Sunday, January 31, 2010

What is an Askal

An askal is a street dog (asong kalye) in the Philippines. Filipinos first got their reputation as dog eaters of askals because of the Igorots, a brave tribal group in Benguet where ironically, dogs are still eaten in some areas today (although the dog trade is illegal in the Philippines).

However, askals were also loved by the Igorots. They actually preferred to eat wild boar, and askals played a valuable role in hunting them.  Askals were only eaten as last resort food, initially.  This is not uncommon, as even in Europe during war time dogs were eaten when there was no other food left available.  In China, dog is a delicacy.  In Korea, you can buy canned dog meat in the supermarket.  They have dogs raised like "cattle" and there are dogs they love.  There is even the story of a wealthy Korean woman who conducted an elaborate funeral when her much loved dog died.  Above is a photo of Igorots with their askals.

There is also a photo of an askal that was present when Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, was executed in 1896. Above is a photo of Rizal's execution.  Rizal is the sole figure in black to the left in the photo.  The askal can be seen between the two trees on the right.  The askal is to the left of the standing man in white who is standing to the left of the rightmost tree. 

Here is a photo of the scene of Rizal's execution which is depicted through several statues.  I have focused on the statue of that same dog that was in the photo of the actual scene above.  This is probably the first askal statue in the Philippines.  I did not include Rizal's statue in the photo on the left so that the dog could be clearly seen.

Askals have for a long time been considered inferior to pure breeds. They were also deemed inferior to mutts that came from two pure breeds. Askals are often considered as the “poor man’s dog”.

Physically, Askals resemble the Canaan dog of Israel which is Israel’s national dog, although with some variation (since askals are mixed dogs themselves). They also resemble the Carolina dog of the United States.

These days, people are speaking out on behalf of askals, which for too long were deliberately tied all day to a short chain so they’d be angry and distrustful, making them efficient guard dogs of family homes.
Thanks to publications like Animal Scene in the Philippines, and groups like the Animal Kingdom foundation (AKF) and PAWS, askals are gaining recognition for their engaging personalities and amazing intellect, and are being gradually mainstreamed.

Being the proud owner of two askals and a schnoxie (half mini doxin, half mini schnauzer) I can say that a dog’s potential, like a child’s, will grow dependent on how they are raised by their human.

The story of askals is not unlike many stories of human civilizations and races that may have served some societies well, but were for a time underappreciated and ill treated, nonetheless. The most widely known example of this was the African American race in the United States, whose intellectual and artistic contributions to the wealth of the world was long underappreciated. But today, the United States has its first black president in Barack Obama.

What has been commonly said these days is that gays are the new black. Personally, being a Christian, I sometimes wonder if Christians are the new black. That would put us and gays in the same league and perhaps, lend us a common talking point, which need not necessarily be a bad thing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dog Parenting and People Parenting

Marissa, my maid, said that because Ed’s and my only child is an adult, we have made the dogs our children. I thought of her words today as we brought our three dogs to their vet, Happy Hayop.

It was like a family trip as Ed and I were swayed by the happy barking, tugging of leashes, and sheer joy of our dogs. As a child Kat (our daughter) was wild, too. She ran faster than all the boys in the McDonald’s play area.

I have always envied people with dogs who behave perfectly, stay in place, and do as they are told. I especially envied them today, when Ashley Pumpernickel refused to get inside the vet's office and had to be pushed. Winniechurchill (named after my favorite hero) hesitated at the door, and Mocha Barney walked innocently in, not knowing what was in store (she was new to this).

The doctor pried the dogs apart one after the other. Ashley did not need shots but her ears were cleaned, and her nails cut. Winnie had a worm test (I was worried because she is so thin) and she was perfectly fine, though she was given a vitamin prescription. Mocha got an injection.

(Winniechurchill in this photo)
As the doctor prepared their papers Ed proudly told the assistant that Ashley can catch food on two legs at five throws without sitting down. I said my dogs have never bitten any person, and that Ashley and Mocha are scared of Winnie. Ed proudly showed how Ashley can shake hands.
Meanwhile, a line of patients were waiting outside. A basset hound, a cocker spaniel, a dachshund, and a poodle.

We gleefully pointed out, at that point, how Winnie was possessively sitting on Ed’s lap. Then Mocha kept barking at the cocker spaniel, so I had to hold her mouth shut a few times.  I was concerned about the growing line of patients outside as the doctor prepared Mocha's medical book.

