Meet The Malay Woman 'Dignifying A Profession' With Her Unconditional Love For Stray Dogs

In a country where Muslims abhor dogs for religious reasons, Halijah Idris, the widow of famous stray animal rescuer Pak Mie, have bucked that belief to rescue and care for stray and abandoned dogs in Malaysia's rice-bowl state, Kedah.

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On 19 January, Halijah Idris, known as Mak Intan, the widow of famous stray animal rescuer Pak Mie, received the "Dignifying A Profession" award from the Rotary Club of Petaling Jaya for her unconditional love for stray animals despite facing numerous challenges and hatred from a section of Malaysia's Malays

Mak Intan, whose real name is Halijah Idris, has continued her late husband's work in providing care and shelter for stray animals despite facing some challenges.

"This award is for Pak Mie, not for me. Unfortunately, Pak Mie is no longer here with us today, but I want to thank everyone for their continuous support," said the teary-eyed widow as she accepted her award.

The award is a platform to recognise volunteers who provide a meaningful contribution to society. This year, all four recipients are volunteers who take in stray animals. The other three were Candy Ang, Susan Saw and Ruth Chow.

Mak Intan receiving an award from a Rotary Club representative for her work with stray animals.

Image via TMI

Her love and care for strays is second to none

Halijah, or Mak Intan as she is fondly known, has been taking care of stray dogs and cats with her late husband Muhammad Azmi Ismail (better known as Pak Mie) for close to 30 years.

Currently, she lives at her shelter in Tanjung Bendahara, Alor Star, Kedah and cares for over 1,000 dogs and cats, four monkeys and two foxes.

Every day, she said she would find another abandoned stray at her doorstep.

"Since Pak Mie's death, it has been especially hard for me. There had been harassment from places like the Land Office or Veterinary Department and such that keep demanding we operate up to their standards."
Image via TMI

However, maintaining a shelter is no easy task. It's also expensive.

Every month, Mak Intan requires a hefty amount to sustain the shelter, mainly to cover the cost of food for the animals.

“The dogs alone need six to seven 20kg-packs of dog food daily. One pack of dog food is about RM150. That does not include canned food for puppies,” she said, adding that a can could easily cost her RM4.50.

On days when Mak Intan serves rice as an alternative for dog kibble, she requires 100kg of rice to feed all her furry friends. There are days when she has to scour leftovers at nearby hawker centres to feed the animals.

“Their meals come first. Even when I am tight on budget, I have to make sure my babies have something to eat. After their meals are sorted, the next thing to worry about is their medicine and my workers’ salaries,” she said.

Mak Intan prepares food for the strays at the shelter.

Image via TMI

Currently, she is looking for a new place to set up her shelter

"We are looking for another place to set up the shelter. Most of the people from the kampung are not happy with the shelter and wants us to move. Any area less than three acres will not be enough."

Mak Intan hoped that sponsors who would be able to help her find a permanent home to properly house her and the animals.

She also welcomes adoptions, a policy implemented after Pak Mie's passing in March last year. But, there were few adoptions as most people prefer beautiful pets that are vaccinated. Mak Intan and Pak Mie were well-known nationwide for rescuing abandoned, sick and stray cats and dogs.

Recollecting when she first met Pak Mie, thr 68-year-old Mak Intan said she was still married to her first husband, Ramli Shafi'i, when they moved next door to Pak Mie’s house in Alor Setar in the 70s

When Ramli was on his deathbed, he made Pak Mie promise to look after Mak Intan as he was worried about her

“I have always loved animals and when Pak Mie asked me to marry him, I told him I will only say yes on one condition — he must not stop me from caring for strays. Oddly enough, he only smiled and told me we can go around saving strays together,” she said, adding that was when she knew they were soul mates.

They tied the knot in 1989. Two years later, they opened their shelter and started rescuing homeless and sick animals in Alor Setar.

Pak Mie and Mak Intan with Bobby, one of the hundreds of stray dogs they have.

Image via The Star

“We did not have the heart to leave them on the streets knowing they might not make it the next day,” she said.

“We named the dogs based on where we found them. If we rescued a puppy from a tree, we would call him ‘Kok’ (short for pokok), from inside a drain, ‘Kang’ (short for longkang) or on the streets, ‘Lan’ (short for jalan),” she said.

The couple had battled the odds together, standing up to condemnation, criticism and even slander for their kindness towards dogs, which are considered unclean by Muslims. Pak Mie died last March, aged 58, following a stroke.

But Mak Intan continues to care for their 700 dogs, 200 cats, four monkeys and two foxes at their Tanjung Bendahara shelter.

"When Pak Mie was alive, I was in charge of cooking, cleaning the compound and giving medicine to the sick animals. He would go out on errands, buy food and get medicines for the animals. Now that I’m alone, I have to do everything on my own. It is especially hard on me after he’s gone,” she said.

To help the shelter, donations can be made to Mak Intan's Public Bank account (68368860-36)

Image via Borneo Post