Walking – and rocking – for animals


The Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is raising funds to build a new animal shelter, and it is reaching out to people through ingenious ways.

Dogs everywhere. Socialising activity before the Wiggle Waggle Walk kicked off.

Folks of Kuching really adore their dogs. On October 25, people from all walks of life turned up for the Wiggle Waggle Walk, which is part of the World Animal Groove (WAG) festival organised by the Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA). And with them came their four-legged companions: dogs of all shapes and sizes, from a petite Mal-Shi (a mix between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu) to an elegant Afghan hound.

The walk – an activity aimed at strengthening the bond between owner and pet on top of allowing both to socialise with other like-minded (and like-pawed) members of the community – was just one of several pet-tastic activities scheduled that day, which included an interfaith pet blessing conducted by Father Simon Poh of St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching. “Taking care of animals is important,” says Poh. “We should be responsible as stewards and we should extend our care beyond this to the environment around us as well.” Sound advice. Besides, regardless of faith, a bit of blessing never hurt anyone – as far as our furry, feathered or scaled companions are concerned – and definitely not in Borneo, a place whose admirable religious and racial tolerance has long been spoken about.

But back to the Wiggle Waggle Walk. Attended by adults and children alike, it was most definitely a good bonding session – and a character-building one at that. Charlene Tang, who was there with her husband and daughters, and Cleopatra, their Mal-Shi, heard of the event from the animal centre and decided to participate. “It’s a great chance for my kids to be around animals. They can learn to take care of dogs, and it’s good to train them to be responsible from a young age.”

Another participant, Marlene Apau, was there with Dobby, her mixed-breed. Being confined to a wheelchair did not stop her from joining the excitement, although she revealed that her friend would be the one walking Dobby. “It’s a lot of fun for a good cause, and I get to see other people’s dogs,” she smiles.

And what a cause it is. At 52 years old, the SSPCA’s current shelter is stretched to accommodate an ever-growing number of animals. Hence, it is working towards a major upgrade; it is looking for a larger piece of land – away from developed areas – to build a state-of-the-art “Animal Village”, and currently they are trying to raise RM1.5mil to achieve that goal.

SSPCA calls on animal lovers and good folks everywhere to join in their yearlong events to help them raise the money they need, and so far things are looking hopeful. “This year went really well,” says SSPCA president Donna Wee. “It’s still a little hard (raising funds) especially with corporations as we’re not ‘green’ enough to be considered under their corporate social responsibility, but it’s up to us to educate them.”

Jim and the Saucey Soul Band.

Bibi Kpoh serenading to a member of the audience.

And they are making a splash in the Malaysian – and I daresay regional – festival belt as well. That night, the WAG concert kicked off for the third year running at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK). The show, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, involved local and international performers – all taking part in the name of love for animals. “It’s for charity,” says Johnson Oh of Sarawakian rock band Maya, when asked why his band agreed to perform at the WAG concert. “We’re helping SSPCA raise funds for their new shelter,” states Oh, who has two dogs of his own.

From original rock songs and rock and roll covers to Iban joget, blues, country and soul, there was truly something for everyone. And let’s not forget comedian Bibi Kpoh’s performance which had everyone’s tummy muscles aching from laughter – as bawdy as the humour was. Many whipped out their phones to record her glittering entrance – a wickedly amusing rendition of the overplayed theme song from Disney’s Frozen – and Bibi wasted no time in picking sporting men from the crowd for some light-hearted teasing. It was his third time performing at the WAG concert, returning by popular demand.

All in all, it has been a relatively good year for the centre. “Sales (for the WAG concert) were better this year,” says Rebecca D’Cruz, chairman of SSPCA. “We’re hopeful that with the music festival, we will grow. It was included in the tourism calendar of the Sarawak Tourism Board, which gave us more exposure,” she reveals.

Exposure is definitely the keyword. “It’s a niche market we’re targeting,” D’Cruz admits. “We’re trying to reach out to animal lovers to support us; otherwise it will take a long time before we can move to the new shelter. Our sponsors are growing, but it’s time for the community to get on board.”

And what better way to reach out to people than through music.

Julia "Bubba" Tan is assistant editor for Penang Monthly. She loves dogs and has a dachshund named Dasher.

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