My mind wandered.  I realized then why God only gave us only one child, despite many persistent years that were spent praying for a second child, a boy. We are not disciplinarians. When Kat was a toddler Ed would slap her hand if she was naughty, and if she was really bad he would slap her feet. He stopped doing this when she was three years old because by then she could verbally communicate.

We don’t hit our dogs, either. And yet, just taking them to the doctor was overwhelming for me.  (Although Ed said for him it was no trouble at all.). Imagine if we had to handle three children instead of three dogs. Romans 8:28 says, "All things work for the good of those who love God and fit into His plans."  God knew our limitations better than we did. Thank God.

Finally, the doctor gave us Mocha's completed medicine card and we were done. I paid a wonderful sum of P250 (equal to 5 dollars) because they only charged me for Mocha’s injection. Then I stared out the glass door at the huge basset hound, the cocker spaniel that kept eyeing Mocha, the dachshund right behind, and the large poodle cradled in her human's arms.  Could we make it out alright?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

False Expectations

Before I tell you about the cow and the barn, let me begin by talking about Mocha Barney, my newest dog. I though she was adorable—half mini schnauzer, half mini dachshund. Ergo, a Schnoxie. The owner refused to sell. But since she was in a store I frequented, I always asked how her dog was. One day unexpectedly she said, “Would you like to adopt her?”

We met at a special pickup place, and Mochabar (one of Mocha Barney’s nicknames) seemed anxious but eventually, willingly left with me. I sensed a lump on her chest, so we went straight to Happy Hayop (our vet) thinking it was cancer. The doctor checked Mochabar’s health book, examined Mocha and said the lump was a rib that likely injured when she was a pup and self resolved. Mocha Barney also had 2 different colored eyes but she was not blind. Her next shot, the doctor added, was due within a month.

Mocha’s hair was more gritty than the first time I saw her in the pet shop. Her owner gave her to me clean and free of fleas, with injections up to date. But her stool was wet and plentiful on her first day at our home. After a few days of dog food (and probably, getting over her stress of being in a new home) her stool became odorless and dry; and her hair improved. But we discovered that she had the loudest bark of my 3 dogs (two of them askals) even though she was just a tiny puppy--and she barked frequently. The maids could not sleep, and our neighbors (who have about 9 cats) and my husband and I would suddenly wake up early in the morning if Mocha spotted one of the cats on top of our fence. When I was sick Mocha barked unrelentingly under my window, making me feel worse.

She would bark so loud that all four of her feet would go up in the air at once. Or she would lean on the grills of the gate, head stuck out and bark so loud her two little hind feet went up simultaneously. She barked whenever she heard a dog bark in the neighborhood – and every house in our street except two have dogs. Mocha seemed to start “barking conversations” on our street which I’m sure other neighbors didn’t like, too. Who would think so much noise could arise from such a little dog?

Clearly, this was not my expectation. Okay, cute-check. Tiny-check. Tiny poo-X (is it because she is long that there is more poo?) Tiny pee-check. Can become “invisible” like the furniture when I want her to be-X. Quiet-XXX (the latter two would be “checked” when she’s with me, but when we would walk at the park, all she needed was to hear a dog bark in the distance, and even if I could not see the dog from afar, she would turn in its general direction and bark relentlessly). That’s 50% of my expectations. But she is so lovely to have around when I am working, that I would still rate her 150% just for being my chill pill when I am working.

The Cow in the Barn

Now we have the cow in the barn witnessing a human birth, and a child wrapped in rags and placed in the cow’s eating plate (manger) for his crib. Not much expectation there. No sign of promise of a future for this family, camped with their baby among the animals. And yet an angel announced the baby would save the world. The Shepherds heard and came. A strange man named Simeon recognized the baby as the son of God. So did the prophetess Anna. (Luke chapter 2)

My expectations of Mocha Barney were quite different. I wanted my dog to be ideal both physically and emotionally. This is simply not happening. But Mocha is a really cute mutt, and she may have quite a character, but at the same time she is more interesting, perhaps precisely because she is not what I had expected.

Jesus’ parents took in all that stuff about their son saving the world, but they could not imagine how it would happen, and how much Jesus would accomplish for us. Don’t make the mistake I made with Mocha Barney. Don’t let your expectations, gauged by what you see, limit what God can do in your life. He can do great things, greater still if you just pray, commit your life, let him take charge of all details. He loved you enough to be born in a cow house and to sleep in a cow’s plate. He died because he wanted you to have the best. So keep the faith. Think big. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” If He said it, it’s because he meant it. He lived and died by it, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Animal Kingdom Foundation Inc.

