This was NOT in the plan. I was going to leave Oaxaca on July 20 unfettered. Wind things up. Pack the bags. Go. Now, there is a Mamacita Perra (female dog) and her two pups camping out in the campo behind the casita where I live in Teotitlan del Valle.
I discovered them a week ago, maybe June 29 or 30, when I approached a golden beige mound in the tall grass. I almost stepped on a furry brown ball the size of my fist, maybe four inches in diameter. And, then it moved, ever so slightly. And there was another one, the color of oatmeal, a form barely distinguishable as a living being.
It was then I realized that this dog had just given birth, maybe that day, maybe the day before, secreted behind a young guaje tree, protected from view by grass three feet high (photo above, left of dog house).
Yipes. What was I going to do?
Feed them, of course. The nursing female was bony. I could see her skeleton as she curled up on the earth. Her fur looked like it was going to fall off her body. Her teats sagged and did not look capable of feeding offspring.
Early on, she would growl lightly as I approached. Now, she knows I won’t hurt her. Today, I patted her head. She is letting me in. I imagine that abandoned dogs feel a lot like abandoned people: wary, on edge, not trusting.
I live in the country, out beyond the village, in the periphery, amidst corn fields, mountain views, wide open spaces, dirt roads, and dogs on the prowl who have been cut loose from their tethers, neck ropes dangling as they run in search of food and shelter.
Mexico has an abundance of street dogs. Most never get spayed or neutered. People say its a cultural thing, manhood identity. Female pups are usually done away with. No one wants unwanted babies. This is their solution.
Families get their (usually male) dogs as pups, tie them up to a fence post or tree, and feed them once a day. Maybe.
- Sometimes, they bark too much. Cut them loose.
- Sometimes, they growl at the children. Cut them loose.
- Sometimes, they get too big and aren’t cute any more. Cut them loose.
- Sometimes, they eat too much. Cut them loose.
- Sometimes, they take more care than an individual or family can provide. Cut them loose.
- Sometimes, they turn out ugly. Cut them loose.
- Sometimes, owners just tire of the responsibility. Cut them loose.
I could go on.
Few get vaccines. Few are treated for fleas, eye infections, other maladies. They are the discarded and forgotten. And, this is who showed up in my backyard.
My friend Merry Foss has been operating spay/neuter clinics here in the village for two years. She usually takes a handful of dogs once or twice a month, when the owners agree and bring them. Sometimes, this takes some cajoling. It makes a small dent in the bigger problem.
There is a modest charge. Two veterinarians come from Tlacolula to do the procedures. She never has enough money to support the program. Some people can’t pay.
Merry’s veterinarians are making a house call on Monday to check out my wards. When the female is done nursing, I will pay to have her spayed. But, who will take care of this Family of Dogs when I leave in two weeks? Who will oversee the spaying of the female? Who will adopt out the pups to good homes? What will happen to them?
Now, this is something to worry about!
Each morning, I arise and prepare their breakfast before mine. Tortillas, cooked meat and broth. I repeat the ritual before sunset. She inhales the food. She is filling out. The pups are growing.
Three days ago, Merry’s friend Kevin brought over a dog house. I lined it with soft cotton bedding and a small rug purchased by my wasband years ago that I figured now belonged in the doghouse.
She (the mother dog) would have nothing to do with it. Yesterday, I put on rubber gloves, and when mom was gone (wherever), I carried the pups and put them inside the house. They are about eight inches long now, eyes still shut tight. She returned, climbed in, and a couple of hours later, all three were outside in the grass again.
But it rained last night, and again today. The weather turned damp and chilly. This morning the Dog Family was warm, dry and secure, happy inside the house.
I haven’t had a dog in forty-five years. My first and only ran out onto a highway and was hit by a car before my eyes. Too painful to go through that again. I’ve never considered myself successful with animals. Too much work. Too much travel. Not enough time. Don’t want the added responsibility. I wasn’t raised with pets. An idea for companionship I consider from time to time, but never act upon.
So, this is something new. And the tragedy is that I won’t be here to participate in the rest of the story. I’m wondering if there is someone out there who would like to step in to help? That means you would need to be here!
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like to make a contribution to Merry’s Spay and Neuter Clinic? email: email@example.com
OR make a gift here and I’ll make sure she gets it. Choose your amount. The amount is the number after the last backslash. Or, create your own amount. PayPal will deduct 5% from the transaction.
