Dawn Merck, can barely walk after she met with an accident 12 years ago, but despite her condition, the 77-year-old has chosen to take care of 40 stray cats.
Merck has been coming to the UAE on and off from England for 40 years because her German husband worked in Sharjah. About 10 years ago, she decided to settle in the city.
Currently the British national is living in a villa in Sharjah. But she is not alone, she has 40 cat friends as well as one dog to take care of.
“It started ten years ago when my housekeeper asked to take care of a couple of stary cats who needed a home, ten years later, we have around 40 of those,” she said.
However, Merck is no longer able to take care of the pets she has accumulated over the years. She is planning to go back to England but she is extremely worried about the cats she will be leaving behind in the UAE.
“I need people to adopt these cats I have. They will not be able to survive on their own on the streets, the conditions are very rough for them,” she said.
The cats currently are well taken care of and pampered Merck told Gulf News.
“They have three feeding stations around the house. Some stay in the garden, some inside in the rooms and some go in and out of the house,” Merck said.
Merck also said that all the cats she has are neutered, groomed and ready to be adopted.
Due to Merck’s condition because of the accident she was met with 12 years ago, she is unable to walk without crutches. She also said that old age is catching onto her, making her overall weak.
When Gulf News asked whether she is a homemaker, she giggled and said: “I can barely even do that now.”
Morris and Deborah Bumakil are two siblings who work as Merck’s caretakers as well as take care of the pets.
The Filipino duo, as Merck says, are “the best at taking care of the cats.”
It was Deborah who ten years ago approached Merck with the idea of housing stray animals in the neighbourhood of Sharjah’s Al Fisht area, where they currently live.
Deborah wakes up every day and manages everything that needs to be taken care of for the cats.
“Every morning I feed them, clean the litter boxes and surroundings for the cats, and then I do anything else,” Deborah said.
Deborah is particularly fond of animals as she had four dogs back home in the Philippines. Over the years, she has created a special bond with the cats who live with her in Sharjah, reminding her of the pets she had back home.
“I love them [the cats],” she said.
However, she is afraid of what would happen to them once Merck moves back to England.
“We need people to adopt these cats. They are not street cats, they need a home. We do not have the financial means to take care of all of them,” she said.
It takes over Dh5000 every month to feed the army of cats, Deborah explained.
Some neighbours are helping the cause.
“We have Pakistani and Yemeni neighbours around our house who feed the cats. They keep the food around their homes but we primarily take care of them,” Merck said.
Amongst the 40, many of the cats are highly dependent on the shelter and care Merck, Morris and Deborah have provided.
“We have a blind cat and a three-legged cat. Also, I took many of them in from the vet because they were being put down by their owners. I just could not let that happen,” Merck said.
Despite planning to leave the UAE for good in 2020, Merck wants such efforts to continue.
“The most heartbreaking thing is to hear more dogs barking and cats meowing at our doorstep for us to adopt them. These [stray] animals need homes and help,” she said.
Currently, Merck is desperately on the lookout for people looking to adopt her cats.