Zelley B. epitomizes the “good people” in this proverb. She has a soft spot for the maltreated, malnourished, neglected, pathetic, and sick stray animals which others will not touch with a ten-foot pole. This Libra-born mother of two boys advises, “Huwag na lang mag-alaga ng hayop kung pababayaan o sasaktan mo lang (Don’t have animals if you’re just going to neglect or hurt them)!”

She volunteers to take care of the stray dogs impounded by the homeowners association in one of the villages in Dasmariñas, Cavite. Despite tending a small sari-sari store and being a full-time mom, she still has the time to look after her “four-legged children,” as she describes them. “In fact, I first cook boiled malunggay and squash for my pets, and then for my family. As of now I have 16 dogs and 4 cats. When they are fed right and contented, they are quiet,” she laughs. Makes sense, as this writer notices the unusual silence, in contrast to the expected bedlam situation in their yard.

The Good Samaritan says. “One time, a village guard abandoned his aspin (native) puppy and I readily adopted it.” Since then, she has not stopped picking up the callously neglected cats and dogs in the village.

Case in point is Bogs, an abandoned Husky, who when she first got him was emaciated and sick. His skin is marked by eczematous inflammation and loss of hair; obviously he, was suffering from mange. Now after a few weeks of proper medical care, Bogs is slowly recovering and regaining his health. He wears a cone-shaped protective headgear.

Zelley’s dogs are up for adoption with clean adoption papers, save for her favorite dogs like Mama Dog, Bogs, and epileptic Mary. Some of her rescued dogs’ names describe their physical attributes, like Payat, Putol, Whitey, and the like.

Zelley tries to save the dogs that will surely be put down in dog pounds. She also bats for spaying and neutering cat and dogs to prevent them from contributing to pet overpopulation, which leads to cat and dog homelessness. She also plans to have an anti-rabies program for all the registered dogs in the village with the help of the local barangay.

She says she can help rescue stray animals which have miserable lives on the streets that are ill-fed and suffer from extreme scorching heat and cold downpours. “I’m helpless [when I see] dogs that are being chained around by cruel and violent people,” she says.

Her commitment and passion to save dogs from cruelty and neglect seems second nature to Zelley. That is responsible pet parenthood. But compassion, patience, and time are not enough, for one has to pay for the veterinarian, dog food, vitamins, vaccination, dog houses, and other canine expenses.

Indeed showing the world she cares is also a big drain on her pocket, and that of her husband, who works as an OFW. Good care is not cheap. Good neighbors chip in and donate money from time to time. Before, her exasperated husband would say, “Ito ba gusto mong buhay, puro dumi at ihi ng aso (Is this what you want, a life with dog poop and pee)?” But Zelley’s zest for animal welfare wins. Now her husband helps her bathe the dogs whenever he is in the country. As the cliché goes, if you can’t lick ‘em join ‘em!

Certainly Zelley has formed an attachment to her pet dogs, most notably, with her favorite dog named Nicko. She narrates with a tinge of sadness in her voice, “Nicko was stricken with parvovirus. (It’s a highly contagious feverish disease of dogs, marked by loss of appetite, lethargy, often bloody diarrhea, and vomiting, and sometimes death, which happened to Nicko.) Bringing Nicko to the best vet in town, almost spending R20,000 went for naught. His condition worsened. He was still [fighting] for his life. The vet told me to talk to Nicko and to tell him that it was all right and I was letting him go. With a broken heart I told Nicko, ‘Magpahinga ka na (You can rest now).’ It was 4 PM, and an hour later he died. We buried him in a pet cemetery in a R5,000 coffin. Am still treasuring his death certificate.”

Zelley introduced me to one of her sons named Nickolle, a young filmmaker who made a prize-winning short film for a HIV-AIDS awareness competition. The 19-year-old student is proud of her mom’s passion in caring for and loving her dogs. “I’m planning to make a short film on mom and her remarkable passion for her pet dogs in the future,” she says. “Mondo Cane—Dog’s World” will be an apt title.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s September 2017 issue.