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.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Day Lucky Happy Died

Today I was thinking of my dog LuckyHappy, who is no longer with us.  I cried buckets when he died, but after writing about him I felt great peace, as though his life was not in vain. One night, I dreamt he was sleeping with us. Usually our small askal Winnichurchill sleeps on our bed, but in my dream there were two dogs. The other was LuckyHap.

Here's my piece:

Don’t Ever Think You Are in Control

By Mona Sabalones-Gonzalez

“But the fruit of the Spirit is….self control. Against these things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:19-23

If you think you have got a handle on life, you are only fooling yourself-you are never in control.

We can ‘t control it if we happen to fall in love with the wrong person. We aren’t in control if we love a person who doesn’t love us back, or if we love someone who just doesn’t know how to love. We may own the company, but we don’t control the office. Not really, never fully. And when I believed I was in control of my dogs because they were MY dogs, I was very, very wrong.

Today my Japanese Spitz LuckyHappy died. He was 14 years old.

I thought I had it all planned. I would not let him die slowly, the way my mother did. One day I brought him to the vet because he seemed matamlay (weak). He was given a suppository (because he could not poo or pee), an antibiotic injection, and some vitamins. His ears were cleaned and his nails, cut. But the vet told me Lucky wouldn’t live very long-and although it wasn’t the vet's policy, he was willing to give the dog, in due time, an injection-so LuckyHappy would feel no pain.

Lucky did not get better after a day or two, so I called the vet and made the appointment. To my surprise, when I got home my dog had rallied. I told the maid that I had actually planned to inject him, and my maid, shocked, said “NO!” Forcefully, she told me I must only do it when he is really ready to die-not too soon.

Both my maids, you see, treated LuckyHappy as their dog. He was the guard dog and he always stayed outside, usually in front of their door. (The maids' home is adjacent to ours, but further back). So they considered the Spitz to be theirs, and the askals, ours.

I noticed after that, that the maids would constantly tell me, "Lucky is walking," or "Lucky is eating." When Lucky seemed to be ill, they would hide him from me; and that was the first time I realized that I was not even in control of my own dog. Not with my maids there to protect him from me.

The other day Lucky walked up to me, and I petted him. As usual my two askals who are younger and stronger got in the way, but I still petted Lucky and only stopped when I realized the askals would bother him if I kept it up. Being dogs, they would often playfully jump on each other, but when one landed on Lucky’s head, I saw him visibly wince in pain.

Today at work my husband called me to say LuckyHappy had died. I was surprised. That morning as I left for work, LuckyHappy was lying flat on the ground as he usually did, but his face was in the direction of the car (usually he faced the other way). We looked straight at one another’s eyes, and I thought to myself that he is a very beautiful dog, indeed. In retrospect, I wonder if that was his goodbye.

So I never really had him, and I was never in control. But I think God gave me Lucky to teach me lessons I would need to take with me on the third quarter of my life. This is the time when we have to start getting used to saying goodbye, and we must release people – our children to adulthood, our elders to heaven.

Dogs are here to teach us so many things. Finally, I realized now why it is that no one is ever fully in control, even though there are many people who give a really good front and who can be so convincing, that you think that they are. The truth is, they simply have not got the power. We don’t have the power. Only God has the power. Only God is in control.

Considering all that, it doesn’t hurt to put your life into the hands and under the control of the one who holds the power, really calls the shots, and loves you more than you love your dog, because when you surrender, that’s when you really are in control.

The Bible says that in surrendering you get the gifts of the Spirit. Galatians says, “ The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Allow me to paraphrase the last part - "Against such things, there is no law."

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Monday, February 15, 2010


Behind every dog’s story is the story of a person. And that is more vivid in Romania than anywhere else in the world. There are so many stray dogs in Romania. In Bucharest, the capital city, you will find groups of dogs on every block.

In a country as poor as Romania, dogs scavenge for food and often attack the chickens of a poor family. So dogs threaten a family’s life, and people hunt, poison and torture them because of it. And yet in 2005 a stray dog in Romania stood guard over a freezing baby girl in the park, even as it alerted passersby that the child was hidden in a plastic bag under a table.

The story of stray dogs is linked to the story of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s former dictator who built a personality cult around himself, made horrible economic decisions and drove the country to extreme poverty.

Under Ceausescu houses with gardens were torn down and replaced with small apartments where the people were forced to live. There was no room for their dogs, who were left in the streets and repopulated to where they are today. Ceausescu was killed in 1989 but the dogs remain. Dog food is equal to the cost of luxury food in this poor country. So you see mixed shepherd and lab dogs, or mixed terrier poodles.

In city dog pounds where kennels are overcrowded dogs eat each other to survive. Thousands are killed with rocks, sticks and poison. On the streets dogs are hung or shot.

