My aunt had a physical checkup, and after a long day at the hospital I was so tired that I fell asleep on the couch. But I was so energized when I woke up the next day, and rushed to visit Panda at the veterinarian’s clinic. Panda is my neighbor’s kitten, rescued outside the gate where he lay abandoned on top of a bag of garbage. The cold morning dew had killed one of his three siblings.
I was excited to see Panda. He is the only kitten left; his siblings, Midnight and Patch, have been adopted. In most of my free afternoons, I would keep him company. But after a month of bottle feeding, Panda came down with some kind of food allergy and his fur dropped off, exposing his delicate pink skin. But he has recovered, with his fur slowly returning and his body getting bigger. That afternoon, I took him out of his cage as soon as he finished his business in the small litter box. He even knows where to pee now!
As I played with Panda, Ringo, the vet’s Persian cat, sat beside me. I patted his head and he closed his eyes and tilted his face toward me. He liked it! Ah, Ringo is so beautiful. Earlier, I thought he snubs admirers who are strangers, like me. People are sometimes like that, acting like they are above the rest because they were given a pretty face. I held Ringo with one arm and Panda with the other. To my delight, they did not fight, although they are not officially friends. We even had pictures taken, the three of us—Panda, Ringo and me. (Later, I made a picture my phone’s wallpaper.)
Just then, a man came rushing in! He was carrying a dog that was profusely bleeding from the right eye, which was covered by a rag that served as a patch and was tied by a straw string around his head. Dog emergency! Dog emergency!
I cringed. The rag was hardly sterile, but what could the man have done? The man showed the degree of damage: The dog’s eye socket had popped out! I retreated behind the glass wall and cried. The young male assistant gasped. The young female assistant turned powdery white. We were all stunned, but the vet was calm and collected as she nibbled at a piece of candy.
After my initial shock, I realized that my anguish was no help at all, and I became ashamed of my reaction. I am used to seeing blood in the hospital, but in heaven’s name, I became so scared seeing a wailing dog so bloodied. The man kept whispering to his pet to be still. I think the dog was assured that everything would turn out fine because he stopped wailing.
Suddenly, the vet’s assistants were all fired up, like in a Code Red at the hospital. The dog was carried to the metal table, his blood spurting wildly. The vet gloved her hands. We will never know exactly what the dog felt. I wished he could say it, loud and clear, that he was hurting so badly. I wanted to hear him spit his agony out, but he vainly tried to be still as his master held on to him tightly.
Then, I heard the man say, more to himself than to us,
“Angit, pangit ka na ngayon (now you’re ugly),” in the saddest tone I had ever heard.
The vet gave Angit a shot of anesthesia but, being burly, he required at least three shots before he stopped wriggling and finally relaxed. The eye socket was incised and removed completely. The eyelid was removed, too. The eyelashes were shaved altogether before the eye was finally stitched shut.
The man could not believe it; he wanted Angit’s full eyesight restored. He argued with the vet for a while, but she explained that the damage was huge, the nerve endings were of no more use. He sounded like a dissatisfied customer complaining about a product he had just bought. He demanded his dog’s eye back! But it was not possible.
A loud ringing of the man’s phone jolted us. It was apparently his wife calling, very worried about Angit’s condition. He told her the dog was being operated on. He cut the conversation short so he could hold the dog. It became clear that he was not welcoming any disturbance. His dog was all that mattered.
Seeing and hearing him speaking to his wife, with his hands covered with blood, I felt my heart weep. It was clear that their love for their pet is enormous. The man said the accident happened in their backyard. It could be that a protruding nail caught on Angit’s eye. He said nobody dared touch the dog—from fear and pity, maybe, or they did not care at all. He had rushed home, applied whatever first aid he knew, and carried his poor dog to the vet.
I saw love right there—love that conquered fear so that the loved one would be healed. I discerned one definition of love at that moment: that loving means being brave when everyone else is afraid. The man was brave enough to save his dog.
I learned that the man is a market vendor, that he always brought Angit along when he sold coconut water from a kariton. When Angit was a pup, he suffered from loss of appetite that significantly weakened him, and could have killed him, the man said. Now, his life will start again with one lost eye—and he is only eight months old.
While the vet was winding up the surgery, we heard knocking on the glass door. It was the tricycle driver and a young child, dressed in a tattered shirt and peering at us. It had started to rain hard, and they tried to stay dry by huddling close to the door. The chimes sounded.
The man apologized. He had forgotten to pay the fare! He said he did not mean to run away and had forgotten the fare in his anguish. The tricycle driver, a woman, smiled. She perfectly understood. It was a dog emergency, after all.
I thought to myself, what could be more heartwarming than all of these little things? Everyone, even the tricycle driver, took the time to care.
This valiant dog never whined or threw a tantrum except when he had to pee or poo, the man said. We patted Angit and tried to comfort him—the only thing we could offer. He may have lost an eye but he has a real family who loves him—a family who weeps for him, who will rush him to the vet in an emergency. I was very sorry that Angit lost his beauty, but I was joyful to witness that in this world, he is not alone.
I saw bright days ahead, when he will resume going out with his master to work. Maybe soon, he will father a bunch of puppies. Angit is so blessed!
The rain stopped, and I walked home with a light and smiling heart.
Joyce Tuplano, 25, is studying overseas. She says that she is
terribly missing her dogs, cats, and turtles at home, as well as spending her free afternoons tending a small flower garden with her mother, “until the sun hid itself for the night.”