To give or not to give

13 Jan 2020

It had been on my mind since last December to contribute to the veterinary bills of a shelter dog called Dahua.

Because of my other long term financial commitments in animal relief, I wasn’t sure if I have enough to make a small once off contribution to her vet bills that have amounted to slightly more than 5k.

On Boxing Day 2019, this 9-year-old girl dog survived a surgery to remove a growth in her spleen. The next day she had two cardiac arrests and she was gone.

Dahua was the sole survivor of dog poisoning that killed her mom & siblings. Although much loved by her rescuers and shelter caregivers who took her on adoption drives, she never got adopted.

The shelter has been posting appeals for donation to cover Dahua’s vet bills. I wanted to help but was unsure if I should since I only have a part-time income.

So I made a wish as my birthday was near. I wished that whatever cash gifts I get, they will go to animal relief work.

But I would have to give first.

Yet this morning at the ATM, I hesitated. I wanted to transfer $200 to the shelter for Dahua, but ended up giving $130 instead, for fear of not having enough for myself.

After that I did some grocery shopping, making sure I bought just what I would eat. I did however, buy 4 red Chinese radish to welcome Spring. 😄

Ollie welcomes the red chinese radish.

On my walk home from the supermarket, I stopped by the park bench for a rest & saw a mynah picking up twigs to build her nest. The bird got me thinking of the pregnant mouse found by May Sarton, still holding in her paws bits of straws for her unfinished nest as she lay dead from ingesting poison laid out by farmers. My thoughts went naturally to Dahua again as she had been poisoned when she was a puppy.

What humans casually consider as pest or strays have very real life & death struggles of their own.

As I was sitting there thinking about these animals’ often unseen and hard lives, I received a message from my bank:

“So-and-so would like to send you SGD 200.00. Use the passcode provided by him/her to accept this amount at…”

Is this a hoax?

I texted my friend whose name was on the bank’s message for confirmation.

Indeed the SGD200.00 was from her. She wanted me to use the money in any way I deemed fit for animals.

I was teary. Less than 2 hours ago, I was lingering at the ATM, wondering if somebody like me with reduced earnings, and aging, was still in the position to donate $200 to help an animal.

“God told me to send the money,” my friend texted. She had been very busy at work. But divine intervention had led her to make the money transfer at the period when I was asking if my giving would deplete me.

My friend and I are from different spiritual backgrounds. She’s been questioning God’s existence and the teachings of her religious community. She felt that her role in the giving episode was a gentle reminder that her faith hasn’t been in vain and her relationship with the invisible God is real.

And I learnt now faith is not really about the absence of doubts nor the presence of unquestioned obedience. Or feeling capable and being in-charge.

Faith for me is perhaps the constant practice of testing & forging ahead, guided by the practice of kindness to the most vulnerable, despite the doubts & uncertainties at the back of my mind.

Dahua trusted her caregivers, and in faith they had put her through the surgery.

The dog’s physical life may have ended on 27 December 2019. But less than a month later on 13 Jan 2020, she has become the portal through which two friends felt the giving hands of the Divine.

What a well-lived life!

Dahua being loved and giving love.

Order and Chaos; Clean and Unclean.

19 Dec 2019

With its chaotic traffic, massive swirls of wires hanging above ground, crumbling buildings and air pollution, Kathmandu is not a place that readily comes to mind when one is thinking of retreat and rest.

On my way to the washroom I looked up and saw this. El took this picture for me.
Framed by the temple door, I felt balanced and secure. (Golden Temple, Patan. Dec 2019)

Yet, in the midst of the valley’s madness, intricately carved and perfectly symmetrical woodworks & stoneworks adorned doorways and windows, creating an air of unmatched serenity and inspiring me to seek alignment from within.

From this valley of unpredictability, where power cuts happen regularly unannounced, craftsmen go about calmly setting semi precious stones against impossibly detailed & highly decorative silver works of filigree.

