Getting in the swing again

Chava and Olive want tlap time but it's too hot.
Chava and Olive want lap time but it’s too hot. Look at the glistening sweat on my arm.

The heat wave has broken. Kind of sort of. A five degree shift towards cooler temps has made sleeping easier but the sun retains her power. I found the stickiness oppressive and could not play fiddle or type on my laptop. Swollen, sluggish finger refused to cooperate. The positive side of oppressive heat? Daily trips to the beach to swim. Chava is a maniac. He leaps into waves face first and is so deliriously happy to swim we have to keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t swept out to sea. He rocks a bright yellow life jacket that gives him a few inched of extra breathing room in the foam with the added feature of helping us spot him in the surf. We have a seafaring pooch and are keeping our eyes peeled for a foamie (a style of surfboard) for Chava to call his own.

The kids are getting back into the groove of classes, too. Last year’s debacle of lying and corruption and bribery and impeachment has not destroyed our little kingdom. We’ve got a tidy group of so far well behave learners and we are continuing on our merry way with song and crafts and words.

The casita project is also back underway. Burt and our neighbor Marco wired the place last week. In our area there are two common ways of wiring a concrete block house. Unlike in the US where wood construction is the norm here most homes are built with cement block. Wires cannot be easily passed through cement. Wiring method number one is to gouge a pathway through the block and then place wire in the carved thoroughfares. A plasterer comes back and covers up the gashes. It’s tedious and messy and seems like a lot of hard work. Method two, the chosen method of our crew, is to lay conduit in between the blocks and concrete structure. Then wire is passed through the conduit. This method is neater but you have to be able to visualize where you need wires when there are no walls and there’s the sticky problem of passing wire through narrow and convoluted paths of conduit. Burt and I spent the summer wondering how this feat of wire transportation is managed. That’s where Marco came in. So there’s rafia, lubricant, a vacuum, a lead wire and the three cables for power transmission and some special pulling, grabbing tools. First a length of rafia with a small balloon is literally sucked from one hole, an outlet or light fixture spot, to the circuit box area with a shop vac. Then a piece of thin, steel wire is attached to the end of the rafia. I call this the lead wire. The rafia is then pulled and the lead wire is drug through the conduit. If that is successful (i.e. no broken knots, concrete blockages, tangled wire) then the three power cables are attached to the lead wire. White, black, green. Hot, cold, ground.  Now three heavier, stickier wires must be pulled through. I think the lube is applied here. I only worked the pulling end once so I’m not certain. I pulled and pulled and pulled. I was pretty excited and then my lead wire knot came undone when the power lines were only a foot from the exit. They’d traveled 40 feet and the drag finally overcame the knot. I guess this is common because Burt shrugged and said, “Now we do it again. I’ll tie a better knot.” Sounds good. Anyway, the wiring is done with only a few preconceived light fixture holes in the wrong location.

Now Burt is installing steel studs for the wall partitions. Last week we laid the shower floor. Burt had gathered 5 gallons of flat, smooth rocks over the course of several year’s of beach visits. I was in charge of layout. Burt made mortar and poyred it on the floor. I embedded stones. I tried to distribute the sizes, textures and colors. The stones are in and they are perfect. There was no time for decision fatigue or an inner critic monologue. So even if I’m not satisfied I will never admit it. They are perfect, dammit. See for yourself.

Today I worked cat recovery at the spay and neuter clinic. Animal obsessed people are terrible communicators. Okay, not all animal obsessed people are terrible communicators but the leaders of the three factions that came together to run this clinic are terrible communicators. I kept my head down and my mouth mostly shut. We lost no cats.

