I would say that for the longest time, I was not very fond of dogs as pets. I have had bad experience as a kid occasionally running away from stray dogs in the village, as I encountered them on my way to the park. Since I didn’t know any better back then, I must have probably seen encounters with stray dogs as near-death experiences. After all, who wants to be bitten by a dog and get rabies?
But I do remember a time when I was fond of dogs, and a time when we actually quite a number of them. They weren’t pure breeds, and they were each named by my sister and cousins. Looking back, they gave funny names to our pets. I remember Donna, the only dog that needed to be brought to a vet for a condition I was too young to remember. She often gave birth to many puppies, which were eventually given away before she was given away as well — talk about population control for pets!
Then there was Snoopy, as well as She-Ra, named after the cartoon heroine.
But of all the dogs, I would have most fondness remember Scooby, our last dog. He was an “askal” as well. Although he never knew any tricks, he responded to my whistles very well, and he would come to me. He was very gentle and he rarely barked. Since he has no picture, and I’m an ignoramus when it comes to describing dogs, I will try to describe him in more detail next time.
But believe it or not, Scooby had a social life!
Scooby was a lakwatsero. Whenever my mom or dad would leave for work, Scooby would slip out of the house as the gates of the house open. I believe he himself would go to the park. And again, believe it or not, Scooby would be back at the house just in time for his dinner.
But one day, and I was in second grade at the time, when the dogs of our next-door neighbor were always fighting him — Ranger and Doggie (my goodness, I still remember their names!). They would sometimes be out of our neighbors’ house as well and would gang up on Scooby.
Scooby eventually ran away. After a day or two, I saw him at the park, and he would recognize me. He actually approached me and would follow me back home. But as we turned to our street, he would hesitate to make the final left turn and eventually stopped. He wouldn’t come with me anymore. Of course, I knew why. I remember having told my parents about my observations, and they asked our household help to actually carry Scooby home.
The next day, he ran away again and never came back. And he wasn’t at the park.
I remember sort of resenting the Ranger and Doggie — which I now find strange. But all things considered, I wasn’t sad or upset. But up to now, I wonder what really happened to our last pet. The village back then didn’t have a policy against stray dogs. Was he hit by a car? Did he die of natural causes? Did another neighbor take him as a pet?
I only remembered Scooby again 17 years later, when I was already covering the House of Representatives. Much as I wanted to build my credibility as a serious political reporter at the Lower House, one Thursday afternoon, I received a call from the newsroom. The producers had gotten hold of information that the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) had come up with a shelter and adoption program for lost and abandoned dogs.
I was highly reluctant with the idea because I initially found the story too shallow compared to politics — and the other problems of the country. And looking back, I was upset that the newsroom was more interested in dogs rather than the follow up PGMA impeachment stories I had done that day (nevertheless, the stories were briefly read by the anchors)!
Being the good soldier that I was, I went to the PAWS shelter at the boundary between Quezon City and Marikina (near the Ateneo). I resented the assignement because at that point, I didn’t like dogs. But then, I remembered Scooby, and how, once upon a time, I actually enjoyed having dogs as pets. And I was curious enough at least to simply see the place. So I did.
To my own surprise, as I sat down to interview the caretakers of the center and became more aware of the abuses and deliberate neglect dogs and cats are exposed to, I found my disinterest in the story waning. I believe the story was well-received based on the inquiries the newsroom got following the story’s broadcast. Allow me to post the story for the worthy cause of animal welfare, which turns out to be more important than many think. Allow me to also post this video “in memory of Scooby”, an ordinary dog whose ultimate fate has forever remained a mystery.
Post Script: It is interesting to note that when the story aired, one of the big bosses of the network complained about my being assigned because I was assigned to an important political beat. Certainly, the issue was making sure that whatever credibility I had does not go to the dogs (figuratively speaking here, that is). Stories on animals and pets were eventually assigned to general assignment reporters. I’m glad at least to do a story like this once.