Sunday, April 12, 2009

Living and learning in Arroyo Seco, Part II

It's been another week of firsts -- another week where I have had to learn a lot about living in a place with different customs, different values.

It's a big reason that we moved here (it wasn't just the temperate climate), but it also doesn't mean that it's always scripted out of a Disney movie.

Lesson Number 1

Actually, this is an ongoing lesson.

I love how most people around here can make something out of nothing, figure out how to fix, create, repair almost anything without having to drive to a Home Depot or an Ace Hardware or a WalMart. They are self-reliant and competent in a way that I remember from my childhood in the United States. People could actually do things, rather than hire people to do things.

But sometimes the cavalier approach is mind boggling, too. Last week the welder came to install our custom-made doors for our bathrooms. I guess he needed 220 power (or is it 210 here? I don't know....), so he took the front plate off the circuit breaker box and hot wired the dang thing.

Just wires.

Hot wiring the 220
Hot-wiring the 220 power for the welder

When the concrete maestro was building the bathrooms, his son would hotwire a lamp to the wires where the outlets were going to go, but weren't installed yet. Same deal. Wires sticking into the electrical cord.

Seems scary to me, but I'm no electrician.

During the welding, no safety mask either. Unfortunately, he also didn't cover up the tile where he was working so the tile clean up is going to pretty intense next week. Hopefully those aren't burn marks I'm seeing....

No safety mask, no covering the brand new tiles either.

Lesson Number 2

Rocio, the vet from La Manzanilla, agreed to come out to Arroyo Seco Saturday morning and treat a few dogs at our place. We knew one dog that we had taken to Cisco's Amigo's last month to get spayed had a venereal cancer that needed to be treated and I had also spotted an emaciated dog out here that I was hoping to get checked out.

Pink Flamingo animal clinic
Rocio, the vet from La Manzanilla, makes a house call to Arroyo Seco

The first surprise was the message delivered by the son of the dog's owner --- who walked the dog down to our place --- that she just wanted the dog "to be put down."

This is a treatable disease, the dog is healthy otherwise, she's been their pet for three years. But the mom said she nips at some of the little kids and she's got to go.

My question to her, of course, is why today? And why did they get the dog neutered last month if that was the problem, or the plan?

Rocio handled it beautifully --- no doubt having some experience with this issue --- and told the boys she would treat the dog this time and we would talk to the mother next week (who wasn't home right then). And then I think I heard her tell them to make sure not to throw rocks at the dog, to pet the dog, to be nice, to feed it....

I was somewhat stunned. Being asked to put a relatively healthy dog to sleep wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I arranged to facilitate some help for some of my neighbor's dogs.

Next, some other boys dropped by the emaciated dog that I had asked about last week and invited them to bring the dog by for the vet to check out Saturday morning.

Same conversation. Just put the dog down, was the message from the boy's mother.

Again, not what I had in mind.

Rocio believes the dog can regain his health. He has anemia, probably parasites, a skin reaction from the fleas and other insects. But he has a healthy appetite and has a light in his eyes.

For a couple of hours that afternoon, it appeared that Michael and I had either adopted a tragically sick dog, or were going to be in the position of making the decision to execute a dog. And it happened so quickly, we didn't have the time to talk it out, consider what our position was.

Poor ol' Capitan arrives at our house in Arroyo Seco for a visit with the vet

In the end, after a helpful conversation with my neighbor, Chena, and another conversation with the owner's daughter, we simply dropped the dog back at their house and told them we would be back with medicine and food four times a day for the next week and the vet would take another look at him then to see if he was strong enough to be treated for the anemia.

Luckily, the owner now seems grateful that we have taken an interest in Capitan and welcomes us when we arrive. The dog wags its tail when he sees her, he gets up to eat --- and eats a lot.

We asked Chena what the people in the village usually do when a dog is terrribly sick or there's a problem. She says if a dog gets bad enough, the owners drop them off at the nearby dump, thinking at least they will have a chance at feeding themselves. Or they will ignore it until the dog is a corpse in the backyard. Or, in rare instances, they will get out the 'pistola.'

So -- my lesson for this week is a vivid reminder, in both cases, that I'm living in a different world than my California/New York one. That people are much more cavalier, in many ways, about how they approach things. And that the people here aren't shopping at PetSmart and buying kibbles and bits for their pets.

I'm finding I can adjust, that no one was injured when they hotwired the welding machine, that maybe I can make difference with the dogs by focusing on getting them neutered so there are fewer cases of starvation and disease.

And maybe that's the most I can hope for. And it's OK.

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