An Aussie Model for Bali

CALOUNDRA ~ My trip home coincided with my son’s flying visit to arrange his US visa. He was in town for just five days and I blinked and he was back in New York. How time flies when you are having a good time. I dropped him at the airport and sobbed during the hour-long drive home.

To fill the void left by Mclean’s departure, I spent some time at the home of my niece, Selena, her husband, Suengho, and their three delightful daughters, and at one of their veterinary surgeries.

Selena, as I mentioned in last week’s article, like so many vets, is often on the receiving end of dumped animals and this time it was five tiny black semi-feral kittens. How do you socialise feral kittens? You take them home to your daughters, who spend the entire weekend in their bathroom playing and cuddling the kittens, who had had little experience with humans.

The following day I went to their clinic, where the kittens were spending the day. Each kitten could be picked up without any spitting or hissing, instead purring contentedly when I tickled their tummies. One of my nieces (great nieces, actually) calls them “motorcats,” their purring was so loud. The kittens played happily with each other and with the vet assistant and me. It was such a treat to see this extraordinary change, which I can only say speaks volumes for children being bought up with dogs and cats.

The Sunshine Coast beaches are beautiful and swimming a couple of times on perfect days and spending time at my favourite beachside café, Saltwater on Kings (Beach), was totally recuperative. But it was my trip to SCARS – Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge (Sippy Creek Animal Refuge Society Inc) – that truly caused my heart to soar.

“Yes, of course, you can write about us, but please make sure you tell about our strict non-euthanasia policy,” Rosie Symons, the newly elected 2009 president, said.

Rosie, like all the other members of the SCARS committee, is a volunteer. The refuge is managed by an unpaid, elected committee, and run mainly by a dedicated group of volunteers. It is an independent, non-profit, non-government funded, charitable organisation established in 1979 with the primary aim of providing temporary refuge and eventually new homes for abandoned, abused, stray and unwanted cats and dogs. And, as Rosie said, it has a stringent non-euthanasia rule.

All cats and dogs coming to the refuge are vet-checked, vaccinated, wormed, de-sexed and microchipped prior to being made available for sale to the public. Prices range from AUS$125 for cats, $140 for kittens and $170 for dogs.

In 2008 the refuge re-homed approximately 400 cats and 750 dogs. They rely heavily on the support of local businesses, clubs, councils and the community in general, and they operate 12 collection points located at Shopping Centres throughout the Sunshine Coast for donations of food and other essentials.

Volunteers help with a range of activities, from working with the cats and dogs to lawn mowing, gardening, general upkeep and maintenance, washing and, of course, that much needed job of cuddling the residents.

My time at SCARS was spent walking and talking with the volunteers as they went about their morning chores. They come from a variety of backgrounds, young and older, men and women, most with full-time jobs – and many don’t come from “just around the corner”: some people drive an hour or more to be at the refuge by 6.30am on their scheduled morning. They are all dedicated to the plight of homeless dogs and cats.

Fundraising for SCARS is of paramount importance and it is a community venture. It is not left to one person or a dedicated few. To have a new building completed, many people involved in the building industry pitched in their time and supplies. Have a look at their website to see where they have come from to where they are today: www.sippycreek.com.au/sippycreek_008.htm. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes! This is Gotong Royong the Australian way.

One of the most successful fundraisers each year is the sponsorship of the cat and dog pens. Businesses or individuals pay to have a personal message, photo or business details displayed to advertise or just for the many people who come to the refuge to witness their generosity.

Is there any reason why this cannot be achieved here in Bali, and more specifically in Ubud for BAWA – Bali Animal Welfare Association? The threat of rabies is using up all the BAWA resources and the clinic still has to operate for all the stray puppies and kittens that are bought in.

Albert Einstein said “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

So how about it, Bali? For those of you who would like to sponsor a run at the BAWA clinic at Lodtunduh, please email me at elizabethhenzell@gmail.com. I would love to talk to you.

BAWA is in desperate need of a good, large refrigerator to store vaccines, a generator to back up cold storage, and they need cold boxes for vaccines when out on the road, towels and nets. All these are needed in their fight to prevent a rabies epidemic in Bali. This is for the benefit of everyone – locals, expats and visitors – so please ring BAWA at 0361-977217 and make a difference.

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