Wednesday, August 12, 2009


          If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that 
certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, 
very few persons. --James Thurber

Yeah, right. So you bastards hunt down the stray dogs off the streets and, since no one cares enough to succor them, you gas them to death. Perhaps you even feel proud that you did not think of eating some of them, that you are decent dogkillers, not dogeaters. Might as well gather the vagabonds of the city and solve the population problem.

People capable of snuffing out the potential affection that is integral to the life of every dog surely lead dismal lives; they must feel unloved and unwanted like the dogs they kill.

Dogs, and cats and most creatures that are not human, can fully appreciate and reciprocate the kindness and care they receive. Once they have learned to love you, they will never ever turn against you, even when in some moments you thrash them out of anger or irritability caused by the burden of life as a human.

Rex, a Chowchow who has grown old with us, used to rotate head-chase-tail, a big, furry dreidel, when Leena and I come home from the office. That was when he was younger and had more energy. Now he just barks a short welcome, sometimes followed by a sniff exploring for possible treats. The greeting may have grown sedate with age, but the bond of affection remains strong as ever. Should any dogkiller even try to harm any pet of ours, I will take a gun and, without a pang, shoot so much lead into him that the undertaker will need a forklift to remove the damned carcass.

Many vagabonds and beggars in Manila, like street dogs, are unwanted and useless strays. At noon, after a meal or none, some sleep on the narrow sidewalks behind the Central Post Office. The jeepneys and cars whizz by, but they are used to the fumes and curious glances of passengers. Sometimes the musty odor of rotting lilies floating along the Pasig River, just across the street, creeps into their dreams.

Early every morning, about 6 or 7 a.m., the shrill sound of whistles of the guards rouse the vagrants from their sleep at the park in front of the Post Office. From the grass they rise, they emerge from the bushes and climb out of dried-out fountains, where tattered laundries were hung to dry overnight. Some snatches a few more minutes under the benches while the police poke those snoring outside the precinct. The police, who deal with the rough edges of life day in and day out, tolerate a situation which is beyond their authority and inclination to mend.

At the edges of Intramuros, just outside the walls, a family stays on tattered blankets and sacks which serve as warm protection against the dew of the grass and the roughness of bare patches on the ground. A pot of rice, perched on a triangle of stones, simmers over the fire of the improvised stove. A bare path, worn smooth by early joggers and bikers, divides the family plot from the sidewalks, where commuters wait for transportation to work. The noise of streetchildren extracting alms from motorists in the middle of the road mixes with the cries of migrant vendors in the roar of traffic.

These scenes I witnessed as a newsman at the beginning of the new millennium. I don't think changes in administration, including the present one, have contributed significant amelioration to their lot. The only new trend I noticed in the Social Welfare department is that the dinky lady who heads it now has changed the highlights in her hair to a single dung-colored band, much simpler than the rainbow-colored highlights she sported when she was serving the Arroyo administration.

The more I see of people, especially those in government, the deeper grows my respect and affection for dogs. Why should Homo sapiens be the dominant species? If bestial cruelty is the determinant, why not take some crooked officials and dogkillers to the ruthless jungles to even up the score?

Klaatu may be right after all -- the earth must be saved, from the destructive humans.

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