by Aisha Rallonza
In a house located in a little subdivision in Marikina City, Arya and Robbin finally settle down and take a seat across from me in the Rallonza household garage. Arya sits proudly, tail wagging with fervor, at odds with her pensive and serious expression—her eyebrows constantly pulled up in something like eternal concern. Robbin, right next to her, has his face completely relaxed—his soft furry folds just asking for squishies, a face crafted from kindness—and together, they paint a delightful contrast. The attentive guard dog and the gentle giant. Two halves of a whole. The parts of the Dynamic Duo.
Arya and Robbin are twins, both chocolate labradors, four years old, taken in from a little shop in Tiendesitas by owners Vene and Mikal Rallonza. Just days after being taken into the family, Arya and Robbin were diagnosed with Canine Parvovirus and entered a battle for their lives. They spent days confined at different veterinary hospitals, days of IV fluids, days of medicine. With admirable strength, they made it out of this ordeal as happy, healthy puppies, but the fact stands that they faced their first and greatest challenge together.
They’ve been inseparable ever since.
“How are you two doing today?” I ask, flipping open my notebook of interview questions. “Anything interesting happen?”
“Mommy and Daddy played basketball with us, this morning!” Arya says enthusiastically, tongue lolling out. “That was really fun!”
“I can’t fit the basketball in my mouth…” Robbin says sullenly.
“You don’t have to fit it in your mouth,” Arya laughs. “You’re just supposed to chase it when they throw it.”
“But imagine chasing it…then putting it in your mouth!”
“It’s too big!”
“Darn…” Robbin ducks his head.
“Other than playing earlier, today has been the usual chill kind of day,” Arya says, the more put together between the two of them. “Of course, this interview is something new.”
“Yeah!” Robbin barks. “Super excited for whatever other questions you have for us!”
“Alright, alright,” I smile. “Let me move on to my next question then. How would you describe your experience working as a therapy dog?”
Both of their tails begin to wag.
“I love it!” Robbin says, smiling dopily. “I get to meet so many new people and give everybody hugs and and and they give me belly rubs and head pats and call me cute and it’s soooooo much fun!”
“I agree with Robbin,” Arya says, a little bit more calmly. “I’m not too much of a hug dog, but it does make me happy to see that we can make humans smile.”
“It’s also so great to be working with Arya,” Robbin bumps against Arya. “See, I’m the huggy one, and she’s the protector. She keeps watch, makes sure that everything is in order and right.”
Arya ducks her head, looking a bit bashful. “I like knowing that everything is going the way it’s supposed to be.”
“And you do a wonderful job at that!”
“You two certainly complement each other,” I nod. These dogs are very different, but they’re different in a way that fits. They’re different in a way that can make other people happy. “Alright, last question. How have you two been doing, during this pandemic?”
“I still don’t really get what that word means. ‘Pandemic.’” Robbin tilts his head. “All I know is that it means Mommy and Daddy are home all the time.”
“It means something bad is happening, Robbin.” Arya says, ears slightly pulled back. “Like how we got sick, before? But humans are getting sick.”
“Oh,” Robbin looks down. “I hope they’re not alone.”
“What do you mean by that?” I ask.
“When Arya and I were sick with Parvo,” Robbin says. “It was really hard, but we had each other. That helps, you know? Not being alone.”
“I think—” Arya muses, looking thoughtful. “—that no creature in this world is meant to be alone. We’re meant to be with others, especially when bad things are happening. We’re meant to reach out and get an answer. We’re meant to help those who are around us, in whatever way we can.”
Arya tilts her head at me. “Does that make sense?”
“It does,” I nod, scribbling her words down onto my notebook. “And I think you’re right.”
“Is the interview done now?” Robbin asks, tail wagging. “Do you wanna play basketball with us?”
I laugh. “Of course. I’d love to.”
Arya and Robbin bark in excitement, jumping as I stand and go to fetch the basketball.
Arya and Robbin, I think as I bounce the basketball around and watch them chase after it gleefully, are two therapy dogs that exemplify the fact that some things are better when you have somebody else to share the load with. Whether that thing is something good or something bad, nobody is meant to be alone.
Want to know more about Arya, Robbin, and their Handlers? Tune in to this week’s Fur Your Information! On August 9, 2020 at 4:00 PM, we’ll be interviewing Vene and Mikal Rallonza!
Aisha Rallonza is a 21 year old Creative Writing major at Ateneo de Manila University. They enjoy collecting marbles, playing with their dogs, and seeing trees. Find more of their writing at birdscreeches.tumblr.com