Saying Goodby to a Good Dog: RIP Mamacita

From time-to-time, it happens here in the Oaxaca village I also call home. A good dog dies. Not from natural causes but most usually from poison-laced meat. It is the fastest and easiest way. Others are hit by vehicles or cut loose from tethered ropes when feed becomes too costly, to fend for themselves. Most dogs here are disposable. I do not know how Mamacita was killed or by whom or for what reason. I can only surmise.

Mamacita. She is a tender, loving puppy mommy and becoming very loyal.

I was in transit between Durham, NC and Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, when the news came to me via text: Mamacita died and was buried the day before. I needed time to process this. To absorb the shock and sadness. To reflect on the culture I come from that considers animals as pets and trusted friends, who are cared for as well as humans in many cases. How can I make sense of this?

You may remember Mamacita as the dog I rescued and adopted in June 2017 after she dropped two pups in the tall grasses behind my house. She was skin and bones, incapable of providing sustenance. I am reminded that without my intervention, she would have likely died. Caregiver friends came to housesit and feed Mamacita in intervening times when I was gone. They took her to get spayed, along with Tia and Butch, who also came along and formed an extended family. I am eternally grateful to them. I’ve written to each and they know what happened.

Tia and Mamacita, always happy to walk with me

Could it be that Mamacita was killed because she was unjustly targeted as one of many marauding dogs, starving, homeless and roaming the fields in search of a domesticated chicken or turkey? Campesinos can live a hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth life. Poultry is food and an important source of income. There are a multitude of campo dogs; they reproduce because they haven’t been spayed or neutered, and are out of control.

TinType Photo of Mamacita in the campo, Tia in the distance

Was it a random act? Two other dogs were found dead that day on the same country road, I was told later. Was she just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is this inevitable? Are all dogs here disposable? What about my two dogs? Some here, though not enough, are sympathetic to the life of dogs. Maltreatment is not universal.

Mamacita at the presa, spring 2019

Mamacita was first and foremost a campo dog, bred in the wild. I adopted her but could not contain her in a gated patio. She lived a life of freedom, sleeping during the day, running with the pack at night. Sylvia reminds me that while she was nursing, Mamacita would disappear for hours. She came home for meals and belly rubs. Sometimes she wouldn’t show up. I worried, but I was confident she would return.

Mamacita in foreground, Butch, then Tia.

We are heaving deep sighs, me and the two dogs. They now sleep on the patio, closer to me. They sense the loss. Their bond was primal.

Mamacita (left) and Butch on our afternoon walk

I will miss her circle dance on the patio in anticipation of her meal bowl. I will miss her nuzzle and her companionship on evening trail walks. I trained her to sit and wait for treats. She wore a collar. She looked well-fed and cared for. She took to everyone who gave her a pat. She was spayed. All signs that she belonged to someone. Why did this happen? Answers escape me.

This is yet another reminder that to live here requires me to suspend judgment. To understand. To puzzle out how something like this can happen to a sweet dog that was an integral part of my life. Suspending judgment is a practice. I cannot overlay my own values on an 8,000 year old culture. They have survived this long for a reason. Sometimes cruelty and heartlessness figure into that. This is human nature everywhere, no?

Our daily walk in the campo. Butch at my side, Mamacita out front, Tia leading.

This is, I am coming to understand, another perfect lesson in cultural competency. Es la vida, it’s life, is a common saying here. Things just happen. There isn’t always a reason. It is not for me to ascribe fault or blame, only to accept what is. I have learned that it is not my role to change anything, to make it better in terms of my own acculturation and values.

It is so quiet here. The absence of ONE is noticeable. The other two are sleeping on the patio. We all move with a heaviness, the two dogs Tia and Butch, and this human. Today it will be 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here’s to Mamacita. May she rest in peace.

In the dog house, Mamacita, summer 2017

34 responses to “Saying Goodby to a Good Dog: RIP Mamacita

  1. So sorry to hear of Mamacita’s death under suspicious circumstances. Yes, suspending cultural judgement is necessary, but difficult, as segments of our younger US culture can have such a familial attachment to pets. It probably wasn’t that long ago the dogs were a food source there. Reverence for all life forms is definitely not a worldwide human trait, although I hope it is becoming more so.
    Lynda & I returned from Oaxaca valley on March 21st. Spent a few days in Teotitlan where we ordered two large tapetes from Isaac Vasquez that will be shipped out in August (tried, but never succeeded in making contact with the Fe y Lola operation that you suggested, either in Teotitlan or Oaxaca city)
    We were hoping to make your acquaintance, Norma, & express our appreciation for your insightful blog-work, but the timing was wrong. We did spend a fun afternoon and evening with Merry Foss & Kevin at their place enjoying the dogs & having a great evening. We am were all dog-people so we had a lot in common.
    One of trip highlights was a too-short visit to Santiago Apoala; the magical ancient center of Mixtec culture recommended highly by David Yetman, the host of Desert Speaks, one of our favorite PBS TV shows, & In The Americas, which we haven’t yet seen. He was staying at the little hotel, Casa de los Abuelos, where we were staying in Oaxaca City & we had a fascinating evening chatting with him about the Oaxaca Valley & surrounding area ( & the grim political situation in the States!)
    Sorry to digress so much here but we had such a great time down there and were so saddened by the loss of your canine friend after hearing all the positive work being done by Merry.
    Cheers & abrazos,
    Ted & Lynda Nelson.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and caring note, Ted. I still think that Mamacita is with us as we walk down the campo trail. I’m sorry I did not get a chance to meet you in Teotitlan and I’m so happy you were able to connect with Merry and Kevin.

