I grew up around dogs. My father, whose love for animals I inherited, would bring home puppies he found on the streets, and my older sister and I were ecstatic to have new playmates. But as I got a little older, I began to see how people looked disapprovingly at the dogs we had. Around this time, I also became aware of the homeless-animal crisis in the Philippines, as there are many dogs and cats freely roaming around the country in need of a good home.
Discrimination Against ‘Aspins’ and ‘Puspins’
Aspin (short for asong, a Filipino dog) and puspin (short for pusang, a Filipino cat) are words that we use to refer to the dogs and cats of the Philippines. But before we coined these terms, they were known, respectively, as askal (short for asong kalye, or street dog) and pusakal (short for pusang kalye, or street cat), because they usually just roam around outside. Sadly, even if these animals have a home, they are still often referred to as askal and pusakal.
The animals’ origin is not fully known, although aspins, who are mutts, are similar in appearance to Australian dingoes and Indian pariah dogs. Puspins are similar to other domestic short-haired cats in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Despite how smart and friendly they are, people still tend to have low opinions of them.
Friends and relatives would sometimes tell me how wonderful their purebred dogs are. Then they would ask me what dogs I have, and I would tell them how my father rescued two aspins. Somehow, the conversation would end, as they showed no interest in my dogs. It’s quite sad that people still cling to the notion that aspins and puspins are all vicious and mindless, just because many of them live on the streets. The truth is that they’re just as lovely and gentle, strong and courageous, and loyal and friendly as purebreds are. We all simply need to give them a second chance.
Saver, the Well-Loved ‘Aspin’
I remember during the 2000s that there was a famous aspin named Saver who was featured countless times on TV programs in the Philippines and Japan and given the title “Wonder Dog of the Philippines.” Jun Lazarte, his owner, was able to teach him lots of tricks, even though Saver was old when he was rescued. These included how to dance, sign his own name, imitate the sound of a cat, and even do some math, among many others. But sadly, Saver died on February 2009 from a heart tumor. In one interview, shortly before then, Lazarte said that they needed to continue the work that they had started and continue helping animals.
Stories like this show how much these belittled dogs have to offer—and this also goes for puspins, even though they’ve received less attention.
Pure Hearts and Purebreds
There are also many stories about the terrible treatment of aspins and puspins. I have seen people pour boiling water over these animals and run them over with cars, leaving them to die slowly and in agony on the street. Some are even killed for their meat, which is an infamous practice in some provinces of the Philippines. There are other horrible tortures that I can’t even bear to think of. But despite these terrors, I’ve seen that aspins and puspins still find it in their hearts to love and trust humans. Dogs and cats taken in by The Philippine Animal Welfare Society have experienced abuse and neglect, yet they are all adoptable animals looking for a home. They should be called pure hearts.
Benefits of Owning a Pure Heart
The thing about having lovely companions such as dogs and cats is that you’re never really alone. Each day, I come home to warm welcoming paws, and whenever I feel sad, my dogs know just what to do to cheer me up.
But the true magic of owning a mongrel, especially if they’ve been adopted or picked up from the streets, is that they tend to show complete appreciation for you, because they know so well what it’s like to be unloved. Most aspins and puspins have endured maltreatment on the streets, so having a loving home to live in means the world to them.Don’t Breed or Buy While Homeless Animals Die
Written by PETA Asia intern Ria Forbes