Oliver’s Journey

Two issues always bother me about Mexico. My previous post, on new garbage cans, touched on the way people carelessly throw things into fields and ditches. Piles of litter disfigure many locations around where I live in the state of Morelos, south of Mexico City, and it saddens and annoys me.

The other issue is the treatment of animals.

Humans almost always have the power of choice: we can understand our own situations, and we can run away. Animals have little concept of “away,” so they suffer where they are. And sometimes, their suffering is horrible.

My friend Lucero simply took Victoria. She was starving, and obviously in a bad way, and one night Lucero went to the corral she lived in with a bunch of other weak, hungry animals and dognapped her. Another night, moved by the sight of Vicki’s brother (subsequently named Oliver), who was too weak to walk and was dragging himself along the ground, she stole him, too.

Not long afterwards, the other dogs in that corral were all gone: the owner who’d been starving them had killed them all, presumably in a drunken fit of rage. We don’t know if he noticed or cared that two of them were already missing. Vicki thrived, but Ollie had multiple health issues, and the vet didn’t think he’d make it.

But he did. He first came here in 2015, after some years living in Mexico City. He’s always been shy of people (obviously), but for two days he just cowered in a corner of his new corral. Even his sister’s presence didn’t help. Finally, he started to eat the food we gave him, though he still looked at me in terror, and wouldn’t let me touch him.

After a few weeks of this, I tried playing a game of tag with him, tapping him when he came close enough. It took five months of tag, but one day he let me stroke him, and stopped being afraid if I approached him slowly enough. But not always.

And then I went back to Canada, and I didn’t see him for more than three years. He was moved back here at the end of April, and once I returned from my vacation trip, we started it all again: food, wariness, hiding, tag.

Olllie, May 8:19.jpg

Oliver: unwilling to stay still for a photo.

But he’d remembered me. This evening, after only four days, he let me rub his head and neck again. He’s still afraid of me trapping him where he can’t run to safety, and he wouldn’t stay still for a photo, but he’s reached the point of half-trust that’s his limit with people. And he does seem … “doggier” than he used to. He moves differently, and behaves more as a dog should, than he used to.

There are several brutalised mutts in this village. I kept wondering why one small dog hung around our gateway, which is at the end of a long laneway. Occasionally, I’d give it some leftover chicken, or a handful of kibble. Yesterday, I saw its sibling attacked by three large dogs when she ventured down to the main street. One of them grabbed her with its teeth, and tossed her a few feet away. A woman closer to the melée than I was picked up a stone, which is the local signal to a dog that it had better scram, and the little dog ran off, yelping. I’ve no idea how badly hurt she was. But I see why the other small one hangs around up here. If our chronic delinquent Rem gets out, he simply wags his tail at her.

Wealthy people here dote on their canine companions. Many poorer ones just use them as guards for their houses, and don’t let them indoors. One cleaning lady we had thought our bringing our dogs into the kitchen at night to sleep on dog-beds was a nasty habit.

With Mexico, you accept how it is, value the beauty and graciousness you do find, and simply sigh over the bad stuff. But a thought I have five times a week is, “Mexico would be a bad place to be a dog.”

I don’t know what Ollie remembers, if anything, of his earliest year. But he won the lottery the night Lucero grabbed him.