A SHACK built along the sidewalk of Zuzuarregui Street in Old Balara, Quezon City sticks out like a sore thumb. But something else about it got my attention: the white dog chained outside.
I would later find out that the dog's name is Wataru.
Traffic was slow the day I first noticed Wataru. I saw how she happily stood up and wagged her tail at the sight of her owner who parked a motorcycle next to her. But the man completely ignored Wataru and went inside. Feeling bad for the dog whose affection was shunned, I made it my “mission” to always look for Wataru every time I drove by.
On those occasions, I noticed how the shack was being slowly extended horizontally against the high adobe wall where it had attached itself. I also noticed the progressive degradation of Wataru's situation.
When the monsoon season came, Wataru was moved a little farther away from the shack with only a piece of wood to give her a semblance of shelter. There, she stayed tethered continuously – panting from the heat or shuddering from the rain.
It was during a heavy afternoon rain when I saw Wataru again desperately trying to get some cover from her wood plank. When I got home, I took a set of my dogs' spare collars and leashes. I was going to do something for Wataru. I would speak up for her.
“Lola, para sa animal welfare po ako,” I said, while thinking to myself that it would have been easier for me if I didn't delay joining an animal rights group.
Because everyone was just staring at me quizzically, I went on to remind them about the Philippine Animal Welfare Act and how pets like Wataru must be given proper shelter, feeding and general care.
An avalanche of sad stories and declaration of love for Wataru filled my ears. Grandma told me that their previous place was demolished and they brought Wataru with them by taxi to this new area because they could not leave her behind. The daughter-in-law said she has a kid who is allergic to the dog so Wataru must stay outside. Then, the son proudly told me that he had Wataru as a puppy and named her after his favorite Japanese cartoon character. He said Wataru and his kid are of the same age, 7. He also said that he was really going to build Wataru a house, only he got too busy fixing their own.
Politely, I told them how long I'd been watching Wataru's condition and that the dog pound might take her as she could be seen as a threat to pedestrians. I listened to their excuses and, luckily for me, they also listened to what I said.
It was starting to rain again and I became aware that a small mob of people has gathered around me, some even praising Wataru for being pretty. The wet dog was just ecstatic to be the center of attention.
I brought out the collar and leash and asked the daughter to put them on Wataru. That's when I realized that Wataru's leash was actually just a wide large collar. After it looped around her neck, the rest of the collar became her leash attached to a very short rusty chain.
I also learned that Wataru was pregnant and her owners said any of the stray dogs could be her mate.
I told them I'd be back to check on Wataru. The son promised that he would build Wataru's house right away, while the daughter said she would walk Wataru every night using the new leash. The grandma, for her part, brought Wataru inside their house for a bath as she waved me goodbye.
That night, I again drove past the little shack in Zuzuarregui. A new smaller house stood next to it. It was Wataru's.
* The following photos were taken five days after the talk with Wataru's owners. Although, it's not the best of dog houses, Wataru now has a bigger and safer place to stay. Her leash is also longer now, but short enough to keep her away from the cars. The gentle dog looks happy and the family gave her a shirt to wear. They said, they cover up Wataru's house when the rain is hard. I got Wataru a bottle of dog shampoo to encourage her owners to give her a regular bath. Will continuously keep an eye on this sweet dog.