It all started with Jack…
You know, the thing about rescuing dogs is sometimes, it’s the other way around. They are actually saving you. When my heart dog Dollar passed away, I literally did not know what to do with myself. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have money, my friends were either abroad or simply busy with their own lives. I wondered if I could just force myself to sleep and never wake up. The sorrow of losing Dollar was overwhelming. So each day I would walk after breakfast, as if he was with me, going around the village – our usual route. But then one day, this young mangy dog started following me. Obviously malnourished, he still had the energy to play with kids (who lived in the area he was from) and other dogs. And me. I recognized he could fetch so I threw stuff and he got them back, panting because I suddenly found joy again and would pitch the ball so far he had to run really fast before it ended up in the gutter. You can read more about Jack here. Needless to say, he gave me a reason to wake up in the morning and move forward with my life.
Dollar passed away on July 10, 2013; I met Jack a couple of days after that. On September 9, 2015, I found myself devastated again. Our dog friend Maxie died, most probably from garbage gut because his owner made him fend for himself (I once saw him eating from the trash and it was heartbreaking). He was a really beautiful dog and I loved him like he was my own. We’d foster him every weekend – give him a bath, feed him, play with him. I sensed Jack was a bit jealous with all the attention but he let Maxie be; we had about five weekends with him. He was barely five months old when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I wrote about him here and to make the long story short, I felt I should have been more persuasive with Ma to take him in before it was too late. For months on end, I carried a heavy heart.
Then a year later, I found out there was another dog in that area, again being starved by his owner. FYI, Jack, Maxie and this time, Tommy, all came from the same compound, in an alley near our home. When Tommy came to us, he had a slight fever and was full of ticks that I convinced Ma that we give him a bath. We got like a hundred ticks off from him (I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get the ticks out inside his ears properly) – not everyone could stomach a sight. I even accidentally scraped off a huge scab but he was such a sport, he let out a squeal but still behaved while we continued bathing him. Afterwards, we went to the compound and asked where the owner was to inform him that if they didn’t have the dog checked up, he might die from blood parasitism (if not famine). When one of the teenagers said Tommy was disowned by his brother, I decided I would find someone to adopt him.
So I posted this photo on Facebook and within an hour or two, a dog trainer in Makati expressed his desire to get Tommy; thanks to Kityn for sharing Tommy’s photo in their FB group. Ma was hesitant because we didn’t know who this person was, but I told her “last year, three of their dogs died. Now there’s another set of three dogs in their area. I’d rather risk giving Tommy to a stranger – who I did a background check on Facebook by the way – than leave him to die with those irresponsible humans.”
So I saved Tommy. I couldn’t let what happened to Maxie happen to him. There’s a Yellow Lab-AsPin who lived there, too, as you can see in the video. I dognapped him and took him to the barangay but it was futile since people there didn’t know what to do. I asked one of our security guards to adopt him but his owner learned about it and got him back then we never saw Cisco again. I just hope the owner who’s a barangay tanod just gave him to somebody else. My god, Cisco was eating his own poop out of hunger!
And yet another tragedy strikes. A dog we knew from the other street, Toffee, was captured by the QC dog pound. The saddest thing is, I was the one who put him in the truck. Why? Whenever he escaped from his house, he’d go to us and look for me and ask that I walk him back. He was so sweet with me (Jack hated him though) as he knew me from when he was a puppy, striving to sniff us from under their gate when we passed by. Unfortunately, he mauled his master that day (rumor has it he was being beaten and starved on a regular basis by this old man), prompting their lawyer neighbor to call the pound and snare the dog. When the truck came, he was with me – I was about to go to our barangay hall to ask for help in finding him a temporary cage, while I look for a suitable person who could adopt him.
I have never felt helpless in my entire life. I begged and pleaded amidst bursts of tears but the pound personnel wouldn’t release Toffee to me. They said “biters” are not put up for adoption and the fact that he was surrendered by his owner already means I had no right to claim him. I was afraid their catcher would hurt him so I volunteered to carry him into the truck – that was my first and last sort-of-hug to him. Since he was labeled “vicious” already, I didn’t want to give them a reason to put him down (should he fight off the catcher). Anyway, I thought I could still save him because the personnel said they’d need to observe him for signs of rabies for a few days. As the truck drove away, I shouted, “please don’t kill him!” and I waived goodbye to Toffee… but he wasn’t even looking. He had no idea what was going on. Nor that he’ll be euthanized the next day.
