Stacy Cheong’s life has witnessed a complete change over the past one year, for a good cause. The 35-year-old has been spending all her free time and extra money caring for stray cats and dogs.
It all started when she took in an abandoned poodle that was in really bad shape from her hometown in Kuantan, Pahang, in Aug 2019.
From then on, Cheong has been helping more and more stray cats and dogs – rescuing, vaccinating, spaying the female adults and in some cases, finding them new homes.
She does this voluntarily with her colleague and friend Edelline Pong.
“At the moment, we are focused on rescuing stray dogs that roam the industrial area where we work in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, ” shared Cheong, who works in sales.
“There were around 20 to 30 stray dogs initially. We couldn’t help all of them, but after spaying most of the female dogs there, releasing them back to the same area and finding homes for some, the number has gone down to maybe 10, as the male dogs go elsewhere.
“But two dogs were impregnated before we could get to them, so there were an additional 13 puppies, four of which didn’t survive. One of the mothers had a huge wound on her, which I suspect she got from the grasscutter who was trying to shoo the dog away. She had her puppies at a grass patch I think, and in trying to protect her babies, she got hurt by the handheld grasscutter.
“We took her to the vet and she had to have surgery for an hour and a half to stitch up her big wound. Then the other mama dog ended up nursing the puppies, and she became very stressed and depressed as she had to feed the puppies constantly. She stopped eating and we came to the conclusion that she couldn’t continue to feed the puppies.
“We had no choice but to separate the poor mama dog from the puppies and spay her. That meant we had nine puppies on our hands that needed to be fed and taken care of, ” she said.
To date, Cheong and Pong have found homes for eight of the puppies, who have grown into handsome little fellas.
While looking for adopters, they depend on fosterers – people who are willing to look after the puppies before the animals go to real homes – as both have jobs and can’t look after the puppies 24/7.
“There are a few potential adopters for the last puppy and we are in the midst of interviewing them, ” reported Cheong.
She also makes it a point to visit the home of an adopter to check on how the person is handling things.
According to Cheong, while it is a challenge to even find someone who would adopt an animal, she doesn’t want to take the chance of it ending up in a bad home.
“I rescued these animals; I feel it is my responsibility to find them decent homes.”
To ensure the animals will be well taken care of, Cheong vets adopters with a questionnaire, a phone call and a house visit.
“And we follow up after three months to see how the dogs and cats are doing in their new homes.
“If the adopters don’t pass the first round itself, I feel they are not genuine adopters, ” said Cheong, who started to be more careful after an adopter leashed a dog Cheong passed to him 24/7 without proper care, causing the dog to become aggressive and unfriendly.
“As owners, they have to be responsible all the way and not abandon their care halfway.
“For me, the meaning of animal adoption is to give a stray that really needs love or is injured, a chance at life – to stay with a human at a comfortable place where they don’t have to hide and be afraid all the time.
“A lot of people get dogs so they can be their guard dogs, their own CCTV. That is just wrong. That’s why I have mixed feelings when I hand over an animal to someone. I am happy and worried at the same time.”
Deed of love
While admitting it’s not easy to be individual rescuers, Cheong and Pong still do so willingly on their own time and expense – the funds for spaying, vaccinating and extra medical expenses all come from their own pockets.
“If the dog is badly injured or the vet bill is too expensive, we ask for donations from friends, ” said Cheong, relying on social media mostly when they need additional help.
Cheong recalled that one time, she had no choice but to get help from an animal welfare department as she had to deal with a few dogs that were just too violent and wild to be cajoled into being taken to the animal clinic.
“We had to get someone to shoot them with tranquilisers in order to take them to the vet and get them neutered. And they’re not cheap, these tranquilisers. Whether the shooter hits the mark or not, you are automatically charged RM180, which is a lot of money.
“This is on top of the spaying fee you have to pay. Normally, for neutering female dogs, the fee is RM200 to RM250. Some even charge RM300. For male dogs, it’s slightly cheaper.”
Besides spending almost RM100 monthly on food to feed the strays, both women set aside RM100 every month in case of any emergencies. This came in useful when they had to spend RM1,500 on the medical bill for a cat named Durian who had the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
“Luckily we know a vet who doesn’t mind charging a little less for spaying and surgeries as she also wants to help these stray animals. And we go to SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to use their vets as well.”
A limited budget and time are just two things the friends face on a daily basis in helping the stray animals.
“Getting the dog itself is another big challenge. As they are strays, we don’t know their characters. If they are not too friendly, they might bite us or put up a struggle while getting into the cage.
“Taking them to the vet in a car is another big challenge because they have never been in one before, so it’s stressful for them.”
Right now Cheong, who has three cats of her own, is looking after an adult dog in her condominium while she finds a suitable home for her.
“I believe this dog I named Rubee that suddenly turned up at my workplace area was abandoned by the owner. She is so well-behaved! She understands every command. I ask her to sit, she sits, ” said Cheong.
“As I do this, I realise that humans in many ways are inhumane and there are so many ugly sides to them.”
Cheong added that some of her friends can’t comprehend why she does what she does.
“My posts on social media nowadays are always about dogs or cats, and many of my friends skip my posts, ” said Cheong with a laugh. “Some of them ask if I have nothing better to do. Some people really do judge me this way.
“But for me, I don’t force this on anyone. We don’t blame anyone if they can’t help because they have their own burden.
“That’s why my friend and I just try to keep this rescuing thing to ourselves, and for now, just take care of the dogs around our workplace. There are stray dogs around my home too, which I haven’t looked into properly yet. I do rescue cats from my neighbourhood because they are easier to take care of and find new homes for.”
It is Cheong’s hope that maybe a few people in every neighbourhood or district would rescue and spay stray animals, or become fosterers and adopters.
“Then we don’t have to worry about stray animals running everywhere and getting into unnecessary accidents. Unfortunately, I know this is just my imagination and not a reality that could happen here.”
She then shared an achievable scenario: “If not that, then at least say no to buying a dog or a cat from a breeder. And don’t simply call and complain about stray animals to the authorities, because these animals end up being put down when no one adopts them or get diseases from being in the same close space.
“I also hope all adopters treat their dogs or cats well and love them eternally, ” she concluded.
Go to @esla_rescue on Instagram for more info about Cheong’s efforts.
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