COULD you name a place that gives you happiness, but makes you sad at the same time? And why?
Should fate play a trick on me in my next life—if ever there is one—by thrusting me on stage as a contender to one of those mindless and overstretched beauty pageants, I’d know perfectly well what to answer if asked such a question. And it’s not a product of long hours of research or rehearsal to be politically correct, but simply borne out of how I feel.
I’ve got it all written in my mind the first time I stepped inside one. And I’m not referring to either a church or a museum. A mall or a series of outlet stores, one of my favorite destinations here in the Philippines and abroad, doesn’t even come close either.
As an animal lover, I’m simply happiest being in a pet store surrounded by all sorts of cute animals—from dogs to cats, birds to fish, hamsters to bunnies—and the various accessories, grooming products and contraptions fellow humans have invented for us to better appreciate these creatures. As a child, it gave me such a thrill to spend an hour or so with my classmates in a pet store staring at all those caged dogs regardless of their breeds.
I’m one dog lover who’s breed-blind, although I’ve expressed a preference for medium-sized dogs since my family and I began caring regularly for these furry companions almost 30 years ago. There was a time when we had five lovable askals (short for asong kalye, of course, or mongrels) in our then small, three-bedroom house.
Unlike not a few people who seem to treat their pedigreed dogs as pickup lines and icebreakers during parties, I simply don’t care if my pets are purebred or not. To me, a dog is a dog—funny, lovable, loyal and emotionally intelligent—regardless of breed.
No thanks to those pesky blood-borne parasites carried by those equally ugly and good-for-nothing ticks, my dogs—starting from little Chino to his mother Pipay and his big sister Popoya—started dying one after the other in a matter of months in 2005. I was constantly rushing to the vet and grieving afterwards all by my lonesome, as my parents were then vacationing in the US.
In the end, I was left with Dexter and his dad Popoy, two hardy souls who complemented (and often clashed with) each other’s personalities. Only Dexter, a white furry bear of a dog, lives to this day.
I also find myself stumped whenever somebody would ask me whether I’m a dog or a cat person. Although I love dogs, I don’t exactly loathe cats like some of my dog-loving friends do. Cats can be quite endearing as well in their own imperious, low-maintenance and independent ways.
I’ve stopped counting, but we also have eight or so pusakals (pusang kalye or “mongrel” cats) in our care. And since almost all of them have been named, they’re not going anywhere unless they have takers.
But admittedly, dogs carry a lot more weight in my heart. Apart from displaying unique personalities (cats have distinct quirks, too), dogs seem to have the uncanny ability to look into your eyes, read your mind and predict your next moves. (Psst, Dexter knows more secrets about me than any of my good friends do.) Their ability to empathize is way up there that they can readily beat the EQs of some people I know. I’m not kidding.
That’s why it is with great excitement that I’m introducing to you Luigi, a mocha-colored Chinese-crested “powderpuff” with charcoal gray streaks. He was given to me as a gift by artist, interior designer and all-around nice guy Junjun Ablaza. I’ve always loved big dogs, but toy dogs, to my surprise, can be a whole lot of fun, too.
I trooped to Junjun’s home in Quezon City a few weeks ago to write about his house and how he arranges and juxtaposes his fabulous finds from all over the world. In the course of the interview, I also learned that he’s a dog lover and breeder. Being an observant person himself, Junjun seemed to have sniffed out that I’m a dog lover, too.
Before the interview was over, he offered to give me one of his dogs without me even asking for one. How could I say no? A brown furry ball of a canine caught my attention, and is now capturing everyone’s heart at home. Like I said, I’ve never been into breeds, so I didn’t really know what I was getting until Junjun informed me much later.
Dog names, Italian-style
And in honor of my recent trip to Italy, I’ve decided to name him Luigi. Gelato sounded too sissy and generic, while Giovanni would have been too pompous in a country like the Philippines where the Pinoy everyman is named simply Juan or John. Silvio, like the former and perhaps future prime minister of Italy, sounded too old and sleazy. 🙂 So Luigi, a fun and funny name, it is.
Dexter, my pal of almost ten years, has yet to warm up to his little companion. But I’m hopeful that they would soon hit it off in no time.
Now back to the Miss Universe question I started answering awhile ago. Being inside a pet store makes me happy, but it also makes me sad knowing that perhaps a good number of the caged animals in my midst may not find the owners they deserve. Some may not find owners at all, period.
I hate to find out what these pet factories really do once an animal with no takers has outgrown his or her window of cuteness. Just thinking about it makes me tear up.