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Doctors Z & Aivee Teo on finding love and lessons from their dogs

Loving animals and art: Doctors Z Teo and Aivee Teo with Barney the St. Bernard beside an untitled painting by Andres Barrioquinto. Photos by WALTER BOLLOZOS  

Life is beautiful for doctors Z Teo and Aivee Teo, whose home is alive with the voices of their kids KenZ, Kenzo and Keli, as well as the presence of their “furkids” Bambi the Pug, Pekingese Ewok and Eko, and the newest member of the family, Barney the St. Bernard. 

As dermatologists, the Teos run clinics that offer the latest in the aesthetic and dermatology industry. As preachers of wellness and healthy eating, they have Aivee Cafe which is my dream dining room where calories are counted but yumminess counts a lot, too. As effortless fashion plates, they’re just so hip and cool.

Visiting their modern house recently, I got a glimpse of their heart and soul. It is home to three smart children, the couple’s “mini-me”s who are so vivacious yet so well-behaved, properly seeing the bright world through their trademark sunglasses. It’s a homemade beautiful by the paintings of young, edgy Filipino artists. And it’s a home made warmer by the furry presence of four dogs. “I grew up with dogs,” shares Dr. Z Teo. “We had nine dogs in our home in Singapore — five Pugs, two French bulldogs, and two Boxers. They were family dogs shared with my parents and my brother.”

Dr. Aivee also had her share of dogs when she was growing up. “We had Chow Chows, which I shared with my sister,” she recounts. “But I became afraid when my sister was bitten by one of our Chow Chows. After that, I only wanted small dogs.”

Raising a growing family

“Our first five years as a couple were spent via long distance,” says Dr. Aivee. “We were living between Manila and Singapore so there was no way or time for us to have a dog.”

KenZ was born in 2007; it was then that the Teos knew it would soon be time to start a life together.  “That was about five years without dogs,” says Dr. Z. “We knew that we needed to be together to raise our family. So, in 2010, we settled here in Manila.”

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Living in a condo at the time, the Teos also decided it was time to get a dog. Enter Bambi, the Pug.

Kenzi and Keli were born a year apart — and in came the two Pekingese, Ewok and Eko.

With a growing family, the couple knew it was time to move into a house, which they did in 2016.

“Now that we had a house, Z said that he could finally get the dog he always wanted — a St. Bernard,” laughs Dr. Aivee. “But the idea of such a big dog was something I was not comfortable with because I only like small dogs.”

Z did his research and, with the help of his vet brother, Dr. Teo E. Shen, he found a St. Bernard in Russia. The problem? How to tell Dr. Aivee he had already bought the dog.

“I saw you were ordering something online that you didn’t tell me about,” Dr. Z told Dr. Aivee. “Well, since you didn’t tell me about it, I have my own secret to tell you — I ordered a St. Bernard.”

Dr. Aivee admits that it took a few days for the idea of having a St. Bernard to sink in — she accepted the dog once Bernie arrived in their home.

From the day Bernie arrived, she became their favorite baby.

“There is a saying that among a hundred dogs there will be one that will be more loyal than the others —and for us, that was Bernie,” says Dr. Z. “When Bernie passed away early this year, I got depressed. Bernie was our dog who would be grumpy the next day if we didn’t greet her when we got home at night — that’s how close our bond was.”

A life changer

The loss of Bernie was a sudden and very painful episode in the life of the Teos.

“Our helper was walking Bernie and then she fell over a curb and started limping,” recalls Dr. Aivee. “For the next five days, she got worse. She became paralyzed and couldn’t digest food. We had to call Z’s brother, the vet, and ask him to fly here to check on Bernie.”

At the same time, Dr. Aivee became very ill.

I remember at 3 a.m., Aivee was so sick I had to go out and buy her medicine,” shares Dr. Z. “I was running up and down the stairs checking on the two of them. When I came down, I heard Bernie screaming. I was so worried because I had never seen Aivee so sick, I was even thinking of taking her to the hospital.”

 “I was much better the next morning, but it was Bernie who took a turn for the worse,” says Dr. Aivee. “When I saw Bernie, I felt her pain. I was so affected by her pain because I saw in her eyes that she was suffering so much — I felt that she took away my pain.”  

Three days later, Bernie passed on.

Bernie’s death remains a mystery to the Teos — they say perhaps it was genetic. But the lessons they learned from her passing were invaluable.

“I know now that a pet is good for raising kids,” shares Dr. Z. “Because when Bernie died, I had to find a way to help our kids deal with her death.”

“When Bernie passed away, our kids learned not only about death, but about losing someone they loved, too,” adds Dr. Aivee.

To help the kids deal with Bernie’s death, the Teos had a burial ceremony where they asked each of their three kids to write a message for Bernie, whom they buried in their backyard with the kids’ notes.

 “We know that something like Bernie’s death teaches kids about life as well,” says Dr. Aivee. “The same is true for Z and me. Bernie’s loss made us realize that life is really short, that anything can happen suddenly — and that we really have to appreciate what we have.”

It makes the couple happy that there are many lessons that their kids are learning from having dogs.

Time for a new life: Welcome home, Barney

Dr. Z knew that he needed to have another chance with the dog of his dreams.

Today, the Teos have a new St. Bernard whom they named Barney. 

“We made sure we got Barney from a better breeder,” shares Z. “I asked my vet brother to help me.”

“We also got the last pup in the litter because it is normally the one the breeder wants to keep,” adds Aivee, who has become more attached to Barney since they lost Bernie. “We are very protective of her. Bernie taught us that we need to be more hands-on when it comes to raising our dogs — they are not just pets, they are part of our family.” 

On Sundays, Dr. Z and Dr. Aivee chill out with their kids and their seven dogs (yes, seven). Eco, their Pekingese, recently had three puppies and their kids wanted one puppy each.

“They are our therapy dogs because they help alleviate stress,” shares Dr. Z. “When I come home from work, the dogs are always happy to see me —when I see a happy pet, it makes me happy, too.”

“At night, when we come home, the ones who welcome us are the dogs because the kids are already asleep,” adds Dr. Aivee. “In the morning, it is the kids who wake us up.”

Does having dogs help make your bond as a family stronger? I asked.

“I think after what we went through with Bernie, yes, it does,” shares Dr. Aivee, “because they complete the whole family picture for us.”

 

 

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