Friday, November 30, 2007

Man's best friend?

Recently five Rottweilers pounced on a Jack Russell Terrier, picking the small dog up in its jaws which resulted in the latter suffering eight puncture wounds on its head, neck, chest and sides.

A neighbour of the dog’s owner, Mr. Foo had first raised his concerns in August about the five Rottweilers, which he said were a 'threat to the people in the neighbourhood'.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) replied then that since there had been no previous reported incidents involving the dogs, Madam Satpal Kaur, 51, the owner , was given permission to keep the five dogs, a number above the AVA's limit of three.

Commenting on the incident, Mdm Kaur justified the Rottweilers’ action by claiming that it was the natural instinct of a larger dog, Rottweiler or not, to attack a smaller dog.

As a mother of six with the youngest only two years old, this incident has raised several questions in my mind.

A Jack Russell is about 28-38 cm high and weights between 4-8 kg while a Rottweiler is about 53-68 cm weighting between 40 to 50 kg. My 2 year old son, Anicius weighs is about 80 cm weighing about 6 kg.

Would a Rottweiler be able to distinguish between a Jack Russell and a young child? Does a child need to be seriously attacked with eight puncture wounds on his head, neck, chest and sides before any action is taken? Can a young child survive such injuries?

I live in a private housing estate and often when I go for my evening walks, dogs on leashed have tried to lung towards my young child. When we asked the dog’s owners to control their dogs, they would claim and insist, like Mdm Kuar, that their dogs, had never bitten anyone. Once, a large dog chased my 5 year old son for about five hundred meters before the dog gave up his chase

As a mother, I was not about to let any of my child to be given the first bite.

It is understandable that in this stressed society where it is difficult to form and maintain relationships, many have turn to owning a pet to have companionship. Some DINK (double income no kids) couples even prefer to have dogs to children as these pets can be easily gotten rid off when they become an inconvenient. Dogs have become our surrogate babies, spouse or parents. So the lost of a pet through natural death or otherwise can be a very traumatic experiences, akin to the lost of a loved one.

When I was a teenager, I had two black mongrels that my family and I loved very much. They brought us much joy and contentment. They were always on a leash but one day, one of them bit a neighbour even though it was tied up. We realized that we could not control him anymore and with a sad and heavy heart put them to sleep. It was the first time that I saw my father cried but we made that rational decision as there was no assurance that it would not bite anyone else again.

I am a dog lover but if I have to choose between an animal or human being well being, the choice is clear.

Some accident like the death of the five dragon boats rowers cannot be prevented. Others accident can if enough precautions are put in place. Limiting the number of dogs that a household can have, enforcing the rules that all dogs must be put on leash when walking or fining dog owner when the dogs misbehaved do not seem to be enough.

Perhaps all dogs should be sent to obedient school so that they will learn to listen to command from human, will only walk when given permission or learn to control their animal instinct.

Otherwise, another freak accident might just happen and this time round the one bitten might not be a dog.

Both man and dog should be able to co-exist peacefully but when an animal begin to demonstrate behaviour that will harm other people we have to take action. Just as people who commit serious crime like murder and drug trafficking are hung, dogs should also be put to sleep when they become a danger to society.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A gentle reminder

I came across an interesting quote while reading a memoir “Father of Charity and My Father Ee Peng Liang” written by his daughter Theresa Ee-Chooi. Dr. Ee died on 24 August 1994.

Devoting most of his adult life to championing people in need and harnessing public support for voluntarism and the social welfare services, he held over fifty-four appointments in charities, covering every aspect of social welfare services in Singapore.

He was given the nick name of a professional beggar because he would work tirelessly to help anyone who asked him for assistant.

Yet what struck me was not the number of committees he was in, nor the amount of money he had raised for the numerous charities, schools and welfare homes.

On the occasion of the Tribute to Volunteers dinner in July 1990, Dr. Ee Peng Liang shared a modern paraphrase of a time-honored teaching on love:

“If I am on many committees but do not love others, I am simply making a useless noise. If I have enthusiasm for useful projects but forget to love those for whom they are intended, what good will they do? If I do many good works to glorify myself, but do not love others, I am worth nothing. If I am altogether too busy organizing love that I forget what love is like, it will be of no value at all. Committees will come to an end, useful projects will become unnecessary. Good works done from wrong motives will pass away, but love is the one thing that will last forever.”

