Among the De Leon family’s four adopted dogs, it was their Labrador Retriever who barked the loudest. He’d bark excitedly at the slightest sound of a leash, for example—it would mean it’s time for a walk.
Early this year, the De Leons started a ritual of walking their pets in the afternoon. So once the clock hits 5PM, their Labrador Retriever would start to bark incessantly, like clockwork, as if telling anyone who cared to listen, ‘Come on. Let’s go.’ “He can bark, like, 30 minutes straight with a few pauses in between,” Denise Roco-de Leon shares with ANCX. Because of that reverberating sound he makes, the family named him after Italian operatic tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. They called him Pav for short.
The De Leons have become so accustomed to the sound of Pav’s powerful barks, but on the afternoon of March 12, Friday, there was something different. Pav’s bark was unusually loud, as if alerting everyone to potential danger.
The household’s three other dogs—Axl Rose the Golden Retriever, and the aspins Britney Spears and Sophie Ellis-Bextor—were also barking as loud as they could. Still, Pav’s bark drowned theirs. “That was the loudest we’ve ever heard [Pav] bark,” recalls Denise, who’s had Pav since 2013. “It sounded different, like something was wrong.”
Responding to the extraordinary noise, Denise’s husband, JC, immediately went to their garage where the dogs were staying. Denise and their son followed him. That’s when they realized that a cobra had entered their premises. They found Pav bravely fighting off the reptile. JC hurried back inside the house to get a bolo and a paddle. The cobra had already received several blows from Pav, but JC was able to swiftly subdue the intruding reptile.
CCTV footage would later reveal all four dogs ganged up on the snake, but the two aspins (medium and small in size) slowly backed off seeing that the opponent was formidable, Denise relates. “Only Pav was attacking at the forefront with Axl Rose, the Golden Retriever, at his side as backup,” she adds.
After the De Leons confirmed the snake was dead, they noticed the blood on Pav’s eyes. “The snake possibly spat venom on his eyes,” says Denise.
“[Pav] entered pa the house, he was still walking. But after a few minutes, he just laid down,” she continues, a mild whimpering accompanying her words.
They immediately rushed Pav to a clinic, but it was already too late. The De Leons were heartbroken. “You sacrificed your life for ours. How can we repay you now that you’re gone?” Denise wrote on her Facebook page. “It could’ve been me or any of my family. Thankfully your fight was not in vain.”
The De Leons adopted Pav from a family who got a Labrador for their four-year-old daughter. It soon turned out the kid was allergic to the Lab so the parents decided to offer him up for adoption. “Pav was a surprise gift to me by my boyfriend, now husband JC, to console me on the death of my first dog, Siouxsie Sioux,” says Denise.
“When JC told me, ‘I got you a Lab, he’s only five months,’ I thought he was tiny, a new baby I could carry. Turned out, he was humongous and couldn’t even fit the dog kennel!” Denise remembers. “And when I first met him, I was not only stunned by the size but by his enormous voice. I think I felt the ground tremble with every bark. It was intimidating at first.”
But Pav, she later realized, was a gentle giant.
“He’s super loyal, super gentle. I tried to tell him to fight back when the other dogs eat the food on his plate but he just let them,” says Denise. Pav was also quite clingy. “Wherever we’d walk, he’d follow our steps. He’ll stay beside you and stay with you literally—and figuratively.”
Since that night they lost Pav, there is notable silence in the De Leon household. Every member of the family miss Pav’s barks, especially at 5PM, the time for his afternoon walk. “You can bark all you want in Doggie Heaven, Pav!” Denise wrote on her farewell tribute to the dog who gave up his life to save theirs. “You can bark loud enough, so we can hear you from down here.”