Some may find it peculiar that 40-year-old Suesti, who wears a niqab and is known as Hesti Sutrisno on her social media accounts, is a dog lover.
The mother of three, who sells chips and crackers for a living, has adopted 70 stray dogs that live on her property in Tenjolaya, Bogor, West Java. Before that, she adopted 11 stray dogs in Pamulang, South Tangerang, Banten.
Traditionally, Muslims avoid canines because of religious teachings. In Islam, dogs are considered unclean, especially their saliva, and they are rarely kept as pets. Some Muslims are taught from a young age to have a strong distaste for dogs.
Initially, Suesti was afraid of dogs. She recalled two times she was chased by a dog, once as a young girl and once as she was giving her kids a ride to school.
She started as more of a cat person.
“At one point, I had at least 100 cats,” Suesti said, thinking back to 2015. She had yet to purchase property in Bogor and lived only in Pamulang at the time.
During this time, she noticed an emaciated black dog that lived in an empty house in her neighborhood. The dog – called Jhon – was so malnourished that it would sometimes eat waste paper.