Mary Randall has offered to be a check collection point in the USA. You can mail your check payable to Norma Schafer, to Mary Randall, 4208 Loni Ct, Modesto, Ca. 95356
Puppy Rescue in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca–Update
Now that I’m back in my Durham, North Carolina, apartment, people are asking, “What happened to the mama dog and her puppies?”
I guess I need to write an update!
Mamacita. She is a tender, loving puppy mommy and becoming very loyal.
I named the mama dog Mamacita, for lack of any other creative moniker coming to mind. I call her Cita for short. She was a street dog. Cast out. That’s what happens to female dogs. They are unwanted because owners don’t want repeated pregnancies. They also don’t want to neuter their dogs — a financial and cultural issue.
Mamacita has a bad left eye with partial blindness. I presume someone chased her away with a rock and she took a hit.
Sombra (left) and Luz (right) growing up.
Mamacita‘s two babies, just a fistful at birth almost five weeks ago, were white and dark brown. I called them Luz and Sombra, light and shadow.
For the first few days after birth, they lived wild on the land behind my house, nestled in the tall grass shaded by a young guaje tree. Then, I cajoled them into a dog house provided by my friend, Merry Foss, who runs a spay and neuter clinic in the village. By the end of the first week, puppies and mama were living protected in my gated patio.
Dear, wonderful Sylvia, who came to my dog care taking rescue, with Luz.
I fattened up bony Mamacita with twice-a-day doses of chicken soup, beef stock, cooked bones and meat. It was like taking care of a sickly child.
Soon, I had to leave because of work commitments. I sent out the word via Facebook and a blog post. The universe provided.
Mexico Free Spay Neuter Clinic — Click on DONATE
Dog lover Sylvia Johnson Feldman from Connecticut volunteered to come and house sit, mostly to take care of the dogs. She arrived on July 19. I left on July 20. Sylvia will stay until August 17.
Curious puppies roaming the patio. Sylvia got them colorful collars.
In the next week, the pups will get their first inoculations. Sylvia is making an appointment with the veterinarian who comes from neighboring Tlacolula. Cost for the house call and medications is about 250 pesos.
I’m getting updates from Sylvia along with photos showing how the puppies are weaning, lapping pulverized puppy food and milk. Mamacita seems pleased and domesticated, though Sylvia says she bolts the patio through the iron grill work to run during the early morning hours.
Puppy love, a little nipping, a little biting, dog acculturation.
As soon as puppies are fully weaned, we will spay her. This will likely happen during Kalisa Wells’ watch. She arrives on August 16 to take over for Sylvia.
Both Luz and Sombra have both been spoken for, again via Facebook. Luz will go to a family of alebrijes makers in San Martin Tilcajete. Sombra will go to the sister of a friend who lives in Oaxaca, and will eventually return with her to Washington State. We will send them on their way at about 10 weeks old.
I’ve read it is so important to keep mama and puppies together for at least 10-12 weeks so they have a chance to model behavior. So many are adopted out too early.
An early photo of Luz, under one week old.
I will keep Mamacita if she chooses to stay. With my travel schedule, I’ll have to figure out how to keep her and feed her when I’m not in Oaxaca. All suggestions welcome!
Sombra and Luz are spoken for, will go to good homes. So happy about this.
I’d like to urge you to DONATE to the spay/neuter clinic that Merry Foss operates in Teotitlan del Valle. This is tax-deductible and goes a long way to support dogs and cats, especially the females. With this attention, we can help the animals avoid pregnancy and cut, maybe even end, the proliferation of street dogs, a tragedy throughout all of Mexico.
For me, I took this dog in because of her helplessness, because she is a female, I identified. She has no voice, and there were these two tiny babies depending on her. She could not nurse and hunt for food and water. Not ever having been a dog owner, I learned to give care and compassion to an animal living paw-to-mouth.
Thanks to many of you who have already made a contribution to Merry’s clinic. Thanks in advance to those of you who will.
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FYI: Merry has gotten support from Teotitlan del Valle El Presidente Panteleon Ruiz to hold the spay/neuter clinic at his house! This is a major milestone for the village, recognizing the need to control animal reproduction.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Teotitlan del Valle
Tagged animal rescue, clinic, dog foster, dogs, Merry Foss, Mexico, neuter, Oaxaca, spay, street dogs, Teotitlan del Valle