By Kisha Aleena Abuda

Imagine being homeless and exposed to everyone. Anything can happen to you – you might get wet when it rains, suffer exposure experience heat stress when the sun is up, and even get robbed of your belongings.

Food is scarce and so is clean water. You find yourself at the mercy of kind strangers while being defenseless at the hands of those who aren’t.

Danger lurks everywhere – you might get hit by a reckless car, thrown stones at by mischievous children in the streets, and worse, you might be the unfortunate dinner of some drunkards.

Wait, what? Dinner?

For most homeless animals, these are what life entails. Many are left dead due to starvation, diseases, or hit-and-runs. Some are left roaming the streets, giving birth to more homeless kittens or puppies, unable to find a permanent source of sustenance. Some catch rabies and live the rest of their lives in pain and confusion. Some are caught and put into pounds where they await eventual death.

All are subjected to trauma and the harshness of the realities of being without a home and a loving family.

Despite the odds against them, some animals do get adopted. Some do live out their lives without the danger that comes with being a dog or a cat born into a world such as ours.

Some are lucky enough to be given a second chance at life.

The gods must be crazy

Luna lived in a deserted lot beside an ordinary-looking building somewhere in Manila. Where she originally hailed from we don’t know, but what was apparent to onlookers was that she was abandoned: No one was to come looking for her inall of her remaining days and whoever once cared for her no longer would.

Like everything around her, she was seen as something to be disposed of – old tires for cars that once helped people get to their destination; discarded bottles and cans of beverages that gave instant relief to those who were thirsty: diapers, tissues, and rags of which value lies in their capability to remove dirt and waste.

Luna did not matter – this she knew by heart. When she was found, she was seen tied to a tree by a piece of rough rope, too close to the bark that the only movement she could muster was to sit on her hind legs. She had no way to fend for herself.

Upon discovery, Luna did not bark, wag her tail, or raise her ears. What was offered to the onlooker instead was a minute turn of eyes, a gesture that said, yes, I’m here, but that she had no hope of ever being anywhere else.

Luna had no destination. She awaited death patiently, without a single protest.

Before she was discovered, Luna had no name. “Palaboy,” some would call her; “askal,” many would day. One would think that, at some point, Luna thought her name was either of those words, but instead of coming near those who called her these monikers, she would instinctively run away, out of fear, in an instant. These utterances did not invite hospitality; they meant that she would get hit by objects and be shooed away.

It is not far from imagination how Luna would have spent her nights in that lot – alone and lonely. Maybe she would look up at the moon, peeking from behind wispy clouds, beyond the leaves of her tree. The rays of the moon would shine at clear eyes amid the grumble of her empty stomach.

Some would say that starvation can drive anyone mad, and three days without water would push any person toward wit’s end.

If Luna had a religion, she would think the gods insane for letting her live such a depraved existence. A life that isn’t worth living. But for many nights, she only had the moon.

Until she was found. Ironically, her rescuer called her Luna, short for “Lunatic.” Not that she had been acting weird (or had the behavior of a canine who had rabies), but because she was described to have a very lively personality, one that was far from her subdued demeanor when she was first spotted by her rescuer in that empty lot weeks prior.

Lunatic, another term for “mad,” a synonym for something unbelievable that was yet to happen. Nearly impossible, but true nonetheless, because when someone found out about the condition of her existence in that lot, she received something she never expected: someone who cared.

Luna lassoes the moon

While her rescuer could not afford to adopt her, she still looked after Luna. Everyday, Luna had food to keep her belly full and water to quench her thirst. The impression of bones on her skin lessened each passing day. A small makeshift house wa smade for her to protect her from the elements.

Day by day, her attitude towards the world changed – she became a happy dog. Whenever she saw her rescuer, even from a distance, she would stand, ears upright and tail wagging. She had something to look forward to, someone she would consider her friend. And as the rope that tied her to that tree was loosened and made longer, she became closer to a fomer self.

She was no longer abandoned.

Unfortunaly, her rescuer lost her job. Suddenly, food did not come easily, and the threat of being alone once again loomed over Luna. Since her rescuer was laid off from the company that rented the office building just next to Luna’s lot, her rescuer had to travel to be able to see Luna every couple of days. And this brought about a horrifying consequence.

At some point, a group of men came to Luna’s lot. Unlike her rescuer, these men did not come with the best intentions. They wanted to take her away under the guise that they worked for the pound – a repository of abandoned cats and dogs.

According to reports, these men almost took Luna, saying that nobody owned the dog and that he was a danger to passerby. It’s not a problem, they casually said. They gave the impression of doing the community a favor by cleaning up its streets of unwanted animals.

The dog’s the problem, not us, they said.

Luckily, some barangay tanods were aware of Luna’s situation. No, she wasn’t owned, but she had a caretaker, the authorities replied. It was unfortunate that this transpired when Luna’s rescuer was away, but the yin balanced out the yang. The tanods explained to the group of men that Luna was in no way capable of harming anyone, because one, the lot was hidden from major roads and streets; and two, the dog was already tried to the tree.

This dog is not a threat, the authorities said. The men left the same way they came.

