“I don’t give Hashbrown any dog food but [give her] mostly veggies and fruits,” Cecil Picache says of her 16-year-old favorite Dachshund. “She eats almost all veggies and fruits: mango, santol, buko (coconut), sitaw (string beans), and kalabasa (squash). But her favorite is sigarilyas or winged beans. She’s not fond of okra (lady’s fingers) and malunggay (moringa).

“She loves spaghetti. And she eats it string by string, not mouthfuls.”

Charming Cecil works as the officer in charge of the Library Services Section at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

She has had other dogs, three of whom passed on: Mozart, a Labrador; Assunta, Aspin; and Polly, Aspin. Jack (Aspin) and the youngest, Faye-Cooper (mixed breed), keep Hashbrown company in their spacious yard with poultry and piggery.

But the apple of her eye is Hashbrown.

“It was love at first sight. I got her from my cousin’s friend. Hashbrown is a mini Dachshund who has three siblings. [She was] frail and sickly at two months. Walang may gusto (nobody wanted her). She was the last of the lot when we were introduced.

“She had a bald spot on her right hindquarters and was beginning to develop an allergy that would make her lose some more hair. Reading dog owner’s manuals did not quite prepare me [for] how to best take care of or deal with her personality. But I thought that she, like me, must be half-scared and half-serious with this new relationship,” she narrates.

And the 16-year relationship is still going strong. A symbiotic relationship.

Hashbrown has been giving Cecil joy and an unalloyed love, and vice versa. Cecil can be the epitome of a perfect human companion, having put up with the idiosyncrasies of Hashbrown. “She has caught 38 house mice as of last count. Also, she has encountered various snakes — once, a baby python.

“She hates anybody who carries an umbrella. My mom even put a sign which says, ‘Bawal magpasok ng payong sa bahay (no umbrellas allowed inside the house).’ It was a warning to one of my aunts who always badgered Hashbrown. There was no love lost between them,” she laughs.

The playful Hashbrown loves chasing chickens. “She terrorizes a hen, chasing it for five minutes. Thankfully, she doesn’t eat live chickens, preferring veggies and fruits. For her, it’s a matter of taste. She also runs off like hell chasing and jumping at cats double her size,” Cecil recalls.

The playful Dachshund has never-ending antics and boundless energy. Cecil continues, “She fancies electrical wires and plugs, eats tissue paper, follows the marching ants, and demonstrates unconditional love complete with yapping, licking, and body movements befitting a great breakdancer.”

The bubbly booklover shares, “But what endears her most to me is that she respects my books . . . Sometimes, when Hashbrown sees me reading a new book, she makes a trip to my end of the bed, invading that space between my book and me. Slightly moving her head and eyes, she pretends to read before returning to her self-place on my bed.

“Occasionally, she throws a cursory glance, waiting for me to close the book. Taking the cue, her eyelids drop even before I can turn off the light.”Not fond of fun runs and dog costume parties, Cecil fights for dog rights. One All Saints Day, the police prevented her and Hashbrown from entering the cemetery: “No dogs allowed!” But Cecil barked back, “Sir, why you rounding up those stray dogs loitering around?”

Hashbrown must be proud of her human companion and BFF.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s November 2018 issue.