Saturday, November 19, 2011


*** First published in Animal Scene Magazine issue of November 2010

Aspin is a term to mean Asong Pinoy. Since they are products of undetermined breed, Aspins come in different sizes, colors and shapes. But no matter what the look, they are the dogs native to our country.

As opposed to the Askal, an Aspin is not a stray dog. In fact, it could be likened to a pure-bred canine except that it has no pedigree certificate to speak of.

Speaking of pure native Philippine dog, there’s actually no such thing because of the dominant presence of imported dogs. In earlier times, Aspins were called mestizo, to mean a mixed breed.
Aspins like snipers on the roof

Because of their instinct to protect their assigned territories, Aspins are normally used as guard dogs. That’s the reason why Aspins adorn the doorsteps or are tied near the house gate. With their bark, they inform their master of a visitor or even a passer-by.

Like their imported counterparts, some Aspins are treated as house pets. That means they enjoy the comfort of the home and the companionship. Being house pets, they are also not fed with plain leftovers and some are even given dog food.
Our first dog Jedi, inside looking out

Jedi, our very first pet, was a house dog but sometime she is let loose in the yard during daytime. Her imposing figure in the front gate had created fear in the hearts of neighborhood kids and delivery people.

House dogs are commonly for companionship especially to the elders. Aside from the sense of security that they provide in the home, house dogs are good for stress relievers particularly for overworked people.

Momsie is a one-year old Aspin that serves as a therapist in a Marikina nursing home. She is let loose to roam inside and outside the house. The meek and somewhat elusive dog appeals to most of the patients.
Momsie with an elderly patient

By patting Momsie, it seemed that the Aspin could absorb the aches and body pains, professed one of the patients. Another patient said that she feels at home because Momsie reminds her of their dog.
Paris on her throne with her fav stuff toy

Another housedog is Paris (featured in Animal Scene August 2010) who is the pride and joy of owner Ricella Zurbito. Paris has a license to stay in the master’s bedroom and also to occasionally sleep on her master’s bed.

Contrary to common belief that Aspins have no intelligence, they are actually smart. Aside from discerning a friend from a foe, a guard dog is always on the lookout for unusual things like a fire or a coming storm.

One of the most popular Aspins was Saver who knew so many tricks. The celebrity Aspin, owned and trained by Jun Lazarte, could use the toilet, get a cigarette or scratch his master’s back. Sad thing that Saver died last year at age 13.
Boogie showing off atop a motorcycle

Boogie is another intelligent Aspin. He could ride a stationary motorcycle while wearing his fancy sunglasses. Boogie is not intimidated by admirers. Smart dogs like Boogie need no leash.

Our own Tisoy is a car-riding Aspin. In traffic stops, he would bark at anyone who would come near the car. But Tisoy would be excited to see Dang, his favorite newsgirl plying the Cainta Junction.

Unlike other male dogs that urinate on the car’s tire, Tisoy only smells the tires of our car. With good toilet manners, the only problem with Tisoy is his habit of farting that pollutes the atmosphere of the car.

Contrary to tradition, grooming salons are not only for pure-bred and imported dogs. Although seldom but salons have Aspin customers too. Thick coated Aspins like Tisoy are better brought to a salon for complete grooming every once in a while.
Tisoy being pampered in a salon in Tiendesitas, Pasig City

For the formal recognition of Aspins, PAWS (Philippine Animal Welfare Society) had organized an Aspin Day in Eastwood City on August 8, 2010. The affair served as an open invitation to the Aspin Club.

Aspin lovers can have their dogs registered after filling out the membership form and shelling out 250 pesos for the membership fee. For the database, the photograph taken was that of the pet together with the owner.
Tisoy posing after the registration with the Aspin Club

After the registration, Tisoy was taken for a stroll inside the Eastwood City mall. From the way he walked inside the mall, Tisoy is surely proud to be an Aspin.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Note: This article was first published in the March 2011 issue of Animal Scene magazine.

When I heard the so-called Puppy Mills before, I didn’t think it was that serious so I didn’t give it a thought. But now I couldn’t help but think about it.

When I was young, dogs were primarily for guarding the house. But with the changing times, dog lovers have multiplied and dogs are now mainly for pets.

However, the popularity of dogs gave rise to the so-called puppy mills. They are the breeders of aspins or mixed breed dogs and contrary to the legitimate breeders, they sell the puppies only for the money.

In Alabang and other public markets, the underground puppy distribution is alive and kicking. Even in the busy Session Road in Baguio City, puppy sellers abound as well.
Underground selling of puppies - hidden inside the bag

Although some puppies are intended to be passed off as pure breed sans registration, most sellers admit the truth. “Mas mataas kasi ang benta pag may lahi ang tuta,” confessed one seller.

