Fifteen years ago Nguyen Thi Bich Van’s family gave her an ultimatum: live with us and get rid of your injured strays or go out with them. She chose the latter and since then the Ho Chi Minh City woman has been a Samaritan for injured and disabled dogs and cats.
Her mission of compassion began when in 1995 when she found a mistreated and abandoned dog and adopted him. Soon, she began to bring more of them home and her family wanted none of it.
Given the ultimatum, Van decided to move out and on to a sidewalk on Ham Tu Street in District 5 with her four-legged friends.
Her neighborhood dubbed her “caregiver of disabled dogs.”
She continued to live on the sidewalk for many years, earning a meager living by selling discarded bottles she scavenged in the streets and working as a dishwasher in restaurants, but her dedication to protecting vulnerable creatures never ceased.
She cares for her dogs and cats as if they are her own children, making sure they never go hungry even if she herself sometimes has to.
She explains that her animals give her an opportunity to practice unconditional kindness: “Some people are stone-hearted as they love their pets only when they are healthy.”
Van believes that kindness can be inculcated in animals as well. “I don’t feed the animals meat because I want to curb their aggressive instincts. I believe vegetarian food can not only help people become better individuals, but also tame animals’ wild nature.”
She often asks restaurants in her neighborhood for vegetable leftovers and saves money to buy the animals treats. She makes daily trips to the market to buy vegetables and other things she cooks for her beloved pets.
Touched by Van’s kindness, Nguyen The Anh, a Tuoi Tre correspondent wrote about her. Disabled dogs’ caregiver, which was published February 8, struck a chord in many readers and soon help began to pour in for Van.
Many sent her gifts and money and she now lives in an apartment in District 8 for which an anonymous individual is paying the rent.
But as she became well-known, she also began to be entrusted with more and more disabled and injured pets until the number rose to 50 dogs and 10 cats.
She accepts them happily despite the fact it strains her already precarious financial situation.
“I want to help their owners who, no longer able to care for their animals, place all their faith in me. I don’t want to let them down.”
Van has earned admiration around the country and, apparently, even in Cambodia from where she received some medicines for the animals.
Many individuals and organizations in Vietnam have offered to help her in her selfless task.
The sympathy and support has made her more determined than ever to pursue her mission, she says.