Please Take Care of the Aspin
Would you consider owning an "aspin" or "askal"?
I USED TO HAVE A DOG when I was younger. I can still remember the joy of having a pet dog. Every time I arrive home, my pet never failed to give me a warm and wholehearted welcome. With its wagging tail, my dog practically begs me to pick him up.
After several years, I felt that I needed a dog again. A petty theft occurred and I believed that such unfortunate event could have been prevented if there was a dog around the house. After thinking of ways on how to prevent such theft from happening again, I decided it is best to get a dog rather than spend for an expensive surveillance system.
By the way, all of my dogs during that time were “aspins” or “askals".
Where we got the dog
With a companion, I traveled to San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan (a known province in the Philippines) at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Church where I knew that during weekends, there is a “sale” of pets - from spiders, birds, cats, pigs, dogs, turtles, hamsters - name it and they have it. After hearing mass, I went over the stalls of pets sold near the entrance of the church. Here, I saw a lot of cute and adorable puppies for sale. I went over to look at the different puppies mostly “aspins” or “askals”. All I want at that time was a puppy to be trained and transformed into a mean and vicious guard dog.
After checking several pups, I took into my hands a young puppy of mostly white with patches of brown color. The price is P 1,000.00 Philippine money (more or less US$ 200.00). I find this price of an “aspin” puppy expensive. Usually, “aspin pups” cost just half the price. As if justifying why the puppy cost that much and to entice buyers, the seller said that the puppy is of a particular known breed. Though I know for a fact that the puppy is an “aspin”, I still bought the puppy.
Actually, it is common to hear from the vendors of these “aspin” or “askal” puppies that the puppy is of a certain dog breed. "Aspins” are not that “saleable” compared to other well-known dog breeds.
The Aspin Puppy
The puppy was cute enough. He is heavy, of smooth coat, generally healthy in appearance and as expected shy. When we arrived home, our tenants immediately cuddled the puppy. We named him “Kidlat” – which means “lightning” in Filipino. We named the puppy “Kidlat” in the hope that he would turn out to be that mean and brave guard dog. Our tenants - mostly young females who work in hotels - upon seeing the puppy immediately hugged the animal, took photos and placed it on their Facebook page.
After all the cuddling and hugging, I realized that there is no space for Kidlat in the house. After overcoming his shyness, Kidlat kept on running and roaming in every corner of the house. There were also cleanliness issues as I had a difficult time potty training the dog.
To prevent the dog from becoming a further nuisance, I constructed a makeshift playpen made of out of whatever available materials I have at that time. What is important is that the puppy will not escape and be restricted to its quarters.
At night, all we heard is the whining and crying of the puppy. I know this is normal for a puppy that is still trying to adjust in his new environment. But after a while, the puppy seemed to have already adjusted and kept quite. We thought that everything is okay and there is nothing to worry about.
When the sun rose the next day, we were surprised to see that Kidlat disappeared through the night. Despite our diligent efforts to find the puppy, we cannot locate him. It was a very depressing experience.
Let us take care of Aspins
But the lost of Kidlat has not deterred us from having a dog. We now have five Chihuahuas. And how we ended up having five Chihuahuas is another story. But the lost of Kidlat has re-opened my eyes to the plight of these dogs we call “aspins”.
If you walk along the streets of Metro Manila, you cannot fail to notice a number of stray dogs roaming the streets. Most of these dogs are known as “aspins” or “askals”. Most of these dogs were either abandoned by their owners or do not have an owner at all. Many of the “aspins” appear to have been neglected. I am saddened each time I see an “aspin” or whatever dog breed without an owner and neglected. These dogs are often seen scouring garbage cans and dumpsites in search of anything to eat.
The evidence of neglect is very evident. Just take a look at their skins and the entire disposition of these stray dogs. Since these dogs live in unsanitary environments, they are prone to various diseases such as rabies, flea infection and ear mites. The conditions of these dogs are very miserable. Vehicles accidentally hit them resulting to injuries if not immediate death. I often see a lot of stray dogs limping or barely able to walk as a result of injury. It is really a depressing sight to see injured stray dogs ignored on the streets and apparently left to die.
These stray dogs are mostly “aspins”. But, it is only an assumption. There could be other breed of dogs that are abandoned in the streets of Metro Manila. It is safe to assume however that most stray dogs are “aspins” as those with a particular breed are often cared for and valued. But whatever the breed the dog may be, “aspin” or not, all dogs should be taken cared of.
Campaigns to remove “aspins” from the streets
There had been several campaigns to get rid of these dogs on the streets. Most of these campaigns are primarily intended to lessen, if not prevent, the spread of rabies. However, the process of getting these dogs off the streets is sometimes brutal, stressing and traumatic.
In these campaigns, the usual victims are the “aspins” and "askals". These are the dogs that usually suffer the brutality and cruelty of being rounded up. Once these dogs are caught they are often squeezed in cages or sacks with other dogs to be brought to slaughterhouses. Their ordeal is tragic and traumatic. And because of stress and deplorable conditions inside the sack or cage most “aspins” caught during these round ups die while in transit.
