I didn’t set out to find a dog. They all found me.
Two came with the house I bought in Mexico. Another wandered in a few weeks later.
And then there were the two straggly mutts that had made “camp” on the porch of the empty house across the street. They were small dogs, about the size of miniature poodles, with long matted hair. One was dark to light gray, the other a dirty blond.
For the first few days, I kept chasing them back to the porch. The three other dogs were already eating through large bags of kibble, and I was still learning to navigate bark-bark instead of meow (I’d been a cat person my entire life).
When the blond showed up one afternoon with bird feet hanging out of her mouth, I was hooked. Any little dog hungry enough to catch flying food was cunning enough to win me over. Her gray partner trailed in behind her.
But, ugh. Such dirty tangled messes. Steve and I got out shampoo, the hose and scissors and whacked away at the knots that bound their legs and shoulders. Soon, they were oddly trimmed with some gapping fur holes, but bouncier and lighter — and definitely cleaner — for the ordeal. Steve immediately named them Blondie and Buster, and two good friends entered our lives.
The story’s been told, but again I’ll mention that Steve believed that both dogs were fixed — until our neighbor, Jeanne, found Blondie and Buster happily “at it,” and soon thereafter Blondie became a kind of football shape, and Steve’s lessons in anatomy proved to be sorely lacking. On schedule and in Jeanne’s backyard (we were in the States), Blondie gave birth to six puppies. Five lived through the night and into full rough and tough, growl and pounce, rip and shred puppydom.
We found homes for all of them. Three were going to the States and two were staying with families in Mexico. Which was perfect, until Buster went chasing after a car — and the car won. Sadly, I buried him in the vacant lot next to some of his predecessors. Even with partial adoption, beach living can be a hard life.
His death sealed the deal on a puppy for us, and Buster Jr. became the “go-dog” traveling north to the States and back south to Loreto. He is the light of my life, and a smile maker for all those who meet him.
A few weeks after he’d moved north, Steve became worried about Blondie. Even though she still had her dog friends and hung out with Jeanne, she was a little dog who was kind of on her own. Steve decided she should also move to Laguna.
Friend Alexander said that she died and went to wood floors. Blondie flourished here in ways I had never expected.
At first, she had no idea at all what to do with a toy. It was only in recent weeks that she finally figured out to grab the other end of her son’s stuffed animal and pull back.
She wasn’t quite ready to chase a ball, but she loved it when Buster did. She’d jump on his back and ride around while he rolled it from room to room. Blondie adjusted well to leash walks and even had a personal groomer at Animal Crackers. In fact, Blondie’s picture graced this newspaper two weeks ago, in an article about the rescue efforts of Gina and her shop.
Her heart, though, was always on the shores of Loreto. Blondie continued to be an avid hunter.
More than once I had swum after her when she had pinned a small grebe in her sights and could not be dissuaded from pursuing it. Once, she had swum so far that I could hardly see her. Terrified that she would drown, I tossed off shoes and shorts and swam to grab my precious golden bundle. When I reached her she looked at me like, “Hey, where are we anyway?” Then she settled on top of my chest while I backstroked back to shore.
Last week, I was in the process of installing wires across the fence to keep the dogs in the yard and prevent them from chasing cars — something that must be in their genes. The back gates were finished, and we were just about to start on the front.
I heard the other dogs bark. The screen was open, and I yelled at Steve to grab Blondie. She streaked past me a white ball of racing fur. I screamed “Blondie!” and the driver of the police car patrolling the beachfront looked straight at me. She was all bark-bark-bark, then thump. Then no bark. She lay in a crumpled heap not more than 5 feet from where her husband had died.
I buried her next to Buster Sr. under the tree in the vacant lot and the watchful eye of St. Francis’ statue. She died where she had started, doing what she loved — running free.
CATHARINE COOPER is dog mom to Buster - and half-mom to Shorty, Diego and Ruby. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org