Surviving our rough arrival to the island, the next morning I headed out looking for a place that was the paradise we had in our minds. I passed a lot of different places, all a bit pricey and all pretty booked. It seemed crazy that the night before was so wild, because now the island was gorgeous. I followed the path under palm trees, parallel to the ocean. I came to a rickety old fence, with a half made boat jacked up. There were numerous bungalows inside, and an old gate with young kids, a couple of dogs, and an older woman near by.
I asked the kids the dogs’ names, and they giggled and laughed at me. I asked again, and one of the girls said the old one was Danu. What about the shy one hiding behind a bungalow? That one doesn’t have a name she said. She was a small thing, with a large patch of burnt skin on her back. She was not coming near me, but Dano did a loud flop on to his back in the sand, wanting a nice belly rub. I was only too happy to oblige. I asked about accommodation, but was told the owners were not there. I never was able to figure out who the owners were, but the maid told me to come back later. So I continued on the hunt. When I reached the end of the path I was in the villagers boat yard, filled with the banca boats all beached. Some kids were playing ball, while chickens were all around. There were pigs also chained up eating the scraps from the night before.
I checked a few more places than headed back, passing Dano again. I asked again, and the maid said she thought there was an air-conditioned bungalow available. She showed me, and though I did not like it that much, we were running out of options. The owners were still not around, but she said she would work something out for us. At this point, I could see things were filled up. I left a “deposit” to hold the room, whatever room, and headed to get Yvonne.
We grabbed our stuff and came back. She said there was one more place, and it was perfect. Clean, balcony, private bathroom. I loved it. We never did see the owner, but we gave our money for a night to the cleaning lady for scoring us the room, and a little tip. She was dancing in the air, but we really wanted to stay all two weeks here. WE were ready to make a home. We unpacked and settled in for a bit, then headed out for lunch. The shy little dog with the burns was dodging us still, but Dano had decided on tailing us. We could not resist giving her a little rub and some chips to snack on. Yvonne had a raging hangover from our survival shots from the night before. Mango Smoothies around, and how sweet they were. The beach was loaded with restaurants, from high end to little booths. We opted for an expensive one, and settled in using the best Wi-Fi around at Club Exotica. Every time I came here I expected girls to be dancing on poles for pesos, but instead it was a high-end dive resort, with western food at western prices. I could not resist the goulash, part of my culture I suppose.
When we came back the little dog and Dano were still lingering around, so I unwrapped some of my leftovers. They were very happy to dig in, and I decided our little burnt friend needed a name. The first that came to mind was Lobo, because there was nothing Wolf like about her. When I told the neighbor kids they all burst in to laughter, looking at this sweet but pathetic dog with such a tough name.
Over the next two weeks Lobo was to become our constant companion. She went with us everywhere. When I went scuba diving with thresher sharks at 5 am, she would follow me then sit on the beach as the boat pulled away. Every restaurant we ate at she would lay under the table, generally not begging too much. The waiters would try to shoo her away, but we would stick up for her and they would leave with just an evil look. We rented a scooter one afternoon and she followed us all over the island. All the locals began to call her Lobo too. Word travels fast on an island, and soon everyone considered her our dog.
It was not long before we thought of her that way too. We would go to the village and pick up some grilled chicken to feed her. Though most people in the village would be hostile at first, after they realized she was with us they warmed up. The kids in the cabana next to us were our constant source of island gossip, keeping us in the loop on everything. One day I decided the fleas on poor little Lobo were getting out of control, so I went in search of flea dip. Not one store on the island carried it, apparently no one really treated the dogs here. The only thing we were able to get was Flea shampoo for Cocks, the feathered kind. Cock fighting is huge in the Philippines, and people spend a lot of time grooming their roosters.
We figured if it worked for roosters, it would work for dogs. So I grabbed a bucket of water, and wrestled little Lobo in. She was not happy about this, but I had a little cheering squad of giggling kids, who though this was the funniest thing in the world. The bucket was too small for Lobo, but with a lot of maneuvering and splashing, we got her completely treated. It was a great feeling to see all the fleas floating in the water.
Even thought we were in Paradise, Yvonne had picked up a really nasty flu. She was spending a lot of time in our bungalow, trying to get better. We finally decided enough was enough, and went in search of a doctor. There was a health clinic on the island that was open a few days a week. I was really worried about Yvonne, and we began planning on leaving the island for the mainland. We tried one last time and luckily the doctor was in. Yvonne was giving antibiotics and told to rest and stay out of the sun. Not what you want to hear on the beach.