We hope now that Romania will rediscover its wealth. As part of the European Union they have a chance at doing that. But it is taking very long and we hope that in due time Romania will be sufficiently prosperous to the point that they can enjoy a good life and appreciate the love of dogs in their families once again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DOGFIGHT 2: What To Do With The Bruises

Okay, after having had my little fracas with the dogs (as mentioned in my last entry) I took stock of my bruises and am rather unsatisfied with how they are healing.

Call that episode my Masters Degree in making all the wrong moves.  Getting between two fighting dogs is NOT the thing to do.  But not knowing better, I did it to saveAska one of my dogs, and there is no regret in that.

Bruise care:  THAT was totally stupid.  First, I took quite a bit of time using a wet towel to stop my wounds and that of my dog.  When my daughter Kat and her boyfriend Luis came home, Kat took charge of applying hydrogen peroxide and Betadine to my wounds, with Luis helping her.  Then Ed came and silly me, I asked him to buy me some antibiotics, which he did on the spot.  In the photo above, you can see part of my arm and the resultant bruise.  Yecch.

You see, I figured dog bites were just wounds like getting scratched, and bruises were like what you get when you slip and fall.  I knew the rabies and tetanus aspects were covered as my dogs’ shots and vaccinations were up to date, as was my booster shot.  But as a precaution I self prescribed the antibiotic.

I have been staying indoors and feeling impatient with slowly healing bruises.  So I called a doctor friend and this is what she told me not to do with a bruise:

DO NOT TAKE AN ANTIBIOTIC.  It can worsen the bruise.  Instead:

1.      Elevate the bruised limb or if it is on the torso, lie down for 24 hours (which I did anyway as I was very sleepy for two days).
2.     Apply ice or frozen peas to the bruise.  (Too late for that).

More about bruises:

1.     It will look red, then turn blue or purple shortly after.  If it turns green or yellow, it may take a few days to heal.  (Thankfully mine are turning yellow mostly).
2.     Good foods for bruises:  Lemons, green peppers, broccoli, rose hips (they have bioflavonoids which protect the capillaries) and best of all, vitamin C.
3.     Drinking herbal tea helps to control blood flow.

So that is my next lesson to pass on to anyone who gets a bruise from being bitten by their fully vaccinated dog.  Next time, I will write about how to make dogs that had a bad fight become friends again.  Because the story is not over yet, the dogs still have a grudge but they are getting to be friendlier day by day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dogfight: Or, What I Wish I Knew Last Night

I have counted 10 dog bites on myself, eight on one arm, one on the other, and another at the back of my foot. I also have bruises everywhere. That is why I wish I knew last night what I’m going to tell you now.

Last night two of my dogs fought. Ashley (my biggest dog) and Winnie (my medium dog, 1/3 Ashley’s weight). Ashley had finally learned how to defend herself (she never hurt Winnie before). But now she had Winnie in a neck hold.

So I did all the wrong things. I put my hands between their mouths, and they would not let go. I pulled Ashley’s collar up and Winnie being smaller was dangling in the air. That broke my heart and I hit Ashley hard, then she let go.

In the photo above, you can clearly see that Winnnie is much smaller than Ashley (the brown dog).  But Winnie is the alpha dog.
In this photo you can clearly see the two dogs at play.  Nothing like the dog fight the other night.

I lifted Ashley up, and little Winnie still tried to jump up and bite her. When I pushed Ash out the door Winnie made a lunge and I held her with one arm. Ash turned around and tried to get back at Winnie, so I held both dogs at bay with both arms and managed to get the door shut.

Winnie has a single neck puncture, Ashley has no wounds at all, and I have 10. But that’s okay, because I’d do it again tomorrow to save my dog’s life. Their injections are all up to date including rabies and their vaccinations.

Above, you can see sweet Winnie with Ed.  But she will defend her alplhahood to the death.

My booster shot was taken within the prescribed time period of five years. So it was really just a matter of cleansing the wound and putting on disinfectant, plus antibiotics for safety.

This is what I wish I knew. When two dogs fight:

1. NEVER get in the middle of them—you will get bit.

2. Throw water on them.

That’s it. I was alone in the house at the time and just moved on instinct. But my husband grew up in a house with 14 dogs and their former houseboy (who is now a driver for a neighbor and our dear friend) told me that it always worked.

Here’s what I also wish I knew:

3. Never treat your dogs equally. One is the alpha and dogs operate comfortably with hierarchy. When you interfere with hierarchy, you get dog fights.

I treat my dogs like my children so I tried to give them equality. Now I know, Winnie is the Alpha and I must always support that. That is the best way to love my three dogs.