LIFE WITH DOGS: “Good night Kuya Shinji, see you tomorrow!”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 May) — “Good night Kuya Shinji, see you tomorrow!” These are the last words Jordi said to our senior dog Shinji as she was leaving to go to her lolo’s house, where she usually sleeps at night.

It was already around 11:20 p.m. then, May 5.

Around 8 a.m. the following day (May 6), Jordi came home and asked me as she entered the house, “where’s Kuya Shinji?”

I held back for a few seconds and told her, “Kuya is gone.”

Jordi and Shinji at 6:11pm of 5 May 2020. Photo by KETIH BACONGCO

Shinji was under medication supposedly for five days since May 2 due to a recurring illness and an injury on his throat because of a fight with his sibling, Boks.

In July 2017, I thought we would lose Shinji due to ehrlichia and amoebiasis, which was what cost Sushi’s (our younger dog and Shinji’s “niece”) life on February 21, 2017.

But thanks to Doc Bayani and his staff, Shinji was able to recover. These said illnesses also took away Kimi’s (Shinji’s sister) life in August of the same year.

Since then, we were very wary of their health because they are getting older.

Like human beings, recovery of senior dogs depends on how their bodies respond to the medication, given their age and condition.

Shinji was already 11 in human years. He would have turned 12 on October 11 this year.

Shinji was one of the five offsprings of Sophie and Walrus, a fierce aspin of Ruby’s parents. His siblings were Chiyo, Kimi (+) and Boks. The other pup, who we call Seg, was given to our friend Bong Segovia.

Except for Chiyo, who was born before midnight of October 10, 2008, the rest came out of Sophie’s womb dawn of October 11. Shinji came out last at around 4 a.m. Hence, we always consider him as the “baby” and he always acted like one.

L-R) Shinji, Kimi, Sophie, Chiyo and Boks (2009). Family Archives

Chiyo and Boks had an offspring–Sushi and Hippo. Both passed away in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

When they were about a year old, we trained them to fetch balls and flying discs. Kimi was the fast-learner in the pack but Shinji was the most clever.

Shinji never tried fetching the ball or the flying disc. He was just at the sidelines and watched how Kimi played with us.

As days went by, he must have realized that there was a reward everytime Kimi returns the ball or the disc to me.

Then one day, after a few rounds of catching, Shinji waited for Kimi to return the flying disc to us and grabbed it from her. He then took the disc to us and collected the reward (a dogfood pellet). This happened a few times more and my cousin Julius would always say: “Gin-ambush naman niya si Kimi.”

Kimi (L) and Shinji (R), 2009. Family Archives

Later on — perhaps realizing what his little brother was up to – Kimi would no longer release the disc to Shinji. But being the clever dog that he was, as Kimi was on her way to return the disc to me, Shinji would approach her and also bite the disc as if to say he also helped in catching the disc. And I had no choice but to give them both a reward — one for her agility, and the other for his “diskarte.”

This memory definitely stands out as one of the most unforgettable moments as they were growing up.

Baby Shinji

Before our daughter Jordi came (born in 2014), Shinji was like the “baby” of Ruby’s parents. Whenever they visit us in our rented place — where we first lived after getting married — his father would always carry Shinji. You could see on Shinji’s face how he loved being treated like a baby.

There was a time when Shinji wouldn’t let go of Ruby’s father and wanted to go with them in their house in another village some 12 kilometers away.

They had no choice but to bring Shinji. The following morning, Shinji was brought back to our house. If I could remember it right, he followed them to the gate and he was whimpering as if begging them to take him home with them.

Before Ruby and I got married, Sophie was with Ruby most of the time while Sophie’s offsprings were with me in Cabantian. But there were times when Shinji stayed with Sophie in Ruby’s house for a few days.

After we got married, there were times when we would take Shinji along with Sophie whenever we would visit Ruby’s parents. Sometimes, Shinji would notice that we were preparing Sophie’s shirt. He wouldn’t stop barking. Perhaps he assumed that whenever Sophie would go out, he should come too.

Thus, we also bought a shirt for Shinji so that he would have something to wear whenever he would join Sophie to visit Ruby’s parents. Sometimes, we would tease him by showing his shirt and it would excite Shinji. He wont stop barking because he thinks he’s going out.

Sophie’s favorite

If you think that only humans play favorites, dogs do too! As Sophie’s offspring were growing up, we noticed that Sophie would treat Shinji extra special.

Sophie and Shinji, 2020. Family Archives

For instance, when Sophie was eating and Shinji wanted a piece of her meal, she wouldn’t get mad. She would gladly share it with Shinji. But her other offsprings could not even move closer to her plate.

There were several times when only Shinji could share a pillow with Sophie. The rest, they had to wait for the pillow to be available.

Boks vs Shinji

Aside from Shinji, the other boy in the pack is Boks. Like their colors, their attitudes are also opposite to each other.

