100422_marrying_a_pet_owner_main.jpgMarrying a pet owner means marrying into a family of sorts. Sometimes a person marries a dog owner and the next thing he knows, he shares the new roof over his head with Bantay—and if he’s lucky, both Dog Owner and Bantay welcome him into the fold. Mr. or Ms. Dog Owner has always been Bantay’s parent, and the new wife or husband is now, well, like a stepparent. It’s not actually a bad thing, except of course if you’re allergic to dogs, literally or figuratively.

The day before my husband and I got married, we were scrambling to find a barong for our shih tzu named Papi (how he got his name is another story altogether—and no, it had nothing to do with Willie Revillame). Call it cramming—we already knew there were doggie formal wear available at Pet Express in SM Cubao, but we were rarely in the area so we looked at pet shops near where we worked first. No such luck, though, so right before I checked in at the hotel I booked for my bridal preparations, we drove to Cubao just to buy Papi’s barong. He wasn’t exactly a bearer for the ceremony—but only because our church wouldn’t allow it—but we wanted him to look his best on that important day.

Papi has always been a very special part of our relationship. My husband and I got him about five years into our boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and though I’ve never said this aloud, I know Papi has made our bond stronger. Arguments fizzle out when he comes up to one of us, almost knowingly, with his puppy-dog eyes. Countless private jokes make us closer, at the expense of Papi, the ultimate punch line. And witnessing each other take care of the little furball gives us the feeling that, hey, maybe we can be decent parents in the future after all.

I remember Jennifer Aniston’s role’s eulogy for Marley in the film Marley and Me: she mentioned that even before she and her husband had their first child, they were already a family with Marley in the picture. Needless to say, I tried very hard not to cry while watching the movie. My husband, on the other hand, said that he was thinking bad thoughts—like Papi taking a crap on the sofa—just so he wouldn’t give in to shedding a single tear.

My husband, Papi—that’s my family, for now.

I suppose our dynamics would’ve been a whole lot different if we didn’t get Papi as a couple. One of us could’ve been the outsider to this puppy-plus-human-parent relationship. But even if that were the case and I were the outsider, it’s not impossible to adjust to, nay, love being part of this family. Marrying someone means accepting everything about that person—and if you can fall head over heels over someone despite his flaws and the trials you’ve been through, learning to love and care for his or her cute little dog who can love you unconditionally shouldn’t be that difficult at all.

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