Perhaps this constant practice of melting, cutting, shaping and welding metals to minerals to create objects of beauty has alchemised in these workers a high tolerance for the ugliness of difficult customers, exploitative employers and other hardships.

Then there are the buddhist arts (tangka) drawn free hand in such breathtaking precision and with such a pleasing balance of colours that the seller has to keep reminding us with great pride, “this not machine made…this MADE BY MAN,” as we stared in mute wonder, at the scroll he unveiled before us while cars honked impatiently behind us.

I saw this spritely grandma circumambulating the stupa in the midday sun in 2018. This year in 2019, I spotted her among the pilgrims, but she was too fast for me to take a picture with. So I gave up the idea completely. But my wish was fulfilled when we wandered into an alley to look at tibetan fabrics and she walked right into our path!
We took tea at Jamuna’s shop at Chetraparti. This dog named Jammy came to visit when we were looking at dear Kali who is now 15 years old.

Like the mangy fur of a dog that holds a clean heart, Kathmandu has shown me that using observable evidence to appraise someone’s inner world or history may be convenient and even natural, but it’s still not the truth.

Kathmandu forces me to cover my nose, slap on sunblock, drink only boiled water and take other safety precautions, while liberating me from prejudices and insularity at the same time.

I’m deeply honoured to have been allowed to visit Nepal year after year since 2011.

Namaste. Tashi Delek.


Premium Location

11 Dec 2019 (at Boudha Stupa, Nepal)

The Boudha Stupa (11 Dec 2019, Nepal)

For us in a capitalist economy, properties are more than places to shelter from the elements. Property ownership is used to strengthen our survival chances, secure positions in society and acquire power over others.

In Singapore, a property is measured in terms of its age and location, among other criteria, because these qualities impact its resale value.

I could be lacking in business acumen or short on survival skills, but there’s something a little cold and sad about the practice of buying something with the intention of re-selling it.

I think this practice can also undermine our sincerity with people, animals and environment insidiously in the long run.

Do we make friends with people so that we can trade them for other benefits when it suits us?

Do we judge people’s character and potential based on their residential addresses?

At the Boudha Stupa, the snagged tooth dog toasting in the sun as he marinades in mantras offered by thousands of pilgrims on a daily basis adds another layer to our understanding of survival, power and position.

Wearing Prosperity

16 Dec 2019

Drichu means Yangtze River in Tibetan.

When I buy clothes or trinkets , I have a habit of dedicating my purchases before I put them on because hard earned money has power.

And because money is hard earned, spending it at shops that allow street animals to rest at their entrances is very rewarding for me.

Dog “Khaire” meaning yellow in Nepali rests at Drichu’s entrance to escape the winter cold. (Boudha Stupa, Nepal 10 Dec 2019)

If a shop welcomes animals and not shoo them away, it tells me 3 things of its business owner and service staff.

Firstly they have kindness.

Secondly they have no fear of offending customers who don’t like animals.

Thirdly, their business is already prosperous because animal beings are drawn to their doorways.

So I hope by using products from these shops, I too will prosper and be of benefit to all sentient beings.

Namaste. Tashi Delek. ♥️🌈🐾

“I love you too.”

12 December 2019

Each visit to Nepal I look for the dogs in the places I stayed the previous year, in the same way I seek the cats that live around the blocks in my housing estate in Singapore.

And when I see the canine children braving the harsh winter wind and dust, sleeping on cold hard floors of alleys, and surviving on the smallest morsels of food and simplest of medicare offered by a small number of kind human beings, my heart fills up with gratitude and courage.

Yesterday morning before I left Boudha Stupa, I hugged a little dog called “Kanchi” meaning “little one,” in Nepali. I stroked her and told her I love her and hope to see her next year.

A cluster of local women vendors looked on as I hugged and spoke to Kanchi. They didn’t speak much English, but when they heard me saying I love you to the timid little girl dog, a chuba-clad Tibetan lady and some of her friends chorused back, “I love you too!”

That was to me the most beautiful wrap up to our stay at Boudha!

