April 23, 2009

The reality of street life

On behalf of a rescuer:

"Please help...my friend has been feeding this pack of puppies and their mom for the past week or so now and they are in desperate need of a home cos where they are hanging out, there are all these trucks and cars going about and these puppies have no idea that the cars and trucks are dangerous. Just recently, one of the puppies accidentally fell into a drain and drowned!..."

While animal welfare groups are working towards the longterm resolution of the stray issue, we call for a present help for this present case.

Do consider to adopt a pup if you are ready for the commitment and share the appeal with your good contacts. You can find out more from Christina at 9747 8468 or email venus.lim@gmail.com

April 20, 2009

We didn't expect the day of

welfare work for the animals to encounter, finally, Mr L's friendly female cat, Lili, and her kittens. Encroaching into the space of his business, we'd tried repeatedly to talk sense into him to get her sterilised, but the old man said he wanted to breed Lili as his farm products were damaged or consumed by rats.

Even though we told him that we could 'pass' other (sterilised) cats to him to guard his business from the pests and that Lili should be given to us to be sterilised. Our main objective was to spay Lili to prevent unwanted births and the 'trouble' of having to manage a fresh new litter of kittens.

Last Saturday, we visited Mr L again and chanced upon Lili's four little ones that were scurrying on the grounds of the farm. About 3-4 weeks old already and getting adjusted to every nook and corner of Mr L's dilapidated farm setting: discarded boxes, unswept floor, decaying wooden shelves, old styrofoam boxes -- I don't really know how to describe his farm!

A beautiful tabby, Lili lied serenely on the floor in the late morning sun, grooming her paws. Her slender body; miniature bone structure. She responded affectionately to us and wasn't at all, fearful of the strange scents from our hands.

Until we made the decision to take her for sterilisation, for we didn't know when we would ever go by the farm and risk having Lili impregnated again.

Until we placed her in a styrofoam box and realised that she can be a fiesty female fighter of the feline species. Refusing vehemently to be enclosed in any crate by head-butting her way out against the styrofoam lid.

We tried bringing her into the car, without any carrier or crate, by just grabbing the scruff of her neck and holding her limbs, but the poor mother was writhing and contorting out of our clutches; we had no choice but to release her, suffer the consequence of a failed attempt, i.e., an even warier Lili. The last item on our sterilisation list of priorities: an uncooperative, unwilling animal.

So S, in her quick-wittedness, suggested borrowing a carrier from the nearest vet clinic after a fair bit of negotiation with the clinic staff and explaining the nature of our work -- animal welfare. A few of us stayed behind the farm to regain Lili's trust with some wetfood.

Armed with the carrier, I approached Lili who was crouched, surprisingly calm, in the dark of the room -- while her kittens munched on the wetfood outside. At the smell of the bait, she came closer to me and in spite of the unpleasant encounter just now, even allowed me to stroke her. She purred at the caresses. Then, I placed the food closer to the carrier and tried to nudge her into the carrier.

When she resisted to go into the carrier, I decided that a dose of coercion was necessary and in my lone battle with Lili, I worked at putting her into the carrier while she obstructed her entry by sticking her feet out against the carrier's opened gate. A little tussle, and as soon as she was in, I slammed and secured the carrier shut. Lili fumbled and knocked about the inside of the carrier and I applied pressure to demonstrate to her the sturdiness and solidness of the carrier against which her struggles would be futile.

And then we swiftly whisked her into the car, then to the clinic, taking care to hold the carrier securely when we moved from vehicle to clinic. The last thing I dread on a mission like this is a flimsy carrier imploded open and a fear stricken Lili running about with the traffic on the main road.

So, on the sterilisation front, it's one check for Lili and four more checks for her kittens. Marked them down mentally.

Do email us at projectjkteam@yahoo.com.sg if you'd like to contribute to our work in stemming the root of a core area of the animal welfare through active sterilisation.

One of Lili's offsprings. Another goodlooking tabby.

Lili enjoying the warmth of the morning when I approached her.

