GEORGE TOWN: For 12 years, James, who is homeless, has been squatting on a piece of land near Taman Alor Vista in Relau with 26 stray dogs.
With only a shack as shelter, the 60-year-old depends on his earnings as a beggar to feed himself and the dogs.
While most people are kind enough to give him food, James, who speaks fluent Hokkien, has resorted to eating dog biscuits on the days when there is none.
“I would mix the biscuits with milk and my dogs and I will eat together. Sometimes, we eat leftovers – just a bit of rice mixed with whatever meat is left on the chicken bones,” said the man, who declined to give his full name.
James, who walks with a limp due to a sore on the sole of his right foot, said he used to travel in his wheelchair to the Penang Hospital once every fortnight.
“But I stopped two years ago. I fear that if I leave, the council will kill my dogs and bulldoze my shack.
“They might as well kill me along with them,” he said, claiming that several officers from the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had told him to leave.
James said he used to be actively involved in motorcross riding and bodybuilding in the 1970s and 1980s but had to stop after a steel rod pierced his foot in 2007.
“I was naive and did not take proper care of my injury. That’s why I am now walking with a limp,” said James. He is also blind in his right eye and partially blind in his left.
“I was advised by the doctor to amputate my leg below the knee but I refused. I need both my legs to care for my dogs,” he said.
James, who became jobless after injuring himself and losing his sight, said he had worked as a welder, mechanic and plumber before.
He said officers from the state Welfare Department had also urged him to move into a home.
“But how about my dogs? Will they be put to sleep? I rather not receive any aid if it is at the expense of my dogs,” he said, pleading with the council to let him and his dogs stay.
“I am willing to move to another location, provided the area can accommodate the dogs. I also hope that the new area is accessible and not secluded,” he said.
MBPP Financial Management Committee alternate chairman Joseph Ng Soon Siang said the council was willing to help James.
“We can find him a place to stay. However, it is hard for us to accommodate his dogs. There are non-governmental groups or dog shelters for him to send the strays to,” he said.