Wednesday, October 17, 2007

All Systems Go for AAT in Malaysia!

(Pictures by Lynda Merican and aNt)

Dateline FRIM, Kepong, Selangor, on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9am - 1.30pm.

(Below: FIRED UP OVER PETPOSITIVE POWER! People + pets on a special mission to empower handicapped and senior Malaysians)

DISABLED PERSONS - together with an equal number of their personal caregivers and friends - joined further by twenty teenagers from a local school in Kuala Lumpur, will be heaving a huge sigh of relief before long.

The agonising waiting period for them all for the Big Day to start will finally be over in less than a fortnight from now.

These privileged groups of people will not only get to witness a rare opportunity that has never been achieved or experienced before in the disability and animal-welfare circles in the country - but the best part of it is that they will also be able to take part in the epoch-making occasion.

(Left: ONWARD MARCH! Intrepid explorers walking and wheeling into the forest on a specially-built pathway for wheelchairs. Notice the green grab-and-safety bars on the left? Click on pictures to enlarge)

The end of October this month will mark the unveiling of the first animal-assisted therapy (AAT) session for the disabled and the elderly in Malaysia.

Called The Valentina Project (VP), the initiative is the brainchild of Petpositive, the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly National Society in the country.

Registered in June of last year, Petpositive aims to help its members lead positive lives through the uncanny power of pets.

The VP, which was named after Petpositive's first AAT animal Valentina - a seven-year-old female bunny that died of cancer this year - will formally introduce and encourage rabbit-rearing as a means of therapy for the disabled and elderly Petpositive participants present at the occasion.

In addition to AAT, the groups will be led with help from volunteers, family and friends through an exciting nature walk through the dense Kepong jungle on a special walkway designed for trekkers in wheelchairs at the Forest Research Insititute of Malaysia (FRIM)'s park.


Petpositive's Jungle Walk Coordinator
Chan Mee Leng (in blue and black) passed with flying colours during her hands-on pre-wheelchair-training session at FRIM.

Encouraging her on is our Society's rabbit-care specialist Fasidah Sabeh.)

(Left: THOROUGH TESTING: VP team investigating everything; from too rough or too smooth surfaces, uneven sections, steep areas, potentially hazardous spots on the windy 400-metre pathway)

(Below, right: A SERIOUS MOMENT: Preparing for anything on VP day. Notice the handsome cat on the leash in pix)

Earlier today more than a dozen of Petpositive's organisers and volunteers met up with the FRIM team at the event site in order to go over the final details of everything before the actual day.
We arrived at 9am. And almost at once we were all greeted by the natural residents of the forest.
A magnificent bird - not normally seen in the city - with its wings outstretched hovered over us for several minutes at FRIM's car park where we met to run through our written out plans before venturing into the forest.
Our meeting there incredulously lasted about one-and-the-half hours. There was just so much to run through before the real walking took place.
Our meeting was also "attended" not just by the two-legged kind.

(Below: OOH, THIS IS LIFE: Having a breather under the cool shade)

Four four-legged animals: two dogs and two cats tried to get acquainted with each other that soon turned out into an exercise of futility.

One of the cats decided that it had had enough with the two literally nosey mongrels that couldn't keep their noses to themselves.
They got into his face, prompting him to voice his protest with hisses and snarls before retreating to a shady and safer area - first under one of the trees in the park and then inside his owner's Volkswagen van.

Facilities-wise, I was pleased to note that improvements were made to FRIM in the original disabled toilets since I last visited the public park about six months ago. I was there along with some of our Petpositive Committee Members to prepare for this event.
Instead of the odd couple of steps that wheelchair-users had to contend with previously, the floors inside the bathrooms were now levelled for the physically handicapped and those with walking difficulties with a better designed ramp to access the restroom.

The morning excursion lasted a good four hours before we were finally satisfied with what we saw and decided upon as trouble-shooting solutions and alternatives to take if something cropped up.

(Left: TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE: Petpositive VP Event Coordinator Lynda Merican and aNt being briefly distracted by some irresistable animal antics during the meeting.)

Some of these included reminding participants to bring along sunscreen creams and sun hats to protect them from the sun and umbrellas for rain. On our side, it included providing extra wheelchairs for those who might need them and even tools to tighten the nuts and bolts that might give way whilst on the rough terrain.


  1. LUNCH SPONSORSHIP BY A FAST FOOD CHAIN: No positive news yet at publishing time from the companies that we've approached.

  2. SPONSORSHIP OF SECOND HAND WHEELCHAIRS, WALKERS, CRUTCHES, ETC: Two professors from UMMC in KL have sponsored one brand new wheelchair. We still need more.

  3. VOLUNTEERS TO FERRY THE DISABLED AND ELDERLY FROM THEIR HOMES TO FRIM AND BACK: Please contact us if you don't mind providing this service for that day.

Please contact Petpositive at 012 220 3146 or or viisit


  • MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE VALENTINA PROJECT: Why they're doing it and what they hope to see happen there.

  • GETTING YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED: Petpositive visits a local school to pick volunteers for our VP.


The End

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