Sunday, December 03, 2006

Muna's comments

The Star
Sunday December 3, 2006

Dogs can do us so much good


YOUR profile on Hishamuddin Rais and his views was quite an interesting read indeed (Forbidden to forbid, People, StarMag, Nov 26).

We at the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association, or Petpositive, were especially drawn to his comments about his furry friends – three cats and a dog who share his home with him.

Hishamuddin defended his right to keep a canine pet, pointing out to those who say that Muslims can’t keep dogs that the Quran instructs the followers of Islam to love all animals.

Petpositive applauds Hishamuddin and others who share such views.

Petpositive is a national society established in June to provide animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for disabled and elderly Malaysians. It is run by disabled and elderly persons who receive AAT with support from medical, veterinary and other professionals.

In his article, Kindness to animals an Islamic virtue (Sunday Star, Oct 29) adviser to Petpositive Dr Chandra Muzaffar wrote: “It is significant that the Quranic attitude towards the dog is positive, rather than negative”.

He mentioned the story of a prostitute who, on seeing a panting dog by a well that was about to die of thirst, took off her shoe and, tying it with her head-cover, drew out some water for the poor animal.

“Because of that good deed, the Prophet told his followers, ‘God had forgiven the woman’,” Dr Chandra said.

Dogs haven’t been called “Man’s best friend” for nothing.

More and more contemporary scientific studies are being unveiled – almost each week – of the highly therapeutic and beneficial roles that canines, more than other animals, can have in the daily lives of human beings.

The people who stand to benefit the most from their close bond with canines are special and vulnerable groups such as children, the disabled, the elderly and even persons with terminal illnesses.

Here are some of the ways in which canines can, and do, help human beings:

·Exposing children at an early age to dogs helps them to develop immunity to allergies later in life.

·Patting a dog lowers the heart rate.

·Canines can detect certain types of cancer more accurately than the most sophisticated medical equipment.

·It has been medically proven that owning canines can reduce stress-induced symptoms such as aches and pains and even lower blood pressure.

·Service dogs help the physically handicapped to overcome a number of obstacles, such as picking up objects from the floor and helping the paralysed dress and undress; trained dogs can even lift a disabled person from the bed and push a wheelchair.

·Guide dogs, of course, have long been known for alerting their human partners about dangers not obvious to them and leading them away from danger. Hazards include oncoming cars at crossings, manholes or barriers above the ground that white canes cannot detect.

·People who have epilepsy can be warned about an attack before they happen by seizure alert dogs. This provides sufferers with sufficient time to prepare for an attack.

·Hearing dogs can tell deaf couples when their baby is crying for attention or if there is someone at the door.

·Stroking a dog and caring for them can help the elderly overcome feelings of loneliness, especially when they live alone.

·The therapeutic use of pets as companions has gained increasing recognition for a wide variety of patients; the faces of people with AIDS, cancer or those who are severely depressed light up instantly in the presence of a therapy dog.

In Malaysia, we already have dogs that contribute positively to our society whether it is by sniffing out drugs, fighting crime by tracking or safely bringing down fleeing criminals or rescuing people in emergencies.

Today, on International Day of Disabled Persons, Petpositive looks forward to the day when special dogs will be able to accompany disabled Malaysians everywhere – whether it be a guide dog leading a blind person onto a bus or a service dog assisting its handicapped owner in a public restroom.

In conclusion, we are reminded of the great creation story of old where it was recorded in the sacred writings that God decided to create humankind only after He made sure that all the animals had been created first. Perhaps there is a special message – and a lesson – to be learnt from this.

Muna Othman
Ordinary Member
Petpositive, Kuala Lumpur

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