April 19, 2009

Rest in Peace, Spotty

For the vet, the caretaker and I, I guess it took us a measure of courage to reconcile with the fact that Spotty is gone. His caretaker, W, dropped me an SMS last Monday morning to inform me of his departure; we didn't need to fuss over Spotty anymore, he was gone that morning.

Spotty slept into peace, not far from where he usually slept with a few of his pals who are more socialised with people. Often close to his caregiver when the chance permitted; otherwise, he'd be out with the rest of the pack in the bush, exploring the scents of wilderness, or napping in a deserted spot on the farm.

On one note, his passing means an easier management for W; for one dog less means that she can focus better on the rest of her dogs. A redistribution of the labour of love. It also represents to us Spotty's sacrifice to his siblings and friends. To die at a young age of a year plus. To 'make space' for others.

A week or so ago, Spotty was sent to the clinic and treated of his tick condition. The vet reported that he was overburdened with ticks -- when the staff were deticking him, the crawlies and fleas literally sprang out of his body and were inching along the walls surrounding the corner where he boarded. He was running a temperature and treated with anti-inflammation. Temperature went down but he remained weak and wobbly.

He was released thereafter on the assumption that he would be well, but little did we know that he would discontinue eating normally, drink sufficiently and before long, he only appeared occasionally to his caregiver. A sure sign that he knew he was deteriorating into sickness.

Perhaps he knew his time would be up and like most dogs, he sought a place quiet and secluded to go away peacefully.

We arranged for transport and a plan to trap him in the enclosure first thing on Monday, so that we could send him to the vet for another round of inspection and treatment, but Spotty, chose to leave us on that same morning.

A step too late.

His body was warm when W discovered him motionless. And she teared slightly over the phone when she updated me and I could feel -- since she's decided to take on the route to care for these dogs and entwined her life with the trials and tribulations of tending to stray lives -- a bond with a dog so strong and undeniable.

Being lower on the pack hierarchy, admittedly, Spotty was more often than not bullied by the bigger boys but nonetheless trailed his mates wherever they went. A follower, a passive member of the group. Come feeding time, he was deprived of the bigger chunks so W sometimes had to hand-feed him, and he would lapped up the pieces gleefully from her hand.

He had a favourite spot, that was, the tattered cushions of an unwanted, old sofa. He was laden with mange infection. He lapsed into mangey modes (dried flakes and crumply skin) periodically, and after medication, would regain his coat of patchy black spots over a blanket of white.

Good old days: Spotty moving around with alpha male, Buffalo and other youngsters around the farm

May 2008: Seeking respite beneath the clusters of farm machines. This was Spotty.

A few months old before they were sent for sterilisation. Chocho with Spotty, wary of my approaching with the digicam

Last few days at the clinic: Spotty was put on drip. His right hind leg trembled occasionally. Overall, listless and strengthless. Visited him on Wednesday evening and said a prayer over his healing.

Rest in peace, Spotty. We love you.

Spotty's departure serves yet again as another reminder to all socially-responsible individuals that until we have arrived in a world with no suffering strays, we must sterilise, or encourage to sterilise, the dogs in our communities -- domestic or feral. The death of a normal, healthy mongrel integral to our communities -- be they industrial farms, private residences, or within our home spaces -- is part of the vicious cycle of dog populations unsterilised, left to suffer and die. Their high mortality.

Case in point: Spotty was vaccinated when he was 4-5 month old. And slightly over a year since his vaccination, his immunity reached a point that however external his parasite burden of ticks, fleas and mange was, he was unable to combat them. Perhaps, an insidious invasion into the mechanisms of his organs was what happened.

As long as there are unsterilised female and male dogs around, litters of puppies that grow into adult dogs that, in the same repetition, mate, will manifest as reality all levels of society have to inevitably encounter. Dog numbers that multiply exponentially are a reality and when left to checks of nature, high mortality and disease penetration rates ensue.

A caregiver, being limited in his/her own resources, is incapable of offering the ideal medical attention to any sick or diseased dog that crosses his/her path.

Spotty escaped the enclosure and loathed being force-fed or being taken away from his comfort zone to be handled by strange hands and equipment at the vet's. He didn't know it was a procedure and experience necessary for his recovery.

To him, the only way to recover and feel better was to ingest selected weeds in the wild to purge undesired toxins from his body system(s).

