Of Dogs & Men

Make no mistake, this blog entry makes zero effort to be reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s compelling and heart-rending novella. There’s no George or Lennie here. Just me and my so-called life with old pets and “men of old.”

And enough of the men-bashing already, hehehe… not that I’d mind getting a chance to beat up the assholes / jerks that I’ve met in my life (it was good that those were the one-time-date types). Oooops! But my imaginary shrink said that if I keep on getting attracted to the wrong kinds of men, then there must be something wrong with me! 😉 Makes me wonder, is that right?

One more thing, this isn’t a comparison between men and dogs; at least, that isn’t my original intent :-)… how can I compare them with one another? Can you think of a reason why I should even try doing that?

Well, the two most beloved dogs in my life were and still are Venus & Dexter— though I love pets in general: cats, dogs, hamsters, chickens, rabbits, pigs and guinea pigs – yeah, we had all sorts. My brother and I spent the first couple of years in the country or barrio as we call it, and we had a lot of pets. My brother even had spiders and dung beetles.

My first real pet was a chicken. I guess I was about three and my dad was then stationed in a high altitude area called Bakun, Benguet in the northern part of the Philippines. He worked as a surveyor for a mining company and we had to live near the company site… “near” meaning a couple of kilometers away on the other side of the cliff-side community. In between was a rocky, shallow stream where some people did gold panning. Most of the time, my mom and I were alone in the big house assigned to my dad.

One kindly old Igorota (a term used to refer to the female members of an ethnic community there) we called Manang gave me a chick for a pet. She must’ve seen how bored I was. I would pick at the wild strawberries and eat them even when they made me grimace. They were extremely sour! Sometimes I’d make a nuisance of myself and start picking the coffee berries while they were still green. So finally, I had my pet chick.

My mommy helped me feed her/him – I couldn’t really tell and my chicken, well… I’ll tell you later. I took care of my chick and dutifully fed it and played with it and held it close to me, even as it struggled to get away. So my chick grew into a chicken and I wasn’t bored anymore. I had a playmate/thing. I was content. One day, my chicken disappeared, along with a few other chickens mommy was taking care of.

I cried. I bawled. I screamed for my chicken. My mom’s dad, I called him Lolo Tang (literally translated as grandpa dad) once said I had lungs of steel. I could cry for hours and I wasn’t a silent weeper either. Mommy had to tell me finally, about what happened to my pet.

The poor thing was already in the tinola (chicken cooked in ginger broth with unripe papaya slices and fresh pepper leaves & whole peppercorns). I refused to eat of course. I was beyond consolation. In fact, I cannot remember what happened after that. All I know is that I never have and never will eat chicken wings, the neck, head and the feet.

Then there was our pig Norming. We always bought piglets in pairs… to be brought up, fattened up for a fiesta or a birthday or a christening or some other special affair. And the odd thing was, our piglets were always named after “love teams” — names of actors and actresses whose careers are inextricably tied together.

But Norming was the exception. He was bought as a solitary piglet and he was named after his owner. He was a pure white, sweet-natured loving pig. Whenever I came home on vacation, he was always neat and well-behaved, and like our dogs, he would always greet me with his snout. Ima (my mommy’s mother) washed him and had his pen cleaned daily. All I had to do was caress his tummy and his lids would flutter till his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

When he was slaughtered for the fiesta, Norming had grown really big. He was a real eater… and we cried, even Ima, as she cut him up (part of him was roasted to crispy golden perfection) and served him to guests. I think that was the only time my lola (grandma) refused to taste lechon (the name of the dish). It was pretty traumatic. I don’t know why, but we had always fattened up our pigs for such. Somehow, Norming was more special. I had trouble eating the menudo which was my favorite pork dish.

Later on I had a dog, I christened her Venus, after the goddess of beauty & love. Aphrodite would have sounded funny or too extreme for a dog, so I opted for the Roman counterpart. My landlady in Baguio City gave her to me when the family pet Peanuts, a beautiful caramel colored furry dog, gave birth to her litter. Venus was a fiercely protective dog and the most beautiful. She had thick white fur dotted with big black spots and the biggest, darkest eyes you’d ever seen.

I took Venus with me wherever I went: Baguio City to Arayat via Dau and vice versa. She knew how to behave even inside a bus, and people adored her at first sight. We went jogging together while I was studying. We ran even in places that people in Baguio City considered haunted like Loakan Road – in the wee hours of the morning, even when it was foggy. I always felt safe with Venus because she was brave, smart and grew quite big. I kept her clean and healthy, and she was free to come & go into the room I shared with my brother. Venus ate everything I fed her, whether it was dog food or vegetables, but she had her favorites. She had a rather sweet tooth… liked chocolates as much as I did, so I had to brush her teeth a lot, which was a little hard to do.

