Thursday, February 10, 2011

Year of the Dog Bunny

The Yams with Joyful
LAST week’s lunar celebrations may have marked the Year of the Rabbit for most people.

However, for one blind gentleman nearing his sixties, the holiday occasion was all about spending his time with man’s best friends – and not to mention, some great human chums as well.    

And who do you think got Yam Tong Woo’s very first "Gong Xi Fa Cai!" greetings at the stroke of midnight last Thursday?

His three loyal canines named Prosperous, Lady and Joyful, of course!

The first is the oldest at 14-years of age, a black mixed Labrador. The second – also black – is a purebred Labrador.

And the third, a mixed small breed brown dog who unconventionally is the leader of the trio. The latter are both six-years of age.

When one gets to meet Yam and his furry friends, it isn’t difficult to understand why there is such a strong bonding among them.    

“My girls amazingly adapted to my disability when I became totally blind three years ago so much so that they are very concerned and protective over me when I am at home with them,” explained Yam who is a member of Petpositive, a national non-profit animal-assisted therapy society in the country.

Yam became blind on both eyes within a week after developing an infection from something he ate during his business trip in China.

“My pets helped to cushion the blow of suddenly becoming blind and bought me some time to accept my condition and living life as a blind person,” said Yam to Wheel Power with a smile.

The ushering in of the Rabbit year, however, saw the roles of the canines and master in reverse for a bit.

The deafening firecrackers in the neighbourhood literally brought Prosperous, Lady and Joyful into the home of the Yams.

Like other canines, they were terrified of the loud sounds which served as a great excuse to snuggle up with Yam in his bedroom as he patted and reassured them that everything would be alright by the morning.

Furry pals aside, it has always been a long standing family tradition with the Yams to embark on what is now an annual pilgrimage to Penang, where the former engineer’s in-laws reside.

Mrs Yam and Joful
“Until I became blind, I have always been the designated driver for the visits,” said Yam.

“This time, I once again became the chief front seat passenger with an equally important role to play as the blind navigator.

“With my wife, Hong, behind the wheel, I had to rely on my photographic memory of the roads that I dare say proved to be more reliable than the GPS system in our car,” Yam pointed out with a chortle.

“At the same time, I was amazed to note how much has changed over the years as Hong described the scenery as we went along.”

The six hour drive from their home in Sungei Buloh in Selangor to Penang was needless to say, gruelling.

However, it brought back pleasant memories for the Yams throughout their journey.

As they passed by Ipoh, their memory flashed back to a visit they made there only a week ago, where they met up with some old friends from the United Kingdom and Australia after an absence of 20 years.

Their pre lunar reunion occasion led them to drop by at one of the many beautiful limestone caves in the city.

“I was particularly encouraged to note during my sighted days that the authorities had thought of building some wheelchair access for persons with disabilities back then, even though I had no inkling that I would become blind one day,” Yam recalled.

“They had ramps for wheelchair users as well as handicapped-friendly toilets. However, access was only restricted to the cave's
main hall.

“I hope that those in power reading my account will take matters seriously that anyone can become handicapped at any time,” cautioned Yam.

“Thus it would be wise to start putting in all these facilities including guiding blocks for the blind and what not so that people with disabilities can also enjoy our many beautiful garden landscapes like the non disabled,” he added.

AAT session at SPCA by Petpositive
The Yams were treated to wonderful hearty meals by their relatives throughout their stay in Penang.

They also took every opportunity to visit the hawker stalls.

One of them posed a big problem for Yam. He had to cross
a busy road to get to it.

The experience was terrifying as few drivers would stop for him even though he stretched out his white cane for all to see.

When that didn’t work, he had to depend on his son who was luckily with him. However, they had to still dodge the oncoming traffic to get across.

But that was not the end of their problems.

The maze of tables and chairs set up by the hawkers was a task to get through for anyone bearing a white cane.

Yam was sure he accidently knocked down one or two “Milo-Peng” and “Kopi-O” drinks in the process.

But who really cares? The Penang “Char Kway Teow” dish in that part of town, he says, was certainly worth all the trouble.

The End

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