Last Saturday morning at around 7 o’clock, Ah Kong’s eldest son, Bismarck, Public Information Officer (PIO) of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency – Region 1 (PDEA-R 1) approached and spoke in measured tones, “Pa, where will Crom be buried?” Hearing his son, he felt punched hard in the stomach.

Ah, then finally realized the end came for Crom. Much as he and his family wished Crom’s agony could have ended early, but when it came, Ah couldn’t totally accept the circumstance.

More than 40 years living with a life-time companion who devoted loyalty to Ah’s family is a matter not easily filed away. Crom’s loyalty wasn’t loyalty for favorable occasions that strips loyalty of its nobility. No, Crom’s loyalty to Ah’s family was simple, yet true to form.

That Friday, Crom continuously moaned his pain into the night.  Ravages of time and ailment wracked his frail body.

One time, Ah, desperate, decided to end Crom’s suffering. But Bismarck prevailed upon his father. Instead, he accompanied Crom for surgical operation for removal of a large mass that grew on his right side. After operation, his pain subsided. But it recurred again.

Weakened by age, Crom could hardly stand and needed help to right himself.   He was aged more than 40 years old.

It was a painful Friday night for Ah’s family, hearing Crom whimpering helplessly with pain. So in the dead of night, Father Time took matters into his own hands, calmed the waters for Crom and gently took him in his arms.

Crom is survived by none. His parents, brothers and sisters have died a long time ago. You can say that he is survived by Ah and family.

When Crom was merely four months old, Ah named him Crom, after the god of the Hyborian Age in Norse mythology and depicted in the series, Conan the Barbarian.

As youngster, Crom showed a stoical nature. When injured, from foolish melees if only to prove his maleness, he’d sulk in corners to lick his wounds, silent when probed what happened.

If they tried to clean, cure and dress Crom’s wounds, he’ d purse his lips, telling Ah’s family, “Aw, c’mon guys, it’s merely a scratch, que sera, sera.” (What will be, will be.)

Crom had a wild streak, kept in check by Ah’s family, but which surfaces when Crom felt Ah’s family was threatened. He’ll only calm down when assured no danger lurked in their home.

You can say that, like Ah, Crom’s life was full of incident and less of accomplishment. He developed a curious habit of staying nearby, listening when people visited Ah’s family, forcing Ah to suspect Crom mastered the Ilokano language spoken at Ah’s home. When visitors leave, Crom rises, dismisses them with a yawn.

Oh yes, Crom was a highly opinionated “son of a bitch” when it came to visitors or strangers, regarded them as outright intruders, even as   Ah’s family shooed him away and told him to mind his own damn business.

But there’s one characteristic of Crom that defied the odds: his unquestioned fealty to Ah’s family, as if all of them came from his own blood, most generous and uncomplicated effort that came only from Crom.

Crom’s loyalty was measured by a parameter that if only he could talk, Ah’s secrets will forever be unrevealed.

Twice, he was incarcerated. The first, he was spotted loitering on the streets like a homeless vagabond and was nabbed by employees of the Baguio City Veterinarian’s Office, under Dr. Bridget Pogeyed.

Ah appeared before his old friend, our City Veterinarian, exchanged pleasantries with Dr. Bridget Pogeyed and paid the fine for Crom’s liberty.

When Crom saw Ah coming for him at the Baguio City Pound, Crom knew he was being freed, his bail paid and, like a maniac, howled, “Ha-ha, I knew all along, you, Ah, having the blackest of conscience, but by golly, you wouldn’t abandon an imprisoned friend!”

Ah laughed at Crom and hissed, “How does it feel getting cooped for a while, my drifter friend?”

On his second detention at the Baguio City Pound, mebbeso, Crom wanted to be nabbed the second time to assure himself that his brain was working properly, compared to Ah, whose brain was addled.

As Crom became an elder, Ah felt Crom will leave a shadow imprinting on Ah’s family, shaping who’ll they become, like characters from a diary.

Crom, however, was leaving with paw prints like dances of moonlight on their souls and lives, unique as fingerprints in every way with messages that will shape their outlook on other living creatures.  It is Crom’s legacy.

In many –if not all – households, dogs are embraced as actual family members, so death of a family dog can be hurting. Ah’s family will forever be grateful to Crom – their family dog, an askal (dog street) but whose intelligence surpasses those with   foreign breed –  who gave his life and love for them.

When Bismarck asked where to bury Crom, Ah told his son, “There, in our lawn where the sun rises on him every morning, not ever at our backyard.”

Bismarck swiftly dug a grave, carried Crom, gently laid him in the ground and covered him. Sensing his father’s faraway look over the grave of Crom, his personal friend, Bismarck swiftly departed, allowing his pa, solace.

Heaven judges by what we do on earth. If it went by merit, Ah knows he’ll be ruled out from entering the Pearly Gates, while Crom surely gains passage.

Crom’s eating bowl is still with us, his bed space still there, smell of him strong. Crom, himself, though, is gone forever. Ah felt there’ll never be a dog like Crom.

They’re little reminders of Crom, a black dog with a pure heart, who infiltrated Ah’s life and taught Ah that a human’s other side can be gauged by how he/she treats fellow animals.