He was captured Thursday, March 23, 2017; I called the city veterinarian’s office the next day and asked what was going to happen to Toffee. They said he might be put down next week – they were not sure. I believe they were hiding the fact they were going to break protocol (a dog who has bitten a person must be observed for 2 weeks; a stray dog who was captured by the pound, unless claimed by someone, will be given three days before being injected) and put him down ASAP because as the city vet put it, “he was a danger to society.” That’s a huge pile of bullcrap. They make rules and break them as they please. Toffee’s owner’s wife is a kagawad (barangay official) – probably why the dog pound came in so swiftly – yet I still thought I could talk to her and persuade them to waive their ownership rights to the dog to me. They knew who I was – I was the one who returned Toffee to them whenever he escaped; they even thanked me for it all those times. So I came to their house Friday night (with my officemate and fellow animal welfare advocate Rina) but they were adamant in not giving Toffee a second chance. The owner said he was still angry at him; he was a bit senile but that didn’t make us like him any better. I tried again Saturday; I waited at the barangay hall for the wife and was able to make her sign a handwritten document waiving her rights. Sunday, I encountered the attorney who reported Toffee in; it turned out he was the head of the Committee on Animal Welfare. Oh the irony. He said he’d help me discuss the matter with the city vet herself on Monday, but then she broke the news to me that Toffee was already put down last Friday. No wonder when I was at Toffee’s place that night, there was a sudden feeling of relief I felt that I couldn’t explain. My guess is, that was the hour he was set free from this cruel world – I even told Rina I heard a clang at the gate, like someone or something got out, which she didn’t notice. Maybe, just maybe, I could have saved him if I didn’t take my time. I wish I knew all the steps I had to take to rescue him immediately. I followed a course that took time: researching how to claim a dog in the Payatas dog pound, discussing with people online, going to his owners twice, drafting that letter to waive their rights to ownership, looking for the attorney who reported the incident to the pound, searching on Facebook who the city vet was… Like they say, you learn lessons the hard way. I only wish I didn’t learn it at the expense of a dog’s life. I’m sorry I failed you, Toffee. I truly am.
“How can I redeem myself?” The thought lingered in my head. Well, looks like someone else heard it because a month after that, there I was rescuing one of the three dogs abandoned by some lawyer in another street. I named him Ragosa – for weeks he’s been passing by our house. For several days we’ve been feeding him, until I found someone on Facebook who wanted to adopt him.
They were in San Pedro, Laguna though, so there’s this problem of how I was going to take him there. I talked to the barangay – it was utterly useless. Then I messaged CARA Welfare Philippines and they suggested that I call their office to check if their rescue van was available. It wasn’t, but the volunteer gave me tips on how to conduct the rescue (they even featured my success story on their Facebook page here). I bought a collapsible cage, a pork barbecue, threw the pieces into the cage, and slammed it shut when Ragosa went in. He wasn’t the type to let humans touch him so I had to trick him into getting inside the cage. He is now with a loving, lovely family who takes care of him 24/7. Again, thanks to Kityn for offering financial support on this and my succeeding rescues. (Let’s chase our dream of having a dog sanctuary, in the very near future!)
Ragosa, now called ‘Kubi,’ was rescued on Earth Day, April 22. Come May 23, I was out saving his older and much bigger brother, Johnny. Much to my horror, the QC dog pound was driving into our village that day – it was a Tuesday and thankfully I was late for work because if not, I wouldn’t have seen them coming – just a few days before I planned to rescue Johnny and their sister (or mother, not sure) Sue, because there was someone again from San Pedro, Laguna who was willing to take them in. I rushed to the truck and saw this black dog inside (photo below) – it wasn’t one of the dogs but soon enough they were catching Johnny so I pleaded yet again but seeing they were not going to give him to me, I held back my tears and rode a cab to the city vet’s office to pay the claiming fees: ₱500/dog. Assuming they would have gotten Sue by the time I came back, I informed the officer there to call the truck and tell them I’m paying for two dogs and they should stay in our village and not go straight to Payatas because I’m already coming to get them. I only had enough for two dogs because I left my cash and ATM card at home.
When I got to our barangay hall where the truck was, Sue wasn’t there. She was able to escape and hide so I accidentally saved another dog. Sadly, there was a black-and-white dog who I’ve never seen before who was in the truck (he was from another village when the truck made its rounds the hour I was away). He watched as we freed Johnny and the black dog. But my mind wasn’t on him. It was on Johnny, of course. And I knew Johnny had weak legs due to starvation so I was worried how to get him down from the truck safely because the personnel didn’t have the keys to the cage (how ridiculous!) so they had to push him with a rod to another section of the truck where three captured cats where on top and a native turtle was in on the lower section. It took a while before he mustered the courage to jump and he did it quite gracefully because he was such a tall dog anyhow. But he crawled afterwards, scared the catchers were going to get him again. He was more tamed than Ragosa and before he jumped, I already had a leash on him. I made the personnel promise not to catch another dog in our village that day and one of them was kind enough to say “okay ma’am, pagbibigyan namin kayo, pero ngayon lang” (okay ma’am, but this time only).