A woman whispering, “Puppy, tuta, puppy” was my first encounter with such a vendor in Baguio City. When I inquired, she hastily opened her cloth shoulder bag to show 3 puppies of about 3 months old.
Pitbull pups for 3,500 pesos

“Na-deworm na po yan,” she said as part of her sales spiel while pulling out one puppy that she sells for 850 pesos. The seller was all smiles upon seeing my camera, an obvious sign, for her, that I was just a plain tourist.

And when I turned my back, the woman tugged at my coat. “May bawas pa. Magkano ang gusto nyo?” As I slowly walked away, the selling price was slashed down to 300 pesos.

A few paces away was a cage with 2 puppies. “Three-five po,” the seller explained why it was quite expensive at 3,500 pesos despite having no registration papers. “Guaranteed namang pitbull yan.” Really?
Mixed spitz pups for 1,500 pesos

When I came back in the afternoon, the same cage was there but the puppies were different. “Iniuwi na po namin yung kanina, spitz naman po ito.” The 1,500 tag price was definitely cheaper. And this time she admitted that they were Aspins.

Not far from the cage was a smiling man holding a puppy, an obvious aspin but he said it was a spitz-mongrel mix and relatively cheap at 750 pesos. He gamely allowed me to take a photo of his ware but was disappointed when I left.
Mongrel pups in Session Road

Based on the stories I’ve heard, the puppy mill is an industry in Baguio City. Most breeders target Session Road for their marketing area. As a friend said, “Session Road wouldn’t be the same without the puppy vendors.”

It’s ironic to think that resident natives there relish dog meat as a delicacy. Dog meat used to be openly sold in the Baguio market but there’s an ordinance now which prohibits that. But there’s no ordinance against selling puppies.

In a slum area in Quezon City, an Askal and its puppy roam the sidewalk. The owner said that they sell the puppies for 500 pesos and sometimes higher. “Yung nabiling dalawa, pang-birthday na rin ng anak ko.”

In another part of Metro Manila, a caretaker of a vacant lot has more than 10 dogs. The owner feeds his wards with leftovers that he gathers from a fastfood chain. “Mamumulubi ako kung bibilhin ko ang pagkain,” he disclosed.

With free feeds, the puppy mill has become a milking cow. “Mabilis dumami. Hindi mo mabibilang ang mga tuta,” said the owner who can afford to indulge in cockfighting because of the extra income.

Extra income is mostly the reason of puppy mills. Particularly the askals, they do not need much attention but they multiply fast. “Parang nagtanim ka ng kamote, bayaan mo lang dyan at dadami namang kusa,” opined an askal owner.

A habitue of a pet forum in the internet, Ricella Zurbito is proud of her aspin. Named after the socialite, Ricella gives Paris a royal treatment. The fashionable dog sleeps in Ricella’s bedroom.
Ricella and her beloved Paris

Tisoy is another lucky dog given a royal treatment. Tisoy also sleeps in our bedroom together with Epoy, our pure pekingese. And like Paris, Tisoy is also a 3-year old Aspin.

Paris was bought by Ricella in Alabang Market 3 years ago. Paris and her sibling were put on the bargain table. Ricella forked out 700 pesos with no hesitation and then gave away the extra puppy to a friend.

Tisoy, on the other hand, was given by a friend who owns dogs for two reasons. First is to have dogs that would guard his house. Second is to have a puppy mill for extra income.

With Spitz and Pomeranian for the dominant breeds, his puppies could go as high as 2,000. His 6 dogs are loose in the backyard and they regularly mate to produce puppies. Tisoy’s parents are actually full siblings.
Tisoy and Epoy, the pekingese, during the pet blessing at Eastwood City

Paris would never follow her mother’s footsteps because she is confined inside the house and never gets out unescorted. Likewise with Tisoy, he is to remain a bachelor all his life to avoid having unwanted puppies.

But not all unwanted puppies are being sold on purpose. Hershey is an Aspin which was accidentally let out of the gate. The bitch got pregnant and gave owner Kristine Cuballes 6 puppies.

Thru friends and other connections, Kristine offered the 6 puppies for adoption. As of this writing, there were 5 deserving takers.
Kristine and her pet Hershey

In the same boat as Hershey’s, Cutie also got pregnant by accident that resulted in 4 puppies. A neighbor’s male dog was able to enter the gate in an opportune time when Cutie was in heat.

There were 2 interested buyers of Cutie’s puppies but owner Tess Perrenoud decided for adoption like what Kristine did. “Iba kasi yung kilala mo ang mag-aalaga kesa ibenta.”
Tess Perrenoud holding 2 of Cutie's puppies

It’s a good thing that there are dog owners like Ricella, Kristine and Tess who are giving us the awareness that adoption is the best solution for unwanted puppies. And if their tribes would increase, puppy mills would be a thing of the past.