Josie, did you know?

for a feature on Charity of The Month

Being born into a family of animal lovers, rescue work was a natural part of life for me at a young age; but in the spring of May 2008 when I relocated to Bandung for work, I had no idea just how much of my life would become dedicated to saving animals.

You see, I got used to being at the top in my hometown. I was a straight ‘A’ student with lines of scholarships and titles behind my name. Granted I started as a school teacher (part time work before I graduated) but once I made the jump I kept climbing the corporate ladder. Until one day I asked myself: “Now what?”

When a former client of my workplace called me with an offer, I just packed up and left everything to start all over. Everyone said I was crazy, but I would have been if I didn’t find something to keep my brain and passion moving. So, I got a brand new job, in a brand new holding company (of one of the largest textile machinery company in South East Asia), as an assistant to the brand new CEO, and then received my first promotion within 3 months! Fabulous? Not really. I just ran fast because I wanted to move out already.

This town appalled me from every side, especially with the way people treated each other, and more to the point the way they treated animals. The ignorance, the arrogance, the hypocrisy, the holier-than-thou attitude which are official character traits in this area.

n this small city, animals are ‘things’, not beings nor ‘someones’. No one wants to give way when someone else crosses the street… no one wants to stand in line… no one listens to the police when they are managing the street… no one gives regards to the rules… everyone is throwing garbage into the river, and in every nook and sewer of this “Paris Van Java”, you can find road-kills or decomposing carcasses of all kinds of animals, and in every flea market wildlife cramped into matchboxes to spend the rest of their existence in filth, for a dime.

The force that changed my life came about two weeks before Christmas… at the peak of my disgust and in the shape of a tiny B/W kitten who cried day and night for 3 days on a scorching pavement near the office and when it finally found shelter under my boss’ car, no one cared to get it out. It was the first time that my co-worker saw ‘the personal assistant of the CEO’ crawl under his Mercedes Benz wearing her expensive suit, high heels, make up… in order to pick up a half baked dirty kitten.

 

Kaitou - founding cat of The Whiskers' Syndicate
Kaitou – founding cat of The Whiskers’ Syndicate

At my boarding house, I saw the landlord’s 2 years old toddler kick their pet, a pregnant female cat that they never fed, whom despite the abuse, remained loyal to them. I lost myself when I saw that little boy heading for the cat again so I quickly picked her up and went to my room. I gave her a box, my blanket and no matter how many times I put her in that box she came back to me on the bed and then gave birth to five kittens right beside me!

An unforgettable event which compelled me to name her: “Amazing Grace”. She is a graceful cat, an amazing mother, and a stranger who trusted me enough to give birth in my arms… like a touch of heaven that turned me around and opened my eyes to a whole new world I had never seen before… a road less traveled which I was ready to take.

Grace and kids

I shared Grace and Kaitou’s story, through private messages to friends on Care2 and via emails. A few months later, I found two kittens injured by motorcycle and rescued them. But for the first time in my life, I was running short of money and was struggling to pay vet bills. I wrote about that too. I was told, given the idea, to start a blog, establish a Paypal account, and without knowing what the heck I was really doing… I started to receive donations to pay for the vet and even help raise these two kittens into adulthood.

Picassa

Picassa – named after the abstract pattern above her right eye

Renoir

Renoir, with hernia and a lot of parasites

Through the course of time our blog developed, and it recounted the otherwise untold stories of forsaken animals in our corrupted paradise.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate was founded and became the only hope, both for the animals, and for me… reaching out to those who cared and were willing to help. We were aliens to our own countrymen, but friends to Good Samaritans.

I started a side job as an online translator, as a storyboard writer, as a part time journalist, even as an athlete… all to keep food on the table for the growing numbers of cats under my care.

Renoir 1yo

Renoir 1 year later – a big brother to the new comers

Kaitou 1 yr

Kaitou – 1 year old with his favourite Starbucks bear

Every year, I faced eviction from landlords because of the cats… so we were forced to live in uncanny environments: an attic (hence cats living on the roof)… in 2010, we lived in a rental near a swamp… in 2011, no one would take us except for an old lady who liked cats and offered us a 6×8 square meter (516 square feet) area for me and at that point, 30 cats.

In 2012, The Whiskers’ Syndicate once again stood on the head of a pin when all of a sudden our rental could not be renewed and about to be left without roof nor room… our fate challenged my faith for longer than a moment… when out of nowhere we found our permanent home – an unsold property in a residential cluster that had a fair amount of land at its back and was surrounded by tall 2 story houses on both sides providing the cats with safety from traffic and human harm. So with what was left of my money, and hearty donations from friends around the world, I took a 19 year mortgage on the property… something that I will fight to keep with all my heart and soul !

artist exposed catnip mouse

One of my side job is selling handmade gifts for pets and pets lover. The catnip mice I promoted in this picture is featured internationally via Vicki Diane.

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One of our most sought-after items for sale

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Get one of this in your room and we guarantee you won’t slip when you wake up from your bed in the morning.

That August of 2012, with the support of our loyal friends, The Whiskers’ Syndicate was chosen as Shelter Of The Month by SPCA International. Alongside recommedations from our supporters, SPCAI knew about us from their “Operation Baghdad Pups” a campaign we helped, which assisted dogs and cats adopted by soldiers assigned in Iraq to fly safely to their new homes abroad.

To date, we have saved close to 400 cats and TNR around 248 of them, all with our own money and donations. Unfortunately only 5 of those were adopted out, due to the prevailing belief that domestic cats have no economic value (long haired or exotic purebred or mixed bred can be sold and bred without regulation).

The government does nothing to help us and have even tried to strangle us with non existent rules about animals which allows them to cull cats. Five is a small number, I know, but for a little town where 98% of its residents are backyard breeders (some of those are vets), we try not to discourage ourselves with the math, nor to have grandiose dreams of changing the world.

Our story is told through our blog, ‘Quest 2 Canaan’, which represents our earnest dream of peaceful co-existence between man and beast. Through Quest2Canaan we have met some of the most wonderful persons in the world, and with all their comments, writings, motivations… these became the source of our strength.

When I look back at all of the events that lead me to where I am now, it’s hard to believe how far I have come, and the unlikely “job training” that God gave me during my corporate years which prepared me for this role. I no longer have expensive suits, nor wear high heels, nor put on cosmetics… I no longer have corporate job that fills my wallet with lots of money to spend in the fanciest malls… and even if I was given the chance to change anything… I would do it the same all over again.

With this humble life, I am willing to die for this work of passion… a job which makes me feel like I am ten feet tall without wearing stilettos. I am happy to shake your hand with pride and say: I am an animal rescuer – I save lives everyday !

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 


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