Saturday, April 25, 2009

The dog lady of Arroyo Seco

Helping out the dogs in the village has been a way to introduce myself to more of my neighbors, a way to get to know them on a daily level --- as much as one can with only a limited vocabulary and confined to present tense.

It's interesting that we don't seem to stick out here as much as I assumed we did. When I introduce myself, they sometimes tell me 'they've seen me around the village' or even thought I lived on the beach where a few other gringos live.

So, that's cool, I think.

We're a couple of Saturday's into our free clinics (free to the villagers but not to our wallet) and we're beginning to get a daily routine going.

I prepare a huge bowl of dog food, chicken scraps or other meat, rice cooked in chicken fat, grab a bottle of high-potency vitamins, all the various medications and Michael and I head out on the quad.

Right now we're committed to feeding our now-thriving Capitan and the blind 6-month old puppy, Paloma. Along the way, we run across other needy pooches and try to give them a healthy breakfast.

They are all extremely grateful.

Each dog seems to learn the sound of our Honda quad after one feeding, pretty amazing considering how many motos there are in the village.

Our tours remind me of stories I've read about the rural nurses making home visits in Appalachia. The families seem happy to have the help, invite us into their homes, give us small gifts of fruit or food to thank us for taking an interest. Last week Brianda gave Rocio, our vet friend, two baby ducks, something Rocio had been really wanting for her yard in La Manzanilla.

Rocios ducks
Brianda gives the vet, Rocio, two baby ducks to thank her for her help

The people here might also think we're a bit loco about the dogs, but that's okay too.

For now, my goal is three-fold: demonstrate how easy it is to have a healthy pet, get them medical help when they need it and the people can't afford it, and eventually slice and dice every dog's reproductive organ in Arroyo Seco.

Helping is easy, often frustrating too. One quick example:

Our surfing friend Julien, from France, saw a really tattered dog around the village who had lost most, but not all, of her hair. He grabbed the dog, had a friend trim the remaining straggly hair, then gave it a shot of medicine that pretty instantly cures the dog of the skin problem.

Within a month or two, I realized that the dog was an adorable cocker spaniel. Who knew? Unfortunately, the owner didn't get her spayed in time. Last week she had nine puppies, who will now need to get fed and cared for.

She's on my list for the next spay and neuter clinic, as are all nine of the puppies.

When we got back to Arroyo Seco last night after a leisurely day in La Manzanilla with our friends Sanders and Pat Lamont, Chon to help us give a couple of overdue injections to two dogs. One, Leona, is scheduled for surgery in our palapa tomorrow at noon. Rocio has been researching how to fix some female problem (she's already been spayed). Last night we had to put a muzzle on her and hold her down just to give her the mildest of injections. She loves to bite those who want to help.

I find working with her somewhat nerve-wracking. Leona is none too happy about it either.

How many people does it take to treat Leona? A lot!

Samba, Julien's part-time dog, has adopted us and makes the rounds with us, I suspect because of the fragrant treats I carry with me. That's okay too. She's a poster child for what a healthy dog looks like. And great company too!

Samba, our AS foster dog
Samba makes house calls with us, then joins us for sunset at the beach

We also gave Capitan his last pills and one last shot, this one to boost his immune system. Now it's time to get the owner educated about how to keep him healthy. The biggest issue may be his pal, Paloma, who aggressively gobbles up all of the food before Capitan can get a bite.

We've learned to tie Paloma up near his own bowl until Capitan leisurely finishes his meal. It's a tradition we're hoping Marta understands as we pass the feeding chores back over to her.

The progress Capitan has made in the past few weeks is inspiring, we hope to our neighbors as well. He was probably just a few days from death when we got him. Eye infections, blood dripping from his nose, skin so raw that you couldn't touch it without it bleeding, barely able to walk or sit, too weak to stand to eat.

capitan before treatment
Capitan when we first spotted him in the village

Capitan after two weeks of TLC
Capitan after about two weeks of treatment and a lot of food

Now he's playful, growls and yips, wags his tail, takes walks to the village. He's already growing fine red hair where the skin had been scabbed and bleeding.

This week a family with three small children and two dogs are camped next to the jardin, the central garden across from the church, while they charge village kids to play on a big trampoline and a fooz ball game (or something similar) in the evening. For the past few days we've been feeding their mama-dog, who is nursing four puppies, and their ratty-haired fluffer-dog who drags its hind leg behind him. Broken? Twisted? We'll check it out on the next clinic, scheduled for tomorrow.

On our way to treat Leona, I spotted our friend Chena toweling off one of the toddlers from the same family camped at the jardin.

She said she saw how dirty the kids were and decided to help them out with a bath. Then she discovered the lice. So she had been de-lousing the three kids for the afternoon.

It seemed so symbiotic, that Michael and I would help out the pets, she would help out the kids, all part of healthy community that is willing to share what it has.


My Spanish phrase for the week has been vale la pena --- worth the effort, worth the pain.

Here's a video that Michael posted on his blog about when Capitan came to visit last week. You can see the spring in his step already!

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