Sunday, July 22, 2012

“Aspin” TLC

THEY fetch at least P500 now: melt-your-heart furballs yipping to be let out of their baskets under the skywalk at Fuente Osmeña.

When I was a child, the aspin (asong Pinoy) was the cheapest dog a child could ask for and be sure to get.

My father would have filled our house with aspin puppies someone was always giving away. Then and now, families got an aspin or two because they made excellent guards and cost little to feed. I gave up on counting the oscillations made by the tails of our wagging aspins whenever we filled recycled ice cream containers with the mash consisting of leftovers, the cheapest variety of corn meal and water. (Not included here are the hateful liver and greens that tumbled from my plate to my favorites under the table.)

My father was not unkind to animals. He loved them, specially dogs whose loyalty he rated more highly than that of humans. I used to think the reason my mother moved out of our house and we had rare visitors were the ownership rights the dogs took on all the seats in our sala. Even if you didn’t know Sheba from Beetle, you could smell that this was her couch. Any visitor with a cold could still not miss the baleful bug-eyed perusal Beetle (half-native, half-something) gave to ankles that got too close to her perch.

It was just part of aspin love to be cavalier about taking care of them. They were cheap because they were so healthy. Nothing except overspeeding drivers or drunkards threatened their existence. Whenever a dog had a rash from eating chicken or seafood leftovers, my father simply rubbed some used grease from his Beetle (the Germany-made one). In no time, a new tuft of fur bristled under my hand.

In exchange for fierce and unconditional aspin love, we gave up a few comforts, like pristine floors and walls. Brushing with soap only spreads car grease complicated with dog hair. I was fond, though, of the blots I made squelching lice made plump with dog blood.

One.did.not.give.aspins.a.bath. They sometimes allowed me to comb their coat for obstinate lice. However, weekly attempts to bathe them ended up with my being soaked from 50 percent water from the hose and 50 percent from the water pellets the dog speed-shook off.

Living with aspins also meant a catless existence. A cat crazy enough to disregard the territorial doses of urine that our dozen or so aspins marked our home with was a dead one.

Later, my father brokered some peace by raising an aspin puppy and kitten. He believed a shared food bowl worked better for animals than peace declarations among humans. From the sequence of feline hissing, followed by canine yelping, that punctuated our domestic quiet, I think my father was fooled by a too dainty way of walking and too much rubbing and tail-twining around the legs.

“Aspin” for “asong Pinoy” was coined by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) to replace the derogatory “askal (asong kalye)” or street mut. Is there a term invented for cats, who, by nature, are always on the prowl. “Puspin”? The cat that’s a pushover has not yet been bio-engineered.

In this city where I am temporarily based, the most popular draws in malls are not only the ones on sale. These are the pet spas. It’s a cube encased in glass. On one side are the hoi polloi, the human fans who watch purebred pet s, on the other side of the glass, get a week’s worth of stress-busters: manicure, pedicure, earwax removal, haircut, shampoo, blow-dry, coat-brush, teeth-brush, flossing, a new tartan coat, puppy Pampers or pastel Skoonchy.

While I do spend some time reading and comparing labels for the shampoo (mint over citrus) of Udo (half-native, half-Lab), I think the human halves of aspins should, at the very least, nourish them properly and avail of free government services for anti-rabies injections, neutering and spaying.

Getting a puppy means also loving them long after they outgrow that butterball cuteness. Aspins are smart and can be taught to know which ex should be driven off the property pronto. We must keep our dogs off the streets where they risk being run over, turned into “sumsuman (drinking tidbit),” or napped to protect the public.

With tender loving care (TLC), you and your aspin will go a long way.

(, 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 22, 2012 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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