Canine Affection (Part 2)


Saturnino P. Javier, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC

Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs

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When I acquired Toby, a male golden brown dachshund, and eventually got Demi (a female dachshund) many years later as a gift from a family friend, the only persuasion to keep them together was to ensure their ‘twin’ companionship (Demi has nearly the same built and color as Toby). For years, we looked around for a partner that would keep Toby company. Thus, when Demi came, Toby’s castration was put on hold, although a dog family and a canine brood were farthest from our wishes.

Not so long after, Toby and Demi ushered in a family of brown dachshunds (in fact, they are now grandparents). The first generation had five healthy pups – two of which (Yuki and Jasper) stayed with us, one was purchased, one was adopted by a colleague. Yuki likewise produced her own brood Keisha, Logan and Scheublig.

Today, Toby and Demi rule the squad of six golden brown dachshunds. As they have been sufficiently toilet-trained to go out to answer calls of nature, Toby and Demi have been free to roam around the house and sleep anywhere they desire. Thus, they have become a regular presence while watching a movie, listening to music, having wine, among others.

My eldest, Luigi, looks forward to siestas with Demi, after a week of internship work in a local kidney center. Demi is the cuddly type, always making sure that human physical contact is established to calm her down – be it the thigh, the leg, the neck or the stomach. She falls asleep instantaneously if briefly caressed and petted.

My other children, Sofia and Franco, are particularly attached to Toby who interestingly displays seeming aloofness and smartness (he has his sudden moments of decision-making that particularly amuse us all – deciding when he wants to go to his bed, or to walk downstairs from the bedroom and stay out of the room, or go up to one of the rooms to look for his toy).

They say having canines improve the temper and disposition of children. I have no doubt that the presence of dogs has a calming, soothing effect in the home. A number of studies have shown positive effects of having pets at homes when raising children – they provide constant companionship, active lifestyle, stress relaxation, positive energies, among others.

A few studies have documented higher levels of serotonin and dopamine among children who have pets at home compared with those who had none. The latter two chemical compounds are the building units of what make us happy.

Furthermore, children raised in households with pets have been shown to have better cognitive development, higher sense of responsibility, better sense of empathy, greater self-esteem and impulse control, among others. Some studies have even shown better immune responses among those who grew up in households with pets. The children’s attachment to dogs has extended from their childhood to their teen years. There are two films that will certainly and instantaneously bring out choked emotions and tears among them. One is “Marley and Me” – the story of an incorrigible yellow Labrador retriever, and the other is “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.”

Based on a true story in Japan, Hachi (real name Hachiko) was an Akita dog born in Odate, Akita prefecture in Japan. He is best remembered for his unflinching loyalty to his master Hidesaburo Ueno by patiently waiting for him at the Shibuya train station at the precise time that the master’s train would arrive. When Ueno failed to do so after succumbing to brain hemorrhage, Hachiko patiently went through his routine and continued to wait for him for nine years. Held up as a fine example of loyalty, Hachiko had since been immortalized in a number of commemorative statues and films (one of them is this 2009 Richard Gere starrer).

The Japanese (or the world for that matter) have embraced the narrative as a real and truthful depiction of loyalty at its finest, at its purest. Today, a bronze statue stands at the Shibuya station in Japan in Hachiko’s memory.

Our family’s fondness for canines is so rooted that old photographs and videos will inevitably have a dog or two around in many of their social activities – pool dips, outings, mall strolls, Tagaytay weekends, among others.

I remember a Filipino restaurant along the expressway in Sto. Tomas, Batangas where we would usually stop by on our way to Batangas. It now has a huge sign at the glass door that says – “No Pets Allowed.” I believe we were responsible for this signage because the sign emerged a week or two after we passed by and Copper (our first dachshund) had a urination accident (which we nonetheless cleaned up).

To this day, the sign has stayed – making this an “achievement” we are not particularly proud of.

Dec 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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