Who let the dog out?

It was a regular Sunday night for me, pretty much uneventful if not for the always-fun time I have on the Shall We Dance set over at TV5. As is the norm, I came home to a kitchen still brimming with activity even that deep into the night, as if it were a delighted child let loose after her requisite afternoon siesta. Dinner had come and gone, but my husband, who loves to cook more than I admittedly ever will, was pan-frying a fat, juicy steak for me. Yum. I so love that part of my Sunday. With that he has also made garlic fried rice, and a gravy recipe he invented only that very moment (consisting of red wine, fresh coconut milk, and shallots, all fried in the pan where the steak had dripped a decent amount of its fat). It was an oddity, as far as I know, and as far as gravies go, but it was delicious in an unexpected I-want-more-of-it way.

I was in the middle of my perfect meal when not-so-perfect news was thrown at my face — just like that. Gaston was missing, he of the sad face and droopy eyes and shiny black coat of hair. Gaston, my brother’s black French bulldog, who looks and sounds (he never barks) like a pig but is really a dog, had gone missing for about three hours already, the longest to date since we took him in. He is not even my dog, thus I did not name him much less take care of him and I can claim only very few actual bonding moments with him. But I have a strange attachment to this little thing that looks like he belongs in some cartoon strip rather than in the real world. I see him every day and maybe because of that I love him more than just a little, the way I would love a cousin or a friend, or most anyone pleasant to co-exist with. Simply put, I like having him around and I enjoy listening to people in the house talking to him as if they expect him to answer them right back.

Gentle in his ways, he has never chewed on any of my shoes like most of our other dogs in the past have, he always eats like a gourmand (my dad is actually the one who theorized that because Gaston never gobbles up food in just one go but instead pushes it here and there first, smelling it and nipping little bites, as if enabling more than just his sense of taste). His biggest crime to date has been to chomp off a part of our couch, something that was easily if quite expensively remedied. He trots about the house, up and down the stairs, as if he had all the time in the day to do little more than that. In that sense he is very señorito in an amusing way. Most everyone falls in love with him, and he is a star in his own right, having appeared on TV and posing for countless photos with his instant fans, some of which have actually seen print in glossies. Unless it is food he wants for the nth time, he gently nudges you at your feet and likes his tummy being rubbed affectionately, like a little baby. It is easy to be that way with him — affectionate, I mean — and he is like a real person in that sense, except that he really looks like a piggy, the like of which I remember from so many of my childhood storybooks. I have more than just once wondered if he knows he is a dog because he gets along very well with the little pig a friend of ours owns, whenever they come by to visit. When that happens, they frolic like teenagers in a sappy Tagalog film and all you need is some music to be convinced of that. Now why we have a dog that looks like a pig who gets along with a real pig who looks very much like our dog, do not bother asking. I have quite a funny life, and funny friends with funny pets.

Anyway. When I heard the news my heart really sank and lurched at the same time, if that is at all possible, in that way you only recognize as nervous and sad at the same time. I was worried, but not so much that I could not anymore appreciate the delicious meal I was bent on enjoying to the last spoonful. It is, after all, an after-work treat I look forward to. But still. A meal you were craving ceases to offer much of the happiness it initially did when you are trying to digest sudden news, especially if it leans towards the unpleasant.

All in the hope that Gaston would find his way home, however far he may have strayed (by then we were sure he was not anywhere in the village), my very prayerful mother went up to their room to pray the rosary, she who never really liked dogs but since meeting Gaston had made a happy exception. Juliana did the same, while my dad, who is probably Gaston’s greatest fan and friend after my brother, retraced Gaston’s last-known whereabouts and dispatched some of the helpers to roam around every corner of the village. In between that he was blaming the house guard for negligence. My husband and brother also went out on their bikes to do their own searching.

I slept restlessly that night. Every time I heard a dog bark I would wake up, thinking maybe he had found his way home. Morning came, and still… no Gaston. With heavy steps I started my full workday, making my way to the studio. Really now, how can a little dog affect me this much? To think he was not even mine. By then the helpers had stopped at every house in the village, interviewed all the guards on duty. No one had a clue where runaway Gaston could have gone.

To make things funnier we had as a guest at work that day the Elizabeth Ramsey, who regaled me with stories of how she lost, and eventually found, her own dog Inday. She said she prayed to the Sto. Nino and after searching far, came home to find Inday panting heavily beneath the statue. I muttered more prayers under my breath: Please, please God, bring Gaston back.
And then the call came. Praise heaven for the wisdom of a mother. As a last-ditch effort she asked me if I could please call up Willie Revillame to announce that Gaston was missing. Maybe whoever got him was watching Wowowee, she said, and would bring back Gaston to us. I initially laughed it off — it seemed like a crazy idea, after all — but on second thought quite a sensible one, too, and really, what did we have to lose?

So in two heartbeats I call up Willie, who thankfully picks up immediately, and bounce off the household dilemma and drama. To make the story short, he announced it very spectacularly in his program, embellishing the story with humor along the way. And as luck would have it, the cousins of Sonson Ye, the guy who found Gaston walking in a daze outside our village and was kind enough to take him in, were tuned in to Wowowee. They informed Sonson that Gaston was apparently our dog and although Willie did not exactly announce an address, Sonson was able to, through friends of his who knew where we stayed, deliver straight to our doorstep our little dog-pig. There was great rejoicing in our home, let me tell you.

Thank you, Willie. Thank you, Sonson. Thank you, Mom, for the brilliant idea. And over and above them all, thank you, God!

Since Gaston’s happy homecoming we have thus far taken all the necessary precautions to ensure that he does not run away again. My Dad thinks he went looking for a wife, portraying Gaston as a lonely Adam without an Eve. I can understand that. We are seriously toying with the idea of getting a wife for Gaston. Heaven knows when we will find the right one and what we will name her when we do find her. I guess we will know when we see her. Offhand, I just hope she is a dog that looks somewhat like a pig, too. And hopefully she will not be noisy like a nagging wife (I do not think Gaston can tolerate that), lest he runs away again, and in the process making our whole household sad and ruining more than just an ordinary, uneventful Sunday.

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