Aspin dogs are not less of a breed
It is an entirely wrong belief that an “aspin” is lesser or an inferior breed of a dog. “Aspins” are not “purebred”, they classified as “mongrel” or “crossbreeds” of another dog. Thus, “aspins” are cheaper compared to purebred dogs. An “aspin” puppy usually sells for only a little more than ten dollars. Its value increases if the “aspin” puppy has been crossbred with well-known dog breeds such as retrievers, shepherds, terriers, or poodles or what they call in the Philippines as “may lahi”.
An “aspin” is often looked down and undervalued. An “aspin” is often fed with the family’s leftover food and is rarely taken to the vet. The family’s “aspin” is only a cute lapdog when it is still a puppy but once it reaches adulthood, it expected to roam the yard and guard the house. Thus, the common name for the “aspin” is “Bantay” – the Filipino term for a guard. The “aspin” usually stays outside the owner’s house and is usually found underneath the stairs in order that it can fulfill its guarding duties.
However, “aspins” are definitely not a lesser breed of a dog. In my years of taking care of an “aspin”, I have not encountered serious health issues. Its loyalty and intelligence cannot be doubted. It is very adaptable and has in fact adapted to the life of an average Filipino family.
The story of Kabang
I think you have heard of “Kabang” – the “aspin” who saved her master’s daughter and niece by jumping into the path of a speeding motorcycle. As as consequence, the girls were spared from being hit by the motorcycle but Kabang lost her upper snout.
The story of Kabang is a revelation of the bravery and loyalty of the “aspin”. Imagine this “aspin’s” bravery and love for its master and its master’s loved ones. Kabang was hailed as a “hero”. The dog risked its life to save the life of the two girls. Ironically, Kabang as narrated by its owner is “unwanted puppy left to die in the swamp”.
Saver - another “aspin” wonder dog
Saver is considered as a Pinoy wonder dog from Laguna, Philippines. Saver has been seen in TV shows and commercials executing several tricks that endeared him to the Filipino audience. Saver was an intelligent “aspin” that can count, dance, shake hands and execute tricks not usually expected for the breed. Saver has shown that an “aspin”, if trained, can be equally entertaining, amusing and clever as other known dog breeds. The dog was famous and was hailed as the Philippines’ wonder dog until its death in 2009.
Kabang and Saver are just two “aspin” dogs that showed the ability and characteristics of the breed. These two dogs are proof that an “aspin” is not lesser of a dog compared to other breeds.
Should an aspin be considered as another dog breed?
I think the “aspin” should be considered as a distinct dog breed. Its appearance, behavior and being street-smart compared to other purebred dogs suggest that it is of another class. "Aspins" are native dogs of the Philippines and may be considered endemic to the country.
Where to register your Aspin
In the Philippines most owners would not want to spend for a dog’s registration. If a dog is an “aspin”, registration is far off from the owner’s mind. As said earlier, “aspins” – which are usually owned by families on the lower income bracket – are left unregistered. Owners do not usually care if their “aspins” are registered or not. “Aspins” are not the type of dog that is stolen unless it is to be butchered as an appetizer or “pulutan” during a drinking session.
Recently, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society or PAWS in a bold move created the “Aspin Club” primarily to give the Philippine native dogs the recognition and care they deserve. The creation of this club is a big step in protecting the “aspin” from cruelty and neglect. The club also provides temporary shelter for abandoned and rescued “aspins".
if your dog is an “aspin”, you can register your dog with the Aspin Club of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society.
The “aspin” or “askal” has been looked down and discriminated. Compared to other well known dog breeds, it is not fed with expensive dog foods in the market and is often made to survive eating the family’s left-over food. It is not taken for a walk. In fact, the many times I have been to Fort Bonifacio Global City - where high end dog breeds are often seen being walked by their more affluent owners - I have yet to see an “aspin”. In dog salons, I have not seen an “aspin” having a luxurious bath and groomed liked its imported counterparts. Dog accessories are rarely bought for an “aspin” except a leash to ensure its guarding duties.
Discrimination against the “aspin” abound. Despite the PAW’s campaign to change the Filipino psyche that an “aspin is in” or owning a native dog is "cool", the perception about the breed has not changed. As I walk along the streets of Metro Manila, an increasing number of “aspins” reduced to a life of vagrancy are very visible. These dogs can be seen scouring thrash and piles of garbage just to find food. Uncared for “aspins” are considered as health risks and people avoid being near them.
Perceptions about “aspins” have to change. It is no doubt that owning an “aspin” is "cool”. These Philippine native dogs are definitely not lesser of a breed. They are intelligent, loyal, versatile and brave dogs. Who knows how many “Kabangs” and “Savers” are still there waiting to be discovered among the “aspins” presently neglected and abandoned on the streets?