Macau’s Animal Ambassador

Macau’s Animal Ambassador

 

Faye Ho is one of the most famous names in Macau’s strengthening move towards animal welfare. Hailing from one of the territory’s most famous families, her love for animals is more than a passion; it’s something that has shaped her whole life.

It’s a particularly hot day on the afternoon we meet Faye Ho and her four-legged family members at The Grand Lapa Hotel. Yet despite the heat and four panting Chihuahuas, who are regularly given bowls of water, the mood is decidedly upbeat and the shoot is a breeze, Faye and her brood make the on/off camera transition with the greatest of ease.

As one of Macau’s most recognised faces, Faye makes this transition in other areas with great ease too, from the pages of glossy society magazines to getting her hands dirtyand getting stuck in to help at animal shelters, she is comfortable in both worlds.

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Today a mother of two and residing in the UK, Faye’s strong connection to animals goes beyond mere companionship, in many ways they saved her when an accident at a very young age changed her life forever.

“Animals came into my life in childhood, I lost my parents when I was six, so I moved to Macau with my sister and we weren’t really allowed to go out that much, we didn’t have friends come over or playmates,” Faye explains.

“My aunt had a lot of dogs, she loved Saluki’s, a particular type of breed, and I would always go up to the cages and play with them. So they kind

of became my friends, they became my soul mates.”

At the age of seven Faye went to stay with another aunt in London who owned a black Labrador, called Jake. “I was only about six or seven, this was not long after my parents passed away, and I think because of the shock of it, I was very timid. But Jake was the first thing I spoke to, I was so scared I wouldn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t know what to say, obviously due to shock. But my aunt told me that apparently Jake was the first animal I spoke to.”

So profound was the role of dogs in her life, Faye made a vow to honour the love and strength she received from them, “When I got older and came back to Macau, I said that if I had the opportunity, I want to help animals, it’s something I want to give back to.”

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Giving Back

At the end of 2004 Faye did return to the territory and a fateful moment started something big, ”I came across a newspaper article from Anima, they were in need of a number of different items to help the dogs so I visited them and thought ‘oh wow, this is what I want to do.’”

Faye started volunteering and helping financially too. Located in a remote area in Coloane, on a type of makeshift chicken farm, they had about 100 dogs and some of them had severe skin problems which stemmed from the concrete ground, every time they cleaned it, it took a long time to dry, so the humidity caused the problems, “One of the first things I did was get someone to tile the ground so it will dry faster and put fans in the corners to help dry the floor.”

Not one to shy away from the challenges the situation presented, Faye took on all tasks “I remember rescuing a dog with ticks all over it, and I was taking all the ticks off and giving him a bath, very hands on- but I loved it, it was something that I wanted to do.”

In 2006 Faye went from volunteer to President of Anima, a position she held for four years, “Given my background, I used it to my advantage, I did a lot of interviews, in newspapers and magazines, to let people know about the abandonment of animals which, at the time in Macau was very severe.”

In 2007 other ventures also arose, “At that time I saw a gap in the market to set up a pet shop with a boarding service, so Dog One Life was created. ”Not selling any animals, the space was used as a boarding house and a place to adopt abandoned ones.

In 2008 the Royal Veterinarian Centre clinic, opened with one of the leading veterinarians in Macau, Dr. Ruan Bester, offering world-class services, in a territory where regulations didn’t and still don’t exist.

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“The clinic was started mainly for Anima pets because I don’t trust other vets so I would rather do it myself.”

At Anima Faye started noticing a worrying trend, “Anima had three St Bernard’s and I saw the problem- in Macau pet owners tend to go with the trend- so let’s say a movie comes out with a husky, people immediately go out and get one.”

Another major problem in Macau is space, according to Faye- a lot of people live in apartments, and St Bernard’s are really not a suitable animal to have here, space andweather wise. The extreme heat means that many breeds are not suitable to the territory, “I feel really bad when I see Husky’s on the streets here.”

Protecting Our World

“Different places around the world treat animals very differently; in some places they will do anything for them and treat them like family. Asia is getting there; it will still take some time though. It’s an old tradition they have about eating dogs, cats and the other things, some say it has properties, see it as a delicacy.”