It was a struggle for him to fight the plagues and equally, a struggle for us to get him to receive proper medical attention.

Sterilisation effectively stems the root of the problem of suffering animals and human-animal conflicts when stray dogs seek out urban environment for food. The connection is simple, it doesn't take an educated guess to know sterilisation is the way to go to mass-benefit street dogs and their welfare. It's certainly not merely the rehoming of one dog, but the sterilisation of existing ones to prevent future generations of dogs suffering from the hazards of street life or diseases that require human intervention.

We continue with Spotty in our hearts.

April 11, 2009

Current Needs

Junior & Ginne

In 2006, the two girls were ruthlessly abandoned by their previous owner some 40km from their home in the wilderness and were left to fend for themselves for a week before their whereabouts were linked to our appeals. Junior was discovered in a corner of a HDB void deck and Ginne was taken from the SPCA just in time, before she could have been put down the next day.

Human-friendly and domesticated, the girls are 3-4 years old, spayed, vaccinated and very personable. Now free to roam the fields of the shelter and long very much for a home.

A long-term sponsor or whoever who can pitch in their long term boarding at the shelter. Preferably to be rehomed together as a pair, for they've grown so used to each other, but my hope is that even if they were to be separated, each is to find her own permanent home. A firm, patient hand to calm their excitement, love and affection.


A highly apprehensive dog, fearful of humans and other dogs. Low on canine hierarchy. Captured by authorities and bailed out in Jan '09. Currently residing at boarding facility. One year-plus old, female, med-sized, sterilised, vaccinated fully for the year and microchipped.

Needs: Donors to cover backlog boarding fees from March onwards and future monthly boarding fees. Long-term experienced foster and ultimately, a permanent, reliable adopter. Chocho needs a patient hand in socializing her to domestic life -- with other dogs and people.

Practical Items
* Neem or tee-tree oil in aid to remove ticks, fleas and other parasites from animal's body
* Detick/deflea solution: Biospot, Accurate spray
* Frontline or Revolution
* Leashes -- ideally for large breeds
* Dog treats

Email projectjkteam@yahoo.com.sg if you'd like to contribute, as well as for more info on how you can help in ways beneficial to our animals and the animal welfare cause

Amazingly, while some if not,

I daresay, most stray dogs are burdened with diseases and marred with scars from territorial fights, Hayley is one quiet survivor, almost unblemished, clean and fit as a fiddle, among the street dogs that I have encountered.

What began as a plan to apply TNRM -- that is, to leave her as she was -- is now a lifetime dedication to ensure her safety (that's utmost important) and a roof over her head.

On part of N, whom we've helped with sterilising, vaccinating and microchipping Hayley.

Hayley belonged to a fairly large field smacked in a corner of a HDB estate, probably slated for more urban developments, given how grossly and disproportionately rapid Singapore is losing its interim secondary forests and other spots that we can claim as our visual respite of greenery.

According to N, there were a few people who fed Hayley and this medium size of a black/tan mongrel, a little scruffy-looking, had a field all to herself and her puppies. For reasons unbeknownst to N and probably her other feeders, her puppies were gone, and Hayley remained unspayed and awaited another six-month cycle before she could get on heat and mate. Her teats were sure sign that she had given birth and been suckled.

Sensible enough, N, whom I got to know through the selling of ALL's calendars, was determined to get her and at the minimum, sterilise her. When you stop at the mother, at least you help prevent unwanted births of generations of puppies.

At one fell swoop, N lifted the feather-light Hayley in her arms and dashed lightning-quick into the car, that day we decided to send her for sterilisation. Before the duo entered the backseat, the dog was so frightened she urinated at the curb -- her bum protruding over N's arm when her flush of pee gushed out. Out of fear and uncertainty.

That stopped N in her tracks alright -- a dog caught in her arms, finding time to pee and de-stress before her car ride.

What happened in the last few weeks, or a month or so, was a flurry of getting her accordingly spayed, vaccinated, microchipped and tested (negative) for heartworm and tick infection, and boarding at A's for a while, and I remember Hayley being such a gentle, docile female that for people she got to know at first chance, she submitted to our caresses on her forehead and our whispers to tell her "Everything is going to be alright, Hayley."