Ever since the NKF saga exploded onto our social consciousness, many of us have been more careful of contribute our time, energy and money to charity. In addition with the recent Ran Chi Hospital saga still unfolding, Dr Ee’s quotation served as a gentle reminder for all on the spirit of volunteerism

Have we been making useless noise? Do we only do good works to glorify ourselves? Have we forgotten what love is like?

Sometime we are so focus with the fund raising activities that we forget the reason for raising the funds in the first place.

It is much easier interacting with public and soliciting of money then to spend an afternoon listening to an old lady reminiscing about the good old day in an old age home. Selling flag or ringing a bell repeatedly along a shopping mall place less demand on us then to visit a leper or an Aid patient regularly.

Granted that charity and welfare services can not functionally effectively without the generous donation of donors. Yet I have observed the rise recently of professional fund raising companies who uses students and teenagers to solicit funds from hawkers canters and food canters. Usually the students do not nor the donors realize that a percentage of the money collect will go to the fund raising company.

Perhaps it is timely once again to ask how much of your donations will be given directly to the charity? How much will go toward administrative costs, other programmes and fund-raising costs?

Consider the Community Chest which raises funds on an annual basis to meet the needs of the social services programmes that it support. Fund raising costs are kept to a minimum as these costs have been sponsored by Singapore Totalisator Board and the Singapore Pools(Private) Limited. Thus every dollar raised will be made available to social services programmes under it cares and not offer it as interest free loans or use it to open up shops.

If Dr. Ee is alive today would his heart be broken? Would he moan the state of volunteerism in Singapore now? Or would he in his own gentle way lead us back to the true spirit of volunteerism?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ties that Bind and Blinds

My father, a Chinese, grew up in Kampong Glam and Malay was his main language of communication. Every Hari Raya, he would make a special effort to send cakes and other tit bits to his Malay neighbours. He even made a special effort to deliver these gifts to those who have moved out to Telok Kurau and Bedok.

In my eyes, I have never considered him a raciest yet when I brought my Eurasian husband home he was upset. My grandfather and father were unhappy that I was going out with someone of a different race and threaten to disown me if I continue with this relationship. My maternal grandmother and mother were concern that they will have grandchildren that are of a different colour and so will be a laugh stock of the Chinese community.

Needless to say we faced many obstacles. My mother tried ways and means to introduce me to different Chinese boyfriends from a marine engineer to someone who owed a jewels shop. After seven years, when my parents saw that we were committed to each other, they agreed to our marriage. We tried our best to accommodate to the Chinese customs that they treasured from buying live chicken as part of the dowry to serving roast pork at the Chinese dinner to signify that I was a virgin.

However, once we were married, my parents welcome my husband with open arms. Their initial fear of having to adjust to different customs and religions was eradicated when my husband made an effort to join in the celebrations as far as he is comfortable and as his religion allows. So now we celebrate both Christmas and Chinese New Year, All Saints Day and the Seven Months Ghost festivals.

As I was reading the report about how Singaporean still have different attitudes when it come to race-related issues, I was not surprise that most Singaporean baulking at the thought of marrying someone of another race.

As my husband and I are of a different race, I should have been more open to inter-racial marriages. I was thus surprised when I discovered that I was not very accommodating when my eighteen year old son start to date girls from different race and religion. So far he has friends of whom one is an Arab-Malay girl and another Sikh. I noticed that I did not made so many comments when he told me about his Chinese girlfriends as compared to those of the other races until my good friend asked my why I was making so much noise.

The other day, my younger son asked me what race is he, as he has a Eurasian father and a Chinese mother. I suggested that he says he is a Eurasian Chinese until his father put his foot down and said he is a Eurasian.

After being married to a Eurasian for almost twenty years, I discovered that deep down I still cannot forget my Chinese roots. I always felt good when I can speak in dialect with my friends or eat Chinese food. Yet by embracing the Eurasian culture with an open attitude, I had discovered so much more from how to make a good fruit cake to cooking the definitive Devil Curry. (one day I hope)

In that report entitled The Ties that Bind and Blind, those that were polled said that they have no problem dealing with a person of authority who is form a different race but when it come to marriage, many said that they would not be willing to marry some one of a different race.

Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown or the inconvenience of having to adjust to different customs and practices. Maybe it because we Singaporean are practical people and believe that marriage is already tough without having these additional factors to consider.

However I believe that once we are in love we will be able to look beyond these issues and see the person and not the race per se. After all like what my son once explained to me, the skin may be yellow, pink, fair or dark but the blood will always be red.

I have grown to accept the possibility that my future daughter might be someone of a difference race from me and I believe that I can be as open and accepting of them as my parents have been to my husband.