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Cleopatra, the great |

Pet Life

Cleopatra, the great

- Stephanie Zubiri -

MANILA, Philippines - Nothing can express the emptiness in my heart, the stabbing pain in my chest and the utter sadness in knowing I will never cuddle next to her again. Last Thursday, I received news that my Mini Yorkie, Cleo, died of a freak accident. I was getting ready for a press dinner when the world stopped and inconsolable sobs and wails just poured forth.

The sudden loss of a beloved pet is a truly painful experience that only those who have pets can truly understand. Some say it’s just a dog but for those who truly love animals, they will understand when I say that Cleo was part of my family. She was not just another dog and more than a friend, she was like family. She was always there for me, always loving and forever loyal.

My first winter in Paris was terrible. It was cold, rainy, slushy and I was lonely and sick to the bones. I was living in a small apartment and had considered getting a rabbit because I really missed having animals around, something to cuddle with and to care for. I decided I would maybe get a small dog but nothing was final. I had no particular breed in mind nor was I really determined. I decided to go over the different stores and kennels and see what would happen.

All puppies are adorable bundles of fluff. But this tiny little gem of a dog, all black fur and tan face, small enough to be held in the palm of one (yes, one) hand, didn’t stop smothering my face with little kisses. Sold. She was mine. You don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you.

Smack in the middle of January, this little ball of black fur came home with me, her face sticking out of the zipper of my winter parka. From that day on, she slept beside me, cuddled ergonomically by my side every night possible.

Cleopatra was sort of an ironic name. Big name for such a small dog. Everyone knew her as Cleo and although she never gained this grande dame disposition that such a name as Cleopatra might imply, she became a uniquely intelligent and loving companion.

France is an easy place for pets. She was allowed everywhere, even at many restaurants, cafés and brasseries. Comfortably perched in my handbag, with her head sticking out, she went shopping with me, on errands, to the bank… she even danced with me once in a nightclub! Cleo was a pocket dog. She was portable and because of this incessant exposure to regular life and loads of people, she was extremely friendly and sociable, never once sneering at anyone. She was even naively friendly to other dogs, making me nervous at times. She once scampered off to go say hi to a giant Doberman in a park. I ran as fast as I could after her and the cutest thing happened: the Doberman stood still with his nose down, as he let Cleo give him little kisses. I don’t know of any other dog that would go and kiss other dogs’ noses like they were humans!

Cleo was loved by everyone and even those who never liked pets nor grew up with them loved her. My mother, for example, never touched a dog in her life, but she would pet Cleo and would let her stay at the foot of her bed. No other dog has ever had that privilege.

She traveled all over with me, coming on our weekend Eurotrips with friends. Cleo has been to Milan, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Vienna, Pau, Spain, Saint Tropez. Even Giorgio Armani offered to buy her from me because he was so in love with her. Giorgio Armani himself!

She loved to run in wide open spaces. She was fast and jumped around from sofa to armchair like she was Superwoman. Sometimes she hopped up and down like a little bunny. Always happy go lucky, playful yet well behaved despite the fact that I never taught her any tricks … I just gave her as much love as possible.

Moving back to Manila was difficult for her and me. I had so much work, was staying more and more often in Makati because of heavy traffic. I never felt guilty about leaving her at home in Alabang with my other dog Foxy as they got along well and had a huge garden. I constantly missed our quiet routine, walking her and just being with her. She was so quiet and you only knew she was around by the sound her little paws made as she shuffled around the house. I could’ve brought her everywhere with me but I truly didn’t want to leave aging Foxy alone. I now regret the last few months of being too busy to spend every day with her.

Cherish your pets. Make time for them. Let them be a part of your life. Although their loss is so painful, there is something so fulfilling about being close to an animal companion. Be there for them not at your convenience but because you know they need you. I know deep down inside that I gave Cleo the very best life she could possibly have, and no matter what she I knew I loved her so much. May she rest in peace.

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