Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When Snort Means Love

Tonight, I walked home making a detour at the nearby market to buy some fruit, yogurt, and dinner. I was craving Thosai Masala, a South Indian bread with potatoes inside. But it wasn’t available. I settled instead on Fish Fillet from the western stall. I walked home with a tinge of nostalgia. I passed two kids in our condo sitting on the grass with their Labrador. I smiled knowing how good that felt. All is good when you are just hanging out with your doggie.  I dragged my drooping shoulders from the weight of my laptop, my books, and the groceries. As I put the key on the door, my mobile rang.

It was the phone call I had been dreading to receive.  My mom called to tell me the sad news I have been dreading for a little over a month now. Snort died.  He would have been twelve on April 19.  He lost his battle to cancer, diagnosed last December 21. The vet told me he would probably have a week to live.  But my little guy is a fighter. He proved her wrong, putting on his strong spirit for a little over a month more. 

a polaroid taken of Snort and me in 1999 when I did a story for Good Housekeeping on dog grooming

Snort is my little ShiTzu. We got him August 10, 1998.  He was a birthday gift from my parents.  It was two years since I returned home from States.  I had just finished resigned from an ad agency. I knew I wanted to pursue my love for writing and photography.  It was a big decision to get a dog, for I knew that it meant Manila would be home.  My mom and I went to several dog breeders.  But it was when we went to this small house near the Quezon Institute (a hospital) that I knew he was the one. One look at the puppies, I spotted him immediately. I asked for him. When the breeder put him in my hands. He went crazy, wagging his tail, and licking me. He obviously liked me too. Then he made this distinct sound, he snorted.  We brought him home.  His adorable face, just like a stuffed toy, easily endeared himself to everyone in the house.  And unlike our previous family dogs named after food (Sushi, Toffee, Crinkles and Chunky), I named him, “Snort.” 

And the name stuck. He would make repeatedly make that snorting sound whenever he was happy: eating food he really liked, getting tummy rubs, scratching himself, or even kissing me. If joy had a sound, for this little doggie, it was snorting.  It meant he was in a blissful state. 

In reality, I think the snort was really a flaw in his breathing.  Snort’s little tongue was always sticking out.  But it made him even cuter. 

Somehow, his arrival marked the beginning of my life as a professional writer. He would sleep in a doggie playpen at night. As I would sneak out for my call time for early morning TV shoots, he would look at me. His eyes, round like black marbles, managed to say, “Where are you going? You’re leaving me again.”  I was then working for a Travel cable channel. I would leave him a shirt I wore, so he could still smell me. With every homecoming, he greeted me at the door with his butt sticking out and a perky little trot.

We were had our routine. He knew when I would go to my workshop spending hours writing. He would follow me to the small room. He would make a dramatic jump up the five-inch step, then curl himself into a corner.  He loved airconditioned rooms. The cool air would quickly put him to sleep. Then, he would snore.  I would be lost in my world of words.  He lost in his dream. But we would be both in our own blissful states.  

Snort all curled up in the corner of my writing workshop

When he wanted something he would bark. For some reason, Snort never learned to go up the stairs to the second floor of our house.  But he still managed to get up. He would look at us, then bark as if to say, “Please bring me up.”  Plastic bags scared him.  When he hears someone shake a bag, he would quickly run in fear.  We could never figure out where that phobia came from. 

Snort and I would do everything together.  He loved going for car rides. But he always had to sit on someone’s lap, so he could look out at the window.  The kids in the streets would always smile at him. The would excitedly say, “Tuta!Tuta!”  (Puppy! Puppy!), thinking he was a puppy. Even on our last visit to the Vet, another human with a pregnant shitzu thought Snort was still a puppy. 

Man’s best friend couldn’t be more apt in our case. Snort had been to all my favorite places. We would go to Sidcor, a Sunday market in Cubao to buy fresh fruits, veggies, and plants.  He would walk around on a leash. His tongue would grow longer and longer. Then I would treat him to water with iced cubes. Oh how he loved ice cubes! He prefers it hand held. He would like it, with much appreciation. Drop it in his drinking bowl, it just wasn’t as enjoyable for him.  When I would seek spiritual direction from the Cenacle sisters in Loyola Heights, he would sometimes come along. I would try to make sense of life. But my little Snort needed no spiritual direction.  His spirit was well and good. He would run around the garden, bringing big smiles to the retreat house staff. They liked him so much, always asking how he was every time I visited.  One even asked if she could adopt him.

