Sunday, February 3, 2008
Rex: The Lucky Dog
I'm always thankful that I have a loving family, always there to give everything I need. But not all dogs are lucky as I am. Some are abused, sold as food, and some are just being abandoned. I would like to share to you a story my mami read this morning from the Philippine Daily Inquirer about Rex, a black labrador that was rescued from cruel people.
You Lucky Dog!
By Alya Honasan
MANILA, Philippines – Luck, we think, is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Me? I think God sends Lady Luck to bonk us on the head with much-needed blessings that are still part of His plan, whether we’re harassed humans—or one really lucky dog.
Actually, this story is as much about the love between people and animals as it is about luck. It wasn’t luck that brought me to the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Animal Rehabilitation Center on Aurora Boulevard last November 1, All Souls’ Day. My late dog Muffin has her name on the memorial wall there, and I had gone to light a candle and bring flowers in her memory. It was lucky, however, that PAWS director Anna Cabrera was there, too. “Hey, we have a rescued Labrador here,” she told me.
The dog had been living in a cage on the sidewalk outside a house in Quezon City, a nylon cord tied around his neck for a collar, constantly exposed to sun and rain and dirt. He had been starved so much that he was reduced to eating his own feces and any rats he caught. Lucky for him, a kind-hearted neighbor, a woman and animal lover named Eva, took pity on the animal and would occasionally feed him, cajoling the owners to please just give up the dog. One day, they did call her; if she didn’t take the dog, said the barbarians, they would just sell him to dog meat traders. An incensed Eva actually transported the animal in a tricycle, in the rain, to the shelter! Eva was this dog’s real savior and good luck charm, and may she be blessed a hundredfold for her good heart. As for the people who did this to him—may they have the worst possible luck on this earth!
It wasn’t just luck, too, that moved me to do something. The dog was a black Lab, but was so filthy we thought he was brown. He stank to high heavens, had mange and open wounds all over his body, and his ribs were visible even from a distance. Anna was afraid he was already gravely ill. Then, he looked at us with a pair of beautiful brown eyes and wagged his tail—before throwing up something vile and yellow. I was filled with pity and indignation at how people could allow this to happen to the creatures that we, as humans, are supposed to be stewards of. Then again, if we can slaughter dolphins, murder turtles for sunglasses, and make horses, dogs and chickens fight to the death to entertain us, what’s the big deal if you leave a caged animal hungry for days, right?
Four days later, on November 5, the dog was at my veterinarian’s clinic. We had named him Rex, for “resurrection”—my friends and I were determined to give the dog a new life by paying for his medication. It was my eternal luck to have friends who cared about animals as much as I did. My friend Dr. Marga Carpio of Vets in Practice didn’t charge for her services, and was loving, thorough, and optimistic that he would recover. The diagnosis was a bad case of mange, malnutrition, and infections in his paws and skin. Despite that, Rex had bounded energetically up to the clinic, and Marga pronounced his internal organs in decent condition after some tests and shots. Rex wanted to live just as much as we wanted to save him.
On November 10, less than a week after first taking him to the vet, I brought Rex home in my arms, still stinky and almost hairless and covered with wounds. The plan was to care for him until PAWS found a family that would adopt him. In the meantime, I was determined to turn him into a beautiful dog again.
Thus began the two months of my life with Rex. I walked him every morning, fed him, gave him his medicated mange baths (based on Marga’s detailed instructions), and introduced him to a tennis ball. We piled on the antibiotics, mange medicine, multivitamins, and mountains of dog food, with my friends giving me donations that pretty much covered everything. I even got dog stuff for him for Christmas! I introduced him to my dog Banana, and it wasn’t just luck, either, that my dog is a sweet, friendly creature who took to Rex and became his regular playmate immediately.
I was ready to keep him if nobody took him, but I sent out an e-mail blast anyway. If he stayed with me, he would have to be kenneled half of the day and walked once every morning. No sleeping under my bed for him, as space, logistics, and previous occupants (read: my fragile elderly mother) kept me from bringing another big dog into the house, so he would have to live in the garage. I offered him to anybody who was willing to give him a better life than I could.
