Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Slipping in unnoticed

Now that the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona has started, and a good part of the Philippine population is fixated on the issue, I can't help but remember this. After all, it's easier to slip in when no one's looking --

Vigilance is key.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

(Not) Easy like Sunday morning

It was an early Sunday morning like no other. Yahoo and Perdita, the pups we had acquired just four days earlier, were beginning to warm up to their new home, and at around 6:30 a.m. I peered through the window to check up on the little pooches -- they were quietly horsing around.

I went back to my room and emerged again about half an hour later. Wanting to play with the two, I walked over to the area that was their temporary corner. Seeing that the gate was ajar, I made a mental note to bolt it the next time and to tell the others in the house to do the same.

"Yahoo! Perdita!" I called out in sing-song, anticipating some hide-and-seek game, which I didn't really expect to take up that much time as our house doesn't have many hiding spots.

As I passed the garage, I saw that one of the wooden planks which had been used to cover the narrow opening under the main gate was not in place. At this I semi-panicked, for the puppies could have easily slipped through the opening without much effort and wandered around the neighborhood. So I made my way quickly around the rest of the house, still calling out their names. Behind closed cabinet doors, underneath the car, inside every nook and cranny I could find around the yard and heaps of plywood and old chairs -- no sign of the pooches.

My heart sank as I concluded that they made their way out the gate and must be roaming the streets by then. Quickly I ran out the gate and walked to the nearest corner. No sight of any puppies.

"Yahoo and Perdita are missing," I told my mom quietly back at the house as I got the car keys and drove out of the garage. I went slowly down the street, hoping they hadn't been nabbed, run over or attacked by bigger dogs that were common sightings on these parts.

"Diyan lang po kami nakatira (We live just over there)," I told a woman who was sweeping the pavement outside her home, gesturing toward our house. "Nakawala ho yung dalawang tuta namin ngayon-ngayon lang. May nakita ho ba kayong umaaligid dito? (Our two pups got away not too long ago. Did you see any roaming around here?)"

She said no, and after describing the two and asking if she could keep her eyes peeled for them, I hopped back into the car and proceeded to make my way around the neighboring streets. My thoughts raced: They're not at the kitchenette at the corner... where else could they have gone? They're bound to be hungry by now... Could they have been dognapped so fast? God, please keep them safe... oh, how could this happen?!

After circling the block and asking several more people -- including a dog-walker in the next street -- for help, I went back home, dejected. It was now about 30 minutes after I first discovered that the two were missing. Could there still be hope of finding them? How far away were they by then?

Breakfast was one sad affair. My mom was worried, too, and had a hard time coming to terms with the loss. We tried to comfort one another in some way, discussing how excruciatingly tough it must be if the situation involved children and not animals.

"Sana hindi sila gawing pulutan," I said, feeling hopeful that fellows who fancied canines for their "beer accompaniment" figured out that full-grown dogs would make for a full platter while pups would fall short of that.

While going through almost the entire range of emotions (denial, self-blame, pity...) in the next few minutes, my sister -- who tends to say the most inappropriate if not the most irrelevant things in many instances -- said, "Baka nagtago sila dun sa kwarto ni....! (Maybe they went hiding inside the room of...!)" (referring to our house helper).

Smiling gently, I said the door was closed and dismissed the idea, but to at least show that her idea counted, I got up to check the maid's room just the same.

As I made my way, I thought, This early I'm already resorting to wishful thinking... because I thought I could hear some very faint whimpering.

I stopped and simply listened. Nothing. Gosh, I'm already hallucinating or whatever you call the auditory kind of hallucination... I told myself.

A few seconds later, I thought I heard another whimper. I pressed my ear to the wall. Wait a minute! What am I doing?? This is a wall! How could a puppy be inside a wall? I reprimanded myself, half-amused by what I was doing.

I called my mom and asked her to come out and check something. I told her what I thought I heard. We kept still and waited.

We stood there, alert for any sound, then... it came.

A soft whimper from somewhere and we couldn't figure out where it was coming from! Beside us was solid wall, beneath us the pavement. Looking down, I saw a drain -- too small for a puppy to enter. I removed the cover just the same, puzzled that the sound seemed to be coming from there -- at the same time overjoyed with a renewed hope since, after all, it wasn't only me hearing those puppy sounds! They must be alive then!

Can you imagine how it must feel to hear the whimpering of your beloved tiny pets and yet not know where it was coming from? Well, to make a long story short, we searched and searched and figured out that Yahoo and Perdita were trapped underground. And we somehow had to free them.

After giving my brother a call and explaining what happened, my mom and I nervously kept calling the little ones' names, as if telling them not to give up, that we were going to get them to safety soon (how, I had no idea, but I had visions of miners trapped underground and being dug out and rescued).

Within minutes, my brother arrived -- and with three other men in tow, each carrying some tool or contraption. (They reminded me of the Ghostbusters and the A-Team for a moment there). Boy, was I relieved to see them! They came equipped and looked like they were ready to handle anything!

Okay, so I don't end up dragging you through every detail of this story about my precious pooches and their rescue, we discovered that the two came upon a hole and -- like any curious young ones -- decided to explore it.

They were small enough to fit in, and in they went, one after the other. Then they realized they couldn't get out and their only course of action was to express their fear and discomfort -- hence, the whimpering.

The guys estimated the location of the pups based on their whimpers (plus the guidance of a flashlight which illumined the little tunnel enough to show their position) and we decided that hammering the cement was the only way to get them out.

