ONE of the most traumatic childhood memories I have is the incident of being bitten by a dog when I was five.
I grew up in a Peranakan-style house with connected porches in Melaka.
The children in the neighbourhood would run from one end of the porch to the other.
One evening, my neighbour’s usually well-behaved pet turned aggressive after a group of children ran past him and I became the victim.
I can still recall how it felt to have his jaw clamped on my calf.
My neighbours came running to help upon hearing my screams.
My paternal grandmother was best friends with the dog’s owner.
The pet owner begged for my grandmother’s forgiveness and offered to pay for my medical bills as I had to go to a clinic for treatment.
My grandmother advised the neighbour to keep the dog on a leash when children were at play.
The incident left me with a phobia of dogs, especially those that run towards me, as I am afraid they will attack.
Ironically, after I left home to further my studies, my father adopted two dogs.
Today, my children look forward to playing with the dogs whenever they visit my parents.
I would tell the dogs to keep their distance and they seem to understand that I have a phobia and they stay away most of the time.
One thing I have learned is that dog lovers develop a special bond with animals, including the strays that they feed.
I do not condone violence, be it towards humans or animals.
However, the safety risk when stray dogs roam about cannot be ignored.
We need to ensure our stray animals population does not harm the public.
We should not wait until a tragedy happens before taking action.
Hence, enforcement to keep strays off the streets is needed from time to time.
The proper standard operating procedure when catching these animals should be spelt out and followed and no one should disrupt the process.
Those who care about the welfare of stray dogs should adopt them legally and follow the rules, including getting licences for their pets.
Spaying and neutering are important too in controlling the number of strays.
My trauma of being bitten as a child has lived on into adulthood.
If any of my children were to be bitten by a dog, I would lodge a complaint with the local authority because I would not want the incident to repeat or something worse to happen to others.
We should all be kind to strays but if we care about them, we should ensure they have shelter.
Ultimately, compassion is key when dealing with both humans and animals.