beloved Hopscotch. I will never forget you.