Dog Treats

December 22, 2021

‘Tis the season for feasting. And no-one believes in this more sincerely than my alpha dog, Rem.

I was blinking at the light this morning when I glanced out of the bathroom window. I’ve never understood why the house’s builder made this a large picture-window as opposed to the usual privacy-protecting piece of glass, but it does give me a fine view of the dogs’ corral beside the house. And I noticed there was a plastic bag there. This seemed unusual, since we get almost no real wind at this time of year, and nothing is likely to blow onto the property over the perimeter fence, apart from the occasional piece of ash from someone’s backyard fire.

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

I forgot about the bag while I fed the dogs, checked email and went through the rest of my usual morning routine. Finally, I went into the kitchen to make my own breakfast, and couldn’t remember what I’d done with the loaf of bread I bought yesterday. It wasn’t in the fridge. And after running through the list of possible locations, it dawned on me that I’d left the loaf on the kitchen counter overnight.

Now, Rem has made plain to me the rules of the kitchen many times. Simply, if it’s in a cupboard, or the fridge, or out of his reach, it’s mine. If it’s accessible to a large-to-medium dog (him, for example), it’s his. Oatmeal, cheese, pecans, raisins – which he threw up, because grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs – and other stuff have often disappeared because I don’t follow the rules he laid down.

And at this point I recalled the bag in the corral.

Rem always asks to have any crumbs resulting from my slicing bread. So, when I reclaimed the bag, and menacingly shook it at him, he was excited because he thought I was giving him the crumbs left in it. You can’t, of course, punish a dog unless the dog knows what he’s being punished for, so all I could do was make the sort of threatening noises he interprets as “Human having a bad time, which is irrelevant to dogs.”

What I couldn’t understand was how Rem could have eaten an entire loaf – I found no leftover crusts – without harmful consequences. Dogs here often get tortillas, which are made from maize, as either a treat or (more sadly) a substitute for proper dogfood, but I’ve never known one to eat that much wholewheat bread at one time before. Clearly, Labrador-crosses in Mexico don’t suffer from gluten intolerance.

Later today, I was back at the bakery buying more bread, and the señorita in the shop smiled at my story of how this mutt had devoured an entire loaf. 

“I know the owner always wants to expand into new markets,” she grinned.

Maybe I should have asked if they’ll pay for Rem to be a model in an advertising campaign. After all (see photo above), he’s quite photogenic.

Somehow, though, I can’t see even good wholegrain bread replacing Dog Chow in the Mexican market.

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.