This is How a Filipino Sold a Dog For P1-Million
Choose Philippines | June 09, 2020
Story by Cris Zuniga
Photos Courtesy of John Enerva
PANGASINAN –If given the means, would you buy a dog worth a million pesos? This is the epic story of a dog breeder in Pangasinan who once sold an American Bully worth a fortune. Unbelievable? That’s the common reaction of everyone. Even I thought it was crazy until I met “the man” himself.
I am referring to the American Bully Philippines Club “Dogman” of the year recipient and Dog show International Judge John Enerva. John hailed from Binmaley town and was an employee in a Customer Service and Marketing Corporation before focusing full-time on dog breeding at the age of 33. He juggled a stable job as Product Distribution Head in Luzon as he chased his hobby to breed dogs. “Ever since bata pa ako mahilig na ako sa aso. Pero noon namamatay lahat ng mga alaga ko. Sabi ng mga matatanda sa Pangasinan, cursed daw ako at hindi makakapag-alaga ng aso (I loved dogs since I was a kid but all my pets died then. The elderly in Pangasinan said I was cursed and couldn't take care of dogs.),” he said. He was challenged and tried to breed Rottweilers – a medium-to-large size dog originating from Germany used for herding and cart-pulling. He also bred Pitbulls but eventually fell in love with the American bully breed.
RAGNAR THE BULLY
The American Bully is a companion dog that originated in the United States in 2004 and became popular in the Philippines in 2014. Bullies may look heavily muscular and intimidating, but they are friendly and naturally not aggressive dogs. These are the reasons why John opted to have an American Bully. “Iyong wow factor, yung kanilang appearance na sobrang macho parang nakakatukso... pero once na may-ari ka na ng American Bully sobrang lambing nila (Their wow factor is their macho appearance that tempts you, but once you have an American Bully you'll find their actually very sweet.),” John said.
Bullies also come in different variants to fit any lifestyle and preference of the owner or breeder: the Standard, Classic, Pocket, and XLtypes. John, however, set the standard after he produced the pocket-type bully “Ragnar.” John considers Ragnar as his pinnacle of success in breeding by far. A Male Black Tri-color pocket bully with a height of 15 inches from toes to withers, weighing 36 kilograms, and a headpiece as the size of a waistline, you can compare him to a bodybuilder or a wrestler dog. These features caught the attention of a Chinese businessman who eventually bought Ragnar for more than P1 Million 4 years ago. “Yes, it’s crazy but some people have a different appreciation for dogs,” John said.
STUDENT OF THE GAME
Aside from a passion for dogs, John confesses that it is all a combination of luck and taking a leap of fate. "Nakipagsapalaran akong bumili ng female dog sa America. Yung binilhan ko hindi ko naman kilala, nakilala ko lang sa transaction. He is a Mexican-American. (I took the risk to buy a female dog in America. I haven't met the seller until the transaction was made.),” John said. By that time, one of the known American Bully in the United States was “Phenom.” The dog was so popular he has his own social media fan page and became a trending topic in the bully world when he died last year. Fortunately, his female dog was able to breed with Phenom before she was transported to the Philippines to give birth to Ragnar. “Basically ang ginawa mo doon, you bought a female, you paid, you trusted, you took the risk. Nagpa-stud ka, you pay again plus shipping pa, so, ang laki ng risk sa akin but it paid off (Basically what happened is you bought a female dog, you paid, you trusted, you took the risk. Have her studded, you pay again the shipping fee, the risk was big but it paid off,)" John said.
From then, he became a student of the game, trying to apply reverse engineering in breeding dogs. “Alamin mo ang ancestors (of the dog) at kailangan reliable ang pedigree na binabasa mo (Learn the ancestors of the dog, the pedigree has to be reliable),” he added. After years of hard work and experience, he turned the hobby into a full-time business.
FROM HOBBY TO BUSINESS
Ragnar surely put John in the map of the “Bully World”. He became the founder of the American Bully Kennel Club or ABKC in the Philippines with more than 20, 000 members and became Senior Judge for local and international dog shows. Aside from this, he is still producing quality dogs whose monetary worth speaks for itself. A 3-month old pup from his brood can command a 6 digit price tag at the very least, with higher prices for more premium pups, depending on gender and potential. “Yung price may pinanggalingan iyon, quality at may branding…I was able to get the trust and respect of the community through my actions and productions (The price is caused by the quality and branding),” he explained.
The high price tag of these premium dog breeds is one of the reasons why breeding an American Bully, or any breed for that matter, became a fad to many sought to exploit breeding as a business opportunity, giving rise to a number of unfortunate canine cases.
Recently, the Animal Kingdom Foundation in Tarlac accounted for more than a hundred dogs they have rescued from many forms of abuse, including the “Aspin” subject for the dog meat trade and those with breeds abandoned by their previous owners. Hence, in ABKC, they make sure that dogs are properly registered and accounted for in order to avoid manipulation and deception of documents, a rampant, notorious practice in the social media dog market. This is one way of preventing the breeding of dogs under poor living conditions. They also make sure that responsible pet ownership is embraced as a key to better dog breeding. “My advocacy is to breed dogs because of love and passion and not solely for money. This is an opportunity for us to increase the quality of the breed and not just for being a puppy mill," John said.
AN ONGOING JOURNEY
Selling a dog worth P1 Million is indeed a success no matter how you put it, whether from the breeder’s or businessman’s point of view. So, the question remains: how did he do it? Is there a formula or blueprint?
According to John, integrity plays a big role in the dog breeding business. “Integrity. Kasi kung in question ang integrity ko at may mga niloko akong tao, mawawala iyong resperto sa iyo (If my integrity is in question and I ripped someone off, respect is lost.)" These are basic principles, but ones that are hard to earn, as evidenced by the many who have attempted but failed.
Nowadays, American Bully became a popular pet dog for all walks of life in the Philippines. Consequently, irresponsible breeding has lead to an abomination of bad traits, flaws, and congenital health conditions that deteriorate the looks of the “real” American bully. Commercialization of the dog became an addictive game for many rather than improving lines and quality dog traits. This also goes with other breeds victimized by rampant entrepreneurship.
Since the demand is growing, John believes that this is the chance of every breeder to be accountable and respect life itself. “It is still an ongoing journey for me, to lead by example and be responsible at all cost. My ultimate dream, as a dogman and as a father, is to win the respect of the world.”