Like his travel writer mom, Snort loved exploring new places. One day, he got a kick out of running around the entire cemetery.  I was breathless trying to catch him, while trying not to step on the graves of the dearly departed.  He had visited our Mango farm, enjoying the car ride about three hours away. He had no qualms positioning himself on my dad’s lap to get the best view of the rice fields along the way.  When I felt like writing in a cafĂ©, Snort would join me. He would lie on my feet as I wrote. Then after finishing my cappuccino, he would join me in exploring the nearby market.  The only problem was he also wanted to sit on my lap, when I was driving.

Looks like Snort didn't like the food in our Easter picnic at Ateneo High school in 2007

Some wise observer had once said dogs the perfect friends when you are blue. They never try to fix something. They never ask for the gory details.  And Snort did exactly that and more.  Many times, little Snort had licked my tears away. On one sad occasion, I was crying.  I confided to him, “Snort, no one loves me anymore.” He took it as his cue to lick me in the face.  After that, the little trick has stuck. I would say those exact words and he would lick me.  (If only men could be trained the same way!)

Snort wipes away my tears, and makes it all better! 

There was something special about this dog. We’ve had at least a dozen dogs in our house.  But Snort was the most secure. The other dogs would often be threatened by the arrival of a new dog. Not Snort, three bigger dogs came after him. But was so confidently loved, he wasn’t one bit threatened.  Nothing changed in his behavior. He would even share his toys, his food, and his bed with the new arrivals.  He knew his place. He knew who he was. He knew he was loved and no one can take that away from him.

Snort hanging out with his buddy and yaya, Maki (a Japanese spitz younger than him)

But as much as he was my dog, and I was his human, Snort had a relationship with everyone else.  My mom was like his doting grandmother. When I wouldn’t be looking, she would give him bits of barbecued pork from the Sunday market. And while dogs couldn’t read calendars, Snort somehow knew when it was Sunday. He would run to the door excited every Sunday morning. When there were no bits of skewered meat for him, he was disappointed.  He knew when mom was baking ensaymada (a sweet cheese bread topped with grated cheese).  He would eat the bits of grated cheese on the floor.  And yes, mom would give him a piece or two of cheese.  He would sit near my brother in the morning as he ate breakfast.  He loved sleeping in between mom and dad’s feet, while they ate dinner. And how he loved having visitors. He would be upset if he doesn’t get to socialize at our parties at home.

Snort and Maki the day after Milenyo typhoon in 2006

When I discovered Snort had cancer, I cried and cried. I gently told the helpers in the house his condition. They too cried.  Our most trusted helper, Merlyn told me how just one look at him would ease her tired body.  She told me in Tagalog, “He has such a cute face. And even if she seen so many shitzu’s, no one is like him.” I nodded, knowing how Snort had touched her life too.  “Snort’s an angel!” I told her.

He had lymphosarcoma. In a week, his tumor grew to the size of an orange.  It made it him hard for him to walk. But his mommy was home, and that’s all that matters. He celebrated the holidays with us.  He forced himself to walk and run, just to be with his humans.  He hated the loud explosions of firecrackers on New Year’s Eve. Even if he was in pain, he didn’t show any discomfort due to his illness. But he would instantly lie on his back, and ask for his tummy to be rubbed. That soothed him. I would just sit and rub it. 

Before I left, I talked to Snort. I knew he was holding up for us, his humans. I knew I wouldn’t see him alive again.  I repeatedly told him, “Snort, I’ll see you in heaven!” 

Snort the last time I saw him...January 8, 2010

As I left my house at six in the morning, there he was in the porch.  He looked vibrant and well. He pulled off a really good act to show me he was ok.  I pulled out my camera to snap my last memory of Snort.  Then, a few hours after I left my family told me he got worse.

I had been crying for three hours now.  My head is already aching from the tears.  But I can’t stop. I looked at his photos.  And I marvel at how much joy he has brought into my life. He’s my dear buddy. He’s my baby.

A friend asked me a few minutes ago, what I loved about Snort. I think his name sums it up.  His flaw became his asset. His name couldn’t be more apt.  Snort became both a verb and a noun.  Just like love!

See you in heaven, my little Snort! I love you…

Adorable Snort! 

watch this video of Snort at play

*** You may click on this link if you wish to read an earlier post I had entitled "When Looks Matter" in my previous blog.http://foodtripper-fork-in-the-road.blogspot.com/2007/06/when-looks-matter.html 


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  1. I was only looking for a pictures of tongues hanging out... this made me bawl and hold my own Shih Tzu a little tighter. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yvo, Thanks for reading. Savor your time with your beloved Shih Tzu. They're so special. Take Care. -Maida


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