A few minutes later, this was the opening through which Yahoo and then Perdita were pulled out -- hind legs first! Needless to say, I looked away for a few moments as the sight of their tiny bodies being pulled out (and the possibility of serious injury) was unbearable. *shudder*

I heard one cry as her body was apparently being pulled out, then I saw Yahoo scampering away fearfully after being rescued. She took refuge beside the garbage bin which was next to a heap of stones, visibly shaking from the experience.

Then came Perdita, who showed the same tail-tucked-in, ears-down, eyes-wide-open and body-shaking demeanor after being pulled out. I scooped her up and held her close for a few minutes. No words can describe how I felt during those moments! All I can say is that I have a new respect for mothers who hold it together when their children are temporarily missing (wandered off at the supermarket or mall, kidnapped by some unscrupulous characters, got lost in a crowd... and other such scenarios before being brought back to their parents)!

I brought Perdita and Yahoo back to their designated quarters, held them for a few more minutes, "talked" with them with the most affectionate (and devoid of scolding) tone I could muster. They were, after all, scared by what they had just experienced.

In about five minutes, the two were horsing around again as if nothing happened, with no idea what they put us adults through! They're just like children...

After the incident, the hole was temporarily covered using a hollow block, then a few days later sealed with a wire covering nailed in place. No more adventures for the little ones!

By now anyway, they've grown big -- too big to even squeeze their heads into that hole. But their horsing around -- more like wrestling -- with each other will seem to be a lifetime preoccupation. And I wouldn't have it any other way :-)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

A canine code red... and a few other things

Sometime last week, I realized that our 3-month-old puppies -- the two tiny litter mates I acquired with much care and planning, and with much consideration for their well-being -- have a stronger attachment to our household helper than to me. It was somewhat painful but more because I couldn't understand why than because of some desire to be the only object of their affection and loyalty. I had discovered the reasons since then -- and am working on solutions -- so I don't feel as bad anymore. But first, some stories -- first of which is how they came to be part of our home.

I was walking back to the office one afternoon from a grocery where I purchased a snack when I caught sight of some dogs on leashes walking about near an abandoned building. "Abandoned" is probably not a suitable word because it turned out that the man who owned the dogs has made the building his home -- and the dogs, apparently his source of income.

A few moments later some pups emerged, prancing about as fast as their tiny legs could, and I thought, "Ooh, puppies! How cute!" It just so happened that my family was really on the lookout for a puppy since it had been over a year since Sabrina had died. And we wanted one just like her -- a mongrel, not some high-maintenance breed like a German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Bulldog or even one of those kinds that had to be groomed a lot (Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier and the like). We wanted a dog to stay outdoors and preferably one that was reasonable on the budget.

I approached the canines, conversed with the man who owned them and struck a deal. That night I told my mother about my discovery, and we arrived at the conclusion that it would be better to take two pups instead of just one (two would mean the presence of a playmate!). So, preparations were made, which was fun but also time-consuming because it had been 15 years since the last time we had a puppy at home (Sabrina died at age 14).

All the preparations were made (I swear, at some point it must have been what anticipating the arrival of a baby was like!), and on November 23, a Wednesday, I brought the two litter mates home! We named them Yahoo and Perdita.

They were shy and somewhat withdrawn, to say the least. Their favorite spot, besides the old carton box that we provided for their little "house," was a corner which seemed to serve as a refuge for them -- especially Yahoo -- whenever one of us visited them to bring food, to play, give them a pat, to coo their names. But the attempts at first were futile, since they would either scamper to their box and remain out of sight or sit in the corner and act disinterested every time somebody dropped by.

"Pa'no kaya kung isa lang binili natin? Eh di ang lungkot-lungkot niya lalo? Buti magkasama pa din silang magkapatid..." were some of our remarks after observing the inseparability and forlorn expressions both wore (except when they were roughhousing when they thought nobody was watching them through the flimsy curtain through the windows). They always slept huddled together, with one's paw over the other's head, or one's body slung over the other's back.

Within a couple of days they were wearing collars (pink for Perdita, green for Yahoo) and running around more enthusiastically. They even lapped up their milk faster and dared to venture out of their designated space and looked happy about it. (I decided that being introduced to the experience of walking with a leash would have to be for later. Too many new experiences one after the other can't be all that good for the little ones so soon after being transported into a still unfamiliar place, away from their mother and original owner.)

I had decided that Sunday -- four days after arriving home -- would be the day to bring them to the vet for a check-up. Two days after the pups arrived, our house helper pointed out worms in their poo! They did, after all, live on the streets during the first couple of months of their life, so this shouldn't even be surprising.

Sunday afternoon at the vet. This is how Perdita looked while waiting for her and Yahoo's turn (Yahoo was somewhere in the box, too):

As it was a Sunday, there were more patients, as expected. Dogs would bark simultaneously once in a while, and on one such instance, here's Perdita's reaction to the noise:

You can see Yahoo lying in there, still oblivious to what was going on (or probably choosing to snooze to cope with the new experience). When their turn came, all went well -- no anxiety-inducing crying or spirited attempts to scamper away, just a couple of whimpers when stool samples were taken. They had loads of worms, the doc said! So that was dealt with.

Anyhow, I'll hit the "publish post" button even though I haven't even gotten to what I was supposed to really blog about in the first place. Something happened at home on the morning of this visit to the vet, the "code red" referred to in the title up there. But the excitement of the morning will have to be for another day's blogging -- soon, I hope!!
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