By Aby K. Weygan
It doesn’t matter if you were out for 7 days, 7 hours or 70 minutes. Doesn’t matter if you get home the winner or the biggest loser in the game of being a man. Of being a woman. Whether you are broke or broken, whenever you fail that exam- again and again, beset with all manners of rejections and ejections.
They matter not.
When you get home, your dog will still greet you wagging his tail left and right, left and right. Someone is always excited to see you. And with your permission, he would lick you –after licking his balls all day or the anus of other dogs. YES- even in a shit storm there is hope. Believe me, that is what your dog tells you, it’s what he tells me. Always, but not all the time…
Today, I bought a shovel.
(exhibit a. shovel)
This is why: at work I made this green policy telling everyone to be environmentally conscious. Thus, there was to be stricter waste segregation , no styro, etc etc. More important than having the audacity and authority to tell others what to do, was earning the credibility to do so. So I bought a shovel.
So I can bury my biodegradable.
Thankfully, my home right now is not totally cemented. There are patches of land down a flight of stairs from my door.
As soon as the hole for my trash was dug, I saw my dog Tyrion watching me. I did not notice him a while ago but when I saw him right near the pit I realized why digging came naturally to me. And I remembered why. I again asked myself "why?".
At home, Tyrion follows me around like my shadow. But not never freely beyond the gate for his constant presence reminds me of P------ and
I. The Lesson
P----- was my mother and little brother’s dog - a small toy dog with curly white fur. When everyone left for school and work, there was always P------ keeping both of them company. Most times I got home to see him standing by my mom as she did the laundry in all its stages up until the clothes are hang to dry. Her bodyguard, he would leave her side only when he was with my little brother who was playing by himself. He was potty trained with no destructive quirks.
His company was all the more valuable since the old house was far from other houses. P----- was my brother’s only playmate and my mother’s constant companion. A dog is sometimes enough when there is no one else. The bond that is formed between human and animal is the stuff of literature-think Hachiko, Marley, Lassie and the wolves of GOT and that’s P------.
One night when we visited a neighbor's house, we brought P----- with us or perhaps he followed? my memory is a hazy dream but there are clear images. It was night. The gate was accidentally left open. Dogs were on the other side of the street. P----- rushed to meet them. A car sped over P---- . The car did not stop. We saw our dog slumped on the road. He got up to walk back to us. After a few steps, he just dropped.
I was gravedigger together with my cousin.
After we made the pit, with P beside it, I told my cousin that we should wait. “Let us wait for 5 minutes.” I don’t remember what we were waiting for. What was I waiting for? A miracle? “Let us wait 10 more minutes.” Maybe my own acceptance that P---- is already dead.
My cousin did not protest. Instead, he brought out his cigarette - his secret. We were elementary students.
The smell of smoke. A starry night. We buried Perseus there where the bananas grow to this day.
My mother and brother never again looked at another dog as they did with P----. Sadness loomed for weeks. This was also the reason my dad bought a playstation for my brother.
We tried with Akira, adopted at an already advanced age. You can see there was no connection and he died immediately before any was built. Images: a bone stuck was in his throat. He couldn’t eat well. We sent him to a vet at B--. They told us he needed an operation. He could die from the operation. He did. I buried him together with the bone. Near where a Mulberry tree used to be.
I don't take chances with my dog. I remind everyone to check the bones they feed him. I trained Tyrion never to go out of the compound even if the gate is open or only if he is held on a leash. I trained him to always prefer the sidewalk when we go for our walks/runs. (If there are sidewalks for much of the roads are sadly not made for walking.)
He learns well just like Tyrion from the book A Song of Ice and Fire a.k.a Game of Thrones.
Strangely, this is not the first time a dog of mine lived true to his name. If Tyrion is the smart dwarf, Tech-9 was the gangster.
II. Name of the Dog
Tech - 9 was the first dog I could call my own.
The name came from a comic book character of a Black – Latino gang called The Blood Syndicate. Tech-9, their leader, had the power to materialize guns from nowhere as they battled against drug dealers, other gangs, the government, and among themselves.
Tech-9 did, he grew up to be the leader, the alpha of the pack. His fur was mostly colored black but he had a sort of brown mane like a lion.
Aside from being gravedigger, it was also my task to feed them. Of all the dogs, the only one whose feeding I didn't need to guard was Tech-9's. Even if there were bigger and older dogs, they could not, not that I allowed them to, try to take his food. And it was easy for him to do the opposite. He could easily take over another’s meal if he wanted to- not that I allowed him to.
