Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jose Rizal and the Askal Dog

Who was the askal (asong kalye or street dog, today called aspin or asong pinoy) dog that was present when our National Hero Jose Rizal was executed? This photo of the execution scene is enlarged to show the dog in more detail (beside the rightmost tree is a man in white facing the seated dog).

Was he Rizal’s dog? As a child he had a pet dog named Usman according to the historian Zaide. In Rizal’s Calamba, Laguna ancestral home there is a statue of young Rizal with a dog that the statue says is named Verguenza. Did Rizal have another dog in his adult years, which was allowed to share his last days? Or was the dog an army mascot? Was he just wandering around at the time? In the photo he is sitting down as if he belongs there. But no documentation states who owned the dog.
What is written is that when Rizal was executed the dog ran circles around Rizal’s body. Some Spaniards took this as a bad omen for the ongoing war for independence.

Dogs and Smell

Could it have been a reaction to the smell of so much blood? Dogs have a powerful sense of smell and they can determine all the smells in a place from two weeks back.

Was the dog concerned about Rizal? When I was bleeding from dog bites, my askal Winniechurchill and mutt Mocha Barney kept licking the blood off my wounds as a protective gesture.

Was the dog reacting to the sudden blast of gunfire? Dogs react to all types of sounds, which brings me back to askals.

The Animal Kingdom Foundation Inc. has some 400 rescued askals, and they are trying to put them to work as bomb sniffing dogs. Askal food is less expensive, whereas the budget for a German Shepherd’s food is equal to the salary of one soldier in the Philippine army. What if the askals did the work of bomb sniffing themselves? Imagine the savings incurred. Greg Quimpo of AKF Inc. told me they are working on that and have met some success, but also resistance from sellers who benefit from the use of German Shepherds.

How about askals as hearing dogs? They could physically and psychologically help their humans with hearing disabilities, would be more affordable, and would be very loving. They could alert their humans to sounds of doorbells, alarm clocks, electrical machines, telephones, the name of their humans (when someone calls them) car horns, babies crying, and fire alarms. Hearing dogs touch their human’s foot with a paw or put both paws on their human’s lap when they hear a sound then lead them to the source. In case of danger (like a car horn when crossing the street) the dog will put both paws to stop their human from walking. If the Philippines wants to seriously consider this AKF Inc. has 400 dogs available.

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