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It's a beautiful life with dogs!

By Aivee Teo, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 20, 2020 5:00 pm

The lockdown has not been easy for all of us. Having to suddenly stay at home and lose all freedom to do what we were all used to doing was challenging, to say the least. During this time, everyone had to find ways to cope.

I saw many people starting to become chefs, whipping up their hometown or childhood dishes. A great number of friends started going into exercise overdrive, becoming extremely fit and lean. Yet others started to become plantitos and plantitas and let their green thumbs do the talking.

Doctors Z Teo and Aivee Aguilar-Teo with dogs Berlin and Oslo: Prescription for happiness and healing

For our family, we had our fair share of coping mechanisms. Getting more time to spend with the family and bonding spiritually with daily Bible studies was one of them. Having my husband Z discover his hidden talent for cooking all of his mother’s amazing Singaporean dishes was another.

But one of the most enriching experiences was with our fur kids — our pet giant poodles. We have always been dog lovers but, maybe because we were always at work, we never had the time to fully connect with them. This forced isolation, however, brought a whole new level of life-changing experiences.

In April, one of our baby giant poodles flew in from overseas to join our current brood of dogs. We had two giant poodles, a St. Bernard, an Akita, two Pekingese, a mini Bichon and a Pug. We named the new giant Poodle puppy Oslo and it was like having a new baby in the house. The whole family, especially the kids, would wake up every morning to play with Oslo and give him a big hug.

Newborn puppies London, Zurich, Dublin, Helsinki, Moscow, Lisbon, Milan and Tallinn with the Teo family (from left) Ken, Aivee, Keli, Z and Kenzo: The Teos love traveling so they named their dogs after cities they’ve enjoyed.

Soon, the day’s conversations would be about how baby Oslo was behaving, what he was eating and how he was getting along with all the other fur kids. The children started to take responsibility in helping to care for Oslo and we used this opportunity to teach the kids about being responsible in helping to take of the other fur babies. In a way, these moments helped the time to pass faster and brought us endless joy!

This was not the end, though: a month later, we found out that Paris, our female giant Poodle, was starting to exhibit signs of pregnancy. The kids were so excited and they started to read up on how dogs have puppies and as soon as Paris’s pregnancy was confirmed, the talk at the dinner table was all about how many new puppies she would be having.

We used this time to also reconnect with Z’s brother, who is a veterinarian in Singapore, on tips and advice on dog pregnancy. We learned that the puppies are fully formed after only 60-70 days and that dogs can get pregnant two to three times a year. Just like humans, Paris showed signs of mood swings and was sleeping most of the time. The family rallied around her and made her as comfortable as possible.

The night before she delivered the puppies, the excitement and tension were palpable throughout the family. It felt like we were having kids all over again and our children were going to have new siblings!

Berlin standing tall with Dr. Z: “He thinks he is human.”

The eight puppies, when delivered, brought the whole household to a standstill as everyone became fixated on these eight little rat-like puppies wriggling around the nesting pen. Every day, we would take turns caring for the puppies and it became a daily conversation about naming each one, or choosing which of the cute puppies were our favorites.

As the days went by and the lockdown eased, the puppies became bigger and more independent. As they opened their eyes and started taking their first few steps and seeing the new world around them, I couldn’t help but notice the parallelism between the puppies and our outlook on our current situation. Just like the puppies, we were slowly opening our hearts and minds to new beginnings and taking tentative steps to an unfamiliar environment. Like the new puppies, bridled with a palpable sense of fear but pushing on with faith, we would eventually step out and start afresh with hope.

A fashionably groomed Paris (left) joins Berlin and Oslo, while Dr. Aivee Teo cuddles baby Lisbon.

Our dogs have certainly made our time during COVID an exciting one of new experiences and family bonding taken to a whole new level. In a way, it was therapeutic: their constant smiles and wagging tails were always there to drive the gloom away every single day, especially on stressful and challenging days. Our pets are truly heaven-sent, even more so during this pandemic.

Today, as we sit around the dinner table, watching the family of giant poodles frolic and play together, we cannot help but realize that our family has truly been blessed by the presence of our fur kids.