Ask This is not a pleasant picture to start off with, but it brings to light the sad reality of dog abuse in some parts of the Philippines.
Some dogs are lucky, like Cookie, the mother of Ashley Pumpernickel, (my dog), and who is quite the madame at Animal Kingdom.

That's Suzanne Llanera, who runs AKF in the Philippinesl It was started by this British guy whose name escapes me. But I remember his dog Sweet, who is a dog ambassador for rescued dogs in the Philippines, and who lives in England.

Animal Kingdom is different from other dog orphanages precisely because they work against the illegal dog trade in the Philippines. In some parts of the country, illegal dog trade is more prosperous than gambling and the trade gets local goverment protection because of this.

In these areas, the dogs are either picked off the streets or purchased from farmers for 100 pesos, then sold at tremendous profit in Baguio where some restaurants serve it, I was told by Greg Quimpo, who is with AKC.

The dogs are tied and mouths are muzzled with cans, and they are crowded into hidden floors of jeeps and brought to Baguio. Sometimes over 100 dogs are smashed into that small hidden floor and some at the bottom die in transit.

At Animal Kingdom they watch the movements of these groups and catch them when in transit, rescue the dogs, and bring them to AKF. Jessica Soho filmed one such encounter. There are almost 400 dogs in AKF, some are adopted by loving homes.

Susan and Greg are in the black T-shirts, and the others are also staff members, vets and the like. AKF needs more local support. These days because of their rescue success, they have been threatened, and gunshots have been fired into the AKF compound, Greg says. Also, dog dealers now are resorting to killing the dogs before transiting them to Baguio. So AKF has new work cut out for itself.

Most of the rescued dogs are askals, but one of them was a shihtzu, shown here with our group. I am hiding in back so I can look slim like the rest of the group.

That's the AKF Rescue Vehicle. Greg says when they rescue dogs, oftentimes after unbinding them, they are too scared to get into the Rescue Vehicle and need to be gently prodded. It is a terrible trauma for a dog, a film showed some of them almost pups, obviously trembling in fear.

This is a rescued three legged poodle. The doctor was asked to put the dog to sleep, but instead he kept it. The poodle walks easily on three legs with a distinctive and cute hop.

Lucky poodle:)

And here is a rescued German Shepherd. The dog still seemed a bit forlorn at the time, being a relative newbie. He was abandoned in a home.

Newly rescued, traumatized dogs often look like this. They are kept in one separate area for rehabilitation. I felt sad at the fear in this dog's eyes.

And when they are fully rehabilitated they look like this, ready for adoption. This pup was shown in the Jessica Soho program trembling in a heartbreaking way. Now a healthy dog:)

Would anyone like to adopt a dog? Four hundred are hard to maintain. AKF needs volunteers to help out either financially or through time. (visit ) The dogs are bathed monthly with a very skeletal staff. They are given time to walk the grounds daily in shifts, fed on shifts, and cages are cleaned. I was told they went through quite an ordeal during typhoon Ondoy. But they are alive and for obvious reasons, resilient.

There is also a quarantined area. Some dogs are kept here because they manage to escape from their cages. But there are dog behaviorists who come to work with the dogs, and vets too.

This dog always likes to hang out on this tree. One can always financially support one dog of choice. Greg said they are also looking into putting some of the askals to work, maybe as sniffing dogs. Right now German Shepherds are used, and their food is equal to the cost of a soldier's salary. Some askals have been shown to be very effective in helping soldiers in sniffing tasks, but there seems to be resistance in that there is already a fixed agreement with the German Shepherds. AKF is now seeking to have some legal action done to require at least one askal used for every troop or something, provided the dog passes all the required tests and training.

Cookie is the dog on the right. She always sits there. Her "humans" visit her monthly, namely our neighbors who rescued her when she was pregnant. They could not accommodate five dogs in their home and only wanted loving families to take the other dogs in. We got Ashley:) Cookie has gained weight and her hair has grown beautiful and soft. When she was rescued she had mange and was scruffy like she had taken quite a beating off the streets. My neighbor noted that she always hid underneath an old abandoned car and it took awhile before Cookie was persuaded to go to my neighbor's home.

