80-year-old retired Anglican pastor Sylvia Jeanes is a mother to 68 abandoned dogs at her dog sanctuary in Sabah.
Sylvia first came to Sabah from Australia in 1967 to offer a hand in the marginalised communities and now 54 years later, she’s still continuing her mission by dedicating her love and time to abandoned dogs at her dog sanctuary located on the hills of Telipok which is 22km from the city centre.
Sylvia, or better known as Ibu Suria to those close to her, has been running Bay View for eight years, stating that she had no intention to even make a shelter for dogs initially.
Speaking to Free Malaysia Today, Sylvia said, “I only brought along seven dogs when I moved here that year but the numbers just kept growing and growing.
“In a short time, more dogs were sent to me or dumped outside my gate – all strays and injured. And we are expecting more.”
She also added that she has trouble saying no when a dog is sent to her because of how sympathetic she is to the dogs, especially those who are injured.
“That’s part of my problem, I cannot say no. I cannot think about a dog in a cage without food and water or about a dog knocked by a car and left by the roadside… they are poor animals that need help.”
While the dogs are now in a better and loving environment, their stories before getting to Bay View are not as heartwarming.
One of the many rescued dogs includes Wira, a three-legged dog who’s leg had to be amputated after she was left to die in a bush when she got hit by a car.
Another dog, Brownie who is now the sanctuary’s mascot was actually rescued after she was discovered by the police, locked in a cage with no food and water after her owner was attacked by intruders at home.
Yet another dog, Daisy, was accused of killing a goat and as part of the owner’s revenge, Daisy had a steel cord wrapped tightly around her neck making it difficult for her to eat.
It was only after two weeks that Daisy was rescued with wounds from the tied cable. Sadly, the incident left Daisy traumatised, as she still fears those who come near her, including Sylvia.
Sylvia also shared the story of how her love and admiration for men’s best friend started in 1978 when she was teaching in the jungles of Kinabatangan.
“A friend rescued six puppies from a drain and two came with me. One puppy went to another home but it later decided to come and live with me.
“The puppy confirmed that (it wanted to stay with me) by picking up its dish and laying it at my feet, I’ll never forget that… so from that point on, that dog was mine. I named him Jerry and he was with me until 1989,” she said.
Since she finally became a permanent resident of Malaysia, she started a dog centre in Sandakan to take care of fewer dogs until she had to relocated to the state capital in 2000 by the orders of her bishop.
In order to support her dog sanctuary, Sylvia uses her uses her monthly pension and public donations while a local businessman lets her stay on the 1.9 acre piece of land for free.
Sylvia is also helped by several full-time workers as she struggles with a spinal issue.
“We keep the dogs in different sections of the compounds because some don’t get along with each other. But I have 16 dogs sleeping with me in the house, some together with me on my bed,” she told FMT.
The monthly expenses totals to about RM7,000 depending on whether the dogs, which are all spayed and vaccinated, need further trips to the vet since some require medical attention.
While she doesn’t depend on public donations, she is grateful for the generosity of those who do help her with the sanctuary.
“Like the Rainbow of Hope (an NGO for the marginalised community she started previously), I never had to ask for money, it’s not my policy to ask for money.
“I think it springs out from my basic philosophy of life that I trust God. He loves animals too as He created them all.”
Using a walking stick will not stop Sylvia from carrying her daily responsibilities as her love of her furry children fuels her will to get the job done.
“I can barely walk but I still want to see my dogs every afternoon, so I put in two hours at least every single day. I have cried many tears about the dogs under my care, thinking about what they went through.”
The sanctuary receives many visitors who are interested in adopting the dogs.
“We’ve managed to re-home some. It’s easier when they are little, adorable puppies but not when they get to be adults. That’s why many are still here,” she said.
In hopes to continue her legacy, Sylvia is also thinking about officially registering the personal initiative so that the sanctuary will still run when she finally passes.
If you’re interested in donating to the Bay View dog sanctuary, here are the banking details to do so:
HSBC Account No: 392-141-693-108
Name of account holder: Jeanes Sylvia Margaret