It was fine weather for a cycling expedition.

I collected my team member Cyn from her home, and we managed to get our two foldies to fit into the back seat of my Kancil. Although we picked bicycles as our mode of transportation, our survey began when we left her house in my car shortly before 7am. The reason why we didn’t start at her house was because it laid just off our work map, and because I wanted the car to be in a central location in case anything happens (which will likely have to do with me running out of steam halfway).

We were one of the 17 teams involved in the city’s first stray dog survey, which will attempt to gather data on where stray dogs congregate so the city’s three councils and survey organiser Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) can formulate a management plan for urban strays.  Volunteers form teams of between two to four members, pick a mode of transportation and are assigned an area to cover between 7am to 9am of the survey day.

We didn’t get as many volunteers as we hoped, so we only did the Kuching South City Council (MBKS) area today. The other two areas, Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) and Padawan Municipal Council (MPP), will be surveyed on Sept 21. We hope to have more volunteers then.

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As it went, we didn’t see any dogs until around 7.30am at Jalan Chan Chin Ann. Someone made sure there is a water container of sorts catching drips from the office air con, and this became the watering hole for dogs (and possibly cats) in the area.

We stuck to the back lanes since we’ve rarely seen dogs on the main roads of the city. Occasionally a street smart mutt will be waiting to cross at the traffic lights, but at that hour of the morning, we were right about them sticking close to the quiet corners of the street or near coffee shops.

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Clockwise from top left: A makeshift water dish for the neighbourhood strays; studying the map and updating the sheet while Cyn (yellow dot in the background) goes off to eyeball an injured stray; the dogs of Jalan Sungai Padungan 4… one had strips of missing fur from his back, the other had a fungal problem.

The advantage of riding a bike was that we could easily dive into any little lanes we see, including those we have not ventured into before. A bike is more discreet than a car, and it gives license to explore… to ride down a path or to the end of a road where cars would have been awkward, ungainly, or purposeful.

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Left: Cyn ahead of me on the Abok Pier. Right: My foldie, Blue Magnum, at the very end of the pier.

Riding a bike meant surprises, like the fish market and ice factory somewhere along Petanak, a wrecked fishing boat in the shallows of the river, hawkers dotting the river banks, and huge tents housing the Sarawak Regatta teams.

Our MO was to pull over and update our sheet whenever we spotted a dog, but in the second hour, it seemed easier to keep on riding as long as we know the road name, stopping when we’ve made one or two more sightings.

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Clockwise from left: Me, checking the map to figure out the road name; Cyn riding alongside a forklift near an ice factory; Cyn updating our sheet with the latest sightings.

In some places, the dogs keep a safe distance away from people. In others, they bounce out on the road and invite another dog to play with them. Riding through Ang Cheng Ho, Cyn spotted a dog in a distance and called out, “One!” As we passed a corner kopitiam , I heard two barks and a white dog lunged out of the shop at me with a warning snap. “Two!” I yelled and kept riding while breakfast diners watched me sail off.

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Top: Two dogs, content to sniff about and ignore us. Bottom: Tallying up the morning’s sightings at breakfast.

We did not manage to cover our area 100%, but I’m satisfied that we were thorough with the places that we did cover. At 9am, we ended our survey at Ban Hock Road and went to get breakfast. I completed our paperwork while we waited for our food. We logged 27 city dogs, four of which we listed as injured or sick. The forms and map will be returned to MBKS next week.

I had a good time, and was only a bit tired by the time we got back to my car. My biggest accomplishment was making it up that bitch of a hill on Jalan Mathies without falling off my bike. I’m getting better at this!

Cynthia’s version of the the day is here.

The survey of DBKU and MPP on Sept 21 is still welcoming volunteers. Put a team together and contact either Brenda Png (019-8863118, brendapng@yahoo.com) or Rebecca D’Cruz (019-8579110).

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