Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bruce Almighty

I have three dogs. Rockwell, a cocker spaniel. Aged ten, dirty blonde, virginal, blind and is currently emitting a horrible stench; Loves to hump, eats anything that is placed within the three inch vicinity of his mouth, sleeps on any fabric that unfortunately happens to be on the floor and is deathly afraid of loud noises. Bogey, a blue gray shuh tzu. Aged three, fat and lazy; Has unusually overactive sweat glands and is strangely obsessed with durian, loves to be cuddled, and sleeps with his favorite blanket at all times. Bruce, a strawberry blonde shih tzu. Aged two, conceived on the veranda under the combined sweltering heat of the sun and Bogey and Polly's (his mum) loins. Bogey's love child and the canine reincarnation of Damien; Has a profound penchant for parades, stray birds, snooping around, eating inside shoes, butter cookies and tiny shirts. 

My dog has daddy issues. There, I said it. He has become very grumpy and temperamental in the past few weeks. He has declared our room his territory, he's even staked his claim on this pretty little thing called me. This is quite problematic when there are three dogs and very little space. The house has become a battleground, as hostile and as volatile as the situation in the gaza strip. One fateful sunday, tempers flared, claws scratched and teeth bared, they went at it like Pacquiao and a disgraced Hatton without referees, boxing gloves and a ring. I attempted to pull them apart. My family was panicking. Bruce bit the finger nearest to his mouth, which unfortunately, was mine. My fingernail split open halfway. Needless to say, I was bloody, in agonizing pain and in desperate need of a canine shrink. Bruce was acting like an adolescent plagued by hormones, angst and peer pressure and perpetually hates the world. I couldn't understand what has caused his sudden change in behavior and his escalating hostility. I felt like a harried parent, albeit a hot one.

My dad proposed we put the reincarnated Damien in a cage so he won't be able to harm someone else. My mum decided we put him on a leash and chain him to the veranda whenever he misbehaves. This didn't sit well with me. Despite my bloody and badly swelled finger, I love the little bugger to bits. I was worried that this form of discipline would only perpetuate his violence and provoke more hostility towards us and Bogey. He doesn't attack Rockwell. There's no need to worry there. I think Bruce sorta feels sorry for him, his being old, smelly and all that. My mum suggested we contact a vet about the problem. It was a sunday and in this sleepy little town, there were only a few vets around. None qualified in handling dogs with daddy issues and in desperate need of anger management. I told her what we needed was a shrink. "A shrink for dogs? Is there such a thing?" her brow furrowed quizzically. "Yes mum, in big cities like San Francisco. I saw it once on Oprah." She glared at me. I wasn't making it up. I once saw this episode where Oprah sought the help of a short man with a spanish accent who's called the Dog whisperer. I searched him on the net and his name is Cesar Millan. You can view his website here. "What we need is a dog behavior therapist." I enthused, proud that I had proved her wrong. "He's based in US, we can't fly him here just to see that war freak." She glances at my demon dog sulking under a chair. Great. I remember the pitiful state of my finances, my absence of employment and my dog's daddy issues. This makes my badly swelled finger throb painfully in synchrony with the pulse on my head. 

 I decided to seek help online. Browsing through the numerous articles, I wanted to find an open forum where I could submit my queries to a qualified veterinarian. After an hour browsing, my search ended in utter failure. Just then, as if by some divine cosmic intervention, I glanced at the TV my brother was watching. Something caught my eye. It was a Purina commercial and at the latter part of it, it showed the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) logo. 

I immediately opened their website and submitted an e-mail to the PAWS staff. I was pleasntly surprised when they responded right away (must have been the "urgent" label). Anna Hashim-Cabrera, the program director passed my query to Elsie Araneta and Jojo, the resident behavior rehab team. Elsie then sent me an e-mail asking me to answer a couple of questions to determine the best remedy for my dog's anger issues. A few days later, she sends me an e-mail with helpful suggestions on how to manage my delightful little war freak. Here is an excerpt from her e-mail:

The solution?
1. Provide your dogs with a. Exercise b. Mental stimulation c. A clear line of communication through obedience training.  

The exercise part might be a little hard since I am a very happy sedentary mouse potato. The mental stimulation could work since he sometimes likes to watch TV and read English Lit. Tomorrow we're reading Jane Eyre. The obedience training, I'll need to buy cookies for that. Bruce is completely enamored with them. He will play dead and kill for butter cookies.

2. Through training, you will be able to redefine your relationship with Bruce, that you are not just another resource but the individual in charge. You need to take control of all resources, food, water, toys, bones, resting places, space.

This could be really tough since he knows exactly when and how to pout and project those sad little puppy eyes that just tug on my heartstrings. Any warm blooded human won't be able to resist his charms. He'll have you wrapped around his furry little paw. The reincarnated Damien acts better than the one in the movie.

3. No treats/attention/petting on demand. Bruce (and all dogs) must now work to earn these things. He cannot be allowed free run of the house or go where he pleases.

Oh God please give me strength to resist thy temptation. 

4. No dog is top dog. There should be no favorites that get more attention than other dogs. They all have to earn what they get.

You need to talk to my mum about this. She'll have a fit so be prepared. Bring Silvannas to avoid bodily harm.

5. No fighting between dogs. No dog is allowed to bully or mount or even place his muzzle on another dog's back. When any dog starts to do this, the humans must step in and stop it right away by calling the dog's attention, asking him to do something like a sit or down and reward him for doing that.

Rockwell humps Bogey on a daily basis, does the humping count? 

Muchos Gracias Elsie! My family and I are very grateful for your help. Thank you PAWS for taking the time to address my queries. 

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society exists to prevent cruelty, alleviate pain, fear and suffering in animals, and to promote a society based on humane principles. 

-PAWS Mission Statement

PAWS needs your help in order to provide shelter and rehabilitation for the hundreds of animals abandoned, abused and left to fend for themselves. Many of them have been rescued from intended slaughter and animal cruelty. They need loving homes and medical help. Do a random act of kindness today and help out.We are the voice and the protector of those who cannot speak for themselves. Be an advocate not just for animals but for goodness and for a better world for everyone. Learn more about PAWS here and find out how you can help. Click here to donate, adopt or volunteer. 

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated


CARA stands for Compassion and Responsibility for Animals. It is an an animal welfare organization based in the country. They provide a variety of services for animals from spraying and neutering to rehabilitation. You can also click here and here to learn more about CARA and how you can help and support animal rights through CARA Welfare Phils. 

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