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ALOR STAR, March 25, 2015:

“Ayah is no longer around. We will all miss him but he will always be a part of us so we have to be strong.”

Those were the words of Halijah Idris, 68, or better known as Mak Intan to her 500 dogs she and her late husband had been taking care of for the past five years in an animal rescue shelter in Jalan Tanjung Bendahara, Taman Sultan Abdul Halim, Alor Star, Kedah.

The approximately two-acre shelter is divided into a few sections; dogs that are born with disabilities, sick dogs with special needs, normal and healthy dogs and also a pen for puppies.

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Of all the 500 dogs she and her late husband, Azmi Ismail or better known as Pak Mie have been caring for, one female dog, a pure white mixed breed dog of two and a half years old, waited anxiously next to its master’s hut, waiting for the return of Pak Mie.

According to Mak Intan, Shanice the dog was Pak Mie’s favourite as he had rescued it when she was just a pup even before her eyes were open.

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“I think she could sense his demise and that he’s never coming back but she still seems to be pining for him. See how she keeps waiting by his hut with that hopeful expression?

“Pak Mie would spend a lot of time with Shanice and would bring her along in his car each time he went out,” she recalled.

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Although it has only been two days since her husband’s passing, Mak Intan, when met at the makeshift animal shelter that houses rescued strays such as dogs and cats has already started her usual routine of feeding and cleaning after the animals.

“It is difficult for me and our two children to accept his sudden passing but the animals here need us so we have to continue what Pak Mie has started.

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“This is how I feel connected to my husband even though he is no longer around,” she said in between tears while stroking Shanice.

Pak Mie who started the shelter five years ago died about 11.30pm last night after a second stroke last week.

The 58-year-old former contract worker passed away at the Ampang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur after suffering a second stroke.

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Pak Mie made the news in 2013 when local authorities threatened to allegedly evict him from the shelter, located along a river and opposite a paddy field.

He made headlines for going against the Muslim norm of regarding dogs as “haram” and rescued hundreds of stray and abandoned dogs and cats in Alor Star.

According to Mak Intan, he was initially treated at the Sultan Mizan Military Hospital in Wangsa Maju before he was transferred to Ampang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur where he breathed his last on Sunday.

Mak Intan recalled how she and her husband became the subject of ridicule within the Muslim community for taking in what is deemed as “haram” and was even once ostracised by the community.

She related to The Rakyat Post how she and her husband were spat on, hurled at with things and even had their cutlery discarded when they dined out in eateries as they were deemed “unclean”.

“To me, it is very simple. Islam is a very simple religion. Why complicate it?

“Islam teaches us to love all animals as they are creations of God but then again, everyone has his own opinion.

“We just do what is right for us but I shall continue to love all my furry kids as they have been entrusted to me by the one above,” she said.

She said it was funny how some, especially Muslims and Malays would regard dogs as “haram” or unclean but did not mind engaging in other worse vices.

“At least we save lives. True, sometimes I get my clothes soiled when tending to my dogs and cats but there is always the samak I perform before I perform my prayers.”

Choking back tears, Mak Intan recalled how her husband had reminded all of their furry kids “to behave and not fight with each other” as he would only be away for a few days for a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday last week.

“But I did sense something amiss when the dogs kept on barking incessantly and fighting with each other, as if trying to protest over something or asking him not to go.

“It was as though they could tell he was never coming back,” she said.

She reminisced the sweet memories of having spent time with Pak Mie and the animals they had rescued.

“We would spend hours with them and that was what made me and my husband closer,” she said.

With Pak Mie gone now, Mak Intan is left to fend for herself but she vowed to keep Pak Mie’s legacy alive for as long as she was alive.

The shelter needs about 40kg rice, chicken, fish and eggs per day.

“Thank goodness I have the support from many friends and generous donors who bring in rice, chicken and fish for my furry kids but the only thing now is for me to muster the strength to keep on going.

“Besides food, I also get them their supply of supplements and medication for those which are sick.

“Only God can repay the kindness of those who have helped.

“But for now, I have to remain strong and take care of my health for the sake of these furry kids,” she added while popping a few pills for high blood pressure.

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