Faye wants to see a more long term vision to be adopted by many, “We humans are the highest species on earth, we created everything, have brains, we can build, we can teach, we can evolve the world into whatever we want, but at the same time we are the ones making some of these animals extinct, there has to be a compromise. The human population is in overdrive; the numbers are increasing, what’s going to happen when these animals are one day extinct? What are we going to do? It’s just going to be us. People need to think about that,” she reflects.p01 Cover Photo Retouched-curves

There is optimism to be felt looking at young people today, “Younger generations are bigger animal lovers, they see all animals as friends, ‘you can’t just chop them up and eat them’” she laughs of the emerging attitudes.

Time is also driving things in the right direction, “In Macau from 2006 to now a lot has changed, people are more aware and more are voicing their concerns. Publicity and social media are also bringing things out into the open, if people see things that they feel are not right, they post it online.”

“They are our best friends. A dog will never abandon us. They always come with their wagging tails, they are always happy to see us, even if we are feeling sad. Why do we have to treat them badly?”

People need to understand that, apart from being our best friends, dogs can also save our lives. “Dogs are being trained to help humans with a whole host of health issues, using their incredible sense of smell, they can identify diabetes, cancer, etc. being trained as police dogs, to find people in rubble and so forth” Faye stresses.

The Fab Four

Looking at the four happy Chihuahuas at the interview, they are clearly very loved and have very particular characters. “I have a thing for Chihuahuas,” Faye smiles, given one as a gift by her aunt Deborah when she was a child, her love for the breed has stayed for life.

When Faye was living in New York and pregnant with her daughter Melanie she got Snowflake, a longhair Chihuahua. “She looks a bit lonely” Faye told herself one day and Tinkerbelle (a shorthair) joined the family. Another longhair, Bambi, and a shorthair, Brownie soon followed and the group was complete.

With four dogs in Macau and two in the UK, one thing Faye wants animal owners in Macau
to urgently do is to microchip
their dogs. Hearing of so many stories where dogs run off their properties only to be lost
and never re-united with their families is deeply sad, being a responsible owner means taking
all precautions possible to ensure the safety and well being of your pet.

Sweetie

Sweetie, a very special dog, brings together two causes close to Faye’s heart, Chinese mongrel dogs and raising awareness. Currently living in the UK, Sweetie’s story started on a beach in Macau. “She was rescued by a friend of mine who found her on Coloane beach with little crusty ears, she was only a puppy and she took her back home. It was around 2003, Anima was just starting, and the woman running Anima at the time, Jackie Hill, took her in, with a few other dogs and fell in love with Sweetie. She was planning to return to Australia, where she was from, and wanted to take all her dogs back with her.”

Sweetie was awaiting a blood test and (fortunately) didn’t pass, so she couldn’t go. When Faye next went to Anima she found Sweetie looking up at the moon, wearing a very cute expression and decided there and then to keep her. Sweetie had to take another blood test to see if she could travel to the UK and this time she passed.

Because of her uniqueness and where she’s from, Faye is planning to set up a blog for Sweetie, who is now happy at home in the UK. “The number of people who come up to us when I walk her down the street look at her and ask: what type of dog is she? I explain the story, a Chinese mongrel and I explain what people do to these types of dogs in Asia, and how sad it is.”

Faye wants Chinese mongrel dogs to be given love and to be valued. “I want to start a blog for Europeans and English people to see how these dogs are treated.” Sweetie may be on her way to be an international Chinese mongrel celebrity.

If anyone can make that happen, Faye Ho can.

Dogs on Show

Shortly after becoming Anima President they received an invitation to take part in the Miss Asia pageant in 2006. They wanted 20 dogs to walk with the girls on stage, and Faye saw the perfect publicity opportunity, “I wanted our name on TV.”
“I handpicked 20 dogs and we had two rehearsal days, I organised all the cages and they allocated two bathrooms for our use.” The day of the show was Faye’s birthday, “So I spent my birthday in a men’s bathroom,” she laughs at the memory.
“They wanted the dogs on stage with 20 contestants and some of the girls were scared of the dogs. I brought in Tinkerbell for the most nervous contestants.”
“One of the girls was so scared, she had never touched a dog before, and I finally convinced her to carry Tinkerbell and by the end of the show she absolutely loved her. I felt pride in the fact that I had convinced someone to like animals,” Faye smiles.
On the night of the show all the staff were wearing red vests with Anima on it and it was broadcast in Hong Kong and Macau channels as well as getting the MC to announce where the dogs were from and that they were up for adoption with a contact number.
The show went without a hitch and the very next day the lines were jammed and they saw 4 to 5 adoptions. Success!