First and only animal sanctuary in Bandung, breeder capital of Indonesia, a country without animal welfare
Author: Josie And The Whiskers' Syndicate
The first and only cat refuge in Bandung (West Java - Indonesia) a capital breeder of a nation without animal welfare law.
We care for Bandung's unwanted animals, operate a TNR as much as our budget allows, and continue to educate people about compassion to animals
This is a favourite story of ours; all’s well that ends well
Sierra was taped shut in a box of bottled water (the brand is Sierra) and left under my fence under the rain.
For 3 years after Sierra has been a touch of lively wonders in our front yard; entertainment for babies and nannies as they spend the morning basking under the sun, soothing company for seniors sitting on their chairs in front of their house, unwinding stress for working housewives and students alike as they hang around their veranda enjoying afternoon breeze after nasty day at work or school.
My next door neighbour works out of town leaving wife and two girls; they have only weekends to be together, and many time to spend away from each other. The wife loves cats, the husband does not. He also smoke inside the house.
As loneliness creeping in, the wife would invite Sierra to play with her, flooding my fluffy garden fairy with treats, and food. The girls would bring home cat snacks from school and they soon fill their dad-less day their own way.
Trouble came when Dad saw more and more cat fur on the sofa, and heard the girls huffed up giggles on their bedroom window. It became more and more difficult when Sierra walk in and out the house freely, even on weekends when Dad is around and Sierra supposed to be out.
One day, husband was about to go shopping and ask “What does cat eat? Can she get milk?”
I raised my eyebrow and hold my smile as much as I can. “Cats sure drink milk, but theirs has to be lactose free, and fish has to be deboned”
The next Monday I asked the mother.
“Sierra strolled in, sit, and purr on his lap when he watched TV. He was frozen, the girls blew up in laughter”
I forgot when exactly, but three years since I took this picture, Sierra is no longer mine. The house is smoke free. The girls are happy, the wife is merry.
Every Friday night, 10 pm or beyond, I always hear a car in front of the house, lock clacking, door opened, and a man’s tired but excited voice.
Whereas other rescues are asking for money, I am standing here, my arms wide open, to extend my utmost gratitude.
Whereas other people remind you to give thanks to those who are forgotten, I am standing here, my palms together, to remind you that you are never forgotten.
Since we started this quest to Canaan, you have never let us fall. Your (average) $2 donation have enabled us to help so much. Now twelve years later, with many more joining our quest, your (average) $10 contribution have helped us save so many more.
From Renoir, a three month old kitten with a hernia, dying by the roadside on a dirty and smelly traditional market, to Bumpy, a pure bred kitty miller whose “master” would rather discard him to suffer his skin cancer alone, to Patti, a lady crushed by a car even when she was minding her own life on a pedestrian path and left to die as if she means nothing – more than dirt on the street, each and every one of you give another meaning to Playing God and touched the lives of so many, who otherwise would only live but never exist.
These names will never share a table with you, as you enjoyed your wholesome dinner with those you love and care the most. These cats, and many more of their kind you will never see in real life but photos, but their glistening eyes, soft fur, strong bones, healthy skin, loud purr, and paw five are written in heaven as your legacy.
So let me take your hand, and invite you to see the video. This is my hard work, yes, but without you lifting me and empowering me, none of this will ever happen.
If you had somehow missed this girl in the video, her name is Patti, and below are the journey to a life brand new you have all endowed her with.
Those two parks are always the last. Two parks: one supposed to be for pets, the other supposed to be for children; but squatters and vandals are more persistent than lichens on the wall down here, and they do what they do with mocking smile to the authorities no matter how authorities clean up, and especially after our mayor became governor and the replacement concerns more about enlarging his tummies and not the people.
There used to be a group of young gamers playing thrice every week, sitting at a distance from each other and talking over while their eyes are glued on their cellphone. There used to be young couples sitting on the benches under the light.
But now, no more. There are only people squatting, street stall selling food scattering their litter, and people selling small animals, like a bucket of tropical fish and the kids can catch their fish themselves.
