#CDNMayForever: Of Dogs and Cats
While couples on Valentine’s Day may be busy dining in the city’s fanciest restaurants, watching the latest Hollywood films, or just “Netflix-and-chilling” at home, Annalyn Aizpuru will be out on the streets feeding stray dogs just like any other day.
Handing out scraps from restaurants to these homeless animals around the Panagdait area, which is bordered by the cities of Mandaue and Cebu, has been her daily tradition since she relocated for work here in 2005.
“The moment they see me approach, they all get excited. That’s one thing I really love about what I do,” the 50-year-old Bacolod native told Cebu Daily News.
Aizpuru has been an animal advocate for over 30 years, owing to her family’s love for all kinds of creatures, whether big or small.
Her father, four siblings, nephews and nieces, as well as aunties and uncles all share the same affection for animals, which she said influenced her to become who she is today.
Originally from Bacolod City and a business management graduate, Aizpuru moved to Manila to work as manager of a tin can manufacturing company in 1986.
She was then relocated to Cebu in 2005, managing the company’s operations in Mandaue City.
Aizpuru got married here, got separated, and has been single since 2008.
Since then, the animals she feeds on the streets as well as the ones she takes care of in her home and in her office have been her Valentine’s Day companions.
This lady may have been single on ‘heart’s day” all these years, but never has she felt alone or lonely.
She currently has 18 cats and two dogs at home as well as nine cats and one dog within her office compound, which is a haven for homeless animals that may come in and out as they please for food, water, or temporary shelter.
In 2011, Aizpuru became a member of Island Rescue Organization (IRO), a Cebu-based volunteer group dedicated to helping animals in the region through rescue operations as well as education and advocacy programs.
Established in 2010, IRO will be celebrating its seventh anniversary this year.
Aizpuru became a part of IRO’s core group the same year she joined and after one year, became IRO’s treasurer.
In 2013, she became the organization’s president and served until November of last year. She is currently head of rescue operations.
Before she joined the organization, she was already satisfied with just feeding stray animals on the streets.
All of this changed when she realized the suffering neglected and abused animals go through during the rescue operations she participated in.
Aizpuru said one has to be emotionally strong to be fit for the group’s rescue team, explaining that seeing the plight of animals being saved from their predicaments will take a toll on one’s emotional well-being.
She recalled having rescued in 2011 an “aspins” (asong pinoy or mongrel) lying on the gutter of a subdivision in Mandaue City, its brown-and-white body caked in dried, black blood, with flies hovering over his head.
“Vincent, named after the place where we found him, was run over by a car, got shot, and was left to die on the gutter. He was there for days, rain or shine, without food and water,” Aizpuru recounted, holding back her tears as she spoke.
She said she would consider herself “strong,” but this was among the few rescue operations she could remember that made her cry.
IRO took Vincent in, nursed him back to health, and gave him up for adoption to a loving family in 2012, Aizpuru said.
“Every day, you see the suffering of animals, and sometimes, it’s worse than what people go through. That’s when I decided to focus on advocating the Animal Welfare Act, to educate people to be responsible pet owners, and not to abuse animals. These creatures all have a place in this world,” she added.
Her favorite thing about being in IRO is that she learns every day, not just about people, but mostly about animals.
She said she learned that no matter how much abuse, torture, or neglect animals go through, they never take it against a person.
“They are always grateful. They are unlike people whom you feed and complain when you turn away. When you give love to animals, they will remember you all their life,” said Aizpuru.
Since the animal lover doesn’t have any children, she considers her cats and dogs her babies.
Her love for animals, she extends to others through education such as the case with personnel of the Cebu City Pound and Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) whom she trained on how to rescue animals during calamities.
In 2013, she also organized a two-day fair for “puspins” (pusang pinoy) in a mall in Mandaue City and organized a Stray Feeding Program in Cebu held on April 4 each year.
Determined to be the voice of animals in the region, Aizpuru said she sees herself doing the things she does now even when she is gray and old.
“Of course I’ll still be doing it in years to come. I’m single because of my babies,” she said in jest, when asked whether she plans to make her advocacy a lifetime venture.
When her time comes, she said she would not feel sad because all her pets who had passed on before her would greet her on the “rainbow bridge.”
Aizpuru said the world needs more people that are passionate about animals, adding that her organization was open to welcoming more volunteers.
She also advised against buying dogs or cats, but encouraged those wanting to have pets to adopt.
“Adopt, don’t shop. All these stray dogs and cats also deserve a forever home,” said Aizpuru.
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