Monday, March 26, 2018

After The Band…..Not The Bug

Ok I know this blog is supposed to be about toys and my hopeless addiction to them, but ultimately it’s really a blog about me and my life. And speaking about my life, something unfortunate happened unexpectedly last week that I felt I needed to write about it as a way to give a proper send off to my boy.  Just a word of warning..this will be a much longer post than usual....

On Sunday afternoon, March 18, my dog, Beatle passed away. He was 11 in dog years which made him around 70 plus in human years. As I said it was quite unexpected, one moment he was chilling on the floor in front of the fan, and then a few minutes later he was gone. We rushed him to the vet and they did their best to try and revive him but they unable to do so. The doctor said the most likely cause of death was cardiac arrest due to possible heat stroke. The vet explained that this was common with older dogs as their heart works harder to release the excess heat absorbed by the body, and unfortunately, Beatle's just couldn't handle it.

Beatle was born December 16, 2006. He was an American Cocker Spaniel that was given to me by my brother and sister in law who were at the time competing in dog shows. One of their dogs gave birth to a healthy litter of pups and they were looking for suitable homes for all of them. At that point of my life I was looking to shake things up, so when the opportunity came to adopt a dog, I took it. I didn’t have the pick of the litter, in fact he was the last one left, and that was perfectly fine with me. The first time I saw him, he was happily running around with another dog in my brother’s backyard. I knew at first sight he was the dog for me...he on the other hand, didn’t really give a damn and just ran past me :P.

Beatle was named after well….the Beatles of which I am a huge fan. He was almost called Mr. Jones after the song by the Counting Crows or Macca, after Sir Paul McCartney but in the end, Beatle won out, since it rolled off the tongue more easily and I found the name unique...unless you thought it was spelled “beetle” which would just make it weird. On a side note, I found it quite amusing when I learned that one of his litter mates, was named “Bailey”...get it? Beatle Bailey? Anyway so for quite some time whenever I introduced him to someone new, I would say “his name is Beatle...after the band, not the bug”.

I know this will all sound cliche, but Beatle was my best friend.  When I got him I was going through this “emo” state in my life. See I am the youngest of 7 children and every time we would have family gatherings I would get sad seeing all of my siblings happily married with their own kids and me still single….so for me, I wanted Beatle for companionship, he was my boy. Beatle wasn’t just my first dog, he was the first real “life” I was solely responsible for.

As a puppy and during his early years, Beatle was your typical high energy dog. We lived in a tri level unit and my room was on the third floor and he would run up and barrel down the stairs like there was no tomorrow. I also jokingly called him a food mercenary...or whore since he would do ANYTHING for food or go with ANYONE who would offer him some. Still despite all that he was still very loyal to me. We spent mornings together before work bonding on the floor. He would greet me when I came home and would sleep in my room...and later even on my bed.

One memorable saga I went through with Beatle was when he had a tick infestation. He was around a year old when I discovered a tiny little bug in his fur which I immediately identified as a tick. I informed his vet and he told me to look if there was more on him...if I found over 10 ticks then that would indicate an infestation and Beatle would have to be treated immediately. Unfortunately he had a lot more than 10 so this began the battle of the ticks.

We tried pretty much everything, from anti tick shampoos, flea collars, sprays and spot oils...nothing worked and the ticks were could even see them crawling on my walls! And they came in all sizes from the super tiny almost microscopic babies you could see crawling all over Beatle’s body to those nasty females whose egg filled abdomens almost came to the size of peas! Finally we had to give him a medicated bath as a last resort. The poor guy had to air dry from the bath and could not bathe again for a whole week. We had to do this twice...but thankfully it worked. The dead ticks fell off him en masse and he was pretty much tick free ever since.

Unfortunately, in late 2008, an opportunity for me to work abroad came up that I could just not pass up. Leaving Beatle back home was one of the hardest things for me to do. When I left I wrote a long (and admittedly over-dramatic) letter to my family asking them to take care of him….here are some excerpts…

“To put it bluntly, I breaks my heart knowing that I am leaving him. Of everyone in Manila, leaving him was the hardest for the simple reason that I could explain to all of you, my family, why I am leaving. And I hope you all do understand my reasons for doing so...but for's a case of one day I'm there, the next day I'm gone. He has NO IDEA where I am, why I left and what far as he knows...I just disappeared. And I know he senses my being gone.....when I came home after 2 weeks...all he did was just lay his head on my lap for a good ten minutes or made me feel SO BAD for leaving him....but really there's nothing I could do.

I know he's not the perfect dog...he can be makulit, naughty and he can be overly energetic...and he can have his little "accidents" in the house every now and then.....but he's a GOOD DOG.

