Itchy came into my life about a month and a half ago with a severe case of mange, fairly emaciated, carrying one little pup in her mouth and leading two more through an intersection down the street from my house. I was on my way to open the gate to our yard to take out the truck for some errand or another, but when I saw what the dog was doing, and that it was clearly a stray, I stopped and went back to the house for a container of dog kibble.
When I rounded the corner again the mama had the two pups resting in the shade under a dump truck and was hovering there uncertainly, watching the other pup, which she’d deposited under a tractor across the street. I asked a young girl who had stopped her bike to look at the pups to help grab the other puppy, and I put the food down inside the gate of our corral. The mama followed me into the yard and dug into the kibble. The little girl with the bike helped me bring in the puppies, and we left them in some shade in the yard while I went to run my errands.
When I got back later they were still there. I brought them over to the shade of the work shed in our portion of the yard, which is fenced in to keep the animals out of my in-law’s part of the corral. I’m pretty sure my suegra loves me, but I know for a fact that she does not particularly love my soft spot for animals. Putting up with the ones I already have tests her limits enough, and so I really did not want to subject her to the sight of a gross-looking, mangy street dog and her three pups in the back yard.
But goddamnit, as if I’m going to dump them back on the street and leave them there to fend for themselves. I know that’s what is normally done around here, but that is one way I will probably never assimilate. Lo siento, mi suegra querida.
So I brought food and water out to the shed for a few days and contemplated what to do, while the mama came and went through the hole in the wall. In that first week or so I thought she’d moved on a few times, but then I’d see a puppy stashed under the truck, curled up in the shade of the tire, or under a pile of wood or a bush.
Eventually, it became clear that Itchy (as I started calling her) had no intention of leaving. One of the pups had disappeared, but I built a little corral for the two remaining pups in a corner of the yard and contacted ProAnimal, a local organization that helps treat, sterilize, and rehome abandoned animals in the area.
So now they’ve been dewormed, vaccinated, and treated for mange — and after about a month of decent food and medical care, they are turning out to be pretty cute. The pups are adorable (although I have my favourite — the more gentle/submissive one pictured above), and Itchy is maybe one of the sweetest, gentlest souls I’ve ever had the good fortune to spend time with. She must have been someone’s pet in a past life, because she is polite and gentle and walks on a leash like the dainty, dignified little lady she is.
Knowing that I’m leaving this week for a conjugal visit to Canada (for at least a couple of months, I hope), I had to get the pups and mama sterilized and ready to adopt out. They do the pups very young here — sterilizing them before they are adopted out is the only way they can assure it will be done because it’s not a part of local culture to spay or neuter (hence the street dog/cat issue). The pups were neutered last week and are doing great, but on Saturday, the day after Itchy’s surgery, my muchacha Yoselin came running inside from where she’d been hanging laundry in the yard. The baby was sleeping and I was working on the computer.
“Come outside quickly, there’s something wrong with Itchy! Andando con algo colgando de la panza!”
I went out to see a trail of blood across the yard and down the garden path, and Itchy lying under a clump of lemongrass in the garden, a pile of guts and blood spilled out in the dirt.
I ran outside and down the block to the veterinary, who fortunately lives just a few doors down, and he came to the house with tranquilizers and sterile pads. Together we got her out of the garden and standing while he injected her with a tranquilizer and then washed her out with clean water. I held her head and tried not to look as he carefully poured water over everything and stuffed it gently back inside, and then we wrapped her in a towel and he carried her back to his office.
That morning when it was still dark, my giant pitbull/rottie cross, Kenny — who is sweet as pie, but with more brawn than brains by a long shot — woke me up howling. Which he does sometimes, very loudly, but only when I’m leaving him at home and he’s so sad he can hardly stand it. So it was weird that he did it that early, and when I was home, and it briefly crossed my mind that maybe something had happened to one of the other animals. Kenny will bark like the maniac canine bodyguard he is if he hears someone at the door, but he NEVER howls when I’m home. I yelled outside for him to shut up, which he did, and I went back to sleep.
And in the morning, all the animals were fine. Itchy seemed sleepy and didn’t want to get up to eat, so I brought her food to her favourite spot where she was just lying there, chilling out. When I checked back later the food was gone and so was she, so I figured she was doing fine.
The next time I saw her was a couple of hours later, lying there in the garden.
I washed the blood away, feeling sick. I figured that she probably wouldn’t need a home any more.
Damnit, though, she was such a sweet dog. I knew that if she didn’t get adopted out this week I might be left feeding her for a while longer, which didn’t bother me that much (except for the fact that it would probably drive my poor long-suffering suegra one step closer to losing it with me completely). But Itchy was the sort of dog you want to have around. She’d sleep most of the day, barked only when someone was at the door, walked perfectly on a leash — but she never needed to, because she’d follow me everywhere anyways. When I rode my bicycle to the centro to run errands, or across town to my parent’s house to use the pool, she’d trot along behind, watching and following, waiting patiently for us to be finished whatever we were doing before following us back home again.
I really wanted her to be my horse riding dog, since Luna is too old to keep up and Kenny is too stupid around traffic — but alas, Itchy was not super keen on the horse and would never come with me when I tried to make her. If she wasn’t afraid of the horse, I’d have kept her for sure.
So ever since Saturday morning I’ve been pretty down about Itchy’s likely sad demise. I couldn’t get back to the vet until this morning, I thought to hear the bad news. You can imagine how surprised I was when he told me that she made it and was ready to go home — WHAT?! I think it will take a long while for me to get the rather traumatic sight of her blood & guts out of my mind, but I’m so happy she pulled through — what a little survivor!
If she doesn’t get adopted along with her pups at the market on Wednesday, I’ll take some glamour shots and start looking for the loving home she deserves. If there’s anyone out there who’s looking for a super sweet Mexican mutt who’s probably about 2–3 years old with tons of life ahead of her, she is one of the best I’ve come across. Oh, and I’m also officially changing her name to “Cheeto”— the mange is pretty much gone, and she deserves a name as flavourful and adorable as her sweet & spicy little self.
*uta: they all got adopted to great homes at the tianguis — so happy!!!!