I mean, they are fish but they are kept in small bucket and a bunch of children, some too young to hold things properly, each with their own tea strainer stirring and chopping all day, the water come from minimally treated river water and there is no food if ever coming in.
They’re just fish, and those people look at me with mocking smirk when they strut their chest toward what they thought is just a Chinese girl who will cry once they call their bluff.
Tall, big houses with neatly trimmed garden stood behind even taller gates lining the surrounding of the parks. People on the internet call those houses “mansion” They are beautiful, and though my God does not love me enough to grant it, I really hope one day I can live in one of those, because then I can help even more unfortunate animals and give them a home.
But at night, those places are eerie. The street lights are bright, the road is clean; once in a while there would be motorbike gang passing by, or car with one or two drunkards driving through, screaming and singing.
That’s why we always visit those parks the last. The fewer passers-by, the better, so cats can cross the street and mother can teach their kittens to do the same safely. Rats can literally just squirt from one side of the sewer on the roadside to the other, and we always let them have the crumbs. There are bats too, looking for fruits, or whatever left to survive this town. Kitten-eating-dogs can stay on the side with jealous look. They will have their jerkies last, lest they got tempted to ruin the rest of the picnic leaving only hate we don’t want to have. They are the runt of the game in life; it’s just that they have owners – supposed to be – the others are free.
There was that day when almost all of them were sick. One has runny nose and one almost lost his life in a fight; running toward us with gashing wound and blood everywhere. It couldn’t be other cat. There was a lady who always stand by an old guy, running toward us with ultimate concern, her husband sat by the road side with blood dripping from his neck and he can barely stand. The lady and her husband are always together. Her gentleman never run by other female, and she has never been close to other male.
It was the day when we pour out all our artilleries. Antibiotics, wound dressing, disinfectant, ointments, supplements…
And at the quietest moment when we battle with the army of death, a clicking sound.
I froze and listened. Sheilla saw me and listened. More clicking sounds. It has always been eerie, but that night was horrible.
More clicking sounds, desperate, desperate desperate.
I walked to an empty tent, left there by its tenant. It was from down there, on the ground. It’s impossible but I feel it was from further down, below, from hell.
A rectangular shape, its corner glitter once by the dim light from the street. I took a deep breath. Grabbed the corner, and drag it out.
Whatever monster might there be.
It was a very poorly made small aquarium, and it was cracked at the bottom up to its side. Inside was – who knows how many – hermit crabs.
The big ones, the small ones, the babies, the red, the black. Some are dead, and some of those dead were eaten. Some that somehow stayed alive, tried desperately to climb. The smell was beyond nauseating.
They are hermit crabs; they sell for one or two cents, but they are taken from their home, piled up into that filthy aquarium so small they cannot move. Without food, without water, not sold, so the poacher give up their wanton free money ideal, and left them there to die.
They had to eat their perished friend; and they live, but death is there, after a long, painful, hopeless, journey.
They are hermit crabs, they sell for one or two cents, but they are alive.
I scramble for a discarded water bottle, fill it up with water from tanks provided in many places for people to wash their hands in this pandemic, and pour it down. They are hermit crabs, but that night, somehow, I feel them. I feel the gladness, I feel relief, it’s as if I am in drought, and rain came down the sky.
I came back the next night with a KFC bucket. Tend to the cats, and to that tent. Someone had found them before then, it seems, and upon finding out what’s inside, pushed them further to the bushes behind the tent. Bushes no one can see, bushes where no clicking would be heard.
“They are being attacked by colonies of ants” Sheilla whispers.
I ran with that bucket filled with water and pour it down to drown the ants. I scrambled for a used plastic spoon, those street stalls must have discarded a lot of them there. I found one near the trash bin, wash it down the street.
I know hermit crabs make Sheilla shudder, with their tiny ticking legs that looks like scythes, but she holds that spoon and takes them out, one after another.
I skip sleep reading about freshwater hermit crabs. The only one species ever existed, and that only one species lives in Indonesia. Who cares, no? They are free and they can be sold so they can be exploited.
Should we release them to the river? Should we drive out of town to find a good home?
More of them dead every day. They are safe for two days, but live through hell for who knows how long; and others who found them before us saw their pleas, but put them back and push them further away from sight.