When I worked as a marketing and production assistant cum usher for an events company one summer break, Venus was with me on the day of the ill-fated concert of Regine Velasquez.

A lot of people bought concert tickets – it was only for one day – and most of the people were out-of-towners and celebrities spending the weekend in Baguio. Unfortunately, her concert was scheduled on the same day as that of Jo Ramos – the daughter of then-president Fidel V. Ramos.

It seemed that the Neocolours, who were guests of Regine in her concert (the venue was the Baguio Athletic Bowl), were the front act in the Jo Ramos concert to be held in the outdoor auditorium of what was formerly known as Club John Hay (at least, that was what they said) and Regine acquiesced in favor of Jo, the latter being a presidential daughter. The concerts were not scheduled at exactly the same time, but part of the schedule overlapped.

Everything would have been okay except that the concertgoers, including us hapless concert usherettes, were informed of the postponement of the event only when we were already in the venue at the designated time. Celebrities like Claudine Barretto and her family were already there, as well as some young stars from a teen variety show called “That’s Entertainment.”

The people went crazy when the announcement was made. Baguio City is eight hours’ worth of road travel from Manila. Some people who bought multiple tickets were from Olongapo City – far, just like Manila. Others were tourists, Filipinos who came back home just for a holiday.

Venus and working students like me – we were trapped. We were the ones who put up the posters and sold tickets. The people knew our faces and they started to chase us. I don’t know where my energy came from, but I held on to Venus’ chain as she bounded away and headed for safer ground. I don’t know how I was able to lift her over a three-foot-high mound. A guy helped me too, I can’t remember who – a Good Samaritan for sure. He dragged me up. Then we kept running till some guys called us and let us inside their van.

As luck would have it, they were the UMD – Universal Motion Dancers!!! Guests in the Regine Velasquez concert. And yes, they were as handsome in person as they looked on TV. They were nice guys too. I think there were three of us girls and Venus. We had to stay in the van for about three or four hours. They were very kind. They had all sorts of snacks and drinks so we didn’t get hungry at all. They chatted quite a bit too. We had to wait for everyone to go… people chased them all over the place coz everyone recognized them. They had to lie low just like us.

When the coast was clear… we could hardly feel our legs. We happily jumped out of the van to breathe in the fresh air. We had a mini photo shoot. Venus was their Muse. 🙂

To this day, I don’t know why I never got their autographs. But then again, it has never been in my nature to do so. I have seen and met quite a number of celebrities, but I always felt it was too embarrassing & impolite to do that (sorry to fanatics out there – it’s just me).

The concert was postponed and scheduled the following week, but I was too shaken up to come. I was never paid for my services like the rest of the group.

It was a scary, crazy and unforgettable experience – not something I would ever forget.

I decided to go home with Venus and spend the rest of the summer at home in Arayat, Pampanga.

When my brother and mommy left me behind in Baguio City, they took Venus with them. I didn’t see her for over a year because my mommy and I were estranged (I got pregnant in college). I missed them terribly and I missed her.

So I had a son and graduated, then worked right away.

After working in Manila for about three years, I moved back to Baguio City to teach and hopefully study for my masters.

I studied Anthropology in Ateneo de Manila (Katipunan) under a scholarship grant I acquired through Saint Louis University. I had been teaching there for about two years when I was given an opportunity to start graduate school studies. After finishing my academic load, I went back to teaching while trying to finish my thesis paper. I had the data and the analysis, all I had to do was write everything down according to graduate school standards.

To cut the story short… we fast forward to the period when I was already separated from my ex-husband for quite some time.. Like a reversal in the “normal” lifecycle, I had a boyfriend… but he was six years younger than me. He was still in college. How did I meet this guy?

If you were my friend, you’d know the details… but nope, I didn’t meet him in a bar or anything like that. He’s mentioned in this entry simply because, well, for one – he’s the father of my daughter, and second, he was the one who gave me Dexter, my second most beloved dog. Dexter was a yellow Labrador retriever.

This guy had a Rottweiler named Corky – she looked fearsome like the rest of her family, but my, was she a good-natured dog. There was a time when he left Corky with me as he (witnessed by friends of mine in the same event) strolled in Camp John Hay with one hand holding a girl and the other one holding the chain of a pit bull. They went to watch the dog show.

Well, he was a jerk, but I loved him… I was kind of a masochist I guess… but it was a first for me so I forgave him every single time he begged for my forgiveness.

Let’s move on to Dexter. My boyfriend and I had a big fight and made up eventually. He and Corky came… then he left again. Corky was with me in the bedroom when he came back an hour later. He came with a rather bony yellow Lab. The dog looked a bit scraggly…  not so clean so I told him to put the dog in the enclosed area behind the apartment. The poor little thing was hungry. I fed him and gave him water to drink.

