A message from Victor

By Mariana Burgos

My Lolo (grandfather) told me this story so many times when I was still very young. I liked the story so much that I kept asking him to tell me the story over and over again even though it did not have a very happy ending. At that time, I thought, he was simply proud of having had such an intelligent dog. Then, as I grew older, I thought that perhaps he was trying to show me that you can make seemingly impossible things possible with determination. But now, I realized that the message of the story was very simple yet very important.

A message from Victor
Victor with Lolo's basket. This is a sketch by the author Mariana based on what she imagined Victor looked like when she was a young girl while her Lolo told stories about a loving, lovable spin named Victor. 
Lolo told me he had a dog once. His name was Victor. He was a short-haired asong Pinoy (aspin, a native Filipino breed), of medium built, and quite lean. Victor was just a pup when he was given to my Lolo by one of his friends. When Lolo first looked into Victor’s eyes, he said, “Though you are a native breed, they will all be surprised with what you will be able to do.” And so goes the start of something big for Victor.

Lolo constantly talked to the pup as if he was a person. He took Victor with him everywhere he went. And, as if he was carrying a child, he would point out to Victor certain things, places, and even introduce him to some people, as if to educate him. He did this religiously every day, adding more information each time as Victor grew older.

When Victor was able to walk on his own, Lolo taught Victor to carry a basket whenever they went out for their walk around the neighborhood. At first, everyone thought my Lolo was a bit of a loony talking to this dog the way he did. But then, later on, as they saw him cuddling and kissing the pup from time to time, they knew and they would say that he really loved that dog of his.

Every morning, Lolo and Victor would go out with a basket with Victor carrying it. They would go to the nearby bakery first. Lolo would tell Victor to give the basket to the baker. The baker would pick up the little note with money pinned with it inside the basket and would put the ordered bread inside the basket, together with the same note and the change, and give it back to Victor. After the bakery, they would go to the nearby sari-sari store where Victor did the same thing he did at the bakery. He would give the basket to the store owner who did the same things the baker did.

Everyone who witnessed this were amused and awed with what Victor could do. Because of this, they would always apologize to Lolo for thinking before that he was a little “crazy” with the dog. Each of them now wished they had a dog like Victor. My Lolo would always tell them that they could have such a dog if they only wanted to. And he was right. Anyone could have a dog just like Victor if only one has the love and patience to train a dog. It is not about the breed. Victor was so smart because he was trained. He was friendly to other people because he was cared for with love and affection and not with an iron fist. Lolo had the patience to train him.

That was the start of Victor’s fame. At least, within our small neighborhood.

Victor’s popularity lasted, I think, for about a few years. Two or three years, I guess. I remember that Lolo would always avoid telling details about Victor’s death. He would only say that his dog died because of some heartless “tambays” in the street, and that’s it. Period. He would say, “...Kasi, napag-tripan siya...”  Every time I heard that part, I would  feel so angry at those men. I would always think to myself that if I were Victor’s owner, I would have made sure those men paid dearly. I tried asking my Lolo what he did about it but he would always dismiss it abruptly and refused to give details.

As I grew older, I learned a little more about Victor’s death. I thought what details I would know more would ease the hurt I feel about Victor’s death. But it did not. One time, I heard from Lola (grandmother) that the reason  Victor was slain was that he bit one of the “tambays.” Because of the people’s fear of rabies infection, the usual remedy of our elders then was to kill the dog. At this point, I think you could all imagine how hard that was for my Lolo. I remember my Lola would always say  then that Victor would not bite anyone unless he was threatened or someone attempted to get the basket from him. After learning this, I understood why my Lolo would not say more about Victor’s death. I would not want to hear it, too. Since then, I just let it be. And every time Lolo told stories about Victor, we would always be content with reminiscing the good ones, the happy parts.

Lolo and Victor. This is a sketch by Mariana, the apo and author, who learned that "pets are family" from Victor's story
It is a good thing that we now have the Animal Welfare Act, a law that punishes humans who hurt animals. If we had this law during Victor’s time, perhaps we would have gotten some form of justice for our dog and it could have eased our pain even just a little. To us, pets are family. This was the simple but very important message of Victor’s story, as emphasized by my Lolo. If we lose a pet, the pain is the same as losing a human member of the family.

Topics: asong Pinoy , pets , Victor , native Filipino breed
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