Coming home was always chaotic everytime we open our door as five small-bred dogs were always excited to greet us. As if we haven’t seen each other for a long time.
Everyone was barking, howling and jumping trying to lick our face as enter our doors. Among them, Hippo’s ‘welcome greeting’ always stands out because he’s not barking nor the usual dog howl.
He is wailing like a pig being butchered.
Of the five, only Hippo couldn’t jump because of his size. He’s the heaviest of them, weighing about 15 kilos.
Like our late Suhsi, he was an inbred offspring of Boks and Chiyo. He is our junior grumpy dog but the most behaved among the pack.
Growing up in our rented house in Cabantian, Hippo loves to sleep beside his worn out stuffed toy, which we named “Buddy.”
Buddy was a mini-London Bobby that we got from ‘ukay-ukay.” It used to be Sophie’s toy until Hippo came.
We used to call his stuffed toy as his ‘girlfriend’ because he didn’t want to be away from him. He would get mad if we took them away from him.
If we put the stuffed toy outside the house, Hippo would put it back to his favorite spot and would growl to prevent us from moving it away.
Hippo was my cousin Julius’ favorite among the eight dogs at home. When Chiyo gave birth to them, we were supposed to give them to Lola or to our friend. Instead, Julius refused to give them away.
Since he was a puppy, he was obviously stout like a hippopotamus. And that’s how he got his name.
Aside from being a voracious eater, he was also the ‘sweeper’ among the pack. He would eat the leftovers of the other dogs and eventually made him an obese dog.
In his younger early years, he never liked to be leashed. When we introduced him and Sushi to short walks around the village, it would take us few minutes to convince Hippo to walk with the leash.
It took few weeks before Hippo understood that leash means to take a walk. But he prefers to walk unleashed.
When unleashed outside the gate, Hippo would hop and run like a bunny. He looked awkward because of his size. There were several times that Hippo had been mistaken as a pregnant because of his size and shape.
Along with the other members of the pack, the early years of their lives in our old home was filled with happy memories. Those were the years that we could still get them to play. As they get old, they rarely respond to us if we wanted to play with them.
Hippo had always been sluggish and always sleeping.
When we moved in our new home in August 2013, we understand that this would be the place where they would grow old with us. Eventually, their resting place.
When Sushi passed away on February 21, 2017, it was so heartbreaking because she was the first to pass away from Sophie’s family.
Then on August 10 of the same year, Kimi also passed away while I was holding her on my lap.
Both of them succumbed to erlichiosis, a tick borne disease.
But before them, we lost our adopted Myra, the gentle giant St. Bernard from our friend EJ, on July 2009.
Amid of his size, Hippo could still climb upstairs and hop on his favorite bamboo bench.
We call the bench as his ‘ancestral domain’ because he would growl if we ask him to get off.
If one of the dogs had already occupied his spot, Hippo would stand beside the bench and softly wail as if trying to ask the other dog to leave his spot. Or sometimes would just sit or stand beside us just to get our attention. As if trying to ask some help to shove the other dog from the bench.
For years, the bench was his favorite spot until he injured his legs when he jumped few steps high from the stairs early this year. He couldn’t stand or walk. I thought he broke his right leg.
Since he’s injured, he could no longer get up the stairs. But there were instances that I had carry him upstairs so he would be able to join us upstairs.
For several weeks, I had to carry him outside to eat as well as to get inside the room at night during bedtime. It took him about a month to recover.
If not on the bench, Hippo’s alternate spot was at the stairs. He used to share the spot with his sister Sushi.
After he injured his leg, Hippo spent most of the time laying down near our bedroom’s door.
Like everyone in the pack, Hippo also sleeps with us in our bedroom. He usually sleeps at the corner, where Sushi also used to spend a night.
Until today, we have not yet figured out how our extra pillow from our bed would end up with Hippo every morning. We would wake almost everyday seeing Hippo on top of our extra pillow flat on the floor.
Last year, our vet friend Doc Bayani told us to prepare ourselves because our dogs are already aging.
While we kept that in mind, no amount of preparation could help us when Hippo passed away.
I’m sharing here what Ruby wrote because she was the first one to learn about Hippo’s death.
Last September 6, 2018, our Hippo turned 9. Early morning the next day, he passed away.
We had to leave on his birthday for a family trip. Keith’s sister and her husband are here in the country for 2 short weeks and we’re off to go see places and spend time with them. We thought of doing an advance celebration for Hippo but since we had been so busy with work and preps for their visit and the trip, we figured it would be better to do it when we get back so we can focus on him and the other Kulets. Our dogs are getting older (Hippo was the youngest) and as much as possible, we really want to celebrate their birthdays in a special way.
When we leave for trips, we always talk to each of our dogs, telling them where we are going and when we will be coming back just so they know what to expect because we believe dogs understand and they always have a sense of what’s going on around them. Before leaving home, I told Hippo that we will celebrate on Sunday–today.
Early morning of Friday, as we were about to leave for a 3-hour drive, I got a text from Chen, our helper and a missed call from our landline. My heart was racing. I knew something was up. Chen wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. I opened the message and she said that Hippo was shaking. She sent the text at 6:48 am. I get to read it at around 7:05 am and I immediately called her up. When she picked up the phone, she said, crying: “Te, wala na si Hippo. Karon lang jud.” I heard what she said but I was quite confused. Hippo was okay when we left. I remember asking her a lot of questions since there were never signs that Hippo was sick. I told Keith that maybe I should go home. But would it matter?
It was a puzzle to me how it happened and why it happened. There were never signs that he’s sick. He has always been a sleepy, sluggish and grumpy dog and he has always been a voracious eater. We call him the “sweeper” because he made it his life’s mission to eat all the food that the other dogs left on their bowls or on the floor thus he is also obese.
Maybe it’s because of age. Maybe because he is a product of inbreeding. Or maybe it was just really time. It breaks my heart that we were not there, that we were never really able to say goodbye. Who would have known that the things I told him that Thursday will be the last things that I will ever get to say?
I can still vividly remember telling him “Po, mag celebrate ta pag balik namo ha.” And we will, Po. Dad is already preparing your favorite Sinugbang Baboy. Enjoy all the food in doggy heaven with Ate Myra, Kimi and Sushi. We love you very much, our junior grumpy dog. ‘Til we meet again.
After hearing the news from Ruby, our tears flowed. Like in the past, we wont deny that we cried.It took me a week to process things in my mind, trying to think what really happened to Hippo. It was so traumatic that it seems we don’t want to leave them again even for few days.
Perhaps Hippo’s death was the most painful because we were out on a family trip and we never had chance to say goodbye to him. We never had the chance to give him our last hug and kiss.
Before leaving for a family trip, I kissed his forehead and told him : “Hippo , we will be back on Sunday and we will celebrate your birthday.”
As promised, we still grilled Hippo’s favorite pork chops on Sunday and celebrated his birthday with the pack.
Like Myra, Sushi and Kimi, Hippo was also buried beside our room.
We always give our dogs a kiss everytime we would leave for few days. I never knew that it was already my ‘goodbye kiss’ to our adorable Hippo.
Until we meet again our baby boy.