Recently, I visited a pet shop in Setia Alam, Selangor.

The shop was recommended by a close friend who, like myself, is passionate about animals and a proud owner of a few furkids.

My friend had visited the shop, My Pets Haven, a week earlier and was really touched by the owner’s love for the animals under her care. Intrigued, I went there to check it out for myself and, who knows, I might just get myself a new four-legged friend.

I stepped into the shop and spent a couple of minutes browsing around.

The shop may be small but it is well stocked with pet care supplies.

Soon, an elderly auntie walked towards me and introduced herself as Aileen Lee Sor Geok. She said she had been taking care of strays for about nine years.

After giving me a brief tour of her shop, she introduced me to some of her four-legged friends. The bond between Lee and the rescued strays is similar to that of a mother and her children. She even calls them her children. I noticed that these “children” looked adoringly at her.

She then invited me into her kitchen where she always prepares meals for the dogs under her care, including the local strays. She was the head chef and I was instantly made her “sous chef” for the day.

The meal was a home-cooked mixture of chicken, liver, rice and bones collected from a bak kut teh restaurant nearby.

Dog

It’s a sad life for stray animals.

As we prepared lunch, I spoke with her and gained a better understanding of her background and work.

She used to be a pub owner for 19 years before her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She stopped her nightlife and took on a sales job in the lighting industry, and later, in a pet store where she acquired a love and knowledge of animals.

I learnt that she co-founded her present pet shop with her son and friend in 2009. It was only five years ago that Lee made it her personal mission to rescue stray dogs in her community. She brought some of them back to her shop, and regularly fed, nurtured and obtained medical treatment for them.

She spends close to RM3,000 a month – from her personal savings – on these dog-related activities. I was moved by her dedication towards animals and their welfare.

Dog

One-eyed Jack is one of the stray dogs rescued by Lee, after it had been injured by food stall workers.

I asked, “Aileen, what is the biggest challenge you face in your quest towards caring for these animals?”

Jokingly, she replied, “Money, of course.”

Then, she explained, “Today, I have close to 200 cats and dogs under my care. It costs money to feed and groom them. It would cost me much more if they were to fall sick as I would have to send them to the vet.”

Right now, My Pets Haven houses over 40 cats and dogs. Due to limited space, she cannot accept more animals. So for the strays that are not taken in, she drives around to give them food in the evening, after working hours.

It is hard for her to keep track and take care of all of them.

Among her rescues are One-Eyed Jack and Bullet.

One day Jack the stray dog was sniffing about for food at a mamak stall, where Lee saw the workers throwing rocks at it to scare it away. However, they ended up injuring Jack.

Looking at how badly Jack was treated publicly, she decided to take Jack into her care.

As for Bullet, he was once owned by a family that also had two other dogs. When they moved away, they only took the younger ones with them. Bullet was left behind in an empty house with no food. He became dirty and scruffy. Over time, the neighbours complained about its yelping and also aggression towards other people who tried to help.

When Lee heard about its condition, she decided to take Bullet into her care, too. She and her friends spent almost an hour trying to save Bullet, as he was hostile towards them. But he finally calmed down around them back at the shop after being fed, groomed and bathed.

Dog

Aileen Lee (seated, left) and her team of helpers.

As of now, Lee has a regular assistant at My Pets Haven who helps out in all the services and social media (Instagram). Other than that, she relies on weekly volunteers either from the community or universities.

After a few hours, I parted ways with Lee. I was filled with a new sense of respect and admiration for her and her work with strays.

I believe all of us can make a huge difference towards the wellbeing of strays in our neighbourhoods. Even if we do not share the same passion as Lee, we can support her mission towards the betterment of our four-legged friends, through giving, adopting a pet or volunteering at the shop.


For more information, check out My Pets Haven on Facebook and Instagram.