He is malambing, intelligent, caring and very protective of his family which is you guys. If he barks at strangers, it's only because he is overprotective of you guys. When he "pounces" on you...that is his way of saying "hello"...he does it once and moves's like his "high-five".

Leaving Beatle for months at a time was probably the hardest part of living away. Whenever I came home he would go ballistic, charging at me and rolling on the floor going crazy with excitement not knowing what to do. Every time I came home I made it a point to bring him home a new toy or two until he amassed quite the collection of balls and squeaky toys (what can you expect from a dog of a collector). My two nieces who lived with us even came up with names for each and every toy Beatle owned.

Anyway, eventually after 2 years I moved back home for good and I felt it was time to give Beatle a companion of his own. So I got Bella the corgi...unfortunately my companionship plan backfired when Bella turned out to be more of Beatle’s tormentor than friend. But Beatle being the good dog that he was, took all of this in stride. They were well behaved together...until they weren’t, but they learned to tolerate each other in the end. I think having Bella around speeded up Beatle age-wise. He became more chill and mellow and was no longer the high energy dog like before, that title was taken over by Bella.

Not long after I got Bella...Beatle had a little “accident” where he sprained his hip while fending off Bella’s overly aggressive pouncing. That’s when we learned the bad news that Beatle had a degenerative hip, which was common for his breed. After some treatment though he was back to normal but from that point on we would have to be extra careful with him especially when it came to going up and down stairs.

Like any dog, Beatle LOVED going on trips, every time he realized he would be riding the car he would go nuts. Once in the car though he was well behaved….although he would often let loose a silent but toxic fart while in transit which would require us to roll down the windows. My favorite place to bring him would be The High Street Mall in Bonifacio Global City, which was an outdoor mall and at that time one of the few public places in the city that allowed dogs. It would always be a grand production to bring him there along with some of my nephews and nieces but it was well worth it just to see how happy it made everyone, especially Beatle who got to meet and interact with so many other dogs.

Anyway, I find it quite ironic that Beatle, my boy whom I got for companionship, also played quite a memorable role in me getting together with my future wife Caren.  Caren worked as a photographer for a studio in High Street. She specialized in kids and pets so I decided one day to use her soft spot for dogs and bring my new puppy Bella over to her studio for a photo shoot. And for good measure, just to show that I was a “cool” tito (uncle), I brought along my 2 nieces Alexa and Caitlin to join the shoot :P

The shoot went so well I decided to double down a few weeks later and book another shoot, this time with Bella AND Beatle plus more nephews and nieces, and it almost backfired on me. Amidst all the chaos of having to organize 10 kids and 2 dogs into a nice pose, Caren reached over to reposition Beatle on the floor. Unfortunately, unknownst to Caren, Beatle was still recovering from his hip sprain and was extra sensitive and protective over his hind area so he promptly turned around and bit her hand ….broke skin, drew blood…..and then there was just silence, time froze.

Luckily, despite that debacle, after a quick patch up at the clinic, Caren still insisted on finishing the shoot and in the end the pictures came out great, and as a peace offering, I offered to take her out to dinner and the rest is history. Because of the incident, Caren would often joke that Beatle was her blood brother.

A few years later, Caren and I  got married and moved in to a 2 level duplex which unfortunately due to his hip, meant that we would have to limit the times Beatle would be able to join us upstairs in our room. He basically had to be a downstairs dog. As much as I tried to spend as much quality time with him downstairs, us being upstairs really made that hard. And admittedly I spent less overall time with him.

It was during these past years that he seemed to age even faster as his fur started to lighten up and whiten especially around the face, he became less active and preferred sleeping and snoring for the most part of the day. Whenever he got a new haircut we would discover more and more black splotches or freckles on his skin. And whenever he would lay on my lap, his hind leg would start trembling.  During those times he would make his way upstairs, usually when we would come home from trips abroad and he missed us so much that he would insist on going up, you could see that he was not having an easy time :(

The average lifespan of an American Cocker Spaniel is 12-15 years. So while I was not expecting it anytime soon, I guess I was already slowly preparing myself mentally for the inevitable. Still we were quite lucky, aside from the hip incident, that one time tick infestation and one case of worms, Beatle was an overall  healthy and happy dog. I know I’m biased but even for a cocker spaniel, he was very gwapo (handsome) and I would beam with pride everytime I would take him out and people would admire him.

One of his biggest fans was our 2 year old daughter Cecilia who would relish going down on the floor to pat and hug him every day. She would go on all fours, squeal with delight and even lay down next to him. And she would even tell me as I sat on the table eating to get down on the floor with her and pat Beatle. Whenever we would go outside for a walk, she would always insist on holding Beatle’s leash (under close supervision of course) as we walked. She would refer to herself and Beatle as my two babies, funnily leaving Bella, whom she called a cat, out of the equation.