We hailed a scooter driver to take us back to our bungalow, and totally forgot that Lobo had followed us. The driver shot off like a rocket. We heard this barking sound and I looked back to see little Lobo racing after us. The scooter was probably going about 30 miles and hour, and she was giving her best. She barely avoided getting run over by a motor bike coming the other direction, but she expertly avoided it while keeping up to us. How could you not love such a loyal dog.
I was doing a sketch on our veranda when the little boy next door asked me if I was going to keep Lobo. I figured there was no way possible we could take her off the island. So I asked him why he would not want to keep her for me. He said he would love to have a dog, but his grandfather would get drunk and eat her. Well, that certainly was a depressing thought, and made me very sad for our little girl’s future. Yvonne and I talked about her, and decided to see if there was a way to bring her back. We both loved the little girl.
Our best source for help on the island was Anna from Evolution Diving. She had already adopted many of the island dogs. She worked really hard with all the locals, educating them on how to take care of dogs. She offered to help us get Lobo home, the only problem was she was heading to her wedding. So clearly she had a lot on. The other problem was an embargo on bringing dogs from the Philippines to the states. It was supposed to end in a month or so. She volunteered to watch Lobo for us while the embargo lasted.
Our last day came sooner than we wanted. We dropped Lobo off with one of Anna’s workers. We ordered a large plate of bacon, and fed her all of it. He brought us a chain, and we put it around her neck. She had never been chained, so she started flipping out. I just hugged her and gave her more bacon till she calmed down. Everyone thought I was mad to feed good bacon to a dog. With tears in our eyes we said farewell, hoping to see her in a few weeks in the states. It was heartbreaking to watch Lobo be taken away yelping. Our hearts were broken.
In hindsight we should have taken her with us right away, got the vet checks, and tried to figure out the system for getting her home. Problem was we had to fly back to Manila, and then three days in Tokyo, and then finally home. Japans quarantine for dogs is a month. We were not going to that to her. Then the vet found out that Lobo had some medical issues as well, and could not be fixed safely. Ideally she should be fixed before traveling so far.
Out of the blue Lobo’s owner showed up, and deciding he wanted her back. To this point we were under the impression that Lobo had no owner. After some back and forth, he conceded to give Lobo to us. Apparently he has a lot of stray dogs on the island, and does not take care of them.
Anna had managed to solve a lot of the problems on her end, and I was finally getting some headway on mine, when there was a maritime disaster struck. A ferry ship collided with another ship and sank. Over 80 people died. Anna and her husband Matt helped with rescue and body recovery mode. I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been for everyone.
After the accident we continued to work with Anna over the next few months trying to get Lobo back, but everything seemed against us. The embargo was a large problem, and getting a straight answer about it was near impossible. Finally we found a company that would send her over for 600 dollars, but we had to find a way to get her from Malapascua to Manila.
Then the worse thing that could ever happen to the Philippines happened, a massive hurricane struck so hard that it flattened huge sections of the country. It was a national disaster. Hurricane Haiyan killed over 6000 people in the Philippines. Huge sections of the country were with out water, food, and medicine. Malapascua was flattened, with the entire islands buildings, trees, and infrastructure being destroyed. The amazing thing was no one was killed but people still needed help.
Anna started a non-profit Rebuild Malapascua, and began helping the locals get food, water, and medical attention. Then they switched over to rebuilding houses, stores, and lives. I wrote about this in this blog, and please donate to continue the support the good work that they are doing.
I am not always sure it’s the right thing to take a dog from its life that it knows, and throw them into a completely different world. Lobo was a beach dog, that was her whole life. Who knows how she would have reacted to the land of leashes, trucks, pavement, and bitter winters. I am sure she would have got on grand, but it’s a big change.
As far as our beautiful little dog, Anna told me that the kennels were knocked down in the storm, and Lobo had run off. She was healthy and fine, but loose on the island again. A local family near the school adopted Lobo. Our hearts go out to the people of Malapascua, and our love goes to our favorite little island dog, Lobo. I like to imagine her roaming free on the island, digging up sand crabs and being the ambassador to paradise..