Valentine’s Day usually is about your significant other, as well as the flowers, chocolates, and champagne. The case may be the same for the Diazes, an adorable elderly couple who celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary just this Feb. 14th, and also, in a way, gained their own “child.”
Alice, a government employee, and Kenneth, a retiree, adopted their own dog on Valentine’s Day, an ‘aspin’ (Asong Pinoy, the politically-correct name for ‘askal’) named Egbert—named such, because he was found on a street with one of his testicles tied up in a crude attempt to neuter him.
The story of the Diazes is just one of the unique, touching, and inspiring collection of stories at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society or PAWS, a local NGO that takes in and rehabilitates dogs and cats that have been injured or abused, makes them fit for adoption, and giving them in effect a second shot at life. “Each animal has a story, and we keep that story,” said Anna Cabrera, Executive Director of PAWS.
PAWS is tucked away in one of the quieter areas of Quezon City, and it is here where animal lovers have adopted their own dog or cat from the NGO that “exists to prevent cruelty, alleviate pain, fear, and suffering in animals, and to promote a society based on humane principles.”
Egbert, who is about a year old or so, was found in a road in the Southern part of Metro Manila, he is a victim of neutering that has not been done properly. Cabrera also narrated other notable and recent stories of adoption. “One woman who could only see with one eye adopted a dog who could also only see with one eye,” she said.
Many of the dogs that arrive at PAWS are already of one or two years, though there are senior dogs (around 9-10 years old) that only have a couple of years left, but hopefully would still be given a good quality of life. Animals that come to the shelter are often victims of abuse, with some having been stabbed, shot, even burned, and—the animal shelter team relays with alarm—with one dog even being rescued and brought to the shelter with smoke coming out from its body!
As for the adopters, Cabrera said LGBT couples have been notable in a good way, saying they are more “committed” in adopting the pet, since the pets are really like their children. Frequent adopters of the ‘aspins’ or ‘puspins’ (pusang Pinoy instead of ‘pusakal’ or ‘pusang kalye’) are also foreigners, with some even taking these pets to their home country.
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Pet adoption 101
During the adoption process, people have three “bonding sessions,” or interactions with the dog or cat they intend to adopt before they are interviewed by one of the shelter’s adoption counselors (it can also be vice versa). Some, said Cabrera, can be turned down, though she said that it is more of “not being ready.” Those who are turned down are those who sometimes say that they don’t have their own veterinarian, for example (“Walang sariling vet, barangay vetlang”).
Cabrera said that during the interview process, they really try to cover all bases as much as possible, and thoroughly discuss issues with the adopter. The PAWS staff also do their best to find the perfect fit for the adopter, such as a retiree who prefers a hyper dog who may actually be more fitting for a more laid-back one for example. They also ask about the adopter’s lifestyle and status in life, such as if the person is in a relationship (Who will be the primary owner? Will you marry in the next year or so? Where will the animal live afterwards?).
Another important question the PAWS staff asks are the behaviors that the adopter can’t accept (No pets in the living room? No pets inside the house during bedtime?). They then visit the adopter’s home for inspection.
Cabrera said that dogs and cats adopted from PAWS are also already the “complete package”—they are completely vaccinated, spayed/neutered (so animal won’t contribute to dog or cat overpopulation), dewormed regularly, and have been protected from ticks, fleas, and heartworm via preventive medicine. These PAWS “graduates” also have the option of being enrolled in a free obedience training, and may also avail of free consultation and discounts and services from the PAWS shelter clinic after adoption.
The colonial mentality of the Pinoy is also very much seen even when it comes to animals, with Filipinos usually preferring purebred animals that can be bought from puppy mills, or pet stores in malls. “PAWS’ campaign is ‘See beauty beyond breed,’” explained Cabrera. “[We want Filipinos to] respect [pets] for their distinct personality, not breed.”
Puppy mills usual sell pets for the sake of money and to cut costs, thus the animals they sell are of poor quality since these are not taken care of. “[Buying from puppy mills] funds a trade that is cruel,” emphasized Cabrera.
She said that another cultural mentality of Filipinos that ought to be changed is how they like giving away dogs just like that, without thinking of what it actually entails. Cabrera said that their organization has more respect for Filipinos who know what a huge responsibility it is to own a pet (just like having your own child), and who actually say, “I like dogs but can’t take care of one [because it entails a lot of resources, etc.].” Filipinos also tend to like dogs for example, when these are just puppies (“Ang cute!”) but don’t think of the long-term. Sadly they then want to get rid of their pets when these are already adults.
Cabrera also reiterated that PAWS is not a dumping site for unwanted animals. “Hindi kami tambakan ng aso,” she said. Cabrera added that people who want to get rid of their pets, and would like to “dump” the pet at PAWS shouldn’t have taken in a pet in the first place. (If all options have been exhausted, Cabrera said they recommend that the animal be re-homed responsibly by the original owner.)
While a good number of animals are still adopted every year from PAWS (an average of 60-80 separately, for dogs and cats), the adoption rate of PAWS has dipped through the years. Cabrera said that they still haven’t exactly pinpointed the cause. “It could have been because of the [massive] typhoons [or calamities] that occurred every year,” she said. “People could also be adopting from other animal welfare groups which is okay because [in the end], we all want to help animals.”
Cabrera said that they are so confident with the adoptions they have done, that even if there have been a couple of returns, there’s actually no need to follow up the adopters. Many of them have been so happy with their pets that they even send Valentine’s and Christmas cards to PAWS. Cabrera said that they also have long-term relationships with adopters (a lot have also been donors and volunteers at the shelter). Cabrera said they have observed how adopted animals are “more grateful.” “They are also more appreciative,” she explained.
Among PAWS plans is to have an alumni homecoming of the dogs and cats that have been adopted from the shelter. “When the [adopted animals] come back [to the shelter], ang yabang na,” said Cabrera, “Some of the [animals still] remember the PAWS staff; others cuddle their owners when they see us. Takot na baka ibalik [dito sa PAWS].”
This year, PAWS specifically plans on strengthening its spay or neuter campaign. “Huwag itapon, kapon ang solusyon,” said Cabrera of their campaign. With this campaign, Cabrera said their organization is really about having a preventive program that stops the problem at the roots.
• To know more about PAWS and its campaign, visit their shelter at the Philippine Animal Rehabilitation Center (PARC) at Aurora Blvd., Katipunan Valley, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Or, contact them at (+632) 475-1688 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pawsphilippines or their website,www.paws.org.ph.
Text by Melissa Bagamasbad | Photos by Peter C. Marquez | Lifestyle Section, InterAksyon.com · Monday, February 17, 2014