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Friday April 25, 2008

Mission to save strays

TO Barbara Janssen, saving abandoned dogs from the streets and reuniting lost dogs with their owners are among the most meaningful things she does.

The retired secretary from Germany, who moved to Penang under the Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H), has over the past two years saved at least 35 dogs from the streets.

“I feel so disheartened every time I see a dog wandering helplessly on the streets. This is no way to treat these cute animals and I just have to help them,” she said.

Janssen’s encounter with the stray dogs in Penang started three years ago before she came to the country.

“I was on my usual winter holiday in Batu Ferringhi a few months before I came to stay here permanently and I saw two sad puppies on a street.

“Worrying that they might be run down by vehicles, I brought them to a friend in Ipoh and sought her help to keep them until I came back to Malaysia again several months later,” she said.

Canine pals: Janssen and Weloosamy playing with the dogs at her house in Tanjung Bungah.

The dog lover, who now stays with 11 dogs she rescued in a house in Tanjung Bungah, said she had given up her apartment because she was not allowed to keep pets there.

Janssen has turned her house into a shelter for the abandoned dogs until new owners adopt them.

“I am eager to find new homes for the dogs but I am really careful with those who adopt them because I want to make sure that my dogs are not left in the hands of some irresponsible owners,” she said.

She added that she would usually keep in touch with the new owners to learn about her dogs’ new lives at their new homes.

Janssen spends about RM1,000 monthly on pet food and another RM1,000 on medications and vaccinations for the dogs.

Teased by her friend as the ‘dog whisperer’, she said she felt it was as if she was fated to meet all the dogs she rescued.

“Over the years I have reunited three dogs with their owners and I can tell you it is such a wonderful sight to see them being sent back to the arms of the people who love them,” she said.

Recently, Janssen found a shivering dog in the bushes when she took her dogs on their daily walk up Mount Pleasure in Batu Ferringhi.

“Obviously scared and tired, the dog refused to come out from the bush and snapped at me when I reached out to him,” she said.

With love: Janssen hugging a stray.

She went home to get a leash for the dog and spent some time whispering gently to him before she finally pulled him out.

“Other than the swollen paws caused by long walks, the cute Beagle mix is clean and healthy,” Janssen said.

She printed copies of “Dog Found” posters on her latest find and placed them all over the neighbourhood but no one had contacted her until today.

“A friend met an Indian woman riding pillion on a motorcycle looking for her lost dog near where I found it.

“Mistaking that the dog I found as all white instead of with patches, she provided some wrong infor-mation to the Indian woman who then left without leaving her contact,” she said.

Janssen said she was pretty sure the dog belonged to the Indian woman as it responded well when she called her “Bobby” the name of the Indian woman’s dog.

She urged those who knew who Bobby’s owner ito contact her as soon as possible so that she could reunite them.

She can be reached at 04-8992505/016-3420703 or call her helper P. Weloosamy at 016-2076535.