By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 25-Nov-2019  ·  
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Bogart: the second pet in the family

There was something that caught my eye as I watched the trailer of a coming movie on television.

It was Sarah Geronimo playing the role of pet lover apart from being younger sister and good granddaughter.

She seemed helpless without her dog.

Her character was someone who could not exist without her pet.

There was a time in my life when I turned to pets and never treated them as animals. Many summers ago, a friend from the volcano country gave me a pet dog and looked at him as my emotional confidante. Named Jumbo, he was perfect company before my marriage. Every morning with or without hangover, we would run together in the black beach of San Roque in Legazpi City; later he was a favorite playmate of my first daughter until a son of a house boarder got bitten and my family had to dispose him to placate an aggrieved human being.

Back in the city decades later, I acquired another pet. My daughter who taught at the Ateneo said she was gifted with a dog by a student on her birthday. Would I be interested to have it?

There was no space for animals in this house where we used to live but I made space in our storage room.

We named the second pet in the family Bogart. I resisted naming him after a composer even as a violinist-pianist couple friend from Iloilo named their favorite cat after Russian composers.

The second pet’s presence in the house changed my lifestyle. I would always be ready with a doggie bag every time I find myself in restaurants. It didn’t matter whether it was a friend’s treat or a presscon which lead curious eyes to wonder if I had inherited Lolit Solis’s penchant for doggie bags (actually for two-legged “pets”, they suspect).

Meanwhile, I struggled to keep the house clean and in order as I cope with the dog’s running around, toppling bookcases and staining bed sheets. Out of pity, I gave him freedom to roam around the BLISS housing compound where he found his first lover. But that freedom had its price.

Neighbors found his presence irritating and soon some scheming kids laced poison on stray bones. One day as I was rushing to finish a souvenir program for a concert that would take place the following day, my dog emerged in the living room -- weak and limping. He gently rested on the floor, took a last look at me with his pleading eyes and breathed his last.

For the first time, I shed a tear for an animal.

The next day during the graduation recital of a young pianist, I sought comfort in his rendition of a Beethoven sonata. Like it or not, music can edify your grief, even dissect it for what it is. Cecile Licad once yelled at me, “Pablo, I know you are very impatient with the tempo of the Mozart Fantasy. The seeming silence in between phrases signify something. The Mozart piece is about grief with dignity.” I couldn’t tell her that when my second dog died, I didn’t wail or scream. I just let a tear fall.

It is in the memory of Jumbo and Bogart that I hold my real friends dear, they who don’t ask anything in return for precious favors done in the past.

Now you understand why I like to lump pets and friends in one category.

They are always there when they needed you and not asking anything in return.

On the other hand, I am hounded by guilt when I can’t do anything for my friends. I die a thousand deaths when I see my filmmaker friend going through chemotherapy and me totally helpless to do anything.

My pianist-friend dedicated Liszt’s religious pieces to her in her Philadelphia recital. But I am sure she had other sources strength and loyalty from her own family. Even more so when I saw a framed picture of her pet dog in her living room.

My actor and filmmaker friends taught me a lesson that you can be famous and comfortable without losing your humanity.

But then again, it is amazing that animals teach you how to be humane, to be more open and loving on your own terms.

But an ironic question is often asked: why do some humans bring out the worst (some say the animal) in you?

Either way, you pass through this life with a little wisdom that it pays to keep just a few friends and perhaps raise a pet or two at some stages of your life. They make up for what you don’t have -- and will never have -- in your lifetime.

Sarah Geronimo with author in one presscon.
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