Much like wolves, dogs do have this system of hierarchy. Tech-9 somehow “lead” the dogs when they play. And when I pet them, other dogs would try to crowd on me but if Tech-9 was the one being petted, they won’t compete with him. Maybe such a hierarchy could simplify the complexity and complications of human bondage(relationships), maybe not.
People leave, houses change, and memory is a hazy dream. But there are episodes. Because mother needed to work abroad, the family transferred to our grandparent’s home, bringing all the dogs. But I decided to stay alone at the old house.
I found out that indeed dogs do not forget. Whenever I visit our grandparents regardless if it was after a couple of weeks or months, Tech-9 did not fail to recognize me and answer to my beckoning.
Always, but not all the time.
I wish I could have taken photographs of what he looked like, it is only through these stories that I hope to remember them. Especially since Tech-9 is one of the dogs that I failed to bury.
in one of my visits, he was no longer there. They told me he died of sickness. I don’t know if I would believe them as there were a lot of people at that house, uncles, workers, etc and anybody could have taken an interest in him. But he had long fur and that makes their story a bit believable.
II-I Surprise! Surprise!
In one of my visits to my grandparents, I found the people there eating heartily. I joined them and as I was not very curious of the food I ate before and did not even notice that the meat tasted differently, all I remember and all I know now is that it tastes good. Having filled myself, I opened the fridge to find myself something to drink when there and then the severed head of Blackie faced me.
It was with a heavy heart that I continued to eat Blackie piece by piece. Perhaps I was able to do so because he was taken too early from me. Perhaps like all meat, the younger the better- older dogs with harder meat –harder to cook.
If you have a furry dog (like Tyrion), you will know that they don't get wet easily. When your bathing them, there seems to be layers and layers of fur that you might need a continues flow of water(also because of the oil on their fur). The same is true with fire. Furry dogs are harder to cook than those who have short furs. Even with a short furred dog if you focus the blowtorch on a certain spot, you need to scrape layers of fur, then burn again, then scrape, before you get to the skin maybe more than what you need to do with a pig.
Thus, there is a chance that the dog eaters did not take an interest on Tech-9.
There are certain stages before the bond between man and beast is made. The bond between me and Blackie was never really built. While naming them is part of it there is more.
III. The Taming of You
Hotdog was my last dog from that old house. After him, there was a long period of time before I could bring myself to have another dog.
If Tech-9 was the alpha, Hotdog was the omega - the outcast. It was not enough that he was the only brindled dog with streaks of white black and grey, he was also sort of ‘bullied’ by the other dogs. When they were still puppies, he went missing.
Whenever I feed our dogs I would beat the tin pot cover with the ladle like a gong sending echoes of TANG TANG TANG to the mountains, to the valleys and to the underworlds wherever our dogs have been and they would all rush to feed.
But in this particular afternoon, one of them did not return.
I repeated the tang tang , the unique brindled puppy was nowhere. I went under the Sayote area, I searched the Marapait, I climbed the mountain, skirted the Tiger grasses and there in the veranda of a white house I saw our unique puppy tied to a railing .
I went ninja to that house and untied him but I saw no urgency from him to get home. I had to carry him back to our house.
Next afternoon, the brindled puppy was again MIA. I made the tang tang tang! I swam though the Sayote area, chopped some Marapait for a climbing stick , climb the mountain with it, slipped through the tiger grasses, and there in that strange white house, was the outcast tied to a railing.
This time I was adamant. I took the leash and dragged him home with it. Then I took a piece of hotdog from our dinner. I untied the puppy, placed him on my lap and began petting him as I fed him bits and pieces of the hotdog. I also remember swatting mosquitoes as I did this. I saved some more hotdogs and the next day I did the same thing and the next and the next until he never left again.
And though Hotdog grew up big, strong, and well- adjusted to the other dogs, I was the only one who could pet him. Along with the family and the other dogs, he was also transferred to our grandparent’s. In my visits, it saddened me to see him tied to a place farther from everyone while all the other dogs ran free. They told me he barked too much and almost bit someone. It did not help that his color and size seemed imposing.
I went to the lonely place where he was leashed.
Compared to a dog running free, a leashed adult dog evokes fear. Though I knew he would not bite me I approached him with a certain amount of trepidation. I was able to shrug it off before the fear reached him.
