Living in harmony
By Yumi Burgos
I was in grade 4 when I got my fourth pet. My first three have all been gone a long time ago. It was a guinea pig. My cousin, Kuya Migs gave it to me as a birthday present.
Once again, Mama reminded me that “pets are not things or properties like toys that you would acquire and you can just leave lying around, not bothering to think if it is hungry or if it is comfortable enough or if it is happy with its life with you; they are family members just like myself and that meant that I would need to give them the same things that I need for them to be healthy and happy just as I am.” I named her Flippy.
At first, we didn’t have money yet to buy a bigger cage for her so we put Flippy in a box and I made box tunnels and caves for her. Sometimes, I took her out of the box and I played with her in the living room of our small apartment. When we fed her, we went out looking for grass instead of buying pellets.
There were times that I brought Flippy to school. Then my friends and I would play with her.
There was a time also that we nearly lost her. That was when we brought Flippy to the farm. We put her on the grass outside the house. As she roamed around, she got lost because she went under the tree where there were a lot of plants and she got hidden from our sight. But we found her under the tree and never brought her out to the grassy part again outside the house. I loved Flippy and I enjoyed having her with me.
In March, 2015, while in Quezon City, Mama and I saw on Facebook a post that Tita Desiree put up about dogs that need to be adopted. Tita Desiree is a close friend of our family. She and her friends put up this shelter for dogs and cats (Save Animals of Love and Light or Save ALL shelter) that they save from the streets, and take care of them until they find good homes for them.
I asked Mama if we could adopt a dog. Mama said we couldn’t. Not yet, at least, because the income that Mama was earning at that time was not enough even for ourselves. Nonetheless, we contacted Tita Des and inquired on how to adopt a dog from the shelter. She offered us a pair of pups the first time. She said they couldn’t take the two pups apart that is why we had to take both. That made Mama’s mind up not to adopt anymore. So, I thought I wouldn’t have the chance to have a dog of my own.
After a few days, I was so surprised and overjoyed when Mama came home carrying a puppy! And Tita Des was with her. They told me that the puppy’s name is “Milky” and that I can change it if I wanted to. I told them, “Nope. I won’t change it anymore. I like Milky.” That was one of the unforgettable moments in my life.
Since Milky became part of our family, I often hear Mama say that it’s as if she has three children—me, Flippy, and Milky. I was the ate, Flippy was the diche, and Milky was the bunso.
How we had a lot of fun together! Although, time and again, I had to remind Milky not to play too rough with Flippy because she was a little too big compared to a guinea pig. In time, she learned. Whenever we played together, it’s as if she always knew she had to be gentle with Flippy.
Summer came and went.
When the new school year was to start, we had to go back to Bulacan. This time, it wasn’t just me and Mama traveling. There were four of us now. We had Flippy and Milky with us. It was little harder to commute but I felt happier than ever.
Then, just as I thought our family couldn’t get any bigger, Mama and I saw this almost newly born kitten along the highway. She was nearly hit by a car. I told Mama we should get it and take care of it. But she told me that it might not survive long without its mother.
Still, we took it off the street and we tried our best to take care of it. Mama said it’s as if she had a newborn baby. I named it “Whisky.” After a few weeks, she grew up to be a pretty kitten. And much later on, a gorgeous cat of ours. We taught her the same way we taught Milky about how to live in harmony with all the members of our family.
Mama is still not earning enough at present. But we do everything we can to survive and keep each other healthy and happy. It didn’t matter to us that Flippy, Milky, and Whisky are what others describe as “natural enemies”. They do not consider each other as such. Instead, they see each other as sisters as we taught them.
Mama and I barely even noticed at first just how funny our family members are in the eyes of those who are not used to a set-up like ours.
But Flippy, Milky, and Whisky clearly see that they are one and the same—a part of one family. The guinea pig, dog, cat and two humans consider themselves as one family and love each other so much that it is easy for them to live in harmony. To us, our family will always be our greatest treasure.
(Yumi is a 12-year-old animal lover who rescues kittens from the streets. She plans to put up an animal shelter when she grows up.)