I was about 10 when I first experienced my first real heartbreak: we had a monoplegic dog, a Japanese Spitz named Hushyl, who had to be sent off to my Tita’s family in Marikina, where we originally got her, after many years.
I don’t know if that’s the correct term because we never brought her to the doctor. Essentially, Hushyl couldn’t use her left hind leg because it was always in a state of seizure—it looked pretty grotesque because her lower body would shake in spasm when she was up and about. We were the butt of jokes in our compound because of her, but we loved her dearly nevertheless.
I can no longer remember the circumstances behind my parents’ decision to send her back, though it must have been the burden of having to take care of two children, without any house help, while juggling a 9-to-5 job: too much going on. So they took her away one weekend, leaving me and my sister to deal with our grief by ourselves.
My sister tried to cheer me up. She tried really hard. And there is something very depressing about someone trying really hard to cheer you up and both of you know it’s not working.
She put in a cassette tape of Vanilla Ice and cranked up the volume. We jumped up and down—on the floor, on the couch—pretending to be happy, pretending Hushyl did not matter, pretending Ice, Ice Baby could take our worries and guilt away.
For a while, it did.
Months later, my father and I paid his sister a visit in Marikina. Hushyl rushed toward us, still recognizing our smell and voices, crying in a pitch that’s part-anguish and part-joy—a spastic ball of energy that would only break my heart further as we had to leave her there, still.
My heartbreak is her heartbreak. My Tita would later inform us that Hushyl suddenly just died, for no apparent reason.