Those people reminds me of many strangers, some with lawyer degrees writing a message demanding me to stop writing sad stories on Instagram or Facebook, because they are cruel and they are sad and they are not good to read. The world is a happy place, they said.
I have twenty dollars in my savings. A little cardboard box where I emptied the coins every night and keep them for last resort. Those coins buys a small aquarium, two bags of sand, and I pick tree stump I kept because its twists and hues is beautiful. I took one of the cats’ saucer and put water. I took Sentaro’s (a rabbit we took from the street) salad, just one leaf.
One more time, I feel them. The warm feeling when one goes through a very long, seemingly endless perilous journey and finally arrive home. Not quite, but close.
I ask the aquarium seller for discarded empty shells, I clean the sand, I replace water, and feel them every now and then. When they marched to the new leaf of salad, few pieces of beans, jump into the pool I made with fresh, cool water in their saucer. When they climb the tree stump, and got themselves stuck there with their tiny legs that looks like death’s scythes. When it rains and they all line up on the stump branches, feeling the wind, the mist, the air. When they dig into the bottom of it all and sleep there for days. I annoy them a lot when I dig their surrounding and lift them up with a spoon. Soon they will dig another hole.
Can’t you feel it? They are not home, they will never be, but can’t you feel it? They are alive.
Hermit crabs, despite their names, are not craps. They are social creatures. They mingle with each other. They fought once in a while, but they are friends most of the time.
They are hermit crabs, they sell for one or two cents, a few pennies at most.
Like able men and women in that small rural town, Spooky bid his life on the textile factory that took half of the town’s land. The place where green paddy turn to gold and brings life to many; the little ducklings, sliding their beaks looking for worms, the sun and the morning breeze, people saying hi to each other. Now the forgotten peace becomes the cheers and hellos of people in uniform, walking through a small gate, chattering until they disappear into their own corners, chugging their days with toils so that by the end of the month, there is food on the table.
Like able men and women, Spooky curls and twists as he wakes up, shakes his body, and springs to life. Yesterday has history; some good, some not so much; but today has the promise of a better tomorrow, so like able men and women, Spooky does his best.
But like able men and women, sometimes life churns sour curd, while it should spew butter. Life takes many turns: accident happens, irreversible damages, and promises of better tomorrow turned dark and airless.
Like able men and women turned useless, they are slowly drifted away into the shore; cast away by the curse that they can only look on while others move on.
Spooky lay there. He had lost one eye, but somehow made it through with the other; but now he lost his leg, crushed by a heartless machine and its equally ignorant human who have long pushed friendly horses into photos and memories.
Like previously able men and women who share his fate, Spooky asked the same question. In that rural town there is no security, no insurance, no equality. Once they fall out from society, there is only one way to go: the end.
Men and women. What about, a cat?
A cat whom those same men and women pass by without a second look, not even some peer. A cat who belongs to no one; a cat without any identity and no attachment.
Two hours away in the city, it’s not much different, but at least better. Someone would care, someone would pick him up and lend their hand, someone would try to help.
Someone who, like the two girls who often are in giggles and glee when he passed them. Someone like those two strangers who extended their hand, lifted him up, and hide him in the factory boarding until he can heal.
But like bones of men and women, a crushed limb cannot heal. They can only be cut off lest it cost him his life when it’s infected; rotting away.
Like disabled men and women of that rural town, Spooky bid his life at the mercy of others, willingly or otherwise. And for him the mercy was to be put into a pen, taken for two hours to the city, and left in a house on a hillside, full of other cats.
There are many others with just one eye, like him; and a few who lost both, even. There are others who are old and weak, there are those with wounds and cuts, some others with various illnesses. There are kittens, noisy and bouncy, there is a small plate with a little food, but warm and fragrant every night; and crunchy kibbles every morning.
And the water is fresh and cool, unlike that in the factory, coarse and smelly. And two women who never stop wandering around. With medicine, with food, with funny tasting vitamins, they said, and with a syringe that stings but makes him feel better afterwards.