  2. I know what it’s like to lose a dog you love. You gave her a good life, she was lucky, and she gave you Butch and Tia…you are all three lucky! Still, so sad, so sorry. ❤️❣️❤️

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss Norma… that’s really sad. My old dog was same way as her to die when I was little in Japan.. I was crying a whole week at least… but I’m sure she is in the heaven and she would meet and play with my old dog and cat too 🙂

  4. Oh Norma. This is so sad. My heart aches for you, Butch and Tia. I know how a dog can be family, bring such Joy. You gave her life and a safe, loving place for her and her puppies to thrive. What a beautiful tribute to Mamacita! And your ability to suspend judgment on this dimension of Mexican culture (and so many others like it) reflects why you truly are a cultural navigator. RIP Mamacita!

    • Diane, thanks very much for your uplifting comment. I continuously attend to, and often struggle with, understanding differences. It’s easy to judge and then move on. Harder to sit with the temptation to assign right and wrong. Besos.

  5. Hello Norma, we’ve not met, but I’ve been reading your blog as I hope to participate in next year’s Chiapas trip. I’m so sorry to read of your loss. Mamacita’s lovely photo came up on my Facebook feed and made me smile before I read the contents of your post. What a beautiful spirit she must have had, and how lucky she was to have found someone who could love and appreciate her. Descanso en paz, Mamacita.

  6. I’m so sad for you and sorry for your loss. I still miss my rescue dog Rascal, who died 16 years ago of old age.

  7. Norma, I am so sorry about Mamacita. You loved and cared for her while you could. More than some would do. Bless you for taking the chance on pain and loss. So far, here in our corner of Mexico, we have not been willing. Love to you.

  8. So sorry to hear about Mamacita and you missing her. Our dogs are our friends and our family. Norma my condolences for your loss. Hopefully another dog will come to you and your caring ways. It still does not make the loss of Mamacita any easier.

  9. Norma I’m so sorry for your loss. Our animals are our friends and our family. Losing one senselessly is hard to reconcile. There is such cruelty and harshness in the world right now which makes these losses harder to take.

  10. Norma, what a lovely and introspective piece… i am so sorry for your loss!! I just lost my dog of 15 years, but when his time was due… i can not imagine how you feel under the circumstances… Mexico is such a wonderful country, but there are issues such as the treatment of animals that is hard to reconcile with our love of the culture… Know that you did so much for Mamacita that she would not have experienced were it not for your care and love… Again, my deepest sympathy! Hilary Fairbanks

  11. I am so sorry for your loss of Mamacita, Norma, and I am so grateful that you and she had your time together. She lived well with you, and she loved you. Rest in peace, Mamacita…

  12. I am comforted by these beautiful photos of the ever smiling Mamacita. She was joyful and brought that joy to us. Her circle dance was infectious – . I am glad you can comfort and be comforted by Tia and Butch. She was well loved by us all. Thank you for rescuing her and giving her such a happy life.

    • Dearest Claudia, you were her last resident caregiver! I am so grateful to you for all you did to keep her healthy. We share many things in common, and we will add knowing and being loved by Mamacita to the list. Thank you for your consoling words.

  13. Rest in peace, dear Mamacita. You were loved and are missed.

  14. So sorry for your loss , Norma. Thank you for sharing as always-your posts are so thoughtful and well written. May Mamacita RIP.

    • Thank you, Rosie. I do my best to write from the heart, from what moves me, from the place that expresses how I see the world. I appreciate your comment, your condolences and for continuing to read and follow. Norma

  15. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved Mamacita Norma. I know how much she meant to you because you spoke often of her and your other two furry companions. My heart goes out to you. I do not what I would do without animals in my life so I can related to your heavy heart. I am thankful she had you in her life the past two years to love her.

    • Thank you, Linda. I have come to appreciate the special place that our pets have in our hearts and homes. Some things are inexplicable. Thank you so much for making it a little easier for me with your caring.

  16. Your writing has comforted me Norma, as I’m so sad to hear about Mamacita. Mamacita was a happy dog who gave freely. I couldn’t help but be happy around her.

    • Hi, Barbara, you were one of the important caregivers in Mamacita’s life. I’m so grateful for all you did to care for her and the others. Your testimony is a tribute to our puppy’s memory. Thank you.

  17. Oh Norma! What a sad, sad story. I am so sorry for your loss and so grateful for all you did for Mamacita and the other campo pups. May Mamacita run in peace!


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