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MRP Building, Mola Corner Pasong Tirad Streets, Brgy La Paz, Makati City

Girl in a jacket

No dog ever tires of seeing his life

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Sometimes, I envy the bliss of my dogs’ ignorance, how easy their lives must be from one day to the next, and how nothing has changed for them. Taal Volcano erupted, and ash fell in late 2019. Even with the state-mandated lockdown in March of the following year till now, nothing changed for them. Only their masters’ lives changed.

I can never truly be called a fur parent or a master of my two dogs. I played no part in their upbringing besides my incessant need to pet them, to feel the silkiness of their fur and look at each of them with fondness through a window or the screen door, lovingly calling their names as a parent calls for their cooing child, revealing their grinning and, sometimes, asking faces. If there’s anyone in my household who has that honor, it’s Kuya. He was and still is the one with the patience and kindness necessary to parent our faithful, furry, four-legged, canine friends.

When we got Snowy, our first dog, from the grassy backyard of my father’s cousin in San Juan, Batangas as a puppy, I had already spent at least two years devouring Animal Planet videos on YouTube, learning about as many dog breeds as I could. As measly and pitiful as it may have seemed, I thought about it as training or education to prepare myself to care for my own. After all, no one else was there to talk or speak to me about dogs, how to properly care for them at the very least. I took matters into my own hands by watching video after video after video.

Snowy, aspin, dogs, dog
via Hezekiah Louie Zaraspe

I learned about the Newfoundland, the giant dog who nannied the Darling children of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, how it assists fishers with breaking nets as they catch fish in the Labrador Sea. I learned about the Poodle and how it used to be a hunting dog before it became the luxury breed owned by the rich and famous we know of today. I learned about how Dalmatians used to bark at crowds of people to clear the way of the elite’s horse-drawn carriages. I learned that the Dobermann was bred to guard the money gathered by tax collectors in Germany. Knowing these and more never prepared Kuya and I when we got Snowy, an aspin who bore no resemblance to any of the dog breeds I learned online. My knowledge betrayed me; we didn’t know what to expect.

My father’s cousin claimed that Snowy had a glorious heritage and spoke highly of it albeit in a loud, boisterous, unsure voice:

“E ang sabi ay nakamana ng pagiging Labrador s’ya mula sa ina n’ya. Kalahating Labrador raw ang ina. Ang ama? Ewan!”

(Well, they say he’s part-Labrador on his mother’s side. The mother is supposedly half-Labrador. As for the father? No idea!)

Snowy’s dad could’ve been a mastiff or an enormous sheepdog. But, the pictures said one thing: he was an aspin through and through. His mom, too. So, we learned that Snowy is allegedly one-fourth Labrador and three-fourths unknown.

His fur was utterly white initially, earning his name, Snowy, the name of Tintin’s terrier from the Polish comic book series of the same name. We later noticed that patches of brown fur started to appear as he aged, including his left ear and near his tail, nearly invalidating the name I so carefully thought about.

Completely unpredictable. An aspin. A Filipino.

I heard these words from the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider echo in my mind as we struggled in the first few months of raising him:

My ignorance amuses me.

And it amused us both, Kuya and I, to no end.

It was Kuya who took up the mantle of dog parent and master while I cheered him on from the sidelines, afraid of committing a mistake as all parents do. Kuya taught Snowy how to sit, where to relieve himself, and to eat only after they both have prayed to God for it. Kuya helped him get used to walking on a leash, how to stroll around our village with much glee and gladness.

I thought I would never play a role in our dog’s life. I thought that was pretty much it; but, our family began to manage a farm in the province one day. Responsibilities had to be relegated to each family member, which meant I had to learn how to take care of our faithful, furry, four-legged, canine friend.

My seemingly estranged relationship with Snowy had somehow come to an end, and so I began to learn the ropes of being a dog owner. Kuya schooled me about Snowy’s habits, likes, dislikes, and predilections, how the dog’s territorial instincts would kick in if I ever dragged his dish across the floor using a stick, how he would growl at me if I ever petted him while holding his plate full of food, or how he was well-liked by and fancied some of the village’s female dogs. Nothing prepared me, though, for walking him on my own.

As gentle as he usually is, Snowy thrashes and jumps about when he senses that his time for a walk has come. The weight of his body would sometimes be so much that I would stumble as I attempted to go to his side. No end to it will come unless I untie his leash knotted to one of our living room’s windows. Once loose, he will pull me toward our gate and the rest of the walk if I don’t hasten enough.

It took him some time to learn and to respect the sluggish manner I wanted to walk. All because I didn’t want to expend much energy walking him through the inner streets of our village. There are four streets that he frequents after all: Reed Avenue, Wood Crest Street, Pearl Blossom Street, and Orchard Road. He senses it and follows my lead, and I follow his.

There is nothing exciting about our walks, but his definition of excitement differed from mine. The panting, the sniffing, the puttering, the frolicking, and the trotting about—these are all the joys he relishes as we go on his daily adventure.

From ashfall till the pandemic, from puppyhood to doghood, his starry eyes never lost their luster whenever we walked. He knows no ashfall, sickness, nor death. He just knows that he most definitely needs to walk without fail.

While putting on my mask as I prepared myself to walk him with our other dog and Kuya one warm July morning, I began to ask myself:

“Why does he [Snowy] never tire of walking? He sniffs and walks by the same patches and glades of grass, the same houses, the same potted plants, and flowers.”

I questioned it. I tried to peer into the mind of my furry friend. And I, after much pondering, understood him.

I understood the grandeur of his every day. I understood that there was something grand about the mundane, how it glitters and shimmers, how it reminds us to stop, to take it all in, to be in the moment, to stay still, even to see the poetic, the Shakespearean in the ordinary of every day.

Snowy reminds me that there is something beautiful in the mundane. And I can see it in those unrelenting Van Gogh eyes, the awe and wonder he sees in the soil he steeps his paws in and the whiff of morning dew.

I can see it when he greets our neighbors’ inhospitable cats, in the sight of those whom he loves (including the cream-colored Husky in one street who fancies him, too), and the knowledge that, after all of this grand, routinely adventure, it is time to go home, to nestle near the hearth and warmth of food and home and family, curling to one corner of our home’s porch.
That’s probably why he insists that I—we—walk him. Maybe it’s his way of beckoning Kuya and I forward so that we won’t miss out on all the fun and glamour of every day, starry eyes and all.

My ignorance amuses me.

It most certainly has. After all, no dog ever tires of seeing his life. And I shouldn’t tire of mine, too.

POP! Creator Community/Hezekiah Louie Zaraspe


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