"Good girl, Hayley. Good girl, Hayley," I found myself repeating under my breath.

Without resistance -- quietly, peaceably and sensibly, Hayley led a gentle, charismatic existence at the clinic's and boarding facilities. Her posture seems meditative and still, her demeanour gentle and her face lean. What a beautiful dog.

Hayley--before she was whisked into the car

Today, Hayley will enter the quarantine of a non-profit shelter and join the rest of the dogs that have been unable to find homes under an over-arching residential policy that discriminates against and forbids local dogs.

As we plunge further into 2009, cases like Hayley will inevitably come our way. With a number of dogs ultimately submitted to taking residence in boarding facilities, we need the funds to do more for the populations of street animals out there: STERILISATION, VACCINATION AND MEDICATION.

To turn away a dog in need of medical treatment means starting on a guilt trip of leaving a needy one behind. To begin with, we'd never intended to have too many dogs under our charge boarding at shelters, but in come these few years, we have ended up with a growing number of dogs we are responsible for in their long-termed maintenance at the shelters.

Email projectjkteam@yahoo.com.sg if you'd like to chip in to our dogs' boarding expenses and/or offset our costs in sterilising and providing medical care for our dogs.

Any amount is deeply appreciated.

April 6, 2009

I know all of us

have felt tired at some periods of my life. Tired from even a passionate cause we have been fighting for. Not just for animal welfare. But for anything that you sink your heart into. Your stand for the elderly. For the orphans. For salvation.

It doesn't help that there are voices of doubts around. Of discouragement. That a belief as such is worthless, and in the area of animal welfare, if it is only for the animals.

I have thought through this debate many times over. And got discouraged and then realigned in determination, and then discouraged again. And then buck myself up in my belief again. It has not been a steady plane yet. And it may never be, as with all things in life - the flow of tides.

For those who have been standing in the field of animal welfare long enough, there is no need for any convincing that the things done on the streets for the needy strays - are seldom ONLY for the animals. And it is a pretty naive thought to throw out without getting your own hands and feet into the action.

On the surface, it looks like the main priority is the animal on hand. To save and treat the injured and diseased. And if it is a case of abuse, then to attain justice for the abused animal.To the lay person, all focus seems to be on the animal. And humanity or a human being's interest is overshadowed.

But come walk along long enough, and you will see that behind many rescue work, there are many human faces and lives involved.

Be it the exhausted heart of a stray feeder who has sunk too deep to retract her steps now and the only way she knows is forward. And the people in her life whom we get to also meet. Or the good-hearted worker on the farm who is doing his bit to preserve a life. And his hardship and struggles and family we get to know about. Or the God-sent foster family who came forward in the nick of time. And their circle of friends who enter our life. And fellow common-hearted volunteers you meet. And their lives crossing into ours. Lives connected and involved in deeper ways than a mere meeting of 'animal people for the animals'.

As for the contention that the focus is always placed on the animal first (the question being, what about the human being?) - a very simple scenario explains it all. Cos even in a purely human to human interaction, always the focus is on 1 party first. The one who has the key need at that time.In the case of a rapist and a victim - the focus, attention will surely first be on the victim and all means will be rendered to help/save the victim first. And justice attained. That is not to say that the rapist, the other human being is of no value. But at the crux of the situation, it is the victim who needs help first.

Attend to the needful.

It is simple and clear. Should the case be one where an animal has attacked a child without reason, then the focus must be on the hurt child.

Thus very simply, in the area of animal welfare, by placing an initial first-focus on a needy animal does not mean that we downplay humanity. Why don't we withdraw the label of 'human' or 'animal'? Will it be clearer now where you first place your focus? Or will you accept that the focus is placed on the one who needs it more first?

The same for those for take their stand for child labour. Child prostitution. Women's rights. Apartheid. Racism. You don't ask - then what about that pimp, what about his life? No. You reach out FIRST to the party who has been hurt. To the one who is in greater urgency of help. For immediate rectification and cessation of suffering.

Find a need and meet it. In different areas of life.

