I cannot tell you enough how much I love our dogs. When I was little, just like any kid’s dream, I wanted to have a dog. At least one. Please, just one pup. I was pleading my parents non-stop at that time. I was also hoping that if they were in the mood of being generous, I wanted to make my wish be granted in plural form. I want not just one but two dogs. I wanted it so bad, I willingly helped with the chores around the house in order to show my parents that I could be a responsible owner. However, I could not make it happen despite my incessant requests and over-the-top showing off of my goody-two-shoes side as their daughter. There was a strict code of cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene going on in our home to which it can be equated to getting a HACCP certification. This can be read as if I was joking. Yeah, right. I wish it was a joke. There was a time back then when my teachers visited me and my sister at home. Do you want to know the first thing they have noticed? They instantly mentioned that, in a strange way, they could see their reflection in our marbled floors. I told them, beaming with pride, that I know three different methods on how to make your floors be as clean as that, even if it is not a marbled type of tile. They told me they wished their kids would be like me with how my sister and I took care of the house. It might sound like a praise but I didn’t receive it that way. It felt like another restriction, that I needed to maintain this level of cleanliness for as long as I can. If they could only read my mind, I’d rather have the opposite if it was even a choice. I’d rather have a not-so-clean floor if that would mean I’ll get to have a dog of my own.
I think the Universe has heard my pleas and allowed me to meet Jhois and her family. They are animal lovers. It’s one of their endearing traits which I’ve witnessed in them. Back then, they have a dog, a cat and even a rooster. They were considered as a family. Maybe, that’s one of the glues in our relationship. I didn’t only fall in love with Jhois but I fell doubly in love with her family, pets included. Their house doesn’t feel like a huge responsibility, a place I must thoroughly clean and upkeep. It feels like a warm place you’d like to hang out with, share stories and fill ourselves with good cheer. It’s not so much about how their place looks but how you feel when you’re there. I mentioned to Jhois that if children’s tales were true then this must have been the feeling of Goldilocks as she hopped from one bowl or chair or bed to another, looking for what suits her and allowing her feelings to guide her. Maybe, it was either the HR side of me who’s wildly intuitive or a beginner’s luck because I have only “hopped” once and I never left, if you know what I mean. The feeling of being comfortable and at home in somebody’s home seems like an allegory for the kind of family I am meant to have in the future that I didn’t know yet back then.
Jhois and I initially wanted to have one dog because it would be more manageable. However, there were nights when Maple would lick our hands and arms, soft bite our toes and even jump on the bed so we could wake up. At first, we thought it was just because she wanted me to accompany her as she urinates or defecates at the middle of the night at our garage but she didn’t. She went straight to the gate, tried pushing it with her front legs, attempting to open it and looked back at me if I could possibly help her. It was past midnight and my dog wanted us to play on the street. Imagine Disney’s Moana as a dog, not singing but barking tenaciously, facing the streets with such longing and trying to convince us that she was being called to go out, play and run as far as she can go. Being a fur-parent is still not an easy task, you see. It took us a lot of treat-giving and threat-screaming in order for her to go back upstairs and sleep peacefully with us. This happened repeatedly for almost a month until Jhois and I realized that we needed to adopt another dog or it would be the same thing every midnight. Maple was so stubborn. She wanted her way or no way at all.
Toys that your dogs can play with.
Zoey came to our lives in July 2020, at the middle of a pandemic. Her previous owner could no longer take care of her and she saw our ads that we wanted desperately to adopt a dog as a companion for our Maple. In this new setup, she could play endlessly with Zoey during the day until she drained all her energy and we could all have our deserved rest without any untimely interruptions. It took Zoey one to two weeks to decompress and finally feel at home in our place with Maple. They started to get along well except when their meals were served back then. They should be eating at a separate spot because if they would ever see each other in their peripheral view while eating, they become agitated. They would intimidate the other by growling at each other until this tension erupts into a fight. This was especially evident with Zoey as she was very territorial with her space and her meals in it. It’s good to note that nobody’s fangs sink into anyone’s skin. Their aggression was more like a 60 seconds of continuous blaring barks that signified how they wanted their food all to themselves.
