I WAS only four years old but I will never forget that day.
One lazy summer afternoon when I was about to doze off from my grandmother’s lullaby, I heard the sputter of a tricycle from a distance.
A few seconds later, its rubber tires made a grumbling sound against the gravel by the roadside. Ignoring the protests of my grandmother, I got up from the bed and sprinted towards the front gate. There I saw my father emerging from the sidecar, the settling dust slowly revealing him with something wriggling out of his arms. When I was face to face with my father about to receive his blessings, he instead handed a puppy to me.
“He is for you,” he said. The puppy had short white hair, big black nose and medium brown eyes. My grandfather and I named him Lancer. With Lancer, I discovered I had a natural affinity with dogs. I had a wonderful time as my grandfather and I took turns taking care of him. I wanted to be with Lancer all the time. Sadly, he was not allowed inside our house. I promised myself then that someday I would have a dog who will be living with me.
I fulfilled that childhood promise in 2001. I decided it was time to have a dog when I came back to the country after working in Singapore. She was a golden retriever. I called her Uma, because like Uma Thurman, she had glorious blonde hair. After Uma came many more: Zoey, Tasha, and Bela.
Today, I have Roslin, Flurry, and Sabrina. That was almost seventeen years ago.
Having been with companion dogs and in the dog sport for that considerable amount of time, I could say that I may have experienced the best and worst of being with them. But there are two instances that I fear most as far as living with companion animals is concerned. One is their demise, and the other, is when I have to rehome them.
For me, coming to terms with the death of companion animals is easier to deal with than when rehoming them. Devastating as it may seem, death is inevitable to all living beings. When our beloved companion animal dies, we grieve. But there will come a day that we will be able to accept the loss and be ready to accept one into our homes and hearts again. However, rehoming a dog is a more stressful process. There is always that nagging question that I could have done something different. The strong bond that may have already developed between the dog and me aggravates the situation further.
Rehoming is the practice among dog breeders when companion dogs whom we have intended to keep for as long as their natural lives may allow and already with us for a significant amount of time must be given up to other people. It is a tedious and stressful process as it will be similar to identifying homes for puppies. Prospective homes must be identified and shortlisted based on their capability to provide a loving, healthy and safe environment for the dogs concerned. Some rehomed dogs may involve payments, but most of the time they are free. This may mean wasted time and money. What is definite, however, is that rehoming dogs will always mean broken hearts, our hearts and that of the dogs’.
There are many reasons why a dog is rehomed.
In the dog sport, dogs shown in the conformation ring are deemed to be the best representation of their respective breeds. It is an imperative, therefore, to breed only from the best. Breeding from the best requires a stringent selection process in terms of “beauty” and, physical and mental health. This requirement may render a breeder having to end up with more dogs than what was originally planned. Some show dogs may have developed disqualifying faults, some did not pass health clearances, some could not conceive, some only produced mediocre puppies, and some have extreme behavioral issues. In addition, we may have lost the capacity to finance the upkeep of the dogs. Our recourse would then be to part with some of our dogs if we hope to continue our involvement with the dog sport, breed sound and healthy dogs, and at the same time ensure that none of them will be neglected.
I have rehomed two dogs so far and I am hoping that I will never have to do it again. One was a Philippine Grand Champion who did not pass her hip clearance and the other, the best puppy of a litter that I bred who developed an undershot bite - a disqualifying fault in the show ring. Both of the faults are hereditary and thus rendered the two unfit for breeding. In both of these instances, I felt guilty. The dogs looked at me as if they were telling me I took them for a ride.
Many months ago, I was urged to start writing a column for one of Baguio City’s local paper. We decided to name it Petmalu. It was adapted from the millenials’ play of the Filipino slang malupet, which roughly translated to that of being awesome and of course, of being an awesome pet. Petmalu was envisioned to focus mainly on juxtaposing lessons learned in life with that of living with companion animals, especially with golden retrievers. The column was also an attempt to start my journey with writing which I have deferred for so long.
At first, I was adamant to pen a weekly column. I felt that I still have a lot of learning to do as a human to companion dogs, as a dog exhibitor, as a dog breeder, and yes, as a writer. I was also concerned that I may run out of what to say. But the prodding of my former editor made me think that maybe, I have already learned something worth sharing in the years that I have been with dogs.
With some foreboding, I decided to bring Petmalu to life. For a time, I was happy how Petmalu was flourishing. It felt fulfilling every time I was writing a piece. The feedback I was receiving was also encouraging. However, like what may happen with some endeavors even with all the preparations and noblest of intentions, I needed to rehome the column. The experience was as heartbreaking as when I rehome a beloved companion animal.
One day I will tell you the story why Petmalu had to find a new home, here, at Baguio SunStar. But for now, this introduction should suffice.
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