11 January 2011

Duke: An Azkal Shepherd With a Strange Dog-sinality

When I was a teenage boy, our family used to own a mongrel named Duke. I honestly do not recall who gave the dog to us; or why he got to be called Duke. I have not thought about him for the longest time; but for some reason, I just did tonight.

He had the classic facial features of a German Shepherd: pointed ears, brown face and smudges of black roundabout the mouth. But his body was all wrong; it was small, slim and the unmistakable look of what used to be called Tagalog but these days, more fashionably the Azkal.

To those who have not been around these parts for some time, the Azkal is current slang for asong kalye or the street dog. Do not ask me how the spelling came to be; albeit, it does add a touch of class to the term.

To get back to Duke, of the dogs we had at the time – and there were several – he was the one with the strangest dog-sinality. There is no such word in the English language, of course; but it does seem right to use under the circumstances to refer to this unusual dog’s behavior.

Where the other dogs would bark at passers-by who were walking disinterestedly in front of our house and even at any vehicle that stopped no matter how momentarily, Duke thought all the pointless yapping was beneath him. When he did bark, there was somebody bound to be at the gate calling for attention.

Whenever we had visitors, Duke was always the one Mom or Dad asked us to keep an eye on. Most visitors, it must be said, were always wary of the loudly yapping other dogs. We, on the other hand, had learned from experience that Duke was the proverbial silent-but-deadly type who would be standing close by watching morosely and then – without warning – just strike to plant a couple of fangs on some hapless visitor’s ankle.

How he chose his victims I never did understand. There were those who did not interest him in any way. Once, though, although we had been keeping an eye on him while the bills collector waited for Mom to come back with her wallet, we all got lulled by his docile behavior into thinking that he had placed the collector under the not-worth-the-bite category.

While the collector foraged inside his pocket for some change, unnoticed by all of us, Duke had already struck. “He bit me!” the collector cried, totally petrified. Mom was sympathetic and had us chasing Duke away while she also went to fetch some antiseptic. She naturally apologized to the collector and reassured him that Duke had had his shots.

I was not sure that he had; but the collector was placated and left us in an amicable mood.

Mom never wanted female dogs. She felt these would only invite all sorts of unwanted canine suitors from around the neighborhood. She also therefore thought all the male dogs we had should not go a-visiting some hormonally empowered bitch somewhere in the neighborhood.

Therefore, all the dogs we had were neutered; and that, I would like to hypothesize, was the most viable reason for Duke’s angst. Imagine the wealth of eligible females around the neighborhood, and he having been deprived of the jewels with which to exploit such wealth!

On the other hand, considering that all our other dogs were reasonably good-natured if a tad loud, perhaps it was really all down to Duke’s unique dog-sinality!

If there were any neighborhood chickens who somehow found their way past our property’s walls – they do have wings, don’t they – then the sound of wings fluttering and agitated clucking simply meant that Duke was chasing after the intruders. If he caught them – as was the case more often than not – then Duke was utterly merciless.

He even had the utter thoughtfulness to leave the fresh kills at the front of the house, as though insinuating to my Mom that he just did her a favor and that she should start scrounging for ingredients for a tasty tinola for lunch. That he just killed the chickens and never had any interest in devouring them, that was something that always fascinated me!

Rats were just as easy pickings for Duke. We had a layer poultry farm and Duke was fleetfooted enough to chase after any ambitious rodent. What he caught up with was always killed without mercy. Again, just like with the chickens, never eaten.

What was strange was that Duke never cast belligerent glances at the chickens we had inside the poultry cages. It was only the loose neighborhood chickens that he chased after.

Duke had this uncanny ability to leap up to the top of the concrete wall that surrounded our property – considering how small Duke was, that five-foot leap was always something of a gymnastic achievement. More uncanny, when it suited his fancy, he would walk along the top of the wall, a mere 4- or 5-inch surface; and not even flat.

I swear to God I sometimes thought Duke thought of himself as a cat. I mean, chasing after rodents and chickens, walking atop walls… What dog does that?

I have a smile on my face as I try to wind this story down. Duke: probably a cross between an Azkal and a German Shepherd. A dog that had psychotic delusions about being a cat… I had not thought about him for the longest time until tonight.

I am glad I did, because now I just told his story. We humans, we so fear being forgotten. Who’s to say dogs do not feel that way? Particularly a dog with the strangest dog-sinality…




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