Akin to the ongoing distress of life-skinning of animals in China - the key focus is to FIRST cease such inhumane practices, to stop unnecessary bloody suffering for the sake of a fur coat. It is not a proclamation that China people are to be condemned. But in such obvious suffering, the most urgent call is to STOP the suffering first. And after that, in tandem, we work to resolve the bigger issue - which includes providing alternative work for these people who have chosen to take on such cruel jobs, largely due to monetary gains, possibly in a market of few jobs.

I just felt that I should share my viewpoints for those who wonder about the value and purpose of animal welfare. My very simple reasoning - if there is a LIFE involved, and the balance of the value of life is skewed simply by your physical sight - then just close your eyes. You can hear a heartbeat. And you can feel a breath. You don't have to see to know there is LIFE. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, there are some people we love but choose to forgo, because we have used our eyes to see them and we just can't get past the barrier of sight.

It is easy to value someone who is like yourself. It is much more difficult when the other is so different from you. To value a life form that is so visibly different to us - that to me, is a powerful declaration of the preciousness of LIFE. An understanding and acceptance that transcends all forms. If we are able to impart this value to our children - to look at an animal and understand that it has a right of life - will it not be easier for them to look at their fellow brothers and sisters who exist in similar form, and understand that they have value in life?

I may be discouraged again further down the path when someone casts doubt on my choice of action. Or I may also be energised and lifted by words of faith and encouragement. I may never have the right answer for whether animal welfare is 'worth it' or not. I may doubt myself at times that I have spent precious hours on a stray cat and isn't it all silly?

But I would rather end up ridiculed than to sit with crossed-arms and do nothing at all. I would rather, even in my mistaken steps - help stop the suffering of 1 life, help make 1 life better, help remove 1 life from chains, from sickness, from abuse.

For every word of doubt to hit me, I lift myself up with the vision of 1 face of gladness. Of 1 smile from Bagel. 1 joyful whine from Ben. 1 huge hug from Puppy-Boy. 1 dash into the pool by Star.

1 life. Made better. Because you were there.

Be encouraged, friends. I will continue to be.

Bagel - rescued from a life in chains, now enjoying his gift of freedom.

For weeks on end

I haven't been concretely active on the animal welfare front, owing to commitments to family, work, work and more work. It's a delicate balancing act and at some point in time, I have to learn to say no and get back on track of core areas of concern.

Hence, the quiet on the blog while in actual fact, I'd been somewhat caught up with a little black kitten, barely a few weeks old when found. My neighbourhood caregiver rang me up urgently and said that the new GP who moved in had managed to capture it and intended to bring it to SPCA, if all else failed. Apparently, someone who works in the area had his friend abandon it there!

So I took the brave step of taking black kit in, much to my family's chagrin. Set up the cage where the newborn resided for a week or so, before I was tied up (thanks to L) to an experienced cat lover, TL, who took it in, not as a foster, but a permanent adopter. Hallelujah!

So black kit was ascertained as female by the vet and finally deflea-ed and cleaned up, thanks to TL's trained eye. In a matter of a day, she was let out of the cage and teasing and playing with TL's adult cats, claiming territories all over the house. Really, a worry off my shoulder and divine blessing manifested. To have an experienced cat lover who affords premium cat food take in black kit unconditionally, it was beyond my expectations. Schnorkz, she is now named by TL and I'd mentally call her.

Now: Schnorkz, extremely playful, jubilant, spars with her adult mentors, tears plastic bags and chases others. Boundless energy.
Now: Schnorkz, alert and oh-so-mischievous!

This is Rei Zi, what I assume is Schnorkz's new brotherly mentor. Upon bringing her into TL's living room, he was one of the first to suss her out and now, he willingly allows her to pounce on him, whack him and chase his tail.

A month ago: Schnorkz in my house, loves to spar with my finger and play with her litter. Was still lapping milk mixed with wet, deboned canfood.

When found, our girl had some 10 over fleas crawling on her tiny body. She was malnourished, slightly dehydrated and disoriented. But she adapted just fine to the dark portions of the carrier placed in the huger cage and snuggled for the first few nights to the surrogate warmth of warm water in a container I placed in the carrier.