HomePositive LivingMeet Barako, The Adorable Aspin Who Prays Before Mealtime–And His Friends!

Meet Barako, The Adorable Aspin Who Prays Before Mealtime–And His Friends!

All credit goes to the love and training of Barako’s human, Fernando Bote Jr.

We love a good pet story just like anybody. So when we chanced upon a news clip of 3-year-old aspin Barako bowing his head to pray before mealtime, we sighed a collective “awwww” and contacted his human, Fernando Bote Jr.  In a phone interview with My Pope Philippines, Fernan told us all we needed to know about Barako and any other fur babies of his kind.

Turns out he has six more—Milky, Viva, Cherry, Iron, Clear, and Bronze. (Another dog, Copper, died of parvovirus in August.) Barako, who caught dog lovers’ attention with his cute tricks (from jumping through a hoop to making mano), was sired by Viva, who is the offspring of 13-year-old Milky. Milky was just a month and a half old when she was given to Fernan as a present by a kumpadre. (Read: 5 Prayers of Blessing for Beloved Pets and Animals)

Though Milky was his first student, Fernan was busy with his work in construction at the time and didn’t post any of her videos online. When he lost his job during the pandemic, he spent the downtime creating content on Barako. A little over a year later, the Facebook page Barako’s Friendship has over 5,000 followers, while the YouTube channel Barako Family has close to 3,000 subscribers and over 1.1 million views.   

For someone whose trains his dogs by talking to them like humans, Fernan appears to have found an effective technique. There’s a clip of Barako playing a game of Guess Which Hand? (as three dogs lie peacefully on the side). And how about that video of Barako and company displaying the height of restraint as they wait for Fernan to give them the go signal to eat? Impressive! (Read: DIY Home Remedies to Keep You and Your Pets Cool This Summer)

But if his simple technique works it’s also because the dogs know they are loved. Just look at the way Fernan showers them with affection—there’s no faking that. 

My Pope Philippines chats with Fernan about the beauty of owning an aspin and how these dogs have enhanced his life.  

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A house is not a home without a dog: Fernan Bote Jr. and his wife Lala treat their dogs like family. (Photo courtesy of subject)

Your dogs are so well behaved! What technique do you use to train them?

[Laughs] Nagtataka din po ako kasi wala naman po akong technique. Kung baga kinakausap ko lang po sila na parang tao at kasama dito sa bahay. ‘Yun po. Lahat po ng sinasabi ko nagkaintindihan po kami. ‘Pag sinasaway ko, tumitigil sila. ‘Pag sinabi ko ‘wag niyong gawin iyan, hindi nila ginagawa.

How long does it take for a dog to learn a trick?

Madali lang po. ‘Pag madaling maka-pickup ang aso, siguro oras o mga araw lang po. Ang sistema ko po kasi ‘pag oras na marunong na sila sa simpleng talent, natututunan na po nila ‘yung iba. (Read: ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ Like These Four Celebrities and Their Shelter Pets)

Have you received requests from people to train their dogs?

Opo marami pong nagtatanong kung nagte-train ako ng aso, sabi ko po wala po akong experience sa pagte-train ng ibang breed. Sabi ko ‘yung alam ko lang po ‘yung pambahay lang po, pang sariling kaalaman ko lang.

Lalo na ‘pag may edad na po ang aso, mahirap turuan. Ako kasi po, ‘pag magtrain, tuta pa lang po ang aso. Two months pa lang nagstart na po kami sa apir (high five), upo (sit), higa (lie down), tahol (bark). Mga basic lang po.

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Fernan Bote Jr. has been a dog lover since he was a child. “Hindi po ako naghahanga ng material na bagay. ‘Yung hangad lang po namin makapagbigay ng konting kasiyahan at inspirasyon.” (Photo courtesy of subject)

You’ve also been receiving dog food from fans.

Meron po lagi nagpapadala ng pagkain, ‘yung mga natutuwa po sa kanila. Nahihiya nga po ako kasi hindi po ako sanay sa ganoon, hindi ko po alam na ganoon ‘yung kalakaran—na ‘pag may natuwa, nagpapadala sila ng pagkain.

‘Yung hangad lang po namin makapagbigay ng konting kasiyahan at inspirasyon. Hindi po ako naghahanga ng material na bagay. [Fernan politely declines gifts of dog food as Barakao and the gang eat table food—chicken, fish, rice, and vegetables.]

How long have you been caring for dogs?

Simula po nung pagkabata ko. Dati po kasi uso sa probinsiya ‘yung nagbebenta ng aso. Naranasan ko po ‘yan. Mga 7 taong gulang po ako, may alaga akong aso na mahal na mahal ko. Pero dala sa hirap ng buhay, nabenta po ng nanay ko. Wala na po ako magagawa kasi talagang mahirap ang buhay namin dati. (Read: Prayers of St. Francis of Assisi for Beloved Animals)

 Sabi ng nanay ko, “Hayaan mo na ‘yan, aso lang ‘yan.” Hindi talaga nawawala sa mindset ng tao naaso lang ‘yan.”

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Fernan Bote Jr doesn’t just talk to his dogs like people, he treats them like people too. Here he is with them fast asleep. (Photo courtesy of subject)

From your experience, what is the beauty of owning an aspin?

Para po sa akin, napaka-loyal ng aspin. Sabi ng mga matatanda ‘pag pinakain mo ang aso sa kamay mo, madali silang tumanaw ng utang na loob. Naranasan ko po ‘yan, ang aspin kaya po kayong ipagtanggol. ‘Pag alam nila na may gagawa sa iyo ng masama, mauuna pa sila mag-action.

How have your dogs changed your life?

Siguro po confidence ko sa sarili, kung baga nadagdagan po. Naging proud, kasi sa kabila ng ginagawa ko, may natututunan sina Barako tsaka nakapagpasaya kami ng tao.–≠