First of all, if you know me, you know that I am a dog lover. If you know anything about Malaysia, you know that it is a Muslim country, and dogs (depending on who you ask) are considered unclean and are not kept as pets. Sometimes, I think this is used for a reason to mistreat or neglect dogs. That being said, there are a good number of teachers here that do have dogs and we do see them around occasionally. (i.e. There is a schnauzer in the building next to us, a yippy one on our floor that we hear on occasion, and a golden retriever named Lucky that lives in the villas across the street that I see the maid walking every day. Not that I keep track or anything.) So it’s not like they don’t exist here. They just exist differently.
A lot of where they exist is roaming around in the streets. If you were to walk around where we live in Malaysia, you would see cats and dogs wandering around, not looking all that great. For the typical suburban American, this might seem a little weird to you, and it still is to me. But I also know that as Americans we have a tendency to go the other direction with overindulging our pets with toys, clothes, and treats. (There are NO fat dogs in Malaysia! Or people for that matter.) When I see these dogs and cats roaming around, I always feel bad for them. I don’t know what it is, but I just want to make sure that they are okay and have the basic things that they need to make their lives livable. I know, sappy, but I always think of the idea about a human (or animal) being an “accident of latitude.”* Meaning that they are in the situation they are in, due only to where they were born and if they were born in any other place, their life might be drastically different. (*I’m pretty sure Bono said this and if so, I would like to publicly apologize to my dad for quoting him. Sorry Dad. I’ll start listening to more NPR.)
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “There are starving children in this world, and all you care about are these dogs?” Well, it isn’t the only thing I care about, and I know there are bigger issues in the world then some dogs roaming around. But, when presented with something or someone, be it human or not, being treated not all that well, I would like to think that if we had the power, all of us would all do something about it. Sure, dogs don’t do it for you, but maybe the plight of the soft shelled, speckled turtle from the south of Spain speaks to your heart, or the children with too many freckles on their noses really make you lose sleep at night. I don’t know, but these dogs have caused me to go across the street to McDonalds more than a few times to buy a hamburger for them. That’s how you know it’s bad. When was the last time I went to McDonalds? Oh, about 2nd grade. Yup. Point made.
Anyway, after several days of wondering if I could do anything, I did some research about animals in Malaysia and according to several articles that I read, animal neglect is somewhat of a problem here. Now, the rest of you are going to say, “You think this is only a problem in Malaysia? What about other countries? What about America?” True enough, animals aren’t taken care of all over the world. America is no exception what so ever. Most of America does a pretty good job of having shelters and rescue organizations that are not always available in developing countries. Bottom line: You take what you have in front of you, and see what you can do with it. I’m living in Malaysia, have a soft spot for dogs, and there are dogs that need help. Seems like a no-brainer, right?
So, I did some more research and found some shelters in the area. Perfect! I am feeling like I can help! I email, fill out the forms, and wait for answers as to when I can come and how awesome it would be to have some help, etc, etc, etc. But, no emails returned. Another round of emails sent out by moi. Still no answer. Somebody must be awful busy saving all the dogs because they can’t write me an stinkin’ email! (That’s what I was thinking in my head) Finally, someone from the SPCA wrote me back and said that I could come on the weekend to help. Fabulous! I would be there! 🙂
Dan and I found it on the iphone map, took a cab to the shelter (about 25 minutes from our condo) and walked right in. Now, I have been to an animal shelter at home, and I’m not going to lie and tell you that the shelter in Malaysia was anything like the shelter in America. Nope, not one bit. First of all, they just told us to go in the back with the dogs. Did I say some of the dogs were roaming around the shelter, not in cages? Which, if you are not used to, is a little alarming to see. (I thought that they had all escaped at first! Code Red, Code Red!)
This guy was sunning himself when we got there. Loved the crossed paws! I didn’t see one aggressive dog the entire time we were there. Sure, they barked a lot, but very chill overall.
After we figured out that the dogs hadn’t escaped, we looked for someone to point us in the direction of the volunteers. (FYI-Yes, that is poop on the ground. No, they don’t come house trained.) I was ready to walk, pet, bath, clean, clip or do whatever needed to be done to help out! But we were told that there was no work to be done by the lady in charge. What?! I’m not going to say what I said in my head, but looking around, there was clearly work that needed to be done. But after asking repeatedly about what we could do and following her around for a few minutes, it was evident that I was not going to get my assignment that I wanted, so I would make my own. I just figured that at least I could give the dogs some human contact, so we just started petting and talking to any dog that would let us. Here is a little one that loved the attention.
Petting my new friends through the fence.
Finally, we did get to help out and change the newspaper in the cages. Dan did all the dirty work as I held the pups while the cages were being changed. I pretty much would have taken these two home with me if we had been allowed to.
This guy was one of the dogs that was out of his cage and he was just sleeping on a table on the way out. There are about 2 dozen cats behind him, but he doesn’t care. The look on his face is kinda how I felt when we left. Disappointed, we didn’t get to do more. Sad, that there were so many dogs and cats without homes. Uncomfortable, about the living smelly and dirty living conditions of the shelter.
But, that being said, I’m glad we went. I think we might go again. I think we will try to meet some more people there because I am sure that there is someone who is willing to put us to work! I know there are people who care about the animals there, it’s just a matter of being persistent.
When I get in situations like this I think to myself, “What would Henry do?” Well, if you know Henry, you know that he is not easily discouraged and even if he is uncomfortable, he goes and tries again. Henry would have gone back to help the next day!