In this terrible year, I’m grateful to my dog | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Morty the Velcro dog

When the lockdown was announced in March, we had to come to grips with the suddenly strange world we were living in. It really felt like being trapped in a bad sci-fi movie. We were confused, worried, thrown for a loop.

But someone was happy. My dog.

Morty, my almost 4-year-old French bulldog, is what people like to call a Velcro dog. He likes being by my side all the time. And when I say all the time, I mean he follows me even to the bathroom. Even when he’s sleeping, the second I get up, he’ll get up too and sleepily watch me do my business, as if he’s afraid the toilet would swallow me whole if he didn’t.

He’s my shadow. He follows me everywhere—when I go down to the kitchen to get water or food, when I stand in front of my shelves to choose a book, when I dig through my piles of clothes to find something to wear. He licks my face when I try to do yoga, and chases my feet when my training app commands me to do side steps.

Like a wistful wife

When I leave him behind to walk to my grandparents’ house which is just a few feet away, he hops up on the sofa and watches through the window, like a wistful wife waiting for her husband to return from war.

Morty hates the sight of my luggage. He knows that this means I’d be away for several days. He’d climb into my bag while I’m trying to pack and sleep on top of my clothes, as if this move would prevent me from going or convince me to take him with me. And when I’d return, I’d get a thorough inspection, with him sniff, sniff, sniffing away before giving me a serious scolding. He’s so good at scolding me. But the lockdown meant the end of that. It meant me not leaving for months and months and months. With me working and living in the same place, that meant we’d never have to be apart. He loved that.

And I must admit, I do too.

For a really, really long time, I avoided getting a dog. I love dogs, I love animals, but I still wasn’t over the pain of having to give up our family dogs when my grandpa was diagnosed with emphysema when I was a kid. That was my first big heartbreak. I was also terrified of dealing with a pet’s death. I wasn’t sure I could handle it.

But many years later, I did get a dog with a partner. Somehow the idea was less daunting when you’d have someone to share the joys—and the inevitable pain—with.

And so Morty is the first dog that’s truly mine. He was a birthday gift from my father (for five birthdays, he said), the runt of his litter.

When I first got him, he wasn’t cute at all. As a puppy, he looked like an overgrown bat. He now looks more like a gargoyle. And this gargoyle has become my best friend.

Morty the Velcro dog

Pandemic buddy

He’s also been my pandemic buddy. He’s great. We eat together, we nap together, we walk together, we play together, we wrestle and he makes me laugh every single day. We have spa sessions where I massage him and do his nails.

Not to say that it’s all been smooth sailing. Sometimes, he snores while I’m doing interviews. He interrupts my writing by pawing at me and asking to be scratched. When I’m trying to record podcast episodes, he marches around the room and sighs deeply, as if I’m inconveniencing him. When I’m in the middle of webinars, he’d slither under my bed desk, looking for affection.

One day, I ordered my favorite banana bread. I was going to eat it while watching something but I decided to take a nap first. I grabbed Morty and we settled down for a snooze. Minutes later, I woke up to the sound of Morty’s endless licking. “What the hell is he doing?” I wondered groggily.

“Stop that,” I commanded, my eyes still closed. Then I fell asleep again. The persistent licking sounds woke me again. And this time, I opened my eyes. There was Morty, still pressed against me, happily eating the banana bread. By the time I caught him, it was half-gone.

Then there was the day he snuck out of the house when someone opened the door. He ran out of the gate and made me chase him all the way to E. Rodriguez. I wasn’t dressed to go out—I didn’t even have a bra on.

As I chased him, people on the streets laughed and said, “Nakawala aso mo!” Thanks for stating the obvious, people.

Cat fight

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, he snuck out again when my mother opened the door. In the two minutes he was outside, he managed to get into a fight with a cat and to chase a poor bird. He got a couple of tiny scratches on his face, but the vet said it was nothing to worry about. I’m so relieved the cat didn’t blind him.

A few days ago, I slipped as I was going down the stairs and I hit my lower back really hard. I was frozen by the pain, I couldn’t get up, but instead of checking on me, Morty grabbed the opportunity to stick his face in the box of Shake Shack burgers that I had been carrying.

He can be a real jerk sometimes.

But that’s OK. It’s not like I’m the perfect pandemic buddy either. I sing to him and he hates it. I make up songs about him and he hates that even more. On Day 29 of the quarantine, I was Googling “bedtime stories for dogs.” But he tolerates my weirdness.

My dog has been one of the few good things in a year of terrible things. There’s nothing more soothing, more relaxing, more joy-giving than a cuddle with him. I can’t imagine how I could have survived the past eight, nine months without him.

I am grateful to him and I am grateful for him.

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