After the initial greetings, she sits to have her hair and make-up done, smiles, and asks me if I’ve seen “them” yet.
As if on cue, two “aspin” (Asong Pinoy) puppies come running into the living room and Heart’s smile widens: the room is immediately a thousand times brighter - reminding me what originally charmed us when Heart first visited the PAWS Shelter a few years ago.
Sultana is a cream-colored native pup with light brown spots while Charles is dark brown and wears a more serious expression as he has ‘whiskers’ like a schnauzer. Both dogs were in diapers.
“They pee all over the place,” Heart explained, half-sighing, half-smiling, the way a mother would when she speaks of the mess that her babies just made.
I could hear her cocker spaniels Al, Davies and Kayla in the other room.
“They all get along well”, Heart says. But we knew as she did why only the two native pups were in the living room with us and the rest of the team.
Today is Sultana and Charles’ first big photo shoot as the canine models for the PAWS Aspin Club which will be launched on April 24 in cooperation with Eastwood City.
Two years ago, Heart was the model and spokesperson for PAWS’ See Beauty Beyond Breed campaign. She agreed that there was a huge disparity over the way native dogs and purebred dogs were treated. The campaign aimed to uplift the image of the native dog and cats and had successfully converted the by-word “askal” or “asong kalye” into the more politically correct term “aspin” or “Asong Pinoy”.
We told Heart that PAWS volunteer Nice Rodriguez pointed out that “a lot of times, aspin owners are intimidated to bring their dogs to parks and malls simply because they feel their pets don’t fit the ‘profile’ of the dogs that are usually seen at these places.”
Pet-friendly establishments have became “purebreed-dogs-only” territories by default.
The pretty actress reacted immediately by echoing what most PAWS officers thought, “But All dogs need exercise and socialization. They need to be taken out for walks – no matter what their breed is!”
Heart was happy to hear that the “PAWS Aspin Club” will have fun activities that will dispel this double-standard among dogs. Owners of native and mixed-breed dogs will be encouraged to proudly ‘strut their mutts’ in Eastwood City and other pet-friendly places.
Of course, this also comes with a big reminder to aspin guardians to be model pet owners by making sure that their pets are properly socialized and well-behaved, and to always bring a copy of their pets’ updated vaccinated records wherever they go, in compliance with the Anti-Rabies Law.
And yes, picking up after one’s pet is part and parcel of the whole package of being allowed to go in public places with your dog – be it a purebreed or an aspin.
Heart’s family has both purebreeds and native dogs. In their household, all the pets are treated as part of the family.
The actress’ happy childhood memories revolve around growing up with dogs (German Shepherds and aspins) in their Cavite home.
Sultana and Charles are actually grandkids of one of the Ongpauco family’s first rescued dogs – a female canine they named “Sassy”.
Heart tells us that Sassy had run limping into their house one day to seek refuge because some men attempted to slaughter her.
Heart’s dad, the family’s most outspoken animal advocate, promptly reported the would-be dog-killers to the authorities. This led to the closure of a nearby karaoke bar which was notorious for serving dog meat in their area.
As Sultana and Charles were positioned on the couch for the shoot, we marveled at how naturally the dogs have taken to the camera.
Charles assumes an “I-am-a-toy-dog-move-me-as-you-want” pose while Sultana, the more playful of the two, could be coaxed to ‘smile’ right after being given her favorite treat.
After photographer Jason Penaloza finished clicking the 3rd layout, PAWS Director Rich Ilustre pats the 2 canine models and calls it a wrap. “This is, by far, the easiest shoot with animals that we’ve ever had!” he beams.
“My babies are all professionals,” Heart says with a laugh, but there is an undeniable hint of pride in her voice. She hugs Sultana and Charles for a job well done.
For owners who want to pre-register their dogs, please email your name, address, contact details and pet name to email@example.com.
The big general assembly will be at the PAWS Aspin Club Launch in Eastwood City Central Plaza on April 24, 2010. Of course, Heart, Sultana and Charles will be there to greet everyone
Indeed, this is finally the year when we can declare that aspin is “in”