Saturday, September 18, 2021

Tabada: Dog days


WHAT is life like when you are about five inches high and two weeks old?

A day before Luzon was placed on an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), we adopted four puppies. Their mother gave birth to them outside an abandoned house on a nearby street in the village.

The puppies were first kept inside car tires left outside the house and then moved to another house, also empty across the lot, whenever neighbors complained about the puppies’ keening.

After being moved from one spot to another to appease complaints, the four ended up on our street in a borrowed blue basin. Afraid those squirming dumplings would wander and fall inside an open sewer, the husband and I took them in.

I coaxed their mother to follow but, wary of humans, she only ate the food I brought. Since one of the cats we adopted is due to give birth, I didn’t try very hard to bring over the mother dog, who is fed by neighbors on that street.

Remembering the first week when the husband fed the pups milk with a medicine dropper, I find their swarming attention — barks, nips, scratches, licks — when I bring out their saucers of milk and puppy food in the morning a confirmation of how life adjusts during quarantine.

Supermarkets remain open but hardware stores and veterinarians’ clinics are closed. The husband turned carpenter to upcycle planks into a gate to prevent the pups from wandering off to the street, as well as a shed that they use less for sleeping than for tussling and skirmishing like little savages.

Living with four aspin (asong Pinoy) and three puspin (pusang Pinoy), physical distancing is only observed by the cats, streetwise and distrustful of animals that will eventually grow bigger and brawnier.

At first, the K-pups (“kinit-an” or abandoned) were distinguished by their tail or lack of it. Noki (no “ikog (tail)”) takes after her mother in this aspect. The runt of the litter, Rem (also the sleepiest), has a corkscrew one. Trail, alpha in size and trail-blazing in growth milestones, has the longest tail, followed by Play, the lone male and also the hungriest.

From playing to eating and sleeping, the K-pups move as a litter. Their personalities stand out during their least favorite activities: taking a bath and delousing. Without recourse to a vet, I handpick each dog’s fleas, souvenirs of those first weeks when they slept in the open.

Each pup resorts to different tricks to deal with being sequestered and forced to stay still. True to her name, Rem becomes Zen. Play hangs his head over the edge while my fingers comb his thick fur for parasites. Noki and Trail never surrender until they leap away to freedom.

These, so far, are our dog days in quarantine.


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