National athlete Roger Casugay, with his fiancée Lisa, had wanted to start with one dog. “We said we’d take care of one,” he begins, “Just one.”
But as time passed, circumstances changed. Even as Lisa had flown back to the Netherlands, their family continued to grow. From three, they became four, and then only recently, five. As Roger calls them, their children are “Rosa the aspin, our eldest, was our first dog. She’s turning 4 years old. Our second is Ola, a mixed breed of Pitbull and Labrador mom and an American Bulldog Dad. He’s 6 months now. And our youngest, Pablo, a Pitbull, came from a friend. They’re our kids. Our kids!”
On a normal day, Roger wakes up early in the morning, drinks a cup of coffee, and then walks his dogs a full stretch of two kilometers. After, they all go home to eat. He shares that this is all intentional. And that after he spends the morning with his dogs, that’s when his life really starts for the day.
Roger runs his errands as a normal adult by visiting the property where his new home with Lisa is built. He bikes, too, as a way of sneaking in some alone time. “And of course, kapag may alon, I surf,” he says. “Pero kapag wala akong ginagawa, I rush home to walk them again.”
Indeed, Roger Casugay is living in a dog’s world.
In a tight schedule, he walks them all at once. Other days, when he has more time to spare, he gives them one-on-one sessions just because he wants to. “I bond with them every day,” he says matter-of-factly, “and not just every day, but also every night. I sleep with them beside me. We cuddle… All four of us, we’re on the bed.”
There’s a warm feeling you’d get when you picture a grown man cuddling on the bed with his three dogs. But for Roger, it’s just what they do. To him, pets such as dogs are meant to be loved, nurtured, and trained.
Going off-leash on the beach is Roger’s way of building trust with his Rosa, Ola, and Pablo. But at the same time, he puts a cap on the amount of freedom allowed. “I want them to have fun outside and to be able to socialize,” he claims. “I want them to grow up to be healthy, and that’s why we do everything together, even in public places. But if we have to be safe, we’re going to be safe.” So, just like any parent, he listens to his protective instincts and he enforces safety above all else.
The proud father-of-three (dogs) isn’t blind to the realities of raising his children. “We spoil our dogs,” he continues. “We want only the best for them. Kaso yun na nga, raising a dog is expensive. It’s not cheap!”
Dogs can’t speak. They can’t use words to tell you anything. But, thankfully, humans are not the same. In Roger’s case, he’s growing vocal about the misconceptions regarding his Pitbulls. For example, it’s widely believed that Pitbulls are normally dangerous or aggressive.
“They’re not,” he differs. “They’re loyal and protective. And they have to know and feel that you trust them. So you raise them well enough, and they turn out to be great dogs.”
In disproving misconceptions, Roger explains that Pitbulls are loving dogs. As pets, they have humans, and it’s really up to us how we treat them. So, give your dog some kindness, and he or she will give you the world.
“They keep me active. When I’m stressed, they help me calm down. They’re my stress relief. They give me comfort and relaxation.” And as if he could go on and on, he stops. “I’m just thankful that we have them in our lives.”
Hearing Roger talk about Rosa, Ola, and Pablo is similar to hearing a proud father talk about his kids. It’s sweet and touching, yet not uncommon. Here goes a warmth that perhaps all of us are familiar with.
The three undoubtedly have their different traits, so Roger is big on communication. But, he says, “when you don’t give them attention, it hurts them. It makes them feel alone, unwanted, and underappreciated. So, you have to give it to them. Kailangan nila yan.” In the end, solidifying their unique family dynamic makes for a special bond.
Roger says that it’s simple: Loving your dog should be easy, even when things get difficult, when problems arise, or when things go wrong. The most valuable lessons he had learned in raising the three are patience and respect.
“Hindi talaga pwede madaliin, e. You need to do it step by step. Kung mahirap, edi mahirap. But you have to wait for the right time. You have to understand their pacing. You have to discipline them. You have to respect them, and they will respect you.”