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arlan veras payad
arlan veras payad TWO DOGS. Mother and daughter. Princess and Empress. Why, you say, name them that way—the mother being the lesser monarch? Well, when Princess was the only dog we had, we actually did not foresee that another one was to come along. That was why their names were not properly planned out in terms of hierarchy.

Princess came into our lives one crisp Saturday morning when she was bought by my brother-in-law from a shopping arcade in Dau. She was a German Shepherd mestiza who was truly regal and genteel—a genuine princess. Our life with Princess went its merry way. She was very loyal indeed. She was a pleasant companion to the kids, especially to my younger brother. She was efficient at guarding the household as well. However, she could be quite a snob to the neighbors and at times rather overprotective of our grounds. But is this not to be expected from a lady most keenly aware of her favored place in canine peerage?

Never even in Princess's most unguarded moments was there any trace of malice or treachery in her. For even when I abruptly picked her up and dragged her full weight to the barangay hall for her anti-rabies shots, she did not jerk while I wiggled on the street struggling. She glided and her tail waved steadily in the air like some European pompadour. She was a full-grown woman when I carried her around like that. Being the thin boy that I was, barely done with elementary school, lifting her had to be abrupt, otherwise it would have been impossible. Upon reaching the queuing mob of mongrels and lesser nobles, she patiently waited. When her turn came for the rabies shot, amidst the non-reverential clamor of an unenlightened throng of commoners, she surrendered her imperial flesh to the lowly needle and acceded to the pain with a solemn lowering of her eyelids.

When Princess's litter came, she went through the maternal rituals with quiet devotion. Among the litter easily stood out this one single shout among mumbles of round puppies. She was a petite swashbuckling rubber ball among genteel, slithering marbles. She was tossing, rushing, and skidding on the floor while all the others were flowing like waves of honey on a plate.

When the milk-smelling downy bundles of joy had to be given away, I just had to keep Empress. And this name proved quite fitting, mind you. She had the queenly air of her mother—only, with the marked delineation towards the dowager persona: overbearing and dogmatic. But there was something in her that could draw a large court's attention. Although remarkably rougher around the edges compared to her quintessential mother, her vitality, her strength of character, her almost beastly passion provided the verdant green of emeralds to set off the brilliance of a diamond—Princess-cut. For whatever it was not visited in the character of the Princess Mother, the Empress Daughter compensated for in superabundance.

Such a sight to behold, those two. They were what common parlance might deem a sight for sore eyes. And that manner of expression was quite justified: Princess was bathed with the golden radiance of the summer sun, with a hint of black velvet lining for her crown; and what, if not a black cape for her nocturnal palace promenades, was suggested by the dark down from her nape to her tail? In many respects a mirror-image of her mother, the gold of Empress' stellar coat was a bit subdued but this was more than made up for by the glow of her acute star sapphire eyes and the prominence of the onyx blackness of the down lining her nape all the way to her tail. Both Princess and Empress sported madrigal black mouths that alluded to a great breed of stallions maneuvering the rough terrains of some forgotten mountainous country. Two of quite a few things these two generations of royalties from a long line of cultured dynasties shared in common: their disdain for the arrogant, barbaric noise of bike motors; and their tendency to have their black down stiffening like the tentacles of porcupine when extremely angered—by bike motors, of course.

I often wondered whether Empress would mellow down through the years. But Empress's brisk ride through life was to be cut short by a sudden halt. One Christmas Eve, our neighbor the policeman, came rampaging through our street. Empress came tagging along barking agitatedly at the impertinent bike motor, her black cape stiffened by anger. A shot was fired. Next thing I remember, I was up in my room with my mind recreating for me what it was I did not want to witness for myself: Empress dragging herself and crying for help; Princess howling from inside the house, frantically prancing from the locked back door to the front door, weakened by her inability to help her dying daughter.

The same thing that was forever recorded in my mind was rewound and once again played back the New Year's Eve immediately following Empress's death: Princess' black cape was just as stiff as she was chasing and barking at the motorbike of the same neighbor, the policeman. A shot fired. A cry for help.

Do dogs have thoughts? I am in no position to make scientific generalizations on this. Yet, to my mind there was no doubt Princess was thinking of helping her daughter when Empress was hollering for her life.

Do dogs have feelings? To me, it was an incontestable fact: Princess's and Empress's pained whining while being carried off from the road to the water pump in our backyard, while my brothers-in-law were rushing about preparing to skin and cook an unexpected fare.

Can dogs reason? Who is to say what was going through their “minds” when they were about to be butchered by the same hands that clicked cameras for which Empress and Princess steadily and knowingly posed?

Was it trampling upon the principles of animal welfare how that police officer shot each of the dogs? The answer becomes unclear when one is reminded of the policeman's concern for his own safety. My mind of 12 years back then blocked out the arguments for and against the cooking of the dogs. It was just too much to think about at the time. For sure I would not have been and would never ever be caught dead taking part in the eating of my pets. And for well over a month I steered myself clear from the kitchen where there was a lingering smell of dog fat that was left behind by Princess's and Empress's royal blood.

All this is hazy and foggy in my memory. And now as I ponder on animal welfare and the philosophy behind it, I can only perceive a tangled web with the crisscrossing of the interests of animals and humans. It pains me to be reminded once more of that Christmas vacation that was marked by suffering in and over the death of two dogs. Mother and daughter. Princess and Empress. Suffering: mine and the dogs'.

[About the author. Arlan Veras Payad is a teacher of English and educational management whose recent researches center on cross-cultural and psycho-social aspects of learning among such respondents as university students in Seoul, South Korea, and high school Aeta students in the mountains of Pampanga. In his rendezvous with the quill, Arlan intends to trace the movements of the Tao in people’s route to success and well-being. In doing so, he is wont to occasionally exhibit the black humor folks use to cope with the Fates’ seemingly indifferent machinations.]

-Posted: 8:30 AM 12/6/13 | More of this author on eK!