Paola started Harry Potter.
Paola started Harry Potter.
Shower floor
Shower floor. I told you it is perfect.
Biznaga or barrel cactus.
Biznaga or barrel cactus.
Conduit for our wiring.
Conduit for our wiring. You can see the lead wire and the power lines.
This little ballon gets sucked through the conduit. .
This little balloon gets sucked through the conduit.  With a shop vac for 40 feet or more.
Wires in place.
Wires in place.
Memory of Barb. She paid for the kids to go to camp and she played Bridge.
Memory of Barb. She paid for the kids to go to camp and she played Bridge.
Kids getting going.
Kids getting going.
Brown widow. New spider for me. Yay?
Brown widow. New spider for me. Yay?
Cats still asleep at the spay clinic.
Cats still asleep at the spay clinic.
Cape spiny tailed iguana.
Cape spiny tailed iguana.
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We live in a KENNEL

Mad marmot
Mad marmot

Somebody called recently and asked how summer was going. All I could say was dogs. Burt nailed it when he said, “we live in a kennel.” The Olvis was an 8 year masterpiece. No squabbles, high compliance rate, no teething. Cholvis. Chava plus Olvis is an entirely different universe. Olive is a bitch. Elvis is doing things he hasn’t done in years. Chava is determined to eat everything. Berries off of bushes, cigarette butts, all excrement, anything plastic. I found my ear plugs in his poop. I regularly go online for therapeutic readings on how to deal with a teenage dog. Chava is 7 months old and this is exactly when most puppies are given up for behavioral problems. It’s literally a full-time job to raise a healthy, happy puppy. Best advice so far: Never leave them unattended. All activities come with Chava attached. Leaving a curious puppy to his own devices results in destruction and heartbreak. If Chava can’t come it’s the crate. So far it’s all minor stuff but the list is endless and mysterious. We lost some apples. They turned up in Chava’s bear like poop. $20 of heirloom tomatoes? Eaten in 5 minutes. I caught him before he swallowed the paring knife he stole from the counter. Burt’s crocs remain mostly unmolested.

With every outing requiring a minimum of one and up to three dog companions certain activities have been entirely curtailed. I have not birded in a month. Music weekends have been spent with Chava lashed to our chairs. They say this phase will pass and pass quickly since Chava is a small dog. He’s holding steady at under 50 pounds. Maybe even under 40 pounds. I can still pick him up. Meanwhile I’ll keep reading dog therapy articles.

While we strategically manage the mouth of destruction we also face the normal rebellion of a teen. Chava sits. It just takes a staring contest and 2 to 3 minutes for him to execute. He can heel. As long as there are no sentient beings within his view shed. Same with come. Chava comes like a champ. As long as Elvis isn’t telling him to ignore us. Elvis can’t hear or see so he ignores all commands. Chava has noticed. Now Olive is noticing that Elvis and Chava are ignoring us. We’re fighting a mini-insurrection, a mutiny, if you will, of the canine crew. Dog therapy? Clamp down and reiterate all house rules at all times. Random sit and stay patrol. No food without performance. It’s all very exhausting after years of well mannered pooches. But both and Burt and I are united in the face of this challange. We cannot have obnoxious, ill-mannered dogs and live this lifestyle. Safety and sanity demand compliance. I’m hopeful that fall will find boot camp tapering off to just the chaos of life with 5 individuals.

And so now you know where I’ve been. It’s also kind of boring.

Burt
Burt
Theme of the era
Theme of the era
Dogs are everywhere.
Dogs are everywhere.
Blue Agave for our Baja counters.
Blue Agave for our Baja counters.
Music
Music
Giant silk moth caterpillar. It eats up to 85,000x its body weight in under two months on its way to moth conversion.
Giant silk moth caterpillar. It eats up to 85,000x its body weight in under two months on its way to moth conversion.
Dog. This guy is showing signs of not being an idiot or an ass.
Dog. This guy is showing signs of not being an idiot or an ass.
Olive is the top dog.
Olive is the top dog.
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Where to Start?

Supermercado en la noche.
Supermercado en la noche.

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.

Burt and Jen singing 'I've got a brand new pair of roller skates'.
Burt and Jen singing ‘I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates’.
May and the newbies.
May and the newbies.
These dogs were not kidnapped. Yet.
These dogs were not kidnapped. Yet.
It rained.
It rained.
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