Then, like men and women in the outskirts of town, Spooky wakes up by the window. The sun had risen behind him, but the birds are chirpy on the electricity cable atop the porch. He looks at the curly green forest far away, and listening to the morning breeze.
Sometimes it whispers a story about the city, some other time the news from the countryside where he used to live.
When the clock bangs, he would wake up with the remaining three legs, and walk a little funny to the left side of the kitchen counter.
Yesterday has history; some good, some not so much; but today has the promise of better tomorrow, so like able men and women, Spooky does his best.
Just for today an old acquaintance sent me message asking for help for his brother, who found a baby cat eaten alive by maggots.
Just for today I was petrified in terror as I watched the 20 seconds video.
We knew there was not much hope. The little baby, only a few weeks old, had lost both eyes; his nose, and the maggots that feasted on him even then left only a gaping hole.
That hole should be his face. The two eyes that should open to watch the loving sight of his mother, the nose that should smell the motherly abundance that will shower him with abundance forever and ever, the mouth that will taste the enliving milk flowing deep within, so warm he sprang to life.
But just for today I will tell you another story.
About days old baby who knows nothing, but fight its hardest to stay alive. About little life who did not lost his hope even in the midst of pain that will pull us human down to our knees. About tiny creature whose courage put the universe to shame.
Not a single cry came out, all the way we rushed him to the vet. Not a single weep.
When I extend my hands with him, still trying, still fighting, my vet shed one tear and put on her glasses, examining, examining, examining; but by the look on her face we knew the whispers that we kept pushing back was real and truth. The maggots had reached the inside of his ears, and is starting to eat the nerve and the brain.
Just for today, I saw her holding back tears as she took a syringe of pain killer; too much for baby that small. Not long time ago a vet was found selling pain killer injection fluid online to a drug lord, and since painkillers became hard to find and expensive to say the least, but she drew enough to put larger animals to rest so soon enough the baby will no longer need to endure the pain of being eaten alive.
Though the most painful must be fighting alone and dying lonely.
Just for today, that sun-coloured furball become our baby. We hold him in our arms, one after another. Knowing millions of maggots wiggling inside, we gave them our kisses, we told him stories and songs. As he slowly went away in peace, we mount him praises. We call him hero, champion, we name him Victor.
Whereas I always believe in life, just for today I admit that mercy can come with a scythe. As I believe that everyone should be given a chance, just for today a chance may mean liberating others from pain, even if it means sending them over to the other side.
Now that he’s at peace and painless, just for today remember him with smile. Smile as we imagine his perfect face seeing his mother for the first time as he ran across the rainbow bridge. Smile as we marvel at his bravery; now fully rewarded. Smile as we celebrate the compassion of a young boy who could have cared less, but sat on the cold stairs by the gravestone, all alone in a drizzly day, holding a baby full of maggots, believing that help is coming.
Just for today let the baby become yours. Just for today tell him he is loved, and his brief pain is only necessary to speed up his sainthood. Just for today hold him in your heart. Just for today, let him live in our mind; let him know only the good that sent him away and the best where he now belong.
Just few minutes ago, I was thinking whether I can finally take one breath and make myself some tea.
One of the vets at the clinic sent me two pictures. One of a scribbling on a torn off scrap of paper, the other one of a severely injured cat.
Written in poor Indonesian and lack of manners, the anonymous letter said that the writer “found” the cat, didn’t know what happened, and that they don’t know how to take care of “it” and if they do, they don’t have money anyway, so “they drop it off here”.
I took a deep breath, and put my cup back on the shelves.
These (mis)happenings are getting notorious.
About three weeks ago, a little boy knocked at the back door of the vet clinic where I help often (and they often help me). To the young vet who opened the door, he told us about finding cat babies who haven’t even open their eyes. The young vet told the boy that babies that age do not usually roam around by themselves, and advised that the boy be kind and return the babies where he and his friends had picked them, because most likely the mother will be looking for her children. The boy nodded, the vet closed the door, and we found three cat babies wrapped in socks in a box right under the door where the boy must have left the babies.
The babies came home with us.
Just two weeks ago my vet showed me an anonymous letter scribbled behind a torn envelope. Whoever wrote the letter can no longer afford their cats so they left it by the clinic just in case someone is interested.
