Gringa Frijolera

Monday, February 13, 2006

Crazy Puppy Love

I didn't realize I was a "dog person" until I got sent off into the Salvadoran wilderness all by my lonesome and discovered, well, I'm lonesome. Come to think of it, I come from a long line of dog people- my paternal grandmother and aunt, my maternal uncle... it somehow skipped over my parents because Mom has horrendous allergies and Dad's about as finicky about a clean house as a man can be.

The first dog I owned here was a Great Dane named Chorizo that died at 3 months of parasites and other stomach ailments. He passed away alone in my small cinderblock house while I was hospitalized in the capital for the same illnesses. After that, my neighbors snickered and laughed every time I got sick, saying it was the close relationship with the dog that kept me from being healthy.

Jefe came second, a beautiful green eyed pitbull who instilled fear and respect in everyone throughout our small village. I hiked in big bags of Pedigree, boiled his water, bathed him in the river and took him to all the soccer games. The villagers thought I was crazy taking such good care of him. I would even put him 75lbs frame on my lap in the bus so we could see the vet. I gave Jefe to a guy who owned a restaurant out on the road that lead to the nearest town. Six months later Jefe was hit by a big flat bed truck carrying bags of cement and died.

I brought ChaCha, the third, from the US. My dad and I found her at rescue, house trained, a few years older and the calmest Chihuahua I've ever met. She flew first class with me back down to El Salvador and acclamated to country life just fine. I dress her up some times and take her for walks where people inevitably ask whether its a dog or a rat. I say rat and just keep walking.

Ten days ago, we welcomed Samba the French Poodle into the family. She's number four. On my way to the dermatologist I'm always drawn to a make shift pet shop on the corner of the Masferrer roundabout. Yelping furry little bundles hop and squeal in cages begging for food, a bath or just a little privacy. This time I made the mistake of actually holding one of the puppies and that, well, that's all she wrote.

So like a good Mommy, I took Samb directly to the vet to be checked out because let's be honest, anything you buy on the side of the road is more likely to be defective. She checked out all right, we got her some parasite pills and off we went.

Yesterday we rushed Samba to emergency, well, as much as you can rush in an interdepartamental bus that stops every 50 feet to let on fruit vendors and the occasional passenger. Once the vet looked her over, the prognosis wasn't good. He said she was really dehydrated and it would be difficult to get her well- all the while filling out prescription sheets. Forty-four dollars later we were out the door uncertain about how much longer Samba would survive at all.

On that long bus ride home, with my sickly black animal on my lap I felt like a total failure. How was it possible that Samba's been in my care only one week and she's so near death? Its times like these that I wonder if motherhood is a good idea at all. Watching my sick little puppy cut me right to the bone and suddenly what I wanted most in the world was for her to get better.

So last night, 8 hours after she'd been given her first doses of antibiotics Samba got out of bed and began to play. It was joyful to watch but at the same time an affirmation that I'm a good owner and I'm capable of taking care of a life even if its an animal one.

Although Salvadorans generally think my relationship with my animals is insane at best, I can't help but feel that Crazy Puppy Love.

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