Thirty-year-old Joni Galeste wears many hats. She is a professional ballet dancer, a musical theater actress, a ballet teacher, an environmentalist (she holds workshops on living a zero waste lifestyle), and a proud pawrent of three dogs and four cats: Dog, Moafy, Tooie, Larry, Benjie, Jerry, and Scooter. The Manileña has a soft spot for abandoned animals, taking in cats and dogs since she was just 12 years old. Joni named her first adopted cat Daisy, who turned out to be male and lived with them for 13 happy years. Her experience with Daisy exposed her to “rescuing more animals, including hand rearing around 20 kittens then rehoming them. As CARA Philippines’ youngest member (back in 2002), I learned the importance of spaying and neutering through the organisation.”
Joni chats with Waldo’s Friends to share her outdoor-loving pooch’s adoption story. She candidly says, “I think having a history of rescuing and rehoming animals gave Dog a chance of finding her forever home because any other person would have just left her because she was ‘just another stray.’”
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did Dog come into your life?
Joni Galeste (JG): Dog followed my fiancé Raffy (ran after seems more like it) all the way home from the Magallanes MRT station after being pet. I remember Raffy calling me, frantically asking what time I’d get home because there was this dog sitting just outside my house in the rain, waiting for him to come out for her again. He claimed he had tried everything to get rid of her. Shooing, running serpentine patterns, hiding. Nothing worked. She just never left his side. I told him I’d be home in bit and that he should just take her inside, dry her up, and feed her.
We honestly had no idea what to do with her. With four other dogs and a few cats at home, we knew we didn’t have the space and time to handle one more, let alone afford it. We initially tried to find her a home so we agreed on calling her “Dog” in the meantime, just so we wouldn’t get attached. Eventually, we ended up adopting her and the name stuck.
WF: What makes Dog unique?
JG: She’s crazy smart, easily trainable, and she’s learned to communicate with us. Dog lets us know when she needs to be let out or when she’s thirsty. She even sighs when I ask her to go to the bathroom for bath time. She rarely barks, and she knows how to put her head through her backpack for her to wear when we climb. Dog’s most unusual habit is that she smiles at us when she knows she’s been naughty. Hahaha!
WF: Do you have any favorite anecdotes about Dog?
JG: Sometimes when she’s sleeping and I tell her to get off the bed, she’ll peek with one eye, slowly close it, pretend to still be asleep, and ignore me.
WF: What are the things Dog enjoys doing with you?
JG: I think she’d love to do everything with me if she could. She just loves tagging along and being with us. She gets so excited every time we ride the car or when we take a jeep or trike to wherever. She also runs alongside me when I bike and she has no trouble keeping up. At the same time, she’s so well-behaved that I can take her to the mall with me and she’ll just patiently wait with me for a few hours while I work or read a book.
WF: Dog’s Instagram account features countless trips you’ve taken together. What would you say are her favorite places to visit? Is she more of a mountain girl or a beach babe?
JG: I’m not sure which she enjoys more because she shows the same level of excitement every time she sees her leash, backpack, crate, or the car. I think she just really likes going out in general. Hahaha!
WF: How do you ensure that outdoor hikes and beach runs are safe for your dogs?
JG: Make sure that you know your dogs. If they’re known to bolt and run away, best to keep them on leash. If they aren’t athletic or they overheat fast, make sure that the place isn’t under direct heat and that there’s always water available for them to drink or a cooling pad for their bodies. If they’re known to be mouthy, keep watch because they might ingest something they shouldn’t. It’s really about knowing your dogs and learning how to read them for needs they might have.
WF: Any tips for pet owners who plan to take their dogs traveling for the first time? How can they encourage their pets that aren’t as brave as Dog?
JG: Get them used to short trips first. If they’re scared of the sound of cars, best to keep walking them until the streets get busier so they become desensitised. It’s really about getting them used to different activities and making it enjoyable for them so they look forward to these activities instead of being anxious about them.
WF: With seven pets living under one roof, how do you make sure all the animals coexist peacefully?
JG: I think proper socialising and making sure they all know who the alpha is are essential. We talk to our pets a lot so they understand commands, and they know when we mean business whenever they get too rowdy. It helps that there’s a connection between all of us and that they understand me as well.
WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time adopters? What about to those adding a new pet to their existing brood?
JG: The best and most important tip I can give would probably be to train them early. Having a well-mannered dog you can take anywhere is so convenient.
For those adding a new one, best to figure out which part of the bed the new addition is gonna sleep in. Hahaha!
WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals?
JG: Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized annually. You can save a life by adopting instead of buying. Every time we adopt an animal, it also frees up new space at a shelter for another stray. Most of the time they’re also already well socialised because they’re in a shelter with other animals. Plus, I noticed that adopted dogs are the sweetest because they have a lot more love and gratitude in them.
WF: How has your life changed after adopting Dog?
JG: She makes me braver. Being a girl, there were always a bunch of things we were told to do or not do. Do not be too vocal of opinions, sit more ladylike, don’t go off on adventures alone, don’t wear skimpy outfits, etc. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we are not capable of doing certain things because we are girls. My whole life I’ve fought against the stigma that girls have to act a certain way. My whole life, I’ve had to defend my fire, always trying to prove that I am just as brave, independent, and strong as others. But just like anyone who consciously puts up a fight, it gets tiring.
This is where Dog comes in. One too many times we’ve heard, “She’s just a mutt.” Or “Why do you treat her like a purebred?” On too many occasions, we’ve had to prove that she is not just as good, but even better than most purebred dogs out there. She’s intelligent, courageous, curious, and obedient. She has a mind of her own, but when she’s being stubborn, she’ll give in if I say, “Pleeeeease???” Hahaha! Some people wonder why we fight so hard when we can just be. Some people wonder why we travel together, go out, do things, and post about it.
Well… We do it because we can! I post about it so others realise that they can as well. We will keep doing what we do until all women and mongrels are never viewed as “less.” Beyond the labels and beyond what they think we are, Dog reminds me how to live life and how to be unapologetic about who I am.
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