My Almond

photo (9)My dog, Almond, is white and light brown, like a parfait of graham crackers and vanilla ice cream. He is short and stout and long, with a tail that thumps when in wag mode. He sleeps in my bed and drinks coffee with me in the morning.

I talk about him all the time – to friends and family, even to complete strangers. A fellow dog addict would understand the sheer joy that comes with canine love. If you’re one of them, your mobile phone probably has more photos of your pet than that of your friends and officemates.

What makes Almond special? He acts like an overzealous motorcycle police escort when I am about to leave or enter the house. He barks at all the other dogs inside my house – more than a dozen of them – to announce my arrival or departure. He waves me through, and s

tops the other dogs from following my footsteps. It has to be him, all the time, in the lead or right behind me, a few steps away.

I like it that my dog, Almond, wakes me up whenever he needs me to open the door at dawn so he could pee. To do this, he tugs at my hair with his teeth, until my eyes open. He won’t stop until I get up from bed, open the door, then wait for him to come back so we could go back to sleep. This has become a daily routine.

Why are we such fools over the pets we own? My nephew, Carlo, and his wife, Mich, own two cats. Tiffany, their cat, can easily give American top model Tyra Banks in the number of poses she can do. Pensive Tiffany, playful Tiffany, and sleeping Tiffany – all these and more poses can be found on the couple’s individual Facebook and Twitter accounts.

photo (8)My Almond is quite popular among my Facebook friends. I would upload photos of Almond wearing his striped, blue T-shirt or taking a nap on top of his favorite pillow and my friends would comment on them, eliciting a jealous reaction from my only daughter, Estelle. “Why is Almond on your desktop screen?” she’d ask. After several such questions, Estelle finally declared that she’ would just have her photo taken with Almond so that the my laptop’s screen can accommodate them both.

One night, my beloved pet gave me such a scare that I was on the verge of panic. We were all at home spending a quiet evening watching television when Almond started to choke. Apparently, one of our household workers gave him food with a small chicken bone mixed in. The bone got wedged somehow in his jaw, making it difficult for him to swallow. I never got out of the house so fast! We hailed a taxi because my driver had gone home and my driver’s license was expired. My daughter directed the driver to the nearest veterinary clinic because I was so agitated and in deathly fear of losing my best friend and beloved dog. Thankfully, the vet was able to extricate a jagged piece of chicken bone from Almond’s throat. The relief I felt upon seeing him weary but still alive, was indescribable.

Of course, I had to let other people know about Almond’s miraculous recovery. First to know was my constant human companion, Fort Jose. He rushed to the veterinary clinic minutes after its on-call doctor saved Almond’s precious life. Her name eludes me now, but please know that my gratitude to her is eternal.

Like a frazzled mom, I fussed over Almond. I bought him dog cookies (lamb flavor, of course), and fussed over which toy he needed to have. He loved the extra attention, and having a stack of pillows to sleep on didn’t hurt.

I know a lot of people would find it hard to understand how someone like me – Harvard degree holder, a former undersecretary, and a fighter for labor rights – melts like a marshmallow when talking or in this case, writing, about a dog. Almond does that to me. Dog experts would say, uhmm, not really. You do that to you! But hey, there’s no harm in that, right? It’s love, canine-centric but just as important.

Almond is the baby that I can never have – but without the huge expense that comes with raising a real one. With Almond, I have no tuition fees to save up for, no diapers to change, and no emotional stress that comes with having to argue over where to go, who to see, and what to say.

He barks when he feels neglected. He wags his tail when he’s happy. He looks at me with expectation every time I stand up and leave the room. He watches television with me regardless of which channel I choose. He doesn’t care how I look or what I wear. I love Almond, and Almond loves me.

This entire column is all about a dog named Almond. Now, if only I could get him to read it! Have a happy Sunday! (Send comments to Follow me on Twitter:

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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