May the Compassion and Wisdom from Boudha reach all sentient beings in Nepal & beyond.

Namaste. Tashi Delek 🌈♥️🐾😊

Love Stays

30 November 2019

Shoya facing the Sun.

Yesterday at pre-dawn a dog appeared in my friend’s dream. It was a longish dog with light fur.

Not having much contact with animals, my friend’s default reaction at seeing the creature was fear. But the dog approached my friend calmly and brushed his face gently against his back. Upon this contact, the dreamer woke up. The time was 4.15am.

My friend tried going back to sleep but couldn’t.

What could this dog mean? He was puzzled. He hadn’t been thinking about dogs or any animal

But the peace he felt at the encounter both intrigued him and contradicted how he had been taught to view dogs as a threat.

And since sleep was no longer possible, my friend decided to perform his morning prayers, and included the welfare of animal beings in his supplication this time.

Jailani blessing Shoya on Hari Raya morning 8 Aug 2013.

It then dawned on him that the canine that came to nuzzle him in his dream and got him to get up & pray at 4.45am was Shoya, my dog that had passed away in 2014!

As my friend didn’t want to read too much into a dream, Shoya or otherwise, he tried to shrug the dog off.

But throughout the day at work, the dream dog remained in his mind.

So on his drive home he decided to tell me about the dream. He was also wondering if he was just being overly sentimental.

But what my friend didn’t know prior to sharing this dream with me was that in about a week’s time, it’s Shoya’s 5th Anniversary (8th Dec).

And for the past two weeks, by way of blessing my departed dog, I’ve been putting Shoya’s picture in the gentle morning light streaming through the window.

Also of late I’ve been looking at pictures of Shoya with this friend that was taken on the morning of Hari Raya 2013. That was also the year Shoya was diagnosed with a liver tumor. My friend had come straight from the mosque after morning prayers to bless him.

For someone who knows little about dog care, my friend has certainly done more than his share at critical moments.

And yesterday being Friday, Shoya could have visited his benefactor in a dream to thank him for his kindness, and to assure his mama that the physical forms will decay, but all prayers and gestures of love will stay.

Rays of light on Shoya at the foot of Avalokithesvara.

The Future is Now

10 Oct 2019

Sometimes I buy or collect stuff without really knowing why. They are not expensive or rare items – a book here, a stone there, little knick knacks at fund raising etc.

Many years ago I bought “The Diary of Rags,” to support Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD).

It was a story told from the perspective of an abandoned dog called Rags. It was meant for very young readers whom I had no contact with at that time.

I could have easily tossed it away during the many decluttering exercises teachers need to do if they don’t want to be buried under an avalanche of lesson materials & books.

But still I held on to the thin book. Perhaps keeping the book was my way of giving Rags the story book dog a home.

This September while I was away in Taiwan, First Tutee had to read a story book and create an alternative ending for it.

“Rags” came to First Tutee’s rescue.

Rags’ abandonment and hardship in the construction site with no prospect of rescue resonated with the primary 2 boy.

So for his alternative ending, First Tutee decided to put himself in the story. He went to the construction site and with outstretched arms, stood between Rags and the bullies.

I noticed in his drawing First Tutee was unarmed.

Me: Why didn’t you bring weapons with you when you went to rescue Rags? The dogs at the construction site might not like you entering their territory.

First Tutee: I only want to scare the dogs away, not hurt them.

He had included the cats, Ollie & the late Kitty in his rescue mission because they are his protectors.

The new term began. His English teacher texted to say that First Tutee was one of the two pupils who handed in their holiday assignment on the first day of school.

When I bought the “Diary of Rags” at the animal welfare event, I didn’t know one day a little Malay boy would need it for his English assignment, and show me a compassionate & courageous heart sitting in that 8-year-old body of his.

Even as no one knows what the future holds, it is assuring to see that all kind acts will be of benefit to someone somehow at some point.

So may we try to do all the good we can even if we can’t see the results yet.