(Last of 2 parts)
When I saw my Kuya Migs’ hamsters, I kept telling Mama I wish I had one too.
Then she told me the story of “Piklet”, my Tita Betsy’s guinea pig when she was still in college. Tita Betsy would have been a veterinarian if she had finished her degree. Mama said Tita Betsy decided to stop studying veterinary medicine when she learned they would have to operate on a lot of animals. She could not bear open them up because she loves animals. She does not want to hurt them.
I think this was the time that I decided I wanted to be a vet. Mama explained that being a Vet, in principle, is no different from being a doctor for humans. You must always remind yourself that it is not just a job but a way to save lives of God’s other creatures in this world. She said with that in mind, I should not be concerned with asking for money first before treating an animal because if I do that, many might die. I have heard this happened to patients who were not treated by doctors in hospitals because they did not have money for the required deposit. I hate those kinds of doctors. They should not be doctors at all.
I was in grade 4 when I got my fourth pet. My first three pets been gone a long time at this point. It was a guinea pig. My cousin Kuya Migs gave it to me as a birthday present. He said it was already a year old but it did not matter to me. Mama reminded me again how I should treat it. I named her Flippy.
When Kuya Migs bought a new and bigger cage for his pets, we borrowed the small cage of his hamsters for Flippy. When we got back to our apartment, Mama said Flippy needed a bigger space so she could run around. So I made her a box with tunnels in it and a little cave. She loved it. I could tell by how she ran around in it, exploring the tunnels and the cave. I loved it when she called out to us for more grass. We gave her grass because that is what she preferred. She did not like pellets much. Mama and I would go out in some vacant lot nearby to get a lot of grass for her. We would put some in her box and the rest, we would put in the fridge to keep it fresh. I enjoyed playing with her in our living room. I would bring her out of her box, then make a lot of tunnels for her and I would call for her and she would run around the place. She was still so cute even if she was already old.
The next year, in March,we went to spend summer in Quezon City. We needed to be there for our activities for our search for Tati. While Mama and I were looking into our Facebook accounts, we saw a post of dogs that need adopters. It was a Save All post and it was Tita Desiree’s shelter for dogs and cats. Tita Des, as we call her, is a close friend of our family. We contacted her and inquired how to go about on adopting a dog. She offered us two pups to adopt but Mama said we could only take one because we do not have enough income for such many pets.
I have always wanted a dog like my cousins who have their own dogs. But we could not afford it. And Mama said that if we were to have a dog, she would not want it to be caged or tied to a post because she does not want to treat it like a property or a thing. She pities dogs she sees that are tied or caged all their lives. I agree with her on that. That is why I understood when she said we could not adopt the pups.
I was about to lose all hope when one morning, Mama went out not telling me where she was going. She just said she would be back in a jiffy. And she did come back quickly and, to my surprise, she was holding a puppy in her arms! And she had Tita Des with her too. We were going to adopt a puppy after all! I could not believe it! I was so overjoyed that I quickly took the puppy and held it in my arms. I remember telling Mama, “Thank you! Thank you!” over and over again. Then they told me that her name is “Milky” but I could change it if I wanted to. But I told them, “Nope. I won’t change it anymore. I like Milky.” And how I loved her! She kept licking my face and she looked just as happy as well being there with me at that moment.
I am 17 years old now and a lot has happened in my life when it comes to my pets. After Milky, I had my first rescue: Whisky. She was a week-old kitten on a highway that nearly got hit by a jeep. We were able to raise Whisky to be such a beautiful cat. After Whisky, we had wo more rescue cats named Socks and Suki. Then, there was our rescued dog named Bogart. Then, our three more adopted dogs named Coco, Puti, and Tagpi. Right now, we have 4 dogs, 4 puppies, 7 cats and 12 kittens.
I have lost a number of my pets through the years. Flippy was the first. Then, I lost Whisky just before the pandemic. Then, Bogart died. I lost some newborn pups when one of our dogs gave birth. Then I lost 3 puppies just before the New Year’s eve celebration. I also lost my Snow, my biggest, white puppy weighing 9 kilos at 4 months old. He got sick. We took him to the vet but still he was not able to fight off the sickness. That was the hardest loss. I cried for I don’t know how long. I know my mom tried her best to save each and every one of them because she loves them too.
We buried them after a day of mourning. Yes, we bury our own pets. As much as possible, Mama said we must be the one to bury our own dead because that is what a family does. She tried to comfort me the best way she could with each loss, reminding me of how we must lose well with our pets.
After all the joyful events and the sad ones, this new year, when I look back on everything that had happened, I can still say I am glad I had each and every one of my pets for some time. It is because I learned a great deal about life with each one. With the help of my pets, I’ve learned to love life more each day.
About the author: Yumi Burgos is the only child of Mariana and Jonas Burgos. Now 17 years old, she is an artist who has won a number of national and international art competitions. She is an active advocate of both human rights and animal rights.