In Oaxaca, one striking difference from the familiar United States (especially for an animal lover) is the number of unowned dogs who roam the streets. These dogs are sometimes skittish and sometimes friendly, sometimes small and sometimes large. The first time I saw a one of the strays, I was somewhat afraid of it. My somewhat alarmist family had warned me of the many diseases carried by unvaccinated dogs, and while I wanted to pet them all and love them all, I resigned myself to loving them from afar. Amanda, however, told me she had pet them, and that they were often friendly, and this revelation was enough to make me curious of the many mutts roaming the street.
I have seen small strays, toy and terrier breeds who trot along quietly underfoot. Mostly, though, I see larger breeds, labrador mixes and frequently Rottweiler mixes. They sleep in the park, on the streets, in trash heaps. People walk by apathetically; this is the norm. Cars, even, seem to anticipate them. A particularly frightening scene played out when I saw a clearly pregnant dog standing in the middle of a busy intersection. She was black, and it was dark out. I tried desperately to call her out of the street, but she was very frightened of both the cars and me. Incredibly, the cars honked and swerved gracefully around her, and eventually she disappeared into the night.
One dog, however, has stuck out in my mind. I walk by him every day, and he has begun to wag his tail when he sees me. His somewhat floppy ears are about the size of his face, and his pitiful brown eyes make me love him. I began to pour water into a cup when I walked by, and sometimes he would try to follow me home, sometimes sprinting after me only to pause when he’d reach me as if to say: “Where now?”
On Sunday, I reached my small friend, and immediately noticed his leg was not working correctly. He seemed reluctant to even stand, but he still made the effort to struggle up to me to say hello. When I returned later that day, he no longer tried. I began asking around, determined to visit el veterinario the next day.
Monday morning, I wandered around the neighborhood, and I asked the man sweeping the street if he knew if the dog had a home. The dog always laid there. The man told me he was a perro de calle, and so I left, returning later armed with a leash and a burrito. When I returned, more people had gathered around the small dog, and when they saw me, they laughed. They asked me in Spanish my plan, and I pulled the leash from my backpack and offered the burrito to explain my plan. Even the folks on the patio of the restaurant laughed. One of the men, however, seemed eager to join my team, although his functionality as a translator was fairly limited as he spoke less English than the veterinary staff.
We successfully brought the dog, whom I’ve decided to call Florentino Ariza, to the vets, and now the dog has been castrated, vaccinated, and washed. He is being administered antibiotics today to treat the infection which courses through his skin and leg, and is expected to make a full recovery. Hooray for happy endings!
-Keely E. FitzGerald