My friends disseminated the letter and the first pictures of a skinny, sad-looking Rex, which reached dozens of people. Then my friend Popi got lucky: She got a response from her friends and fellow potters, EJ and Eva Espiritu (yes, another Eva!), who live on a pottery farm in Silang, Cavite (www.cornerstone.ph), and had been thinking of getting a dog to keep their 4-year-old son Gelo company. They took one look at Rex’s “bad” picture, and wanted him. He was going to have the run of the place and sleep inside the house with them. How lucky was that?
My friends Popi and Joy, Anna and Liza of PAWS, and I met the Espiritus over dinner before Christmas, and we knew we had found Rex’s new family within minutes. A side story: as we said our goodbyes—Gelo gave me a hug that reduced me to tears—and bade each other Merry Christmas, the Espiritus discovered that their car was missing! Luckily, we discovered that it had just been (unjustly) towed, a holiday solicitation from the greedy neighborhood parking authorities. Still, that couldn’t ruin our happiness, as we made a date to bring Rex to Cavite after the holidays.
In the meantime, Rex had grown from a bony 21-kg to a meatier 28-kg dog. His skin was still damaged, but improving, thanks to (free) fat supplements from Marga and constant applications of virgin coconut oil. He was no longer hunched over tentatively, but was barking and ready to play when he greeted me every morning. He learned to wait until he was let out of his kennel thrice a day to poo, and was now eating more leisurely instead of gobbling up his food. As my friend remarked, Rex had learned to accept affection again—and had finally realized that life had gotten better. On December 13, Rex was neutered so he would stay healthy and could no longer contribute to this country’s population of unwanted dogs who suffer the consequences of their owners’ irresponsibility.
Finally, it was January 13, 2008, the day we were to bring Rex to Silang. Eva Espiritu and I had been texting each other as the family prepared for Rex’s coming: what kind of sleeping arrangements should she prepare, what dog food does he eat, how often do they let him out to poo? My heart was bursting with joy, even as I felt a tinge of separation anxiety creeping in. The day before, Marga gave Rex a final check-up, wrote a love letter to the Espiritus filled with instructions, and kissed him goodbye. He was now a whopping 33.4 kg and free of mange, albeit with some bald patches remaining—a big, chunky bundle of joy. That last afternoon at my house, I scratched his belly and threw a tennis ball for him, a miracle animal whose life was about to get even better.
Rex snored on my lap for most of the drive to Silang; Popi and Joy accompanied us. Gelo ran out to meet him when we got to the farm, and was surprised to see how big his dog was! Rex was immediately at home, sniffing around the garden, catching the tennis ball that EJ and Eva threw at him, and allowing his belly to be scratched. I watched him leap to catch the ball, and felt a lump in my throat when I saw how beautiful he had become. My friends and I slipped away quietly as he was still playing, and I cried on the drive back home—good tears, because although I was already missing him, I knew he was where he belonged.
Even if I do still miss seeing those brown eyes, I am eternally grateful that I have the happy ending I had wished for. Eva and I are still textmates, and we plan to visit them again. As of this writing, a week after we took Rex to his new home, he has entertained visiting children at the farm, and has even visited Eva’s folks in Las Piñas. The filthy, malnourished dog we chanced upon at the animal shelter was now a well-loved companion living in a wonderful home with a family that dotes on him.
People tell me Rex is a lucky dog. I like to think all of us who have met Rex are lucky, as well—Eva, the woman who saved him, the PAWS people who have made animal welfare their mission, the vets who nursed him, my dear friends who share my passion, the Espiritus who now have a new “baby.” I’m fortunate to have been in a position to do something for an animal in need, even as there are thousands of animals out there who are nowhere near as lucky as Rex. But more than anything, my life has been touched by a special creature who taught me quite a bit about love and patience, and turning a life around. And that makes me the luckiest one of them all!
If you are thinking of getting a pet, please consider a shelter animal, and you too can turn an abandoned dog or cat’s life around. Contact PAWS at tel. no 475-1688, www.paws.org.ph.
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