Beatle funnily enough would usually want nothing to do with a much older brother getting irritated with a pesky baby sister. Yet despite his grumpiness, he would never snap at her, the worst he would do would be to walk away. Of course when she came bearing treats it was a whole other story and he would sit at attention waiting for her to gently place the treat on his nose. Deep down I know he loved her too as I would sometimes spy him returning her affection with a quick lick on her face.

I remember when Cecilia was still a newborn, we kept her away from the dogs, but naturally, Beatle (not Bella) was curious about what this new "smell" in the house was. The first time he heard her cry, he also got distressed and started to whimper uncontrollably.  It really felt like Beatle was emotionally connected to our family.

When Beatle passed away, I barely cried...and I haven’t cried since. My wife says it’s probably shock, I don’t know, it just feels so surreal that he is gone. I just feel numb. I just feel like a part of me is gone with Beatle...I don’t feel whole. For 11 years, Beatle was such a fixture in my life. He was always with me. In my old place when we shared a room, I found it amusing that even in my really tiny bathroom, whenever I would step out of the shower I would find him lying on my shower rug. When we moved to our duplex and he had to be a downstairs dog, every morning when I walked down the stairs he would be there waiting for me at the foot of the stairs.

Even when he spent most of the day lying around the house, he always picked the spots where his presence would be felt the most, like underneath my seat at the dinner table or in front of the bathroom door. And whenever I left the house he was always the last one I would say goodbye to with a quick pat on his head and a “be a good boy Beatle”. (my wife would always joke that he was always a good boy and it should have been Bella I should be telling to be a good girl). And while in his old age he would no longer come running to me when I got home, he was always at the door to be the first to greet me.

The day after he passed, I was sitting on the floor with Cecilia and she was singing one her favorite songs, “Finger Family”. She usually does a roll call of everyone in the house and we answer her back. After going through daddy, mommy, brother, sister and baby finger, she then continued to sing “Beatle finger Beatle finger where are you?” and she waited for my usual response which was supposed to be “there he is (pointing at Beatle on the floor), there he is how do you do?”....but I froze since...well he wasn’t there anymore :( Once again she sang her part and I just couldn’t answer.  I looked up at Caren for help and she started to tear.  Thankfully after singing the same part a third time Cecilia answered herself by singing “arf arf arf arf arf arf how do you do!”. At this point we’re not quite sure how to tell Cecilia that Beatle passed.  She's too young to understand the concepts of "death" or "Heaven".  I do hope that even as she grows up she will retain some sort of remembrance of her fur-kuya (older brother) whom I guess we will eventually tell her went to live with her grandparents and Tito(uncle) Anthony who passed away years back.

On another side note, it does make me happy when I think that Beatle is with my mom, dad & brother Anthony in Heaven.  While my dad was always a lover of dogs and believed that every family with kids should always have one,  for my brother and mom it was a whole other story.  I remember the first time my brother went ballistic when he saw Beatle walking around in the tennis court. And my mom was initially not very thrilled to have Beatle in the house since she wasn't really a dog person to begin with and had to "tolerate" all the other dogs our dad insisted our family have.  But eventually he won them both over.  Anthony realized he had a jogging partner in Beatle and enjoyed taking him out with him. And over time my mom started even referring to him as her "apo" or grandchild.  And she would always tell me that while I was away, Beatle would join her laying down by her side as she prayed the Rosary every day.  

I know that everyone who has owned and experienced the loyal, unwavering and unconditional love of a dog knows exactly what I am going through. I just wanted to give the proper tribute to my boy by letting everyone know how great of a dog he was and how much he meant to me.

I guess writing all this is my way of dealing with my sadness.

When I first started this blog, I wanted to tell stories about the toys in my collection. Some were stories about the characters of whom the toys represented, and others about how certain toys in my collection are tied to certain memories and events in my life. On the morning of the day Beatle passed, I went over to Greenhills to sell some of my older toys and possibly pick up anything new that I found interesting. And I came across this.

It belongs to a toyline I have no connection to and had no intention of getting into. But Captain America is my favorite superhero and after hearing a lot of good reviews about this toy, I decided to get it an impulse buy.

Anyway, for better or worse that toy will be forever linked with my memory of Beatle’s passing...and honestly I couldn’t think of a better choice of character to connect and give tribute to my first dog.

Beatle always loved company and was especially happy when we had guests in our house, especially family.  He would never really impose himself on anyone and would just be content to lay down on the rug in the middle of everyone talking.  But when it was time for everyone to leave and he would hear the word "bye" or "goodbye"...he would start barking....I guess he  learned to associate the word with he didn't particularly like it.

So with that in mind...I won't be saying goodbye to my boy.  All I will say is Thank you.

Thank You Beatle boy. Rest Well.