CEBU CITY, Philippines – Today, April 4, the world celebrates Stray Animals Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of abandoned and neglected animals.
One heartwarming story that exemplifies the love and compassion for our furry friends comes from Victor Diaz, also known as Tatay, a 68-year-old native of Davao City who moved to Cebu in 2014 in search of a better life.
Tatay ended up selling items such as candies, water, and salted peanuts on the streets near Cebu City Hall and Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño just to make ends meet.
Tatay lives alone in Cebu, far away from his loved ones who reside in Mindanao. With no one to share his days with, he often returns home to an empty house.
But his heart was touched when he laid his eyes on an impounded stray puppy that was among the many puppies displayed for adoption at the Cebu City Hall grounds in 2018.
He knew in his heart that he had to take this white puppy home. He eventually named him Elvis, after his favorite singer Elvis Presley.
Even though Elvis was thin and had skin problems, Tatay didn’t care. He saw something special in the puppy that no one else did. No one had adopted Elvis because of his condition, but Tatay looked beyond that.
From that moment on, Tatay and Elvis became inseparable.
Elvis has grown to be a handsome dog and has become Tatay’s constant companion, waiting patiently for his arrival every day.
Now, Tatay has a reason to look forward to going home every night. His loneliness has been replaced by the love and affection he receives from Elvis. Their bond grows stronger with each passing day, and Tatay knows that he has found a lifelong friend in his beloved dog.
In 2021, Tatay’s heart was touched by the plight of another stray, Marikit, who belonged to a fellow vendor. Unfortunately, the vendor passed away, and Marikit was left alone and waiting for her master to return.
Tatay couldn’t bear seeing her waiting on the roadside and decided to adopt her too, even though his landlord was against it.
Tatay’s love for dogs didn’t end there. Despite his struggles, he still feeds the community dogs in the area. In January 2023, one of Tatay’s beloved community dogs, Kibol, fell ill. Tatay noticed a hematoma on the left side of Kibol’s body, which, he initially suspected, was caused by a blunt object. The situation left Tatay feeling heartbroken since he couldn’t afford to bring Kibol to a veterinarian.
Fortunately, Happy Tails Phils. Inc., a non-profit rescue organization, came to the rescue. They authorized Kibol’s treatment at a clinic under their account. After a few days, Kibol was discharged from the clinic, and Dr. Ryan Yandug, the attending veterinarian, explained that the swelling may have been caused by bleeding underneath Kibol’s skin due to tick-borne diseases.
To treat Kibol, Dr. Yandug performed surgery to remove the fluid and accumulated blood. Since Kibol was still under medication, he could not be brought back to the street right away. Happy Tails provided shelter for Kibol at their facility, Happy Home, in Barangay Lahug.
Tatay personally brought Kibol to his new temporary home. However, after a couple of days, Happy Tails founder Hazel Aguisanda said Kibol was constantly barking and restless. It seemed like Kibol was missing Tatay terribly, but Tatay couldn’t bring him back home because his landlord would not allow him.
Tatay was heartbroken and didn’t know what to do, but Happy Tails again stepped in to help.
They rented a bigger place for Tatay, which allowed pets, and was also closer to Hazel’s house, so she could check on Tatay and the dogs regularly. With the help of his friends, Tatay moved into the new place, and he was overjoyed to be reunited with Kibol. Kibol, in turn, was ecstatic to see Tatay again.
“Pasalamat kaayo ko ni Mam Hazel nga magkauban na gyud mi sa akong mga iro unya nindot pa gyud ni akong gipuy-an karon,” a teary-eyed Tatay said. (I really thank mam Hazel that I am able to be with my dogs and also the place I live in now is nice.)
Aguisanda said she did not hesitate to help Tatay because she knows he is alone and she appreciates his love and affection for dogs.
“Although our advocacy is focused on animals, there will be situations where our rescue efforts impact both animals and humans. We are glad to do this for Tatay and his fur family,” Aguisanda said.
Now, Tatay’s dogs are fully vaccinated, again through the efforts of Happy Tails Phils Inc.
Tatay continues to sell food stuff and water as well as feed his community dogs in the Sto. Niño area. Recently, one of his community dogs named Buddy gave birth and Tatay brought her and the puppies to his home to keep them safe from the dangers of the streets.
Tatay’s story is a testament to the power of love and compassion, and it serves as a reminder that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the lives of animals.
May Tatay’s story be an inspiration to all to do our part to raise awareness and take action to help stray animals in need.