Hesti Sutrisno, 38, with John, a stray dog she rescued from the streets, at her house in Pamulang near Jakarta on Thursday (15/03). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

In the Name of Love: Story of a Muslim Dog Lover


MARCH 21, 2018

Banten, West Java. Hesti Sutrisno, a Muslim woman who wears the niqab, or full veil, has an unusual hobby: picking up stray dogs off the streets and taking care of them in her house, which she has turned into a dog shelter.

Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country, and Hesti and her twin daughters, Ayunda and Adinda, 11, are often bullied and face abuse from neighbors for looking after the dogs.


In Islam, a dog's saliva is believed to be tainted, and Muslims are not allowed to come in contact with it.

In her house in Pamulang, just outside Jakarta, Hesti now keeps 11 dogs and 30 cats.

The 37-year-old met the first stray dog she rescued scrounging for food in a rubbish tip in 2015.

"I wanted to feed it, but I was afraid of dogs then. My neighbor had to come with me to the tip," Hesti said.

"A few days after that, the same dog came to my house. So I asked my family if I could keep it in the house until it gets better," she said.

Hesti's twin daughters, Ayunda and Adinda, 11, are often bullied for keeping dogs in their house. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

The mother of two said a lot of people still consider stray dogs and cats as "pests," and leave them to die on the streets.

Animal rights groups say many dogs are stolen from their owners or picked up from the streets to be slaughtered for their meat.

"I didn't really want to keep them in the house, since my house is too small, and I don't have much money. But I can't stand seeing them suffering on the streets," Hesti said.

Hesti said she once took in seven puppies whose parents had been killed.

Hesti sells kerupuk (crackers) for a living and has had to sell her motorcycle and other belongings to be able to keep her cats and dogs.

But lately, donations have come from people who saw her posts about her adopted dogs on Facebook.

"Those posts went viral. People say I did it because I want to scam people for money. That's not true," Hesti said.

Against Tradition

Hesti said the posts had also created controversies since many Muslims think she is transgressing Islamic laws by keeping and touching dogs in her house.

"I know dogs are najis [dirty, impure] according to Islam. I always purify myself after touching them, either by wudu [ritual washing] or by taking a shower," Hesti said.

She said she never replies to people insulting her and calling her names on social media.

Hesti's dream is to move to her parents' village near Bogor, West Java, where she will have more space for the dogs.

"I want to take these dogs to my village. The people there are a lot friendlier to dogs. My neighbors here in Pamulang often complain about the noises they make," Hesti said.