During one of our walks, this happened. It took us a lot of shots before we were able to get a good photo of Zoey. Maple just kept interrupting despite of all our requests that she had to wait until we can take a good photo of Zoey.
Then, another incident happened. There was one afternoon when Maple started barking non-stop. We thought she was just chasing a house lizard but when she didn’t stop, we checked what was happening and this was what we saw.
I inspected a little more and stayed there at the upper staircase to observe what was all this fuss about. This was what I saw.
Take note that Zoey cannot climb the stairs. She can only get this high and she usually claims this as her spot.
It looked like she didn’t want Maple to pass through and go upstairs with us. She blocked her path and became apathetic with Maple’s barks that sounded like a demand to Zoey so she could get out of her way.
We could not stop laughing when we saw this. We tried watching this again and we could hear the low-key growls of Zoey whenever Maple tried to advance her steps.
Another incident came after the other. This time, it wasn’t Maple who barked disturbingly. It was Zoey. This was what we have seen.
We know for a fact that Maple is a skilled rat hunter and killer. When we saw this, we knew that this was Maple’s masterpiece. I stared it in disbelief. Could Maple be playing pranks at Zoey by placing her hunted prey right beside Zoey’s feeding dish? Zoey is disgusted with rats, not even curious. You know this for sure when you can see all her saliva frothing or lathering all over her mouth. You can see Zoey’s ongoing drips of saliva dropping on the floor because she sees this as the most revolting sight to behold in the house. When we searched for Zoey, she was under the sink. Hiding, frozen and grimacing in pain. On the other hand, you can see Maple standing proud, gleefully wagging her tail, her expression passionately triumphant. “What’s the problem with these two?”, I asked Jhois. It might be hilarious for some but we see this as a tad bit problematic, somehow or is it really that petty?
Being vaguely aware of what was really going on with our furbabies, our confusing welter of feelings made us monitor them more. When Maple got sick from blood parasitism, a common illness among canines during the rainy season, Zoey kept getting her space in between us whenever I reached out to pet Maple. Then, this realization darted into view. She wanted our attention all to herself. Maple shares the same sentiment too, I suppose after all her mischiefs. Jealousy was in the way. The tension between them was palpable. This is enormously illuminating. I think no one is a villain. Maple and Zoey are just two adorable dogs who are just desperate to be loved. I don’t want any animosity be stirred again with these two so we need to upgrade our parenting skills, even if they are just dogs.
Since Maple can climb upstairs and stay with us overnight, Zoey feels like Maple had too much of us. This might be the reason why as soon as we step foot at the ground floor, she wanted us all to herself. Jhois and I talked about this and we decided to:
- try to show affection to them equally (if we will rub Zoey’s belly, we will do the same thing for Maple right then and there);
- we carry Zoey upstairs and we hang out with the two dogs at the balcony (in this way, Zoey would not feel left out);
- we do more group hugs (which means hugging them both) than hugging or cuddling them separately;
- feed them at the same time (especially for food they love so much such as chicken, fried fish, pork) so we can show them that they both equally have the same delicious food (no one of them has more than the other);
- we walk them more often and play with them together;
- and if one of them is sick, we talk to the other about what is happening and why we need to separate them and why we need longer time to monitor the other (but we also take extra time to cuddle the other so she won’t feel like she missed anything at all).
Being a furparent is no joke. They are literally like humans with extra fur. You need to be more observant with their behavior because they cannot express themselves in words. We have to address and recognize their starkly different personalities and make sure that the attention, appreciation and love that they need to feel are given to them sufficiently. They’re not just dogs. They’re our family. We wanted them to feel secure in us that we have enough love to keep going around the house. The battle to be the best is ferocious and we stand firm on our ground that there’s no need to slash each other’s throat in order to feel worthy, loved and rewarded. We want to take another path, not this one. Truth be told, this is not sustainable. This Darwinistic strategy does not help anyone but rather create more problems along the way. We want to be there for them – all of them, and that they can be there for each other, too. It’s not a hierarchical triangle thing of what must be on top based on the performative inputs of our dogs. It’s more of a circle that keeps going and that all areas stay equally valuable. Love is the absence of anxiety, so this seemingly invisible at first anxiety or obstacle is the one vital thing we’d like to eradicate that we may all function harmoniously and productively.