Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Of Dog Days in Maligcong

The diffident, gentle, Tam-Tam
A little past 4am. A whimper somewhere behind the bush. My guide-friend, Tina, asks me if I know who's the source of that whimper. "Tiny!" I answer as we hurry on the main road for a sunrise up Kupapey. I make a mental note of visiting my canine friend on the way back, Tiny being consigned to being tied up in Mang Jeffrey's yard for chasing carabaos and chickens.
One of the fringe benefits of visiting Malicong regularly is familiarity -- with the lay of the land, the feel of the seasons, and yes, the friendship of dogs. I've carried Tiny around when he was about 1/6th of the strapping dog he is now. Even Maku, who came with us for the hike, I used to bathe and lull to sleep when he was still a puppy. Kunig, the original Maligcong hiking dog icon, I bathe, fed, massaged, carried around when he was around 3-4 years old.  It's still a mystery how Kunig learned how to guide and herd tourists. Maku, of course, picked it up from him. Why they love to do it is beyond me -- apart from enjoying playing in the forest. 
Kunig, the original Maligcong hiking dog
While I still do not have my own dog, it seems everywhere I go, dogs seem to make it their mission to assign themselves as my personal sentinel. My sis's shih-tzu, Troy, will sleep by my feet while I work, sleep beside me when I nap. Strangely, Maku is the same, napping on the floor of my assigned room everytime I'm in Suzette's Maligcong Homestay Kunig used to do the same thing when he was the lone dog; now, he stays outside and clear from the two playful Labs, Tuba and Tam-Tam. I have this theory of mimicry, of dogs copying the action and habits of other dogs they like and respect, and it seems the diffident Tam-Tam has picked up the habit of staying close to me from Maku, opting to sequester the door mat inside my room next to his elder. 
Maku, my ever-loyal sentinel
Oh you can say that the affection may stem from being fed as I tend to spoil them with food, often allocating almost of my oat meal bars stash from Atok for their snacks, but there are incidents that defy that rationale. Like when I went missing in the forest and Maku and Kunig never left my side even though they were hungry, thirsty, sleepy. Or this last trip when I lingered until 8am on Angtongfaw and Maku waited patiently for me to finish shooting. 

One day, we hiked up to the school and through the new road going back, with the four dogs. I didn't realize it was Tam-Tam's first time to do so and I think he did rather well, observing how the older dogs negotiated the trail and copying them. It's good to see this shy, gentle pup slowly emerging from his shell. He would nap near my bed, regularly nose my face or hand in the wee hours of the morning to see if I'm awake. 
Tuba, the 9-month old Black Lab from Benguet
Hiking down the trail from Kupapey is more enjoyable as Maku would often make detours in the forest when something -- a scent, a movement, a strange insect -- catches his fancy.   At times, he would look at me as if to say "perhaps you ought to grow more legs so we can make this hike a faster game".  It's an enjoyable traipse through the woods sweetly redolent with dewy grasses and wet vegetation.  Can't imagine how much more intriguingly fragrant the forest would be for a dog, he who has stereo-smell.   I realize this is exactly the thing I'd do if I have a dog of my own.  Then again, perhaps, I already have one. Or two. And the dogs knew it, realized it earlier than I did.


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