September 24, 2005

Missing Cha-Cha

Cha-Cha in February 2003. (JAYRED)

I don't have a dog in Switzerland right now, and I don't think I'll ever have one now or ever. First, my strict Hausmeisterin (caretaker) has made it clear to us that no dogs are allowed in our apartment building for "sanitary reasons." Second, I don't think that my pet dog Cha-Cha is replaceable.

Although it has already been more than two years now since Cha-Cha died due to complications after giving birth to her first litter, I still find myself in the grieving stage; the pain of losing her still pierces my heart to this day. So great is the loss that every time I discuss her with my husband or my friends, I still cry.

These days, every time I spot a black, hairy dog that closely resembles Cha-Cha in the neighborhood or in the town center, I get stirred beyond my expectations. I can't help but remember my happy days with Cha-Cha -- playing in my Mom's big garden, eating spaghetti and chocolate cake together during family parties, sleeping side by side in my bedroom, and yes, even joining me in our family Sunday Bible study meetings in the living room. These are priceless memories only true-blue dog lovers can understand.

Cha-Cha was an incidental gift to me given by a journalist-friend. Joining our household in November 1995 as a cute, little pup, she became our constant source of canine joy for many years. We nearly lost her when she suffered from a lung infection during her third month with us, but the local vet was able to revive her.

I will always love Cha-Cha for many reasons. She was there to keep me company in my workroom each time I burned the midnight oil, finishing a report or two for my graduate school. She was there to comfort me every time she "felt" I was in a depressed mode by sitting beside me or on my lap; almost always, her presence would immediately cheer me up. She was there to walk with my Dad -- who's now suffering from Parkinson's Disease -- around the garden and, later, to have afternoon nap sessions with him in our nipa hut. She was there, too, to get rid of the mice in our not-so-well-kept dirty kitchen (this made me think one time that, maybe, Cha-Cha was a cat trapped in a dog's body).

It was hard to leave Cha-Cha for good when I had to migrate to Switzerland in February 2003. The two of us never really had a proper farewell rite just because Cha-Cha refused to say good-bye the afternoon I had to hie off to the international airport. She stayed put under my Mom's car, refusing my incessant pleadings to hug me one last time before my next, indefinite return. That fateful day, she refused to acknowledge the fact that my departure was a start of something long-term or even permanent. She was clearly in denial. So there was no real closure between us, and an e-mail from my sister four months later devastated me completely. "Cha-Cha died," she wrote in her first line. A part of me died, too.

I miss Cha-Cha terribly so, and every time I see her slightly torn picture on my bedside table, my chest tightens again. It's something that my husband cannot fully understand sometimes, this latent grief. Probably because he's a cat person, and probably because in the general scheme of things, it really looks and sounds so trivial.

One can never explain, I guess, the depth and magnitude of losing a dog you have loved so much with all your heart and who (not which) has loved you back with the same intensity. Words are not enough, and there are really no apt words for a generic explanation. For this reason, I can only say: I can never own or love a dog again.

September 18, 2005

Possible Impossibilities

I was inspired to write this after Jayred's "Ukraine's stray dogs" entry. You see, I have always been just a dog lover which in time transformed me to an almost any animal lover. My heart goes out to animals who have not the right home and companions. To the suffering of animals due to people's greed and invasion of their habitat. My belief is, there is always a middleground. I just hope we find it soon enough.

Let me share to all of you a dream of mine which I hope soon enough would be a reality.

I have always dreamt about having a dogfarm. Having had the experience of owning more than a dozen dogs when I was 10...repeating it with twice or thrice the number, wouldn't be a problem. Plus, having a supportive husband who understands my love for animals and a daughter who wants to help animals, too, then I have a more than stable footing. No, it's not to breed dogs, but rather a place where I would get-up in the mornings, get some fresh air and then play and cuddle with them. From the youngest to the oldest, the thinnest to the fattest, the smallest to the biggest, tamest to the wildest, weakest to the doesn't matter. They're all welcome.

Maybe impossible given that I have 3 kids, a household to run, and a part-time job. But well, the willingness in me to do this will cover-up all those "impossibilities" when the time comes.

September 06, 2005

Ukraine's Stray Dogs

Hungry together.

The hearts of genuine dog lovers will break -- and bleed -- in Ukraine.

The former Soviet republic is home to thousands of stray dogs which feed on spoiled food craps in public trash bins. These skinny, smelly mongrels are a common sight in the country where a number of their human counterparts (i.e. the homeless beggars) are just as hungry.

However, it is not uncommon to see struggling pensioners (getting as little as USD60.00 a month or even less) plying their small trade on busy sidewalks with their new-found canine companions.

The irony is, a number of kind-hearted babushkas (grannies), who need personal care themselves, have their own dog-related advocacy: they do their best to feed the poor creatures with the meager 'earnings' they get from selling a few vegetables, flowers or sunflower seeds.

And almost always, it's tough to share one's blessings when business is not good. Food for both master and adopted dogs can be really scarce.

One thing that might comfort animal lovers is the fact that Ukrainians, in general, don't feast on askals (street dogs) the way some barbaric Filipinos do.

'Dog orphanage' in Kyiv. (Photos by Sarita Ladios)