Canine celebrity may be fittest in dogland
HOLLYWOOD—One by one, people at Pan Pacific Park posed for photos beside Pacman as he paraded in a grassy area under the shade of a huge tree. He had just completed another lung-crushing run around the park and it was time to soak up the attention.
“For his age, he’s got a lot of strength in him,” said Noel Lautengco, his constant companion.
After all, if he were human, he would be a sexagenarian.
We’re not talking about the eight-division champ here, but Manny Pacquiao’s pet dog, a 9-year-old Jack Russell terrier who is the champ’s constant companion during his training runs up some of the more testy trails in the Los Angeles area.
“For his age, 63 in human years, he’s still strong,” said clothing line owner AJ Angeles, whose “Mandirigma” shirts are worn by most members of Team Pacquiao. Angeles, 43, is chiefly responsible for taking care of Pacman during these training runs with the Filipino ring icon.
“These days, in the first half of the run, he’s a little slow. He’s just warming up,” added Angeles, who has been running with dog and human Pacmans for about five years now. “But in the next half, especially when we’re going uphill, he’s the one who pulls me.”
Jack Russell terriers are hyperactive dogs that need a lot of exercise to remain healthy. Bred close to two centuries ago in England as fox-hunting companions, they are athletic and can be quite a handful because of their boundless energy. Still, for a 9-year-old, Pacman’s strength and stamina mirror that of Pacquiao and when he bursts into runs, it is a sight to behold.
“His vet is surprised he’s still very strong,” Lautengco said.
Perhaps, he benefits from training with the Filipino ring icon. Human and dog run up the 3-kilometer slope that leads to the famed Hollywood sign in Griffith Park. They also sometimes scale the same height on the way to Dante’s Peak near the Griffith Observatory.
Pacman is one of the few live souls who manage to keep up with Pacquiao’s pace up to the finish—long after the rest of the entourage in the run have dropped off.
“He runs to the limit,” Angeles said. “The hills are easy for him. Of course, his pace is slower now because he’s a little fat and he’s getting older. But he’s still very strong.”
While it is Angeles who runs with Pacman, it is Lautengco who takes care of the dog most of the time.
Pacman was a gift from a friend to Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao’s long-time friend and an assistant trainer to Freddie Roach, in 2006. Fernandez then passed the pup to Pacquiao after the Erik Morales trilogy. Since then, the tireless terrier has been a fixture in the boxer’s training camp.
The 55-year-old former water filtration installer said that Pacman used to be so stubborn; he’d end up tearing a lot of Pacquiao’s couches in the apartment.
“This breed is hyperactive. If he’s confined indoors, he tears up everything. He has torn up a number of couches. Every time boss Manny trains, we need to change the furniture,” Lautengco said.
That was when he decided to take the dog for walks to augment the running he does with Pacquiao. Soon, Lautengco had the dog under control.
Inside Pacquiao’s Hollywood house here, Pacman walks around like any other house member, inspecting visitors who drop by with a casual sniff. When he’s tired, he hops onto his master’s white leather seat and rests like royalty.
“He gets excited every time he sees boss Manny because he wants to be with him always,” Lautengco said.
Photos with celebs
Pacman has also traveled a lot, touring the United States and the Philippines with Pacquiao. Media outlets have featured him and he’s had his photograph taken with several celebrities, who have dropped by the Wild Card gym to watch Pacquiao train.
Recently, as Pacquiao continued preparing for his May 2 superfight against undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacman was photographed with stars Robert Duvall and Mark Wahlberg.
When he’s in the park, though, like he was on Saturday morning here, it is other people who want to have their pictures taken with him.
In one of Pacquiao’s runs up the hills in Griffith Park, a woman walking three dogs wondered what the Inquirer team was doing up there. Told that the Inquirer was covering Manny Pacquiao, she exclaimed: “Oh, that was him with the big group. I like him, but didn’t notice it was him at all. The only one I noticed was that little dog with funny tiny legs running up the hill.”
Clearly, Pacman is the most famous dog in the Los Angeles area. And he might well be the fittest, too.