In June, when we first looked at the house we’re now renting, it was occupied by a young couple with two little ones and what appeared to be multiple dogs. Emily, the wife, told us that the mama dog had shown up on their patio and shortly thereafter, given birth to six puppies. Although the owner of the mama dog lived across the road, mama preferred Emily, who probably took a lot better care of her. Emily had gotten shots for all the pups and planned to have them and mama neutered as soon as the pups were weaned. When we visited, the pups were close to six weeks and all had been claimed by new owners except Coco, the runt.
Of course I fell in love immediately. “Would you be able to save Coco for us when we come back in October?”
“Of course,” said Emily, “he’s so tiny, I’d really prefer he’d go to a home with no little kids – they might squash him out of sheer devotion.”
I hadn’t heard from Emily after we returned to Phoenix, and I was a little bit afraid to ask because the last time we’d seen Coco, he’d been in the throes of an ear infection. He was so small that the fluid in his ear made him list to the left, so he could really only walk in circles. Of course Emily had taken him to the vet for antibiotics, but I just wasn’t sure he’d survived.
The afternoon of October 2 we arrived in Costa Rica. It was grey and overcast. After the van unloaded our piles of stuff, we walked the dogs up to Jenny’s to get the key. When we got back to the house, a little brown dog was sitting expectantly on our patio. I recognized the mama dog from this summer.
Now, in Phoenix, we’d had to keep our dogs away from other dogs. Lily had shown aggression toward other dogs at the dog park when she was very young, so we’d stopped taking her. When we adopted Charlie, he just picked up on her vibes. Their behavior got a little better after about nine months of “dog school,” but we’d always felt we couldn’t trust them around other dogs.
But now we had another dog on our patio, and she seemed to have no intention of going elsewhere. We kept the leashes on our dogs and even muzzled Charlie. MamaDog made tentative advances. Lily seemed to want to just sniff, so we let her come closer. And she just sniffed. Amazing. Charlie trembled and hid under a chair. I gave him a dose of Rescue Remedy. It eased the trembling but he still remained planted under the chair.
Soon Lily and MamaDog were interacting. And then playing. Running around together on the lawn. Lily still had her leash on and MamaDog sometimes grabbed it, pulling Lily around the yard. Charlie watched warily from the safety of the chair.
I’d put a water bowl out on the porch, but now it was supper time for the dogs. Lily and Charlie came in to eat. I got out a plastic bowl and put a scoop of dog food in it. Paul glanced over at me. “We’re feeding her now?” It was really less a question than a statement. Yes. We are. MamaDog is letting us live in this nice house; the least we can do is feed her.
Each day when we take the dogs for walks, Lily and Charlie on their leashes, MamaDog comes with us. She bounds ahead, visiting the local perros, letting them know there are two perros de Norte America in the neighborhood now. Then she scampers back to us to make sure we’re coming along.
On our walk, Lily is mostly calm when the other dogs come up to check her out (e.g. sniff her butt). Charlie is still in lunging mode, so we’re keeping his muzzle on him for the time being. Someone told me recently that the population of Costa Rica is 4 million humans and 6 million dogs. This is not hyperbole. In fact, most of them seem to live on our hill and most of them have stopped by at least once to poop on our lawn (not hyperbole).
AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY …
We’ve been in the house a week and our morning routine is pretty set. Coffee on the patio surrounded by three dogs. We’ve since learned that MamaDog has an actual name, Sacha. Sacha, it appears, is now our dog. Waiting for the bus the other day, Paul was chatting en Español with some of the neighbor ladies. “Es su perro?” he asked, pointing to Sacha, who’d accompanied us to the bus stop.
The ladies laughed. “No, no,” they replied pointing to us, “es su perro.” Apparently the rule around here is: if you live en quarto casa dereche Calle Echoes, Sacha belongs to you.
So now it’s Day Seven. Charlie has finally figured out a few things. 1) If I don’t snap at the other dogs, I don’t need to wear my muzzle. 2) If I accept this new member of the family, I get to play on the lawn. We finally have some video of him romping like a normal dog instead of looking like an SS officer on duty. He still prefers the safety of hiding under the bedcovers (see red arrow in photo).
And Lily has discovered her true lesbian roots, falling head over heels in love with Sacha. Sacha has tried to explain to her in her best polite dog way “I don’t lean that way … not that there’s anything wrong with it.” We’ve given Sacha a bed and half the crate to hide in when Lily’s protestations of love (e.g. humping) get too much for her. But most of the time they are simply content to hang out together on the patio, just pals.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF COCO
I learned from Emily that while she and her family went away for a week, Sonya, the actual owner of Sacha, was supposed to be taking care of Coco, the little runt. One day Coco went up the hill and never returned. I hope that he found a good home, and if there are kids in it they don’t squash him. Maybe we’ll meet him on one of our daily walks.