It would later come to the rescuer’s knowledge that asocena was popular among drinking parties in the area. The much sought-after dish of dog “meat” was of course illegalm but that did not stop people from craving it.

Though it was a scary and close call, this event pushed the rescuer to remove Luna from the area and find her a safer place. The rescuer knew that Luna needed someone to foster her until an adoptive fur-parent could be found.

But one thing was clear: Luna would leave that lot alive and never return.

To sleep. Perchance to dream

Dogs like chasing moving objects. That’s one of their quirks and also one of their irks. Of course, it’s fun to see dogs chasing other people – joggers, cyclists, mailmen, panicky kids, etc. But when one is the object of a dog’s pursuit, it can be a frightening experience, and a hurtful one if they ever catch up to you and bite you. It’s as inevitable as their habit of barking at things for no apparent reason, of howling in the night when everyone’s snoring, and of being fond of chewing slippers.

Sometimes, dog chase cars, and in some nights, cars chase dogs. When a dog goes after a car, it’s pretty harmless, but when a car goes behind a dog in blind pursuit, the outcome can be deadly for the dog. In this scenario, dogs get hit and get badly injured. That was the case for Lucky.

Around the same time Luna was discovered, another dog in Quezon City lay in the middle of the street. He had a broken hind leg and was unable to move.

It was a pretty rough night for a stray like Lucky, and it would have to take divine intervention for him to be able to get out of that pavement on his own. He might be up for a second hit – another vehicle could go speeding by and miss the presence of a wounded animal. The first hit did him in pretty awful, and the rescuer described how the car’s bumper fractured Lucky’s right hind leg.

One could imagine the driver stopping just for a second to see what he hit, and then driving on like it was nothing but a bag of garbage that found itself in the middle of a busy street. But no object would react to that impact such as an animal would.

We don’t know how long he lay in the pavement waiting for death to come and make the pain disappear. Maybe Lucky lost consciousness for a while or kept himself awake so as not to drift into a slumber he would not wake up from. And maybe when a man approached him whilst he lay motionless, he thought that perhaps he was dreaming.

By mere coincidence, Lucky’s rescuer passed by the same street on the way home from a long day at work. It was said that he noticed a mass of some sort that was placed between the middle of the road and the sidewalk. Upon closer inspection, the rescuer found out it was a dog in bad shape.

Little did this rescuer know that his arrival was Lucky’s dumb luck.

A fortunate series of events

Immediately, Lucky’s rescuer brought him to the veterinarian with the help of some friends. Since Lucky was unable to move (and one wrong shift in his position might cause even more damage to his wound), a few people were needed to assist Lucky during transportation.

Luckily, Lucky reached the vet just in time. A few more hours alone in that road would’ve sealed his demise.

It was fate that led Lucky to that clinic, because more unfortunate things surfaced when he was examined. He suffered from Ehrlichiosis, a disease caused by ticks. If left undiagnosed for a longer period, it could cause more organ damage, such as blindness and lameness.

Eventually, he underwent surgery for his fractured leg. Though the surgery was successful, the problem of having a safe place for him still hung over him. Soon, he was to recover from his injury and prior disease, and would need a space for rehabilitation.

His rescuer reached out to local animal organization and shelters. Fortunately, Animal Rescue Foundation, in short called ARF Manila and rightfully so, was sought out.

Suddenly, help came pouring out for Lucky. Many people were devastated by the condition he was found in but were relieved that he was on the way to recovery. Donations for Lucky’s treatment, food, and preparation for adoption were provided.

By New Year’s, :ucky had found a foster parent who would ease his transition from a stray to a kept dog. He no longer had to roam the streets of the metro to look for scraps of food and temporary shelter.

His misfortunes had come to a halt.

It’s a wonderful life

A few days after the incident, Luna’s rescuer coordinated with two animal organizations: CARA Welfare Philippines and Animal Kingdom Foundation, simple known as AKF. Since CARA was nearer where Luna was found, she was brought there for a few days before finally being transported to AKF in Tarlac. Enough funds were raised through these organizations to ensure that Luna would never have to spend a day alone for the rest of her life.

Upon arriving at AKF a few weeks later, Luna was welcomed by other rescued animals in the area. There were goats, native pigs, cats, and other dogs. She began to socialize with other critters and this made her even happier. She no longer spent her days and nights surrounded by discarded objects.

Still, she missed her former rescuer. They have developed a bond not a lot of people would understand.

As for Lucky, his foster parent eventually became his furr-ever parent. What was initially a temporary home became his forever-home, and he now spends his time with another dog in the house. His adoptive parent told us that he loves bringing toys to his fur-mate as an invitation to play. He also likes to eat chips and small pieces of apples and banana.

Luna was eventually adopted into a lovely family. After rigorous screenig by AKF staffers, a family was chosen to take Luna home. They made sure that she has enough space in the home to eat, play, sleep, and basically be her own pawson. And yes, she gained weight, too, even before the lockdown occurred.

Real dogs, real stories

Animals are not just characters in a fictitious story; they live real lives and, without a loving home, suffer real problems. Consider welcoming a dog to your family by adopting one from reputable animal organizations and rescuers.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s January-February 2021 issue.

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