My two sons
“YOU LOVE him more than me,” Boknoy (not his real name, or at least not anymore) protested as I said goodbye before heading out to work.
It’s become a kind of ritual, this protesting and my returning to give Boknoy equal treatment accorded to his rival. I would hug him, rub noses and tickle the back of his ears.
Rub noses? Tickle the back of his ears?
Boknoy, who is 10, suffers from intense sibling rivalry with a 6-year-old named Dr. Tissot (nicknamed Tisoy), who is an “aspin” (or “asong Pinoy”).
The two have this love-hate relationship. They fall asleep hugging each other, then the next minute they’re shouting—sometimes barking—at each other. One time Tisoy actually sank his teeth into Boknoy’s arm over a bulalo bone; he quickly released the arm, but not without leaving puncture marks in it. Tisoy was absolutely contrite, the housekeeper said, although I think he was probably more embarrassed at not being able to control his jaws. Boknoy was traumatized, crying for a few minutes, with a repeat performance when I rushed home. But before the day was over, he and Tisoy were back to rubbing noses.
I grew up with dogs and am a firm believer of having dogs in a home. Our family dogs, almost all dachshunds, spanned several generations. I was determined that my kids would also grow up with dogs, but because I started parenting so late, I decided on aspins, mixed breeds being of sturdier stock and, I have to say, often being much smarter than purebreds. Dachshunds are wonderful pets, really affectionate, but because of their “hot dog” bodies, they are vulnerable to spinal injuries and paralysis.
Boknoy did catch the last of our dachshunds as a first dog. This was Big Mama, also known as Tiny. She was already an ancient 12, often cantankerous, but I was convinced that deep down she was still the affectionate puppy I knew over the years.
Boknoy took to dogs and cats from Day 1 with me, so early on I introduced him to Tiny, who first kept a distance but eventually allowed dachshund curiosity to take over. She got up, shuffled over to the strange creature with even stranger attire (diapers—fresh ones, I made sure). I was apprehensive, holding on to Boknoy and ready to sweep him away if Tiny showed any signs of hostility. But I could tell she was comfortable with him. She licked his outstretched hand, palm up in peace, rather than down, which makes dogs think you’re going to hit them. I knew they were going to be friends.
Their tentative friendship grew into a bond as Boknoy learned to walk, and to chase after Tiny. I think Boknoy had a calming effect on her even as he gave her second wind. There were touching moments—seeing her out in the garden with Boknoy still in his diapers, almost as if she was making sure he didn’t get into trouble.
Alas, Tiny moved on, aged 15, when Boknoy was still a toddler. And to this day, there are times when Boknoy says he misses Tiny. We’re not supposed to have memories of life before the age of 5, but I think he remembers the stories I tell him about their friendship.
Boknoy doesn’t dwell too long on those memories of Tiny, not with Tisoy around. The four-year gap in their ages hasn’t been a problem because they’re really two kids—two sons—growing up together.
Boknoy does relish the kuya role, taking charge, barking out orders like “Sit!” He loves to tell friends about how I’d ask Tisoy to sit and end up seeing the two “brothers” sitting side by side. It was Boknoy’s way of saying he was hungry, too, and to make sure I got the point, he would pant as well, sometimes even drool.
The two are on the heavy side—they share a moniker, “Big Boy”—so when they move around the house, which is largely wooden, I feel mild earthquakes. Imagine my nights: Boknoy on a bed to my left and Tisoy on the floor to the right. Both are restless sleepers, so there are long nights of sensurround earthquakes, complete with snoring sound effects.
I’ve discovered that Boknoy and Tisoy have another affinity: Both are hyper, with short attention spans that mean they can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before rushing off. They’re so alike it’s gotten to the point where I’ll shout out
“Tisoy!” when Boknoy’s too noisy and “Boknoy!” when Tisoy’s getting hysterical over the many cats in the garden.
As boys go, the two have their secret worlds, and whispering conspiracies. One time I heard frantic knocking on the main door, and when I opened it, Tisoy pranced into the house. I had visitors, who looked at one another, impressed. “Did you train…” one of them began, but before I could answer, Boknoy came trailing behind, grinning like a Cheshire cat—and my visitors finally figured out who had done the knocking.
Talk about sharing brothers. One day at a fast-food place, the teller asked what name to put down on our order. Boknoy put his paws, I mean his hands, on the counter and whined, “Tisoy,” which the teller dutifully wrote down on the receipt.
Since then Boknoy has practically stolen Tisoy’s name, using it like crazy. One day I passed the two and overheard
Boknoy saying, “Look, Bro,” as he showed Tisoy a receipt. I looked at it and it read: “Tisoy—chubby boy with earrings,” to guide the food servers when the order had to be delivered.
I went about my work, then suddenly realized that the two were planning something. “Boknoy,” I called out, almost in panic. “You are not going to put earrings on Bro!”
“How did you guess?” he called back.
It can be a lonely life for a solo-parented, home-schooled kid, so a canine sibling helps immensely. We all have grand visions of dogs teaching children responsibility but we should be happy, too, with the basic, but important, role of dogs providing companionship and friendship. Throw in a sense of gratitude (as in don’t bite the hand that feeds you).
Last week Boknoy came up to me and shared a joke about a kid complaining, “I asked for a monster truck and got a sister,” complete with a photo from the internet of a little scowling boy carrying his new sister.
I retold Boknoy one of his favorite stories: “You know, your ate would nag me, long before you came along, about being lonely and asking if we could go to the grocery and get her a kapatid (sibling). So one day I came home and told her, Surprise, look what I got you!”
“Me!” Boknoy proclaimed. This time around he had a new story line of how his ate hated him at first sight and complaining: “I asked for a kapatid and you gave me a monster.”
Boys love to be hated by their sisters, so that didn’t matter. Anyway, after that grocery story he called out to Tisoy to give me a double hug with a request: “Can we go to the grocery so you can get me and Tisoy another brother? Please, please?”
Another four-legged son? I must admit that I thought, Why not? Fortunately, I snapped out of that temporary moment of insanity. I love my two sons—the dog and the dog whisperer—and their sisters (now, how many are they?) And that’s why I have to say, Tama na, sobra na (Enough). That’s it, folks!
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