The three cans of Alpo, with delicious sounding names, were for you.
It’s just that our current dog Sophie is bulimic while you, unwashed and dangerously unfed you, used to eat anything I spooned into your bowl.
Now what do I do with the sirloin-flavored, rib-eye steak-flavored, roasted chicken-flavored tins of spongy meat?
I still remember the day I first saw you, after your owners’ house burned down and we discovered they’d actually been keeping a salt-and-pepper-colored half-terrier in their back yard.
They’d decided to transfer you to the garage where you spent 3 years (has it been that long?) tied to your metal pole and watching as life passed you by.
As perennial absentees, I quickly discovered that your family cared nothing for you. The first few days after the fire, they’d swing by, and you’d excitedly jump (or fly!) round your chain, but they’d ignore you.
Maybe they’d rinse your metal dish, but then they’d quickly get into their SUV and drive away.
From then on, I fed you when I had time. I named you Pepito, which I think suited you well. Later on, I learned from the janitor that your real name was James.
At first you resisted, do you remember? You used to growl at me as I approached your piss-stained, poop-riddled turf.
Later on, like Pavlov’s dog, you’d eagerly wait as I came bearing a plastic container-full of food, your wise and beady eyes so full of light.
How my heart bled for you.
You have had shelter (a rusty metal ceiling near collapse), you have had family (I remember you sired a puppy with the former neighbor’s posh shitzu, and barked incessantly when their driver took the pup away), you’ve had friends (me and my fellow animal-loving neighbor Michael, who’d feed you on occasion as well), and you’ve had provisions (how does the janitor expect you to drink from that plastic bottle of water? I mean does he think you have grip and opposable thumbs??!).
But I always believed this would never be enough. I always believed animals have a right to live a happy life, in the way humans deserve that.
You were like Pepito the prisoner, Pepito the homeless, Pepito the dog who stayed remarkably sane while he stayed chained to a pole for 3 years, without having a bath or proper social interaction.
So I decided it was enough. I decided I would alert the animal welfare groups about your situation. I decided I would have you rescued, so you could live out your days with the proper care you deserve.
I decided this a year and a half a go.
A few days later, Elsie Pfleider told me they’d be willing to send a van around. But first I had to send them pictures, an address, and written consent from your owners.
Angry that they had left you, I wanted to start it with: “To Whom It May Concern, I would like to rescue your dog since you seem to be ignorant to his urgent need for care, being irresponsible owners and all.”
A year passed and I still hadn’t sent a letter, drafted one, or even figured out how I could fit in a knee-shaking, soul-shattering dog adoption letter in between my hectic schedule.
This October, after I saw you sinking into lethargy, I finally wrote a letter to your owners, and asked our maid to have the janitor guy bring it to your family.
Months passed by and manang Inday never gave it because she was so busy watching Filipino movies on Cinema One. I let you down. We let you down.
I’m sorry for all these years of complacency.
I sent your letter yesterday. Ran after the janitor who feeds you. He even attempted to flirt with me (“Ang ganda niyo naman ma’am, ang tangkad tangkad niyo pa, para kayong Miss Universe!”) after I thrust the folder at him.
That night, I slept content, thinking your family would ring me up the next day, saying “Thank you thank you, Kristine! Wonderful sentiment, you can adopt our dog! Bless your animal loving soul!”
I woke up yesterday, hoping for a word by phone or email, but instead saw a silver van, with the janitor riding shotgun, parked in your garage. It had come to take you away.
I ran down, in my nightie and hair sticking out like an unkempt gorilla, but the van was pulling away and you were gone. I felt like I was kicked in the stomach.
The reality hit me hardest when I came home that day, and saw your garage still empty. And I cried for you. I was so sad, I ended up impulse buying. A purple dress, 5 bargain books, and pink Philips earphones.
I guess I just got used to you being there, waving to you as I left for work every afternoon, or feeling worried about you and your empty stomach or your thick fur caked with dirt and poo.
Disappearing from the face of the earth just wasn’t one of the scenarios I was imagining for you.
Maybe they finally realized how they were consigning you to die in a cement stink hole. Maybe they had to put you down, maybe they decided to take care of you.
To this day, I don’t understand why they left you there, presumably as a guard dog for a half-burnt empty house that isn’t theirs in the first place. (It’s the government’s.)
I don’t know where you are, or how you’re doing, but you’ve left a gaping empty space across our yard, and a hole in my heart.
Bonne chance, Pepito the half-terrier mutt.