Saturday, May 7, 2011


Is there a caregiver for sick pets?

This idea came to my mind when an officemate of my wife gave us a pure-bred pekingese. Very cute at two months old, the energetic puppy was an instant hit in our home. But before we could even think of a name for it, our newly-acquired pet exhibited a seizure. Gasping for air, the puppy’s two big round eyes were wet with tears and its face was seeking succor with the continuous spasm of its abdomen.

We really thought it was the end until, in a stroke of luck, our maid had the mind to place the fawn-colored puppy in front of a running electric fan. In a matter of seconds, the seizure subsided. With that heroism, we officially declared our maid as the adoptive mother of Bulilit.

The next day, I had the fancy of taking our lamb-looking pet for a car ride. Placed in a small basin on the car’s floor, my diminutive companion seemed to be getting the feel of the car’s movement but before we could leave our subdivision’s gate, Bulilit exhibited another seizure.

My wife called up a friend for advice. The veteran dog breeder, however, made a grim pronouncement that the seizures would be more severe as time goes on and that Bulilit is lucky if it would live for a month.

Placed inside a milk carton, my wife and I watched Bulilit sleep fitfully with the comfort of the electric fan. And that second night proved to be the turning point in the puppy’s fragile life when my wife suggested to make Bulilit our nocturnal boarder. Amid my strong refusal to the idea, I couldn’t say no because I also want the puppy’s remaining days to be comfortable at the very least. That was the night that Bulilit started to sleep inside our airconditioned bedroom. And that was also the night that I felt genuine compassion for our miniature pet (hence the change in pronoun).
Epoy at 3 months old, playing with a money tree leaf

For the convenience of Bulilit, I bought a cage on the following day. It was actually a portable pen for fighting cocks, the one with slender green bars woven like a big cyclone mesh. After encasing it with a soft nylon screen on all sides, the cage would serve as Bulilit’s crib in the days to come. Unlike a real dog kennel, our special cage is airy, spacious and light in weight. However, the last factor proved a disadvantage after a few weeks because Bulilit would carry his kennel anywhere in the house.

So as not to destabilize the emotional well-being of our 5-year old askal (*Jedi – our beloved askal was featured in the June 2008 issue of Animal Scene Magazine) my wife also had her join us in our bedroom at night. We were conscious of the divided attention and we also feared for the askal’s jealousy.

As protection for droppings, old newspaper served as flooring of the special cage. And small as he was, Bulilit was so smart as to learn good toilet manners in just two days. The vibrant puppy would bark or would become ambivalent whenever nature calls. But the old newspapers remained for a time as part of the acclimatization period.

Before the first week was over, I was awakened at midnight to the sound of shuffling papers. Still drowsy, I thought someone was reading the newspaper. It didn’t occur to me that I was about to witness an inconceivable scene. Jedi was near the cage, staring intently at the two pieces of torn newspaper while Bulilit was in the act of tearing a third one. Successfully producing another cigar-like piece of paper, Bulilit carefully inserted it under his cage as if offering it to Jedi. Little did we know that there was already a bonding between the two.

Due to the regular seizures, which we thought was epilepsy, Bulilit was officially renamed Epi. But it didn’t take long for Epi to become Epoy. And Epoy’s adoptive mother suddenly realized that the seizures only manifested at around noon time when the summer heat was most terrible. And so it was the heat that was causing the seizures. Our amateur prognosis was professionally confirmed by our vet. As a bonus, the vet said that the puppy will outgrow the seizures in no time at all.

Epoy was so endeared to us such that he had elicited so many pet names. His adoptive mother calls him Yoyoy, sometimes Yoyong or Yongyong, at other times Yoyok or Epyok or even Poyok or Poyong. My wife calls him Poypoy or Popoy. The kids still call him Bulilit but sometimes Pyong-pyong or Prum-prum. It seems that I’m the only one who calls him Epoy because even our vet calls him Empoy.
Epoy with Jedi, at center is Ninang

Aside from the seizures, another fear factor was that our askal may hurt the pekingese by accident (Jedi hadn’t shown any offensive stance though). We took great care in putting a demarcation line to separate the two dogs.

But one time we were surprised to see Jedi and Epoy both sitting by the doorstep like bosom buddies enjoying the fresh air while watching the street for passersby. We really didn’t know how that scenario came to be until Epoy made another daring escape in front of our disbelieving eyes. The intelligent puppy pushed the lightweight kennel near the step to the kitchen and after seeing a gap on the floor, Epoy slithered his body down on the kitchen floor then ran back up the living room to join his hesitant playmate. That was the time we attached soap containers to Epoy’s portable kennel in order to restrict the movement somehow.

Understanding that Epoy is a lapdog, we always bear in mind that unlike Jedi, who is an askal, Epoy couldn’t use a collar. And his only place, aside from the parquet of the bedroom, was the clean concrete or anybody’s lap unless otherwise he was answering the call of nature. And he may be the only dog who gets a washing after urinating or defecating. Talk of motherly love.

And it came to pass that Epoy had shed off whatever it is that was bothering him. We now clearly understand that sheer excitement or stress coupled with unbearable heat could cause the seizure. In his regular car rides, Epoy would take the front seat beside me with the aircon vents directed at him. And if my wife was with us, Epoy would be on her lap. Of course, he had ceased using his kennel after his first birthday.

Before Epoy’s 5th birthday last June, sad news greeted us on the driveway. There was a trace of fresh blood in his urine. The high creatinine in the lab test results pointed to kidney problems. And making matters worse, there was our dog breeder friend again with his grim prognosis that Epoy would not last a month.
Epoy on his 5th birthday celebration

Fortunately, the doomsayer was wrong again. Epoy’s condition turned for the better with the prescription diet. The vet admonished that table food is too salty for dogs. And as a complement to the salt-less diet, we are giving Epoy a daily dose of banaba and sambong tea to facilitate better circulation of fluid in the kidney. After just a week of intensive nursing, Epoy was back to his ebullient self.

A real smart dog, Epoy knows if I was off to the office because he would just give me a cold stare. But if I was just on an errand, he would run after me on my way to the garage. We surmised that Epoy could discern what type of clothes I am wearing. And, yes, he is addicted to car rides.

Even with my inborn lethargy in mornings, I don’t mind giving Epoy a regular back scratching when he wakes me up. His soft barks in the early hours serve as the adrenaline for me and my wife. The little dog with a big role in our life, that’s Bulilit.