In a far away and strange house I once again find him leashed, this time however I could not release him. I did not. I tell myself I was young? I petted him for as long as I could just like I did in that long ago afternoon. When I left that was the only time he barked at me. He was no longer there on my next visit.
It would take another decade and a half before I could again take another dog as my own.
It might appear that I am the one who gave Hotdog the special treatment, but looking back it was him who did so and gave me something he couldn’t give everyone else.
Dogs seem to give you everything, their loyalty and company, they will bow to you, they will give you that special attention but there is one thing they will try their best not to give you.
I found that dogs would, if they could, deny you the pain or the pleasure of burying them.
Codile , so named because my little brother could not say “crocodile”, was a gift from our neighbor who left just a year after we transferred to that house(we transferred homes a total of 4 times).
In turn, Codile gifted us a generation of dogs. Our first dog, she was a puppy making machine. I could not remember not seeing her pregnant or with puppies suckling at her tits. She was the mother of Tech-9, Hotdog, Boots, Boxer, Blackie, Greywolf, and all others we gave away or we buried.
Codile grew to be very old outliving most of her puppies. And with her age , gone were her barking and her regular birthing. When I called the dogs for the evening meals, she would fail to come. I needed to find her and bring the food to her. She would eat a bit, allow me to pet her, and then lie down again.
At first, it was easy to find her. But she would choose a spot farther and farther from the house. Many times, I had to carry her back because she already had trouble even walking and the spot she chose was already outside of the lot. We knew she was dying. She knew this.
I considered leashing her but she was a free and an outdoor dog all her life. Why chain her now?
Dogs seem to want to die away from you. This happened with Negra, Codile’s mother and the dog of our neighbor, but we were able to bury Negra. When I tell this to friends, most of them would report the same instance with their dying dogs.
Codile went farther and farther away from the house until one day, we couldn’t find her. Not even after my mom went to the dog pound to look for her. Perhaps the burglars she guarded us from all those years finally got her. Or perhaps she died on the road and somebody took her dead body.
As a child, I asked a lot of questions. One of them was the regarding the size of heaven. I asked, if people die everyday, then would it be over-crowded up there? How about dogs?
My dad likens Tyrion’s fur to that of Codile’s, an almost golden brown long fur. But Tyrion's is also brindled with streaks of light brown and black, much like the patterns of Hotdog’s fur. Tyrion and Tech-9 both have that lion like mane.
Maybe that is why I took it upon myself to get a dog despite knowing full well how short and fragile their lives are. Codile, Tech-9, Hotdog, and all the others, live on with Tyrion. With him, their story continues.
V. Doggy Bag
1. Baking soda is a good meat tenderizer
2. Clichéd as it sounds, there is indeed hope even in a shit storm. Pets are excellent stress relievers.
3. However, before we go on to reciprocate their affection with our own, affection is actually the least of their needs. If Cesar Milan’s book is to be believed, a dog’s needs after food and shelter are listed in this order of importance:
c. Affection. (yup, belly scratch is last)
While Tyrion is always excited to see me whenever I get home, he becomes more excited when he knows that we are going out for a run or a walk. Those four limbs of theirs are meant to be used regularly. Additionally, Cesar Milan builds his program on the idea that you and your dog are a pack. You are the pack leader. It might seem egotistic but remember credibility, we can't demand stability from the dog if the pack leader is himself unstable. This ensures discipline which ensures the safety of your dog and the safety of others from him/her.
This could all mean that you need to have an active lifestyle or at least can afford to hire a dog walker should you want a dog. Otherwise if you lead a sedentary or chill lifestyle, a cat would be better for you- but that is another story or argument altogether, perhaps one we might never tell because this is the end of these memories.
There were titles for next stories as the memories come back to me to be fabricated. after the Necrodogicon, we wanted to continue with stories: 3) Midnight Miracle at the Garden of Stone 4) The Orchid of Love and the Art of Moving On, or the Impossibility Thereof 5) The Cat Who Dropped by for Dinner: a Treatise on How to Relax 6) Death of the Bayabas Salesman: a Superhero or Super Villain origins story, and a 7th yet untitled unknown memory to complete the cycle.
But we need to end here because the Voices are calling and they do not have enough time. I wanted to end with the first story but when it is the Voiceless who beckon, you need to give an exemption.
----For all the dogs we have buried, For all the dogs we have eaten, and for all the dogs we have lost-