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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | January 2007 

A Dog's Paradise
email this pageprint this pageemail usEileen Pierce - PVNN

In Mexico, surrounded by a bevy of contradictions, paradise on the one hand, poverty on the other, the possibility of milagras seems far more possible than in the States.
We have had three dogs since arriving in San Pancho a year ago. The first was a black lab puppy, clearly the runt of the litter, who we named Milagra (miracle). We fell in love like teenagers, swift and sure.

At night she lay on my shoulder, her little puppy sweetness nestled in my neck, her rump on my shoulder, her breath against my ear. But within a few days, she became ill. Within two weeks the vet, who told us organ failure is common in Mexican street dogs, advised us that Milagra couldn't be saved, and with great kindness he put her down.

Our second dog, another blend of lab and who-knows-what from the same litter, was as healthy as an ox, and as dumb as a San Pancho chicken. Milagra II never got the poop-outside-thing, and in the end, smack dab in the middle of a job site which would eventually be our house, we gave up trying to train her and Milagra II trotted happily off to Bucerias with the carpenter.

We watched the second Milagra leave with a little regret, and a great deal of relief. Enough with the dogs. The kids are gone, the nest is empty, I'm going to soar like an eagle and sting like a bee. Then our partner, who had volunteered her services at the annual spay and neuter clinic in San Pancho, came home with a street dog she had agreed to foster.

I won't say Tory's stray was the ugliest dog I've ever seen. Cross-breeding in Mexico prohibits that distinction. Still, with one blue and one brown eye, an over developed male reproduction system, and a tail clearly corrupted by an impatient driver, Wiley comes pretty damned close.

On arrival, I counted all the bones on his back, and watched the fleas merrily using his tummy like a trampoline. His ears stuck straight out like wings from the side of his head, and his fur, a dirt-brown and black pelt that had rolled around in God knows what for far too long, did not encourage petting.

For a moment, we toyed with the idea of naming him Milagra III, but the name just didn't fit this poor wreck of a starving dog. This was no dreamboat, no pie in the sky miracle of a dog.

When a friend dropped by the next day and said, "My God, he looks just like Wiley Coyote!" the skinny, mopey, more-like-a-rug-than-a-dog dog was instantly dubbed Wiley.

From the beginning, I had grave doubts about Wiley. This was a dog who had eaten chicken bones and tortillas thrown by waiters either too tired to bring the debris to the trash, or too kind to give up on a starving beach dog.

He was in bad shape, all right, the kind of shape that doesn't bode well for a long future of fresh water and kibble. Wiley wasn't eating, barely walking and as the days passed he stationed himself at the side of Tory's bed, his big brown and blue looking up woefully if you happened to pass his way.

A week after he arrived, we took Wiley to the vet, who promptly ordered urine and blood tests. A few days later, looking over the dog's starved body, he gave us the news. Wiley had blood in his urine, possible kidney and liver problems and the likelihood of a tumor. He suggested we give him electrolytes, and come back for another round of blood tests in 10 days. It didn't, he warned, look good.

Tory and I cried while Wiley, who had taken on a rough odor, musky, dark and scary, slept noisily on the back seat. We prepared ourselves for the worst. The days passed as they will in Mexico, each moment wandering off in a different direction than planned.

Still, we were on course with poor Wiley, filling his bowl with electrolyte-enriched water every hour or so. Wiley gulped it greedily, more like a dog discovered wandering the Sahara than one who had spent his life scrounging around the beach in San Pancho.

A month has passed since Tory came home from the spay and neuter clinic with our third Mexican dog. Though he isn't named Milagra like the other two, Wiley is probably the biggest miracle of all.

He eats everything we give him, and then burrows in the trash can for more. He leaps on and off the furniture like a cat, and is becoming bolder and more stubborn by the minute. In other words, Wiley is alive and well and becoming a bit of a pain in the neck.

He continues to be a very weird looking dog, as gangly as a 13 year old, all boney legs and strange angles. His feet are simply too big for an animal his size, and the ears and tail speak for themselves. Bad genes is the least of Wiley's problems.

Still, he thrives, a rather sweet dog with a dark past and a streetwise attitude that rises to the surface if anyone reaches for his kibble. Having survived a ruinous puppy-hood and a desperately bad, unnamed malady, Wiley seems ready for the rest of his life. Now it's up to us to figure out how he'll fit into our plans.

Tough, homeless Mexican dogs twitch and stir in their sleep just like their Northern cousins, but their dreams are full of dark beaches and wild nights, of running with a pack of nameless mongrels, and of living from one tossed chicken bone to the next.

They have not been petted or trained; they don't know how to follow commands, and are seemingly unwilling to change. In short, Wiley will always be a bit suspect, an unknown quantity that survived the worst for absolutely no known reason other than electrolytes.

In Mexico, surrounded by a bevy of contradictions, paradise on the one hand, poverty on the other, the possibility of milagras seems far more possible than in the States.

Indeed, when butterflies flitter through the house long after sunset, when friends call exactly when you need them, when the carpenter finishes the shelves on time and a dog with a question mark for a tail, all bones and no flesh, survives, it's not only easy to believe in miracles, you begin to expect them, and as with Wiley, you move over, and make room as they begin to fill up your life.

Eileen Pierce is a former staff writer and columnist for the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA and in the last few years was the PR/Marketing Director for the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA. The co-author of the 2005 Fodor's Guide to the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley, Eileen continues to freelance for various publications, including the Boston Globe. She and her partners run the Inn of the Gata Gorda in San Pancho, Nayarit where they live year round. For more information or to make reservations at the Inn de la Gata Gorda in San Pancho, Nayarit, Mexico call (311) 258-4190. From the US call (413) 553-3628 or send an email to

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