K9 cottage’s cry for help

Najjua Zulkefli Raevathi Supramaniam

Story by Raevathi Supramaniam

SALEHIN Ibrahim and his eight dogs are in dire need of aid. Three weeks after floods damaged their home, few have come forward to help them rebuild.

Sixty-year-old Salehin left his high-flying job as a banker after 25 years to set up K9 Cottage, an animal therapy centre in Sungai Lui, Hulu Langat, Selangor, due to his love of dogs.

After pouring his life’s savings into setting the centre up five years ago, all of it was washed away in a matter of hours after heavy rain caused his house to be flooded.

Before the pandemic, Salehin and his dogs often took part in therapy sessions at old folks’ homes and special needs children’s homes.

This is part of the centre’s free Dr Dog initiative, an animal-assisted therapy programme. It has been on hiatus since 2019, mainly due to Covid-19.

“The floods created a landslide behind my house, causing mud and other debris to crash into my home and wash me away, along with my dogs,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“A gazebo that was next to the river was washed away along with all my solar panels and equipment.

“My living quarters were also severely damaged as water and mud washed into the space.”

A donated tent is his temporary home for now, but he doesn’t sleep in it as his dogs like to sleep around him.

“I’ve even slept on a stretcher. If I go into the tent, all the dogs will want to come in.”

The eight dogs Salehin current has at the centre are Patch, Stoner, Hitam, Putih, Koa, Hugo, Hailey and Nymeria.

Hugo was slashed by a stranger looking for scrap and is currently at the vet, while Hailey is boarding at the centre.

All eight were washed away when water and mud came crashing down on them.

“As I clung to a pole, two of my dogs Patch and Stoner, swam toward me and stayed with me while I waited for the water to subside,”

His ordeal began at 9pm and he was only able to get to safety the next morning when the water subsided.

No one, not even his closest neighbours, had come to his rescue, he said.

“My neighbours did not come to help me when I was clinging to the pole nor did they come to help with the clean-up and rebuilding of my centre.

“There is, of course, some bias, as I am a Muslim man who owns and works with dogs. So, they (the villagers) don’t like me or my dogs,” he said.

Repair work

Salehin’s centre is built on a 1.5ha plot of land that he had leased for 15 years from an ex-colleague.

He needs help to rebuild his home, the gazebo, campsite, his garden, clean the kennels as well as build fences along his property.

“I also need help getting solar panels. There is no electricity or running water here.

“I have received about RM30,000 in donations but, to rebuild the whole place, I think I need a lot more funds.

“I’m hoping, if there are more volunteers and donations, to get the place up and running in six months.”

Salehin’s biggest problem however is that the river that is only a few steps from his backyard.

Mud and soil from the landslide had blocked access to Sungai Gabai, and that, in turn, has created a new waterway that is closer to his house. This could prove to be a big problem, as another bout of heavy rain could again cause flooding.

The dogs however, did not seem to mind as they got in and out of the water for a swim to cool down during the hot day.

“I need someone who is an expert to help me move the river to its original position. I cannot live like this.

“I have enough food for myself and my dogs, I just need more people here with resources to help me out.”

As the centre is located more than 2.5km from the Sungai Lui’s main road and the access road is very narrow, it is difficult for large vehicles to travel in and out to remove the large debris.

While Salehin is grateful for what little help has come his way, he has also had to put up with volunteers who didn’t seem to know what they were getting themselves into.

“Some of them bring their children here as if this is an excursion. It is not safe for children to be around here at its current state.

“Others come all the way here wanting to help, then they tell me they are afraid of dogs.

“There were also people who offered to take my dogs away, but that is not what I want. The dogs are my kids, I want help to rebuild our home, not offers to take them away from me.”

Those who would like to help Salehin can reach him at 011-1482 8717. – January 12, 2022.

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