Next on my mission was to find Sue so I could bring both Johnny and her to Laguna that day. It was still summer vacation so there were kids in the park who witnessed the happenings and volunteered to look for Sue with me. They knew who the dogs were and that they were abandoned so they totally supported me and even asked what happened to the smallest one (Ragosa); some thought he met his demise but they cheered up when I related that I was able to rescue him just a month before. We walked around the village for about half an hour, to no avail.
We couldn’t find Sue, and when we returned to the barangay hall, Johhny had escaped from where I tied up his chain. He went under a van and I had to tempt him with dog food to draw him out. He wouldn’t come out though and his chain was under him so I had to reach for it and try to pull him out gently. He lightly snapped his mouth at me – the kids were alarmed a few times so I had to assure them he’s not gonna bite; he’s just warning me but mostly he’s scared but for good measure, no child should come near us during the episode. I was able to get him out right before the Avanza came driving in (Socrates – the same cabbie we hired for Ragosa). So I made the call to leave Sue, wherever she was, and just bring Johnny because he was already traumatized by the impounders, I had to get him to a safe place.
I carried him to put him inside the taxi because his legs were weak as previously mentioned (the kids said he was recently attacked by Bruno, the alpha dog in their area) and like Ragosa, he vomited several times but since he wasn’t in a cage, and I wasn’t prepared with a plastic or paper bag, he threw up on the floor. I cleaned it up and he was sweet and would put his head by my side. Such a gentle giant. He was scared at first when we arrived – crawling again after we alighted from the vehicle. But since the adopter lived behind the first house we arrived at, I had to carry him again, bring him inside the cab (we drove for less than half a minute), then carry him back down again when we were finally at Bok’s place, his adopter.
Before I rescued Johnny, this angel dog appeared from nowhere. For two weeks she was just hiding under the santan bushes a few paces from our house. Before I even approached her, I already looked for a potential adopter, which I found pretty quick out of sheer luck. So the first time we met, I gave her tilapia and instantly won her affection. Ma liked her too and even proposed to foster her for a day before Cole comes to claim her. But he became unavailable that weekend so we ended up caring for Alpa Chino (name has a good ring to it, eh?) for one full week, which was fun but frustrated Ma because she was becoming attached to her. Jack didn’t pay much attention to her… until he found out she was a female the day before I took her to her new home (in Marikina last May 27). She had menstruation the whole time she was with us, which smeared our floor with blood, and even my shorts one time she was on my lap as I watched “A Walk Among the Tombstones.” Easy breezy as compared to the 9-hour ordeal each for Ragosa and Johnny.
Now, I still have Sue to worry about. She became wary of strangers, perhaps ever since the pound tried to catch her (she probably still thinks it was the pound that took both her siblings or sons away). We occasionally give her food but then she eats and runs, then hides under cars. Too bad because I already have an adopter from Antipolo waiting for her (the kids in the family already named her ‘Tiger’ because of her fur’s design). Then there’s also another puppy in Tommy’s compound who’s skin and bones that I told Ma she should convince the owner to let me find Sonic an adopter (I named him after my favorite game character and also, he stays near the hedges).
Imagine, all of these dogs are just within a 100-meter radius from our house. If I did rescuing full-time and had enough money, I can cover a lot of ground. People online are already contacting me for help in finding adopters for their acquiantance’s pets, etc. and a former officemate in Cebu even called me “Savior of Dogs” (I was able to refer her friend to a Facebook group to find adopter for the puppies she found in the trash). I must say, I do what I can and I know I’m not enough. I need a little help from my friends (a number of my officemates are supportive of my endeavors and that makes me happy). But I’ve got a long way to go…
Oh and just so you know, Jack has been paying it forward ever since we rescued him. He saved Shaw (story here), Hopi (the kitten who, after a month with us, was ran over by our neighbor’s pretend sports car) and a little brown puppy who was left on a flower pot by some wacko (when Ma turned him over to the guardhouse, a child in a school bus saw him and adopted him right then and there). It’s amazing how animals come to aid others in need, regardless of species, while some humans go on exploiting, torturing and killing animals for their greed, pleasure and amusement. Sigh. The world may be going to the dogs (I hate this idiomatic expression), but there are still people out there who, like me, find ways to save one animal at a time. So remember, friends, adopt don’t shop. And also, rescued is the best breed. 😉