That Persian – domestic mix inside the basket that came with the letter (and left on the clinic’s open air porch at dawn or before) was so depressed he wouldn’t eat for days. He just curled up at the corner with both ears flattened, and eyes that makes me want to cry.
The next day, it was similar letter, different person, a little shoe box, and ten weeks old black kitten who was so terrified he cried day and night unless someone held him in their arms.
Eventually both cats went home with one of the clinic’s long time client.
In this past week were several boxes of an ailing mother with her newborn babies, or newborn baby with dead sibling starting to rot beside him, left in various places where people make sure they will be found. We cannot turn our head away and let them die so within one week we have twenty newborns, eight of them premature, the rest have infections from the mother’s bad health, and some even almost lost their chances, because their mother was too sick and malnourished, they have been without mother’s milk for days before they found us.
On my face was the responsibility to update and report to Whiskers’ Syndicate’s supporters about the mass spay and neuter; but looking at these helpless, hopeless babies and suffering mothers, I took a deep breath, put my project aside, and went into week long battle to save as many as we can.
Seems like it’s been a while since I hold my phone as it felt a little bit different. Luckily I know my way around and give my vet a call.
The little girl in the photo has a broken jaw, but we wouldn’t know how bad the crush she sustained until X Ray becomes available on Monday. Two senior vets in the clinic did their best, she started to be stabilized, and if her condition improved, they will send her to another senior vet better equipped and experienced with orthopedic condition.
A regular client to the clinic, upon finding out about her, offered help with food; but instead of stating her noble intention directly to the vet she said so to the parking lot guy, and the parking lot guy is the same parking lot guy who sells queue number in the morning and is a member of a notorious motorbike gang at night.
The clinic is famous. Famous for offering good service with low prices, especially for people with less income and people who took cats off the street and keep them as they should kept. The clinic is always full, and often forced to stay open until late at night because of the overflowing patients. People from far away places will call the parking lot guy to register for them, so they will not have to wait there for a long time with sick animals. Upon arriving at the clinic, they will pay him some fee for his semi legal service and he made quite a lot for his family and membership with those tips, otherwise his brothers and sisters will not drop their meagre jobs and become middle men there as well.
The word “money for food” rings well with this guy, so he took the cat, told the kind person that he will personally care for the cat (though he never before care for anything) and the kind person put the money on his hand, in front of my eye rolling vet.
If I can throw a rock all the way to heaven I will lance God’s butt. He has a bad taste for joke and putting an ass hole in the Oval Office to ruin the world for four years straight is not the worst. It’s torturing already desperate creatures, human or otherwise, that makes me loathe Him often. He needs a shrink, unfortunately He is God.
Still my vet told me to hold my rampage, take a deep breath, and walk with her on this journey. She knows it seems like it’s an uphill battle and that death is near. She knows that I am spread too thinly. She knows that we both love animals so much we often didn’t see the line.
However she is a veteran who learnt directly from the infamous Dr. Doolittle of Bandung and has been dedicating her infamous skill to save various animals, most of them rescues, from before she graduated as a DVM to the day when her granddaughter turned eighteen. She is a respected member of community, who has a network in various places, and knows when and how to employ those trump cards at the right time, in the right place, for the right cat. If she told me to hold my ground, it means she has something up her sleeve, so I will trust her judgement if it will help save a kitten and give her a chance in life.
We ended the conversation strengthening each other and I checked my balance. There is not much left, but there is no other in this town has the experience and back up to help cats like this girl if not the Whiskers’ Syndicate.
So I will start knocking at heaven’s door from now, and hope the door will be opened in time.
First, however, I hope all these ignorant bozos wouldn’t be obsessed with movies so much, be a man, and talk to the vet instead of dropping off dying animals in the middle of the night with nothing to keep them warm. No one is going to jail or anywhere for stating in private conversation that they have no money. An anonymous letter is not always romantic. Even if they have money, anyway, please speak to the vet and not to the parking lot guy who sells queue places in the morning and is member of a motorbike gang at night (the name of the gang is Exalt to Coitus).