Vacationing dogs

  • Hotel
  • Monday, 23 Mar 2009

Ruby’s Resort is a simple getaway for those who wish to relax with their pets amidst warm company and unpolluted nature.

It was a vacation like no other, as complete strangers fraternised like old friends on a beach off the coast of Kampung Chendor, in Cherating, Pahang.

Nothing usual in that — except the holidaymakers were furry and four-legged.

“We are at their beck and call. It’s their vacation!” said dog owner Rosalie Ng Choy Wan, 34, who came with her engineer husband, Jason Lin Kok Chong and Coco Courageous Lin, an eight-month-old Welsh Corgi.

But Coco, who had been happily frolicking with other dogs, didn’t live up to her middle name. Having found herself all alone on the sandy beach, she lapsed into frantic barking, much the same way toddlers bawl after a sudden fright.

“Mommy’s coming Coco! Mommy’s coming!” called out marketing director, Ng, as she waded against the strong currents to get to her “baby” as hubby Lin looked on.

This was the third Furkids vacation that Ruby’s Resort had hosted since it opened for business in October 2007. The resort is the only one in the country that welcomes dogs and allows them to roam free, except at the office and café.

And the only reason for this restriction is to safeguard resort owner Ruby Low Lian Gaik’s two cats and several rabbits which live there as one happy family.

When night falls, these animals have a riotous party with the cats and rabbits chasing each other.

Those on a Furkids vacation must follow Low’s simple rules, which include cleaning up after your dog, ensuring they are well behaved and absolutely no littering.

Each guest is expected to keep their room clean. For this purpose, the long veranda that runs along the 11 chalets is equipped with taps and buckets.

Brooms and mops hang neatly on hooks against the outer walls as a reminder to use them regularly.

Cheah Siew Yen, 24, a customer service representative from Kuala Lumpur, said there were groups that claimed to organise dog vacations to animal-friendly resorts, but these were not authentic as their pets’ movements were restricted.

“This is understandable as there may be other guests who are not dog-friendly. But at Ruby’s Resort, dog lovers book chalets en bloc.

“Best of all, our dogs have the freedom to swim with us in the sea and play freely with our kids and other dogs,’’ she said.

Cheah and several others who brought their dogs are independent rescuers of strays and abandoned pets.

They unselfishly give of their time and money towards the medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-homing these animals. They also rebut the unfair claim that dogs are prone to fighting if let loose in such an environment.

“If they fight, it’s because their irresponsible guardians don’t give them basic training, beat them, tie them up day and night or starve them,” said Cheah.

She’s right. The dogs at the Furkids vacation were as diverse as their colours and sizes. Pedigrees, mixed breeds and mongrels all played happily together.

More amazing was that none of the dogs ventured too far off, although they were surrounded by jungle and a very long shoreline.

Only once was PR director Joshua Purushotman, 48, unable to find his dog, Lina Joy, a mixed Jack Russell Terrier.

“I was very surprised because Lina Joy had never ventured away from our group. I looked around and finally found her sleeping outside the door of our chalet.

“She was probably exhausted after all that frolicking on the beachfront. It amazed me that she knew exactly where our chalet was,” he said.

The guardians too came from backgrounds as diverse as their dogs. Some were used to basic amenities and others, luxury holidays. But everyone agreed that no holiday could compare with the joy of bonding with their dogs at Ruby’s Resort.

Ng decided to give Coco her very own improvised sand spa.

With the help of new friends, she and Lin buried Coco up to her shoulders in the soft golden sand. And like a true diva, Coco stayed still while being pampered.

As if we were not already in doggie heaven, Cheah announced one evening that she had made reservations at a local Chinese seafood restaurant for everyone, including the dogs!

“Low told me of several pet-friendly restaurants nearby that allow animals, and I thought it would be fun to dine out with our dogs,” said Cheah.

Lydia Lim Hsu Li, 40, however, stayed behind to tend to Hope, a stray dog she had rescued.

A good Samaritan had left Hope with Lim’s veterinarian after finding her lying on the roadside, suffering malnutrition and becoming paralysed due to a spinal injury. Lim took Hope in and nursed her until she was able to walk again.

Lim said the seaside trip had accelerated Hope’s recovery. Remarkably, the other dogs sensed that Hope was not well and were very careful around her.

