So I was a very bad gringa last week. I was trying to do the right thing and it turned out all wrong and now I am ‘the puppy stealer of Pescadero.’ It all started when we arrived in late January to find Chicharron gone. Down the gully and up the hill just across the way from us, lived Chicharron (pork rinds in Spanish). Chicharron was a chucky (meth addict) but harmless and kind of a good neighbor. He helped out with other neighbors. He collected stray dogs. He strummed a guitar. Rumor was he wound up on the hill across from us in a trailer because a gringo in another neighborhood got tired of living with him in close proximity and set him up with a trailer and lot of his own in our neighborhood. This happened two years ago. Burt and I were distant but not unkind neighbors. We’d say hello. Chat a little. Chicharron was hard to understand. He lacked some key dentition.
I’ve been writing of Chicharron in the past tense but he is still among us. He was relocated to Ensenada in December after kidney failure induced seizures while he was visiting Rafa and April’s home. Rafa and April are very kind and generous. I’ll skip the gory details of his decline into kidney failure. It was malodorous. Somehow he survived and had a family with enough resources to take him in and relocate him to Ensenada. That’s 1000 miles away. Chicharron’s 4 dogs were not so lucky. When we showed up the dogs had been living at Chicharron’s trailer for a month unattended. Another neighbor was throwing food to them. The dog’s were unfenced and anti-social. More rumor has it that even Chicharron could not touch the dogs. The pack began to roam. I tried to visit them but they just scattered. Chicharron’s trailer was hauled away for scrap metal. The dogs relocated to an abandoned house just down the street from us. They were noisy.
One day I walked home the back way and the pack of dogs came after me. I scared them off but was unamused. Neighborhood efforts to capture and re-home or euthanize the pack had failed. Now they were expanding their territory and becoming aggressive. I am not warm and fuzzy in situations like this. People are mauled by dogs every day. I play bridge with a woman mauled by dogs here. I think these dogs must be eliminated. Group efforts to come up with a collective solution fail. There are plans to sedate and relocate. Pills were acquired and lost. Burt and I are hesitant to be obnoxious gringos so we step back, stop complaining, and do nothing. Rumor is the dogs are at least neutered. We walk home a different way and ignore the barking.
Well free feeding and a pack of dogs leads to more dogs. Puppies were born under the ‘date rape’ van just 100 yards from our house. Mexico is a land of magic and miracles. Opinions vary on whether or not this was a virgin birth, a failed clip job, or an interloping dog making a move on the free food. Puppies on the scene paralyzed us. The people we know that take care of strays were overwhelmed. They couldn’t help. Meanwhile the dogs were obviously well fed. These were fat puppies and mama. I assumed that the neighbor was still feeding them. This is the precise moment and assumption where I go off the rails and become the big jerk in town.
A friend sees the puppies one day when leaving our place and asks if they are being taken care of. I say they are but the guy wants them gone. He doesn’t want to take care of them. She says she’s going to bring a friend the next day to collect the dogs. I say, “Great!” I am thrilled that doing nothing has turned into at least the puppies are going away. Do I confirm or check with anyone in the neighborhood? No. These dogs, to me, are an obvious pestilence. The puppies need homes. Once the puppies are gone I could get to work with the aggressive adults.
The next morning the two innocent victims come to collect the puppies. The new person is unfamiliar to me but well known as a dog rescuer. As soon as she saw the dogs were well fed she balked. She insisted these are somebody’s dogs and that they shouldn’t be taken. I am not amused. I go to great and a bit pushy lengths to convince them that nobody wants these dogs. I insist that the feeder is our neighbor and that he is tired of feeding them. Eventually I prevail. I am so driven with desire to get rid of these dogs that I fail to see what is obvious. That this person is correct and knows what she is doing. Somebody was taking care of the puppies and they had gone beyond the basics. They built a pen and supplied food and water. The pen was in an abandoned house and there are no neighbors closer than us and the feeder and another gringo family that wants them gone but somebody was coming and taking care of the puppies. They were all socially comfortable with humans. This should have been the big sign. Stray puppies generally avoid people. These dogs couldn’t wait to play with us. My desire to have these dogs gone overruled my ability to listen to reason. So I convinced the women to take the puppies. They did but they left their number with some nearby workers in case there is a hidden owner. I was so not into that but whatever. I couldn’t have been more wrong on so many levels.
That afternoon I saw a woman wandering up our street looking under our cars. It’s obvious she’s looking for the dogs. OMG. I’ve stolen her puppies. Long story short I confessed my crime and offered to help get them back. Another woman approaches. They are mad as mad can be but they refrained from abusing me. The workers had fingered me and gave them the contact information. The women realized it was all a misunderstanding tainted with a bit of Gringo-do-gooderism. In that moment I say: What about the adults? They are bad dogs and need to go, too. So here is my only strand of righteousness. They realized then that leaving the puppies there had created a bad scene for the people that actually live in the neighborhood. Burt piled on and emphasized that the adult dogs were an aggressive group of dogs. Quiet all around. They calmed down. I felt like an idiot. A massively culturally-insensitive idiot. This conversation would have been awful if we spoke the same language fluently. Maybe our weak Spanish saved us. They left. Burt and I were not sure if they intended to retrieve the puppies or not. I had offered to get them myself but they didn’t respond. It might have been a case of well at least they went to good homes. But it wasn’t.
My friend had to give the puppies back. She seems to be okay with the misunderstanding. The next morning the puppies were reunited with the women. They have not been returned to the abandoned house. The adults are still around. And the rumor mill started. My friend April was accused of stealing the puppies by a random business owner near the supermercado. She had to point out that it was actually me that instigated the puppy stealing but that I had the best intentions. I’m not sure I did have good intentions but I appreciate the vote of confidence. April and I both ponder the chance of retaliatory dognapping.
Any advice on how to manage Chicharron’s pack would be appreciated.