Dog’s best friend
Article from the Sun daily by Denissa Goh (posted on 26 May 2016)
LESTER Hiew Thiam Hock was only eight when he saw a neighbourhood stray being run over by a car. Although he was too young to fully grasp the complexities of life and death, he felt a burning desire to make a difference – even if it means going against his parents wish to adopt the stray's remaining sibling, which he named Pii.
While his parents eventually accepted Pii, they had no clue that Hiew was planning to do much more. He constantly took on more responsibilities; from feeding his neighbourhood strays with leftover food to treating their injuries with yellow lotion. Soon enough, the passionate lad expanded his care over three residential areas around Klang.
"When I was eight, I wasn't sure whether it was a hobby, passion or just something on a whim. But as I grew older, I began to realise and I'd like to believe that it's a calling for me," said the 24-year-old.
In 2014, he set up A Dog's Life shelter, crushing his parents' dreams for him to work in the corporate world after graduating with a degree in business administration. They didn't take his decision very well, but came to realise how serious he was about the cause. Presently, his parents aren't only supportive of A Dog's Life, his mother cooks and feeds for the strays too.
Today, A Dog's Life has grown from an independent rescuer to a registered NGO, comprising 12 committee members and more than 80 canines under its care.
How do you manage to raise funds to sustain the shelter?
We spend about RM6,000 to RM7,000 a month. We started with one or two monthly donors, and we're really grateful that we have 26 now, which cover most of our expenses. For transparency, we send the accounts of our expenses to our donors once every two months.
What were the dark days like?
Late last year, our shelter was hit by a deadly virus called distemper, which took seven lives away from us. Distemper affects the dog's nervous system; usually it begins with a cold, then the dog starts vomiting blood or having bloody diarrhoea, before getting seizures. The worst-case scenario is death.
During that time, we told ourselves that we were going to do whatever or however much it takes to rescue all of our strays. And we totally blew our expenses – that two-week episode cost us about RM13,000.
What keeps you going?
The dogs. It's never easy doing this – it's filled with challenges, tears and a lot of hardships. Getting donations is not easy too. But seeing our rescued strays – how they wag their tails and smile at us in their own ways – really encourages us to do more and go further.
Could you share your biggest achievement?
Residents in the three neighbourhoods are getting more receptive to our work. Now, they try to help us out by putting containers of food and water outside their houses for the strays. When we first started feeding the strays, there was barely any response as such. But now we can see that they are slowly accepting what we do.
Is there a message that you wish to impart to Malaysians?
It is okay that you do not like dogs, just please do not hurt them.
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