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Dogs are useful

Dog Kichi

Jan 12, 2006, 9:47 PM

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  Dogs are useful
The Star, 12 Jan 2006

SOME of you might have read or seen my chums and me in our wheelchairs in the newspapers and on television lately.

We’ve been meeting up with pet owners and residents of Shah Alam and speaking up on issues of responsible pet ownership, particularly of canines and their care.

Our team, which never knew each other until recently, have been trying hard to resolve some of the problems associated with the rearing of pet dogs based on our own experiences growing up with pets and caring for them.

Our aim is to come up with a plan that is fair to everyone concerned – dog owners as well as those who do not own dogs.

We realise that it is important for all concerned to discard the stereotypes and narrow-minded notions about dogs and exchange them for a more helpful and holistic approach to the problem of irresponsible pet ownership.

We discovered that a well-studied approach to the ever-increasing usefulness of today’s domesticated dogs is more effective in overcoming problems than creating fear or panic about these canines.

My disabled chums and I were present at the Shah Alam municipality to present a disability perspective on the issue. Francis Siva, president of the Independent Living and Training Centre in Rawang, Selangor, who is paralysed from the neck down, has a five-year-old service dog named Dusty.

He spoke up against the Shah Alam ruling that requires dog owners to get the permission of neighbours on all sides in writing before making their applications for dog licences or renewing them.

He pointed out that from his experience, few non-disabled people actually understand what it means to be permanently paralysed.

Because of this, he fears that some people’s prejudice, ignorance or fear of dogs – as well as disability – might make them reluctant to give their consent, leaving handicapped pet owners in the lurch.

Siva stressed that it is the right of everyone – whether disabled or able-bodied – to own pets of their choice and that no one should be subjected to the mercy of others, especially persons with disabilities who already face many obstacles in their lives.

Today, Dusty, his Golden Retriever, plays an important role in welcoming newly disabled people to the five-year-old centre.

They go there to start their lives all over again with Dusty playing a significant role in cheering them up and helping them to accept their handicap.

“Animals have an uncanny way of reaching down and pulling you out of depression,” says Siva, who finds great comfort and companionship in Dusty who shares his bedroom with him.

Siva appealed to the Shah Alam authorities to be mindful of the fact that companion dogs share a deep bond with their disabled and elderly owners. He added that due to their vulnerable conditions, such citizens should be given special consideration and be exempted from harsh rules on dog ownership as a gesture of support from the municipality.

What is most disappointing is that Rottweilers have been banned as a breed in Shah Alam as of Jan 1.

When I was asked after the meeting if I was happy that the disabled could have Rottweilers whilst the able-bodied couldn’t, it was a catch-22 situation.

How could I be delighted over the banning of a particular breed of dog that was responsible for turning my life around as a person in a wheelchair?

The Rottie pup named Vai that I brought home in my arms over a decade ago went on to inspire me to set up Bivai Special Dogs which was launched by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir in 2001.

Today because of a Rottweiler, other dogs like Dusty are being trained to help other disabled Malaysians have special canine companions in their lives.

Vai, who will be 10 years old come Jan 29, is still top dog in my home, and readily answers my calls for help.

Even though the old boy is now showing early signs of arthritis, he never refuses an SOS call from me.

He is still the expert doorman, helping me to close and open doors.

I use his body for support to transfer from my wheelchair to the bed or toilet, and his incredible intelligence and reliability give me confidence to face life’s challenges every day.

Banning a beautiful breed such as this is tantamount to getting rid of all the Mercedes Benz on the road just because one happened to knock someone down.

Shouldn’t it be the drivers (irresponsible pet owners) who should be penalised instead of the cars (dogs)?


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