Corky was on our bed playing as the yellow Lab wistfully peered through he window. I felt for him, but he had to be clean to be allowed inside the apartment. The next day, I gave him a bath.

My boyfriend told me that his name was Romeo (he had medical records from the vet) and that his owner did not take proper care of him, hence, he became thin. To avoid psychological stress, I renamed him Dexter Romeo. And when he got all fattened up and handsome, and some months had passed, I stopped with the Romeo and kept Dexter. I named him after Dexter of Dexter’s Lab – a play on words right? Well, Dexter was sweet and playful. Children usually felt scared around him coz he was big and muscular and he had a big voice. Even my son was scared of him at first till he was able to distinguish between the serious Dexter and the Dexter with a play face.

We took him with us most times, but he didn’t have enough exercise. He loved to eat and play. One time, me and a girl friend took him out on a stroll around the park near us. Halfway through, his tongue turned blue and he collapsed in exhaustion. We couldn’t lift him up! Anyway, we were able to revive him and lead him back to the apartment. The vet said he was grossly overweight.

Dexter was happiest when he was running around and playing…

When my mommy was very ill (she had ovarian cancer), Pongki – a mongrel, died. He was a moody and choosy dog – my uncle’s… but he liked me even when he hardly saw me. Venus followed… my pet.

In the Philippines, when the master is sick and the pets start dying, we believe that the master would be saved since the pets have made a sacrifice. We were wrong.

Mommy had undergone chemo thrice and both her lungs were revived, but she passed away on December 13 – because of a dangerously low hemoglobin count.

I had to go home early – not for the holidays, but to bury my mom. We took Dexter with us… then after the interment, we (the whole family) went to Manila to spend Christmas at my daddy’s mom’s place. To get away… even when there was no escaping the sorrow.

It was the saddest Christmas ever. And sadder still since Dexter died on December 26.

My uncle said Dexter got restless and depressed. He was new to the place and I left him almost immediately. He went round & round the stake to which his chain was tied until he strangled himself. He had to be buried while I was away.

I miss Venus and I miss Dexter. My only consolation is that both of them must be in dog heaven with Pongki and the rest of the other pets who’ve gone through the years.

I’ve never had a pet ever since. Maybe someday. I dunno.

There’s a void in my heart no man can fill… left wide open mostly because of my mom and the passing of my pets.

Not that I am discounting the value of men. I have made and kept male friends who are very close and dear to me. I can talk to them about anything and vice versa…

But boyfriends? I am not saying that men are expendable as boyfriends… the thing is, I always prefer men who make no pretense of who and what they are over those who pretend to be what they are not.

I know that we all try to put our best foot forward in the first meeting… try to make a good impression, but deceit is another thing.

Guess am still pretty lucky though. A man can be a dual person of sorts, some parts good and some parts, well, not so pleasant – but the same can be said of most people I guess. Not keen on playing the martyr, I’ve exchanged heated words with some of my exes – but remained faithful and honest… too honest sometimes it was hard to take. Sigh…

But you know, no matter how bad some experiences were, it’s mostly the good that I remember. Doesn’t mean I’d go back to the guy given another chance – but I just find that it is easier and better to be at peace & look back without regret. Anyway, how can I be at peace with myself & move forward if I made nothing but regrettable decisions?

Besides, the men in my life have made me  a happier person – most times. And that includes my dad, my brother, uncles and cousins, my close male friends and yes, my exes.

Men and dogs – two very different creatures… but they do offer similar infinitely wonderful experiences.

Both species have enriched my life.

My dogs filled my life with magic and the beauty of unequivocal friendship.

Men, on the other hand – challenged me, teased me, hurt me, consoled me, humbled me, uplifted me – they’ve taken me to adventures, helped me reach new heights, led me to paths I would never have crossed… through men, I discovered my own strengths.

I discovered myself and discover more as I journey on… through time and space… I know I will meet more men, not so many pets… 🙂

I look forward to the surprises that await…

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011


10 thoughts on “Of Dogs & Men

  1. @Dan I get your drift on where you were going there. I often think of my past and use it as a means to analyze where I am and where I want to get to. Where I struggel is balancing it all out. How do you guys balance things out?

  2. I simply want to tell you that I’m beginner to blogging and site-building and certainly savored you’re web site. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You really have great stories. Thanks a bunch for revealing your website page.

    • First of all, I wanna say “thanks” for the compliment. For me, the most important thing is that my readers get a little something from an activity I am enthusiastic about. I don’t publish stuff regularly, but once a post is done… I can’t wait to share it, and it’s people like you that add joy to blogging. Take care. Wish you all the best. Enjoy blogging!!!

  3. This is like my fourth time stopping over your Blog. Regularly I do not make comments on website, but I have to mention that this post really pushed me to do so. Really great post .

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