Pets are born with stardom glow.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
IN a house in Subic, Zambales live six dogs that are absolute pros when it comes to having group photos.
The pack is made up of Jack, a Dachshund who is also popularly called “Mayor” by his legion of fans in social media, and a family of Shih Tzus named Zeus, Hera, Angel, Iya and Mingming who are collectively called “Balbons” (hairy). Keeping them happy together under one roof is Karmi Castillo who loves to dress them up for the camera.
A photoshoot at home, be it a casual one or elaborately planned complete with costumes, has become a regular activity for Mayor Jack and the Balbons. Their growing followers in social media (about 5,000+ in Facebook and 2,000+ on Instagram) have seen them don formal wear, casual clothes, sports apparel, seasonal costumes, sleepwear and, of course, cute hair accessories for their photo sessions. But perhaps the most impressive detail that people notice about their photos is the way all dogs obediently pose and keep their proper places like good models.
All six dogs know their blocking and they also don't forget to smile for the camera, especially the Shih Tzus. To make things more interesting, Karmi captions the photos with funny anecdotal tidbits that offer a glimpse into the lives of her dogs.
“Nasanay na po sa 'kin kapag pipicturan. Sa una tinuruan ko sila mag stay sa lugar nila hanggang sa nadiscover ko na pwede pala sila ayusin at picturan, pero right after picture-taking dapat may treats para ma excite sila gawin ang mga ganun' bagay...And after picture-taking lagi ko sinasabi na very good sila, sabay himas sa kanila and hug para matandaan nila na tama yun gawa nila na happy ako,” Karmi told MetroPets. (They became used to me when they'd be photographed. First, I taught them to stay in their places until I discovered that I could also pose them for the photo, but right after picture-taking they must get treats so they'll be excited to do this kind of things...After picture-taking I always tell them that they are very good, then I stroke and hug them so they'd remember that they did well and made me happy,” said Karmi.)
PACK OF GOODNESS
Jack, now six years old, was adopted from a family friend. He got his nickname soon after Karmi posted their first doggy group photo where she referred to Jack as the Mayor who was distributing biscuits to the Balbons waiting in line.
“Pila lang 'wag magtulakan, lahat ay mabibigyan ng pabiskwet ni Mayor,” (Line up, don't push, all will get a biscuit from the Mayor),” wrote Karmi who noted that since then the six dogs started to gain lots of Internet followers who called Jack Mayor.
Karmi also became a big dog lover because of Jack and the Shih Tzus.
“I wasn't a dog lover before, but since they came, my life turned upside down. I became a dog lover and they taught me how to have compassion towards animals. They made me a better person,” said Karmi who is technically not the real owner of Mayor and the Balbons, but takes such good care of them on behalf of her relatives.
The dogs also have their own endearing qualities. Hera and Zeus are the parents of the three younger Shih Tzus. Hera is the “princess of the house while Zeus is thoughtful and closest to me,” said Karmi. Angel is the most cheerful and playful of the brood, Iya is the most behaved and obedient, and Mingming as a special dog is the most spoiled, Karmi added.
When Hera gave birth to an all-girl litter, Karmi's family decided to neuter only the boys—Jack and Zeus. After that, the selfies and “groufies” became part of the dogs' recreation along with playing and swimming.
As time goes by, they are also accumulating wardrobe from gowns to basic tees, Christmas costumes, tracksuits, vest harnesses and hats. Karmi said it costs her less than P2,000 to buy everyone basic clothes sets. The formal wear, however, needs to be custom-made and costs more.
“But thanks to our sponsor Willow Pet Couture for the discounts and vest harnesses,” Karmi said.
Having free-roaming dogs at home is a lot of work, but Mayor and the Balbons are potty trained. Still, Karmi wouldn't give them up for the world.
“Having pets will never make you feel alone, unwanted or unloved. They see you as a perfect, lovable and valuable person, and they are the most loyal. The hardest part about it is you can't go on long vacations as you always think of them. But they are not here forever, so I make sure they feel loved as part of the family,” said Karmi.
To know more about the picture-perfect lives of Jack, Zeus, Hera, Angel, Iya and Mingming, follow them on Facebook and Instagram (@jack_and_the_tzus).
**All photos here courtesy of Karmi Castillo.