When I volunteered at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) last year, I aimed to have at least one animal from the shelter adopted by somebody I knew. I never accomplished that. But I did get a mangy mutt off the streets, exactly a month ago. I named him Jack Bauau. We spoil him with toys, good food, bi-weekly baths, and I let him sleep on my bed, with his arse near my head.
After I mourned for my brother dog Dollar in my posts, I filled my FB and IG feeds with Jack’s adventures, to help myself move on. But I nearly drowned myself in grief last week, when Ma told me to give him back to his owners. Why? Remember my Bolinao trip last 17-18 Aug? I left Jack in our house with only Ma to look after him. Jack Bauau. A new dog I acquired despite her objections. I wasn’t at all surprised when she wanted him out. In fact I expressed it to my friend Ayi, that I’m afraid Jack won’t be home when I returned from our vacation. That Sunday night, I arrived to a place full of tension. Ma hardly spoke; later she broke down in tears stating Jack’s misdemeanors. The next day, I thought she was going mad, crying like a wee child afraid of a pet dog. I was aware of how hyper he could get, how much pain he could inflict when he playbites, how hard it was to feed him his meds — basically how uncontrollable he was and how tired Ma was of him. So I knew it was a gamble to leave him alone with her.
She decided that’s it. Jack shouldn’t live with us anymore. It didn’t matter that he still had two weeks’ worth of medicine (which we’ve spent a lot on) and he was on his way to recovering from mange; that a few days before I left, she approached Jack’s former masters to allow us to adopt him; or that I was already attached to him and he made me happy. I felt devastated; I can’t lose another dog this soon. For him, it was gonna be worse than dying — we were sentencing him to a life in prison. I didn’t fight Ma over her decision. The fact is I couldn’t because I didn’t have leverage. I don’t have a job to provide for our needs, let alone Jack’s. I thought I was a pack leader but I couldn’t even discipline a young dog. And I realized I kinda forced her into letting him into our lives so soon after Dollar passed away.
I pried Jack away from her as she weepingly requested. I sat in the rocking chair with him in my arms, fighting to get away so he could pester Ma, while I weighed the options for him. Could I persuade PAWS to take him in? No; they prioritize rescue cases and once they hear I not only fostered but in fact adopted Jack, they won’t accept him. Can I publish on FB that we’re giving him away? No; after all the Jack posts, I would look pathetic. Can I beg Dolly — our gay neighbor who adopts strays — to take care of him? Possibly, but the Friday before my trip, Jack went home soaking wet. I figured Dolly hosed him down because Jack was annoying his senior dog earlier; anyway, he mentioned before he didn’t want more dogs. Can I bring him to our province? No; I don’t want to burden my aunts with a responsibility that’s supposed to be mine.
So I mustered up the courage to return him. I gathered his toys and dog food containers, and out we went. I let go of him before we turned right to the alley; his old house was a few paces from our place. He thought we were just taking a walk. The security guard who was his previous owner was riding a bike when we encountered him. Hastily, I said I was returning Jack. He answered, “okay, but I can’t deal with him yet there’s somewhere I need to go to.” I went into their yard and found his mother. I told her I was bringing Jack back. At first, she couldn’t understand because she recalled we recently asked permission from them to have him. She related her exchange with her in-law, “kung mahal na mahal nung bata, ibigay niyo na ung aso” (if the kid loves the dog so much, give Ogie to her), referring to me as a child. I’m almost 30 but it wasn’t the time to contest that. Besides, I started sobbing like a six-year-old, telling Jack, “I’m sorry Jack. I’m so sorry, huhu. I’m sorry Jack,” over and over.
Initially, he hesitated to go into their yard. But whenever I called him, he would heed because he trusted me. I caught him and attached the chain I found under his old makeshift cage to his collar. I saw the disbelief in his eyes. He doesn’t get what’s happening. I tried distracting myself with the logistics of his situation: I arranged a discarded umbrella into a roof for the old bicycle tire that served as his ceiling; I put the dog food containers on the table beside him, his toys on the soil near him, the dirty wet rugs under him as his floor; I asked lola to clean the pan which obviously was his water bowl before; I prepared dog food for him on the cover of one of the containers. All along my heart was being crushed by the sight of him in this cold dank place, where nobody will ever love him like I do or take care of him like Ma does. I can imagine him sitting silently, watching his master stroke his fighting chickens while Jack himself was longing for a friendly pat on the head. I can imagine him hungry and shivering under the eaves of a house so small my mom’s bed and stuff toys would hardly fit inside.
I couldn’t say goodbye to Jack. I was crouching, touching him for the last time, when his right paw tapped my left arm lightly and he clambered up to me like a toddler wanting to be carried. I cried so hard, “Why did you have to playbite Ma? Why were you so unruly? Why…” I couldn’t finish my sentences. I had to compose myself before standing up, leaving lola a few reminders, acknowledging the security guard who’s back and asking me if he needed to soak the dog food in water first, and turning my back on Jack. Noticing that his tail was wagging to his old master, I took the chance to depart from that place and never look back. I didn’t hear him whine or anything. But that didn’t stop me from crying my eyes out. I walked towards our house and ended up in front of the locked gate of the driveway where Dollar was buried. When I heard Ma was approaching, I immediately went inside our house, grabbed Jack’s round mat, and wailed on my bed with my head on his mat to muffle the sobs. But one name escaped my mouth. “Dollar!” I exclaimed, like I was summoning him to help me. I missed him so much and returning Jack felt like I lost our little brother. Ma and I had a huge fight that night. I told her I can’t live with her any longer, not after everything…
The stormy weather didn’t help. I was depressed the next day. I busied myself with my usual recourse, writing. I blogged about my Bolinao trip as if I didn’t have a domestic problem. I chatted online with my close friends. I liked my contacts’ IG photos. Then I fell apart. I browsed the photos and videos of Jack on my phone, and I cried, endlessly. Mentally torturing myself with anything that came into mind. The following day, I had no plans of getting up from bed. I wanted to sleep it off, hoping to wake up from this nightmare. Ma went to my room and asked, “are you sick?” I replied, “can’t you see? It’s only 8am.” She knew I had no intention of going through the day. That’s why she said, “if we get him back, will you be able to tame him?” Seemed like I did wake up from a very bad dream. Again, I started crying. “Are you sure this time? Is Jack really gonna be mine?” She answered yes, and that she can’t stop worrying about him, too, with the terrible rains and all. I threw the covers and dashed for the gate. Before I opened it, I declared, “this has to be the last time; I won’t be able to bear it next time,” with the tone of a person who’d slash her wrist at another unfortunate event.
I must have looked like a crazy person, going out of the house sobbing. I came to get Jack back and I didn’t care if anyone saw me in that state. His old master was sitting at the entrance of their house. “Can I have him back?” He nodded. It was a very tearful reunion. Jack cried, both in relief and excitement, and he didn’t know where to go. I picked him up and detached his collar from the chain. I said to him, “don’t bite Ma anymore, huh?” I must have smothered him but he didn’t object. Ma was happy to see him. We were back to normal.
Is he my new Dollar? No. He is just Jack. (Btw, his IG tag is #JackBauau.) 🙂