A walk with Duke

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By Richard Nollen

All that fits

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

IT’S not every day that we get to experience being needed. When to care becomes one’s deepest longing. How doing things for others could feel like drinking ice-cold water on a hot day.

With everything and anything, a simple gesture of appreciation could mean the world to somebody. That strong sense of mutual respect and trust can stimulate happy hormone-secreting cells leaving the stresses of the day powerless. And would you be surprised if such emotions were generated by the mere presence of a non-human family member? Or at least in my case.

It was in November 2012 when I first held Duke in my arms. Back then, he only weighed around three kilograms. I could remember feeling his heartbeat as I drew him closer to me. In him, I sensed both doldrums and excitement. His body spoke of a language of fragility and hesitations – mixed emotions that were too powerful to ignore.


Those few hours were a struggle but I realized that as a pup, he had his own rules to follow. I was too quick to want to establish a strong connection with him that such a thing in the eyes of a puppy could be an inconvenient imposition.

So, I allowed him to explore his newfound home—my home. He sniffed around without a single corner left unexplored. I had barely allowed myself to move. I didn’t want to send any signal that would make the “little one” uneasy. At that time, I was a mere observer. When he was done, he came to me on his own as if he wanted to tell me that it was all he needed to know – he’s in a safe environment.

Duke’s adorable face, proportioned body built, big paws and strong hind legs are just some of his notable features that made him become an instant “rock star” among my colleagues. He wags his tail profusely so that everyone notices him. He immediately lies down on his back in the presence of a stranger – an invitation for a unique bonding moment: tummy scratching.

His signature smile that runs through the brim of his eyes makes anyone go “awwww” effortlessly. True to his temperament, he is a natural people-pleaser, a “hug machine” as someone had said. In my busy world running organizations here and there, Duke turns out to be a constant cost-effective stress reliever. He keeps me grounded. He changes the way I perceive health in a broader spectrum.

All That Fits puts high regard on who we are in the presence of a colleague, a pet, a lover, a tree or just about anything. It speaks heavy on life’s realizations – those that keep us physically, mentally, socially and spiritually sound and fit.

It will attempt to discuss community engagements, business matters, food trips and whatever it is that affects our well-being. After all, we are mutually interdependent individuals whose health is influenced by various factors.

All That Fits’s maiden issue is just about that and more. And today, we will look at the health implications of having a dog companion.


Walking is an effective way to burn calories and increase metabolism. It also promotes circulation and muscle contour. On top of these, walking gives us an opportunity to better appreciate our environment—breathing in and breathing out the joys and pains of life. Imagine, walking with a dog that breaks your routine at the park each time. It always doubles the fun!


Duke’s goofy facial expressions are just hilarious. Sometimes he inadvertently rolls his eyes like a person who doesn’t care. Other times, he sticks his tongue out with his eyes fixed on it. On a given day, he mimics an angry cat when I run the tip of my fingers across his face. I won’t fully comprehend how these behaviors came about and what they really mean, but I am certain of one thing— they are a gift to make me laugh and forget about my troubles even just for a while.


MindBodyGreen.com mentions that “hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation and anger,” and we need eight hugs every day.

Duke is a hug machine. In so many occasions, he seemed to know what I was thinking or feeling. He would just come and sit in front of me when I’m worried about a lot of things. He may not fully understand what I was going through but hugging him discharges me of unnecessary burdens.

I guess, this can explain why in spite of the many work-related stressors I am faced with each day, I still manage to tough things out with so much positivity. Life can be so much full of surprises and where we draw inspiration from is just a proof of it.

In November last year over cups of coffee, Ms. Rose Pagnamitan, my former college professor, and I thought of establishingan organization that would serve the Filipino youth. She wanted a program that would rekindle the love for books and reading among recipients. I wanted one that’s geared towards helping the out-of-school youth finish their education. We fused our concepts.

Today, the “mini-project” has become a movement. Currently, it has served the communities of Pasig and Balanga and has a growing presence in Mandaluyong,Taguig, Makati and the provinces of Quezon and Capiz. And guess what? We named it after Duke.

Of all the things that Duke taught me about life, there is one that I would never forget: You can never expect good results if you’re barking up the wrong tree.*

Richard Nollen is a registered nurse and an entrepreneur. He designs and implements healthcare programs for communities and non-government organizations. He is the founder of several organizations such as Bodato Burgers, IdeaCube, TAG and Project DUKE. A tough-minded optimist, Richard believes that when one offers a hand to a deserving member of a family, an out-of-school youth, he would not just be able to change the person's fate but the destiny of his household, of the nation. Email him at portal_rpn@yahoo.com.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 26, 2014.


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