Boks is black with a few white spots. Shinji’s fur on the other hand resembles Sophie’s — white and with some shades of brown on his back. Shinji is very sweet while Boks is very grumpy. There were times when no one could pet him except me.

They never got along since they were young. I could only remember one instance when they played with each other back in our old place. Among his siblings, Chiyo was his favorite playmate. Boks was so fierce and much stronger than Shinji. They had bloody fights and in most instances, Shinji’s the loser—a pierced neck or back, a bitten ear, and the bloodiest perhaps was when Boks bit Shinji near his eye.

A rare photo of Shinji and Boks together(2009). Family Archives

On April 30, Boks and Shinji had another fight. It wasn’t bloody but Shinji sustained an injury on his neck. He couldn’t eat the next day and had diarrhea the following day.

I took him to the clinic for a check up on May 2. I don’t want to go into details but the prognosis was not good especially that Shinji was already 11 years old. It’s a dreaded situation for any dog parent.

I brought Shinji home as I’ll be the one administering the medications for five days via an IV line.

At around 8:30am of May 5, I took Shinji outside so he can pee. I accidentally dropped the IV bag and broke the spike. Luckily, I was done administering the medicines. But I needed to get a new infusion set because I need to give another round of medicine in the afternoon and in the evening.

At around 10:30 a.m., I went to Amesco Drugstore on Magsaysay Avenue (about seven kilometers away from home) on a bike to buy the much needed infusion set. It was a very hot and sunny Tuesday.

I also bought another litre of Lactated Ringer’s Solution just in case the medication would be extended.

Before 12 noon, I was already back home.

Late in the afternoon, Shinji was lying on the pillow on the floor. I was quite sleepy and lying on our bed while watching him. He was staring at me and he was moving his head as if to signal that he wanted to lie on the bed too. So I moved him to our bed. I laid beside him and played a lo-fi playlist on my Spotify because I wanted to take a nap.

Since I laid down beside him, I noticed that he kept on changing his position. He was restless and his respiratory rate was no longer normal. I got up and took him outside again for some fresh air and he might want to pee. He could hardly keep his balance but he still tried to walk. It was already obvious that he was struggling to move. So I just carried him back to the house and to our bed.

While on our bed, Jordi placed her pink toy house beside Shinji and played children’s songs hoping to cheer him up. She wrapped him with a scarf to protect him from the cold although our aircon can barely keep the room cool as it was so hot outside.

Since the community quarantine was imposed, we eat our dinners together with my in-laws. Their house is behind ours, separated by a low fence and small metal gate. When dinner time came, I did not join them. Instead, I had my dinner inside our bedroom while watching over Shinji. He was lying flat on his back with his hind legs open as if asking me for a belly rub. This is his favorite lying position whenever he’s on our bed.

As the night wore on, Shinji’s situation was getting worse. His breathing was getting faster and more labored. Jordi was at her grandparents’ house already. Sensing that Shinji might not make it through the night, we decided to tell Jordi to come home so she can say goodbye.

Seeing what’s going on, she cried. For Jordi, the dogs at home are her siblings. She calls them Ate and Kuya.

At around 11:20pm, Jordi held Shinji’s head and said “thank you Kuya, I love you…”  as she was leaving to go back to the grandparents’ house. Then she stood up beside the door and said: “Good night Kuya! See you tomorrow!”

Ruby took her to her Lolo.

It was perhaps one of the longest nights of our lives. No amount of preparedness could hold back our tears. No words could describe our sorrow. We cried like a child.

About 10 minutes before Shinji’s last howl, he was moving his legs like he was running. In my head, he must be dreaming of running around with Walrus.

Shinji left us at around 11:40 p.m. of May 5 — it’s exactly the same date last year when Walrus passed away. “Gi sundo jud siguro siya ni Walrus,” Ruby said. He had his last breath in front of us inside our bedroom, while Sophie, Chiyo and Boks were also around.

We will miss Shinji’s howl, which is unique among the pack. Agitating him to howl is our way of cheering him up. On the second day of being under medication, I tried to cheer him up. He tried to howl but there was no sound.

I will miss his soft barks during dawn while pleading to carry him on top of our bed, where Sophie and Chiyo sleeps at night. He couldn’t just hop on the bed anymore because he could barely see in the dark.

Like the other members of the pack who left ahead of him, Shinji was also buried on the lot beside our bedroom. I wrapped him with one of my favorite tattered pambahay shirts that Ruby wanted to throw away.

Like the others, Shinji lived a colorful life with us as a member of our family. Until we meet again Shinji. No more pain.

Thank you for 11 years of love and friendship.

(Keith Bacongco is a staff photographer of Manila Bulletin based in Davao City. This piece was first posted on his blog,, on 9 May 2020. MindaNews was granted permission to reprint this)