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Aspin is in

DOG DAZE - Kathy Moran () - September 26, 2009 - 12:00am

I  would like to thank Ed Bulacan (ednbulacan@yahoo.com) for the comment he wrote on www.philstar.com last Sept. 20. The comment — made by Ed Bulacan who’s based in Al-Khobar, KSA — was in response to the article I wrote last week about the Aspin Mikky in the movie Kimmy Dora: 

“Ang amin pong aso ay sige na nga Aspin o askal. Pero kasama namin siya sa bahay. Katabi sa pagtulog at may sakit din kami pag siya ay may dinaramdam. Mahal po namin siya at katunayan ay hindi namin itinuloy ang migration namin sa ibang bansa dahil gusto namin ay kasama siya paglipat ngunit hindi maari na isama. Kasalukuyan ay narito ako sa Saudi Arabia at kaligayahan kong makita siya pag nag-chat kami ng pamilya ko at nasa camera siya. Minsan nga ay para na ring tao ang trato namin. Ngunit siya ang nagbigay ng kaligayahan sa buhay namin nuong panahon ng mabigat na pagsubok sa amin ng pamilya ko. Sabi nga nuong panganay ko ay pag iniwan na kami ng aso naming ito ay hindi na kami mag-aalaga ng isa pa. Kaso may nagbigay na naman sa amin ng babae na aso. Ang plano ko ay kumuha ng isang malaking lupa sa bandang Silang, Cavite para malaki ang tatakbuhan ng dalawa kong alaga.

“Kaya ko ipinadala ang komentong ito para malaman ng mambabasa mo na mag-alaga rin sila ng Aspin.”

* * *

In the past it used to be so common for purebred dogs to be treated with lots more care than native dogs — even if they both live in the same house.

I recall a time when a native dog was truly the “bantay” of the house and the privileged purebred dog enjoys a place inside the house.

Blame it on the fact most purebred dogs come with a price tag and native dogs can be easily picked off the streets.

That was in the past. Over the last five years, I have been witness to how the native dog or Aspin has created its own loyal following among pet-lovers.

Bantay is normally brown and short-haired — the type of dog that you would usually see out in the streets. Thus, askal. And, definitely he is not the type of dog to be cuddled. Rather, he is usually deployed outside the house as its first line of defense.  

An Uphill Battle

The contrast could not have been more glaring to a group that has been rescuing dogs for its entire existence. PAWS, founded in 1954 and reactivated by Nita Hontiveros-Lichauco in 1986, saw that native dogs are often the victims of cruelty. It is the native dog who is always rounded up to be illegally transported to Baguio and eventually killed to be served as “pulutan.”

Jokes about native dogs abound. One of them refers to the native dog as the Philippine rice dog because it eats only rice and leftovers. The purebred dogs, of course, eat expensive dog food or dry kibble.

With the goal of changing society’s view of askals, PAWS encourages people to bring native dogs to their various fundraising events.

For its Halloween pet costume contest, native dogs who came in their best outfits were given prizes and bragging rights via the “Halim-aw-aw Award.”

PAWS put a native dog heat in “The Great Dog Dash,” where native dogs raced against one another to win a gold medal.

What was even more groundbreaking was the native dog beauty pageant organized by PAWS in 2006. The top 10 finalists exemplified all the best qualities of the Filipino dog. Dubbed “Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa,” it had all the elements of a beauty contest — from the swimsuit category to the casual and evening wear competition. Former Miss Universe and animal lover Gloria Diaz sat as the head of the judging panel.

After talking to the guardians of the 10 finalists, PAWS was delighted to discover there were a lot of people who shared the organization’s love for the native dog. Among them was PAWS volunteer Nice Rodriguez who rescued Poypoy, a shorthaired light brown native dog. Nice recalls that her neighbor used to be the official owner of Poypoy, but he had left the dog to die of hunger in the streets.

Nice would regularly feed Poypoy and initially did not want to get attached to him. However, one day, Poypoy showed up with a big bruise on his neck, which made Nice adopt Popoy.

Nice has taught Poy a lot of tricks including how to catch a frisbee. This talent eventually enabled him to become the lone native dog contestant in a Frisbee competition, which saw Poypoy winning third place in the Manila leg.

With the positive response it has been getting from these projects, PAWS embarked on a unique campaign called “See Beauty Beyond Breed” that featured popular celebrities Heart Evangelista and Jericho Rosales posing with native dogs from the PAWS Shelter.

The ads encouraged the use of the term Aspin (Asong Pinoy) and dropping the term askal. Because, after all, native dogs are just as cute, as intelligent and loyal as their purebred counterparts.

The campaign was the first to use celebrities to help drive home the point directly to the average Filipino pet owner and it was a runaway success. Not only did all the animals that Heart and Echo posed with get adopted, it also boosted adoption rates and inquiries by as much as 30 percent.

PAWS’ shelter staff also noticed an increase in the use of the now politically-correct term Aspin.

And Now a Club

I must admit that I own three purebred dogs and two mixed-breed dogs. As such, I am aware that there is no registry in the country that takes in mixed breed dogs. I have always wondered why this is so.

But, again, PAWS will change all that.

On Oct. 3 at 4 p.m., native dog owners and their Aspins are invited to the first general assembly of the PAWS Aspin Club to be held at the Bonifacio High Street.

Its SEC registration papers state that the club “aims to improve how Filipinos view and treat native and mixed-breed dogs by celebrating the unique characteristics of each dog and helping people make the right choice — the choice to adopt Aspins from shelters, pounds, or rescued off the streets.”

According to PAWS shelter director Heidi Guzon, “For most Aspins in our country, their lives end even before they begin with no hope, no help, and no voice. The PAWS Aspin Club was established to help unite native dog owners to incite change, and help these extraordinary dogs receive the recognition and care they deserve.”

The president of this club is Nice Rodriguez, loving guardian of Poypoy.

Nice says that when you look at a crowd of pet owners flocking to dog-friendly establishments, you will hardly see a native dog with them.

“We hope to change the way Filipinos look at native dogs and how they treat them.”

The Aspin Club is being launched as part of the World Animal Day celebration. There are lots of activities lined up for the members. 

“We will have a special Canine Good Citizenship training, dog food cooking lessons, a Christmas outreach program, a ‘Dog Walk for a Cause,’ a pet photo session and a ‘Must Love Dogs’ singles party,” Nice adds.

For those who want to become members of the PAWS Aspin Club, bring P500 annual membership fee and 1x1 colored photo of yourself and your pet. Registration starts at 3 p.m. For inquiries, e-mail paws_aspin_club@yahoo.com. 

* * *

PAWS and Bonifacio High Street continue their celebration of World Animal Day with an exciting afternoon for all pet lovers on Oct. 3 at 3 p.m.

Strike a pose in the pet photo area, test your canine’s reflexes in the dog agility course, turn into a Dalmatian or Pug in the face painting booth and browse through the newest pet portal on the Net.

All native and mixed-breed dog owners and their pets are also invited to the 1st general assembly of the PAWS Aspin Club with special guests — canine behavior specialist Jojo Isorena with renowned theater director and proud celebrity Aspin owner Audie Gemora. Program begins at 4 p.m.

In celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, there will be a Mass and pet blessing at 5:30 p.m.

This event is made possible through the generous help of Hobbes & Landes, Frontline Plus, Magnolia Healthtea, Magnolia Pure Water, Krispy Kreme, Mypetchannel.tv and The Philippine STAR Pet Life Section.

ASPIN ASPIN CLUB DOG DOGS NATIVE PAWS PET POYPOY
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