More dogs. My neighbor is a long time supporter of AKF, so Cookie was given a place there.

Askals are beautiful dogs. I have two of them, and what makes them stand out is that they have such interesting personalities. Ashley is my favorite. She is loving, friendly, never bites anyone, is a catcher and always makes me laugh. When I'm sad, Ashley makes me forget everything because she herself is so uncomplicated. My second askal, Winniechurchill (named after my favorite Political hero) is more like a person. When I'm sad she will force me to look her in the eye, like she knows something's up and I end up waterfalling. Winnie is always neat and clean and perfect, tiny but the alpha dog. My third dog is a Schnoxie (mini schnauzer mini doxin) and still a pup. Her personality is still forming but she is cute.

These dogs are all so beautiful. Thank goodness there is a place for them in AKF. The place is situated in Tarlac, deliberately so because it is midway from where the dog trade is and Baguio. They want to buy the land since they already made so many improvements, but the price is stiff for them.

Filipinos are beginning to give askals more acceptance. I think because of a lot of smart askals that have been shown on YouTube. One of them is doing a lot of commercials and can do so many tricks including use the human toilet. Seriously. Another dog is Mario Peso, often written about by Maricel Arrogante for Animal Scene magazine. If you don't love your askal, who will? I often feel sad when I take one of my askals out and people look snotty but when its my schnoxie they make such a fuss. It makes me feel the discrimmination and if they only knew these dogs wonderful personalities, they would see there is nothing like them.

My dogs are given shifts in the house, the Scnoxie from 1-6 pm, the Ashley from 6-11. Winnie sleeps with us at night. But when all three of them go out to the park together they are amazing. You see Ashley trying to show Mocha Barney (the Schnoxie) all over the place while Winnie likes to do her thing. Ashley is very protective over Mocha who as a pup can sometimes irritate Winnie. Ashley never hurts Winnie (though she is three times her size) but just stands sweetly in the middle of them.

So if you have an askal, please don't tie it up all day and night, let it stay indoors if you can, they make wonderful house dogs. When Ashley is inside my husband and I feel lighter just because she's there. That's her charm though physically she is our least attractive dog. Each dog has its own spirit.

If you want to visit AKF, there is even a place for any volunteer who will stay overnight. This is the bathroom.

Here is the bedroom.

My guy.

These are the lovely gardens where the dogs are given time to roam in shifts.

Bath area for the dogs.

Clinic facade.

ICU area. This dog has a Queen Elizabeth collar so she won't bite herself.

For surgery.


Summary: Please give your askal as much love as your pedigree. You will find yourself sometimes being even more enamoured with your askal's personality. And please, don't eat them. And don't tie them. If they love you, they will protect you anyway.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It Just Takes One

It just takes one container van to cause traffic distress on a two lane side road of South Superhighway. The motorcycles are passing through, but the cars are stalled. That's Ed's back, checking things out.
Another driver also steps out of his car.
It just takes a little drizzle to make a bad situation worse. Only the motorcycles are getting through.

Now a bevy of motorcycles make their way. Thanks to that one container van, no one else can.

Suddenly a two lane road becomes three. People are working their way through the mess. If only there were one policeman to set things right.

Beyond the container van you see stalled cars and jeepneys. But the jeep on our lane can't move forward because the traffic caused by the container van made the cars behind it drive on two lanes.....ours and its.

See this man in the red shorts? He is not a policeman. But it just takes one man in red shorts to fix the mess up. He starts directing the cars so they can move ahead of that nutty container van.

Although he bears no authority on his own, he steps in and signals our car to give way so the others can get through.

And that's how we made it home that day. Wealthy and middle class car owners who were used to being served, and truck drivers who knew how to disappear, and police men who perhaps did not want to brave the rain and so did not do their job, led one simple man in a pair of red shorts and slippers to step up. Who is he? A hero. A hero who does not recognize this inside himself.
Maybe in real life he makes money helping cars park and getting a peso each time. I don't know, but at this moment of time he stepped up and became THE MAN. We waste our nation's most precious resources-our people. If this man were educated, what would he have become? His main concern in life, I suspect, is just to find a job.

Lest a drizzle become a downpour (come to think of it, we are beyond a downpour, we have had floods like Ondoy) let us do what we can. Educate someone. If you can't give time, a little money helps. I would recommend you look up The Real Life Foundation at Every donation, large or small, counts. Because it just takes one person to roll the ball forward.