HCMC couple shelter hundreds of abandoned pets

By Dang Khoa, Long NguyenOctober 29, 2021 | 12:07 am PT
A HCMC couple have been adopting hundreds of stray cats and dogs for years, caring for them until they can find right owners.

Tran Uyen Nhu, 30, normally starts her day by traveling 10 km with her husband, Nguyen Quoc Khanh, from their house in District 6 to a rented house in Binh Chanh District, where more than 100 cats and 60 dogs live.

After spending the morning feeding and playing with the animals, whom they call "our children," the couple return to their house to care for another hundred of cats and dogs.

"I am always happy to seeing [them] greet me with their wagging tails," she says.

In the last seven years, they have adopted thousands of stray and abandoned cats and dogs, and helped them find new homes or buried those that died.

Nhu at her rescue center in Binh Chanh District. Photo courtesy of Nhu

Nhu at her rescue center in Binh Chanh District. Photo courtesy of Nhu

Nhu first began doing this in 2014, when she joined a group of friends that rescued and treated badly injured dogs. But after a while the others became too busy and gave up, but Nhu decided to continue with the mission.

When asked what motivates her to do it, she says: "There are many organizations specializing in helping less fortunate people. But animals also need a warm embrace and attention, and I want to show them what love is".

Khanh, not an animal lover to begin with, was persuaded by Nhu, then his girlfriend, and became a willing convert.

When she was first starting out, Nhu hid what she was doing from her parents, worried they would stop her. But once when she took them to the rescue center to see the animals, they too began to back her.

At the moment she is taking care of over 350 cats and dogs, spending nearly VND100 million ($4,388) a month to buy them food and other requirements.

She runs a pet store at home and helps her family run an eatery, while Khanh has a photo studio.

Their Facebook page, Cuu Ho Cho Meo Saigon Time (Rescuing Cats and Dogs Saigon Time), has garnered more than 130,000 likes, and compliments and encouragement constantly pour in from the online community.

"You are doing a great job, I will support your pet shop so you will have money to take care of these lovely animals," is a typical comment they received.

Nhu says animal lovers often message her on Facebook to ask if she can take in a stray or abandoned animal. But due to the large number of such requests, she only takes in animals that are sick or badly injured.

"Many pets tend to be scared and bite when we first bring them home since they were neglected or abused and have psychological problems.

"However when we care for them, we slowly earn their trust and help them transition and adjust to the new environment".

What she and her husband strive to do is find a new home for them, which also allows them to take in more cats and dogs.

To help them find the right home, she sends prospective owners a list of questions, meets them in person and has the animal live with them for two weeks to see if they fit.

She also lets them know that if one day they no longer want or are able to take care of the animal, they should return it to her instead of giving it to others.

Those who've adopted pets from Nhu said she is "super selective" when choosing new "parents" for her animal charges.

"I had to answer a lot of questions and keep updating her about my adopted cat," Le Hoang San, a District 6 resident, said.

Nguyen Thanh Quynh Nhi from Go Vap District recalled Nhu usually checked on her dog after adoption.

"Nhu is careful when choosing owners for her 'kids', always warning us she would selective."

Nhu and Khanh got married in April 2021. Photo courtesy of Nhu

Nhu and Khanh got married in April 2021. Photo courtesy of Nhu

Not giving up

The pandemic and recent lockdown in Saigon have taken a toll on their rescue center.

Since her pet store and eatery were closed for months, Nhu did not have enough money to buy food for her animals and had to borrow VND50 million from friends.

"Luckily, things are slowly getting back on track now, I can make money to take care of them and repay the debt". She says she is an optimist and the pandemic could not stop her from caring for her animals.

Indeed, the two adopted more than 100 cats and dogs during the recent lockdown, mostly from Covid-19 patients and those who were in quarantine and could not take care of their pets.

Many people, including local authorities, knowing about Nhu’s rescue center, brought their pets to her.

"I contacted those people when they recovered, but some said they cannot take care of their pets any more. So I will keep them with us until I can find them new homes."

Due to travel restrictions during the recent lockdown she could not visit the rescue center, and Khanh stayed there to take care of the animals.

"I had never been away from my husband and these cats and dogs for so long, so I was thrilled to see them again on Oct. 1," Nhu says.

The idea of giving up has crossed her mind a few times at seeing her animals die.

"But Khanh and I encourage each other to keep going and not abandon our animals."

The couple once canceled their wedding and sold their wedding rings to raise some money required for the animals. They say people criticize and make fun of this often.

"Of course some people will think Khanh and I are out of our minds, but we had support from our families and many animal lovers, that was the most important thing".

She says she has seen a lot of people stop rescuing animals once they have children but "Khanh and I do not plan to have children at the moment; we want to entirely focus on our animals and help them find permanent homes."

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