In Memoriam: Sarge Aguilar (1996 - 2006)

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Sarge Aguilar (1996 - 2006) Originally uploaded by Jun Cruz Na Ligas.

Our Belgian sheepdog, Sarge Aguilar, died from complications of impending liver failure yesterday morning, Thursday, 27 April 2006, at our home in Project Four, Cubao, Quezon City. He was ten years old.

He was only a year or so when he was given to my brother, back when he was still a rockstar. Sarge was the worse of the litter, having a bad left hind leg from an accident with his mother's cage gate. He wasn't the marketable sort, having a bad limp, so the owner ust decided to give him off instead of just selling him. I guess he thought he wasn't worth anything much.

On the outset, he had always been a rather dim dog, and a bit cross-eyed, too. I would toss him food and instead of catching it in mid-air with his mouth, he'd let it hit him on the face and let it drop to the floor where he'd lick it off with his long pink tongue. Due to his bad hind leg, he would piss standing up, instead of the usual doggie way of one-leg-raised-up-high-against-the-wall.

Back when my mother and I were still living in a haunted bedsit in 20th Avenue, Cubao, I'd often take Sarge out for runs up and down the Project Four streets. He was a great runner, and I'd often be the first one to get cramps, which was a bit pathetic seeing as I used to run in decathlons. Running with Sarge was always fun, as it's especially entertaining seeing potbellied grown men and nubile young women scream like nuns whenever they see us running down the street. I imagine Sarge looked like nightmare incarnate, Yoshitaka Amano's watercolour rendition of Morpheus as fox deity, a big black dog with long flowing hair, the only whites were his teeth, which were long and fierce.

When my mother and I moved to a real bungalow-type apartment, in 2000 - 2001, Sarge would be untethered and free to roam the urban garden setup the landlady provided us with. Indi and I enjoyed plenty of scorching hot summer afternoons giving Sarge a bath in the apartment's garage's watering area. With his hair all wet and matted, he would resemble a very large and filthily wet sewer rat. My mother would trim Sarge's hair regularly, Philippines being a tropical country and Sarge being of slightly Gallic descent, we had a feeling he needed that sort of regular maintenance.

Sarge had a pretty high tolerance for pain. My brother would sometimes pinch a large section of his flesh, waiting for him to yelp, but none would come. In fact, when the neighbourhood veterinarian inserted a needle in his arm, for the dextrose tube, Sarge didn't even fidget. He barely barked, and was always friendly with people, even with strangers. He was always hungry for attention, would show a healthy amount of it to anyone who was willing to do the same for him.

He would limp badly whenever it got too cold for him. He would sissily cower from lightning storms and firecracker explosions. Every New Year's Eve, he would often dig holes in the yard, probably intended as dugouts from all the pomp and circumstance we Filipinos are crazy about.

His last year wasn't too kind for him. He was consistently malnourished, and spent a majority of the year chained to the garage gate. As the years went by, the walks became infrequent, and by 2005 it dropped altogether. The hair on his snout started turning silver, and his weight visibly dropped. The tick population suddenly boosted to a number comparable to a quarter of his skin area.

Yet despite all this, his old vibrant personality (he always was such a shiny happy sunny dog) would still shine through.

My mother and I gave him a bath the morning of the day before he died. He pissed and shat himself while sprawled on the makeshift gurney my mother built for him. His legs swell out of proportion a few days before so standing up was too much of a pain for him, so whenever he had to go, he just let himself go right then and there. "I've turned into a canine caregiver," my mother remarked quite a few times while she was washing Sarge's ass. I jokingly hosed down his balls and ass with the garden hose, whose water he gnashingly bit because of all the pain it was giving him.

The night before he died, the vet voiced out something that had been nagging me the couple of days leading to his death: that Sarge might not make it by the end of the week.

My mother refused to give up, of course. She asked me to help her give Sarge some capsules for his stomach. I held his mouth open as my mother let a capsule drop down his throat. He was still very strong that night, turning his head left to right, refusing to be held down against his will. After I released him, he gave me this look, as if saying "What the fuck, Adam? My balls are big and dry as mottled potatoes and I smell like a fucking public street corner urinal, and yet you hold me down and force my mouth open so you can give me some capsules that would theoretically help me shit? What's up with that, man? Where's the dignity due me? Where's the love? What the fuck, man? What the fuck?". All I could give him was a thumbs-up as encouragement.

And then in the morning my mother found him dead in his gurney, his head arched down to the floor. Spittle was gathering into a small pool by his snout. Bluebottles were already gathering around, ready to feast.

My mother and I dug a hole in a small rectangle of soil under her window. We dug in an awkward angle as we couldn't fit ourselves properly into the space between the window grills and the dirt. The hole was three-feet deep, one foot wide, five feet long. It took us a good two hours to dig the hole. We did it in shifts: one would do the main digging while the other would shovel the turned soil into a great big pile off to the side. We even found a few bones from one other dog who died in our Kalantiaw home. I had a feeling it was Roxy, a brown vixenish mongrel I brought to Kalantiaw fifteen years ago. She died from a gunshot wound to the head, via my Uncle Joe's handgun. Roxy accidentally drank some paint thinner a week prior to the mercy killing. It was my other uncle, Uncle Wowie, who buried the dog, as my mother and I agreed that he was that kind of guy. Uncle Wowie died of complications from colorectal cancer back in 1997. It would be the same disease I would be displaying the early symptoms of a couple of days after my twenty-fourth birthday. I still haven't gotten that check-up I promised myself.

My mother and I wrapped Sarge in bubble wrap, tied him down with straw. We then put him inside two black garbage bags, and tied him down again with more straw. We were both crying. He was still warm to the touch, and still smelled like how he used to smell, like he'd just sunned himself in the beach.

I carried Sarge's body to his grave. One foot in his grave, I carefully lowered him into the hole. I laid his head up against a bump in the soil, as pillow. In the end, he was surprisingly heavy, not like how he used to be when he was alive.

Sarge was family, through and through. He'd been with us during our bad days, he'd been with us during our better ones. He was given to us, but he was born an Aguilar: he had a fondness to drinking and eating and laying about in the house, preferably ni front of the electric fan, doing nothing; he was socially inept and never had a girlfriend in his life, never even had sex wth anyone or anything, canine or human limb; consciously ignoring his potential out of issues with his parents, who've mentally and physically scarred him for life way back when he was still a pup. In all of these things, and more, he was a true blue Aguilar.

Sarge: I'm sorry I wasn't able to give you your runs like how I used to way back when we were both still young and strong and without girlfriends. You are already sorely woefully missed by everyone. I can only hope that the afterlife is a better place for you.

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Best described as a Murakami detox support group, we're all fans of the quirkily brilliant Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, and writing about such things as films we've seen recently and books we're reading (not to mention meandering musings on the man's work, of course) helps us to pass time while waiting for the next book from Haruki-baby.

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