The Bon Ton animal shelter, located on the Duty-free island of Langkawi originally started in Kuala Lumpur over 20 years ago. There, a restaurant/hotel owner and animal lover began a shelter and several years later moved the operation to Langkawi. The shelter consists of several parts. One is the retirement ward where over 60 dogs spend the remainder of their lives in spacious yards or in the owners home and are tended to carefully and lovingly by full-time staff members. The second part is located at a different location near the base of the mountains of Langkawi where over 70 dogs are looked after by full-time staff. The last is also located at the Bon Ton Resort and they are the “regular” shelter dogs. Over 50 young to middle-aged (or even old dogs who think they are still young such as 16-year old Nemo) dogs call the shelter home and are walked daily by volunteers and have play-time or social time in the afternoons.
The volunteer program is organized by another avid animal lover volunteer of over 10 years, Dorothy, who is a resident of Langkawi and joins in on the morning walks daily. There are of course other staff members who assist in the cleaning and general caring of the shelter dogs and over 100 cats there as well. For with so many animals, it would be impossible not to have staff on board!! While volunteers help with walking dogs, feeding, general cleaning when needed and play time in the afternoons, the staff concentrate on deep cleaning the dog and cat shelters daily and assist in the clinic when a vet is present.
Though I’d only really had one other experience volunteering at an animal shelter, I will say that volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter, well it was like the gold standard or 5 star of shelters! Why do I say this? Simply because of the standards of care given by the staff to the animals and the way that volunteers are treated. Accommodations are provided for, daily meals are taken care of, and even one meal weekly from the restaurant is provided! And let me tell you, the Bon Ton restaurant food is absolutely delicious!!! To this day I’m still missing their steaks with mashed potatoes in balsamic gravy!! Accommodations included a bed, private bath with HOT water (almost fainted hearing this), TV (what???) with a DVD player (pinch me now!!).
But of course all this came with actual work. Six days a week, from 9:45am (sometimes 9am depending on need) until 6pm (lunch break of course provided) we worked with the dogs and cats. Feeding, walking, cleaning, playing, bathing, constructing new shelter bits, raking yards, putting up new fencing, etc, etc. The work in my opinion wasn’t difficult, and because I was there for the animals, it didn’t really matter to me how long the work days were. In fact, there were several times that I or other volunteers worked well past the 6pm mark, but it was all for the animals. And as animal lovers know, animals know no time! They are 24/7 responsibilities who in return offer the most amazing and purest of love.
I ended up staying at the Bon Ton Animal Shelter for about 2 months in total. During my time there I also learned about a horse stable on the island that also allowed volunteers to come help, so I ended up moving there for a couple of weeks, then returned to Bon Ton for the last few days I was on the island. Then sadly had to say my goodbyes for good and had to head to Kuala Lumpur, then out of the country as my 3 month visa was coming close to expiring.
Volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter was an amazing experience. The loving care provided to the animals by staff and volunteers made the experience so very rich. I look forward to returning there when time permits and miss the animals (and people of course who I think of as family) daily!!