Even Purushotman’s boisterous Lina Joy would immediately stop bounding when Hope came over. She would lie still and let Hope smell her, often giving a gentle nose nudge as if to say, “It’s OK. You’re safe with us”.

Kay Wong Kut Wah, 50, an advertising consultant, also found the trip therapeutic for her four rescued dogs.

“What I love about this trip is that everyone is so understanding and don’t get upset when my dogs bark at them as they pass by my front door. They merely wave or utter some kind words to calm them down. It’s refreshing to be around people who understand animals,” she said.

The Furkids Vacation is restricted to responsible guardians who are able to control their dogs, said Cheah, who frequently organises such trips for rescuers and families who have adopted their dogs.

She has many beautiful and well-trained rescued dogs that have been rehabilitated. To enquire about adopting them, call her at 012-415 1524.

To make reservations with or without your dogs, call Ruby’s Resort at 016-360 0009 or (09) 864 7221.

Resort for the simple life

What began as an online friendship with an Italian couple has now translated into Ruby’s Resort — a little known hideaway tucked away in Kampung Chendor, Cherating, Pahang.

Resort owner Ruby Low Lian Gaik, 48, says she met I Celi Bugnoli and his wife Bridgette, both in their 60s, on America Online (AOL).

“We chatted for two years and became best friends. Then I got transferred to Egypt, and it was there that I met Bridgette in person for the first time,” she says.

In 2007, the couple visited her in Malaysia in a camper as part of their Asian tour. When they arrived in Thailand, Low received a call from Celi asking, “How would you like to own a holiday resort?”

“I told him not to joke around, but Celi insisted he was serious and asked me to look for a place. They were retired and enjoyed beach life. They thought there was good business potential in owning a resort. I had been an executive for many years and longed for a quiet, idyllic life. So this was the perfect opportunity.’’

“I searched in Bangkok (Thailand), Vietnam, Bali (Indonesia) and Malaysia, and finally settled on this three-and-a-half acre plot which is now Ruby’s Resort,” she says. Low’s Italian friends partly financed the venture, while her savings helped pay the balance.

The resort overlooks fine golden sand and a sparkling ocean that’s so clean, guests are surprised that such natural beauty still exists in Malaysia.

Ruby’s Resort currently has 11 chalets that can accommodate two, four and six persons, while the backpacker chalets can house 10 guests on bunk beds. Plans are afoot to increase the number of chalets.

In the beginning, Low was apprehensive about managing a resort. “But running a small place like this is not difficult. It just requires a lot of common sense and an understanding of what budget tourists and animal lovers want.’’

The chalets come equipped with fan, air-conditioner, television and coffee and tea-making facilities. The bigger ones have a pantry, although cooking is not allowed.

Although facilities at Ruby’s Resort are somewhat basic, cleanliness is a top priority, something that was instilled into Low and her siblings by their Thai mother.

Ruby’s Resort also has bicycles, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and equipment for war games like paint ball for rent. There is also a volleyball court.

“I prefer to keep the entertainment simple so that guests can appreciate the magnificence of nature that’s all around them.

“That’s why we have left the trees around here alone, especially the 150-year-old mango tree that’s on the driveway,” says Low.

Guests will also not find fancy entertainment here. Night life means gathering at Ruby’s Café for coffee or beer under warm lights.

The only “music” one will hear is the sound of crickets in the nearby jungle and waves lapping on the shore.

Low’s two stray cats reign over her resort. Tiger and Furby are friendly and curious about guests, especially the four-legged ones that arrive on Furkids vacations.

Low also helps out at the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary run by the Department of Fisheries, which is a mere 10 minutes away on foot.

If you are an early riser, you’ll soon realise that Low is as unpretentious as her resort. Standing outside the café, toes buried deep in sand and holding a mug of coffee, she’d shout, “Good morning! Want to watch the sunrise with me?”

As you stand mesmerised by the burst of red gold flame slowly emerging over the horizon, she would sneak off into the kitchen to make breakfast.

The next minute, we are flopping on wooden chairs and benches, enjoying our baked beans and toast while being serenaded by Johnny Nash singing:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sun shiny day….

Yes, a stay at Ruby’s Resort will certainly refresh the mind, body and soul.

To learn more about Ruby’s Resort please visit: - Stories by Shoba Mano

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