In honor of the upcoming one-year anniversary of returning to Oregon, I’m going to post the first essay I wrote about living in the middle of Mexico. At the time, it was a stand-alone essay. I did not know it would become a chapter in a book about our experiences south of the border (ahem, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak). The essay became the chapter titled “Yes, We Have No Chihuahuas,” which, as you can guess, is about dogs. I am including it here in three installments.
If you’re interested in reading the entire book, please visit my publisher’s web page: http://fuzepublishing.com/products-page/books/nobody-knows-the-spanish-i-speak/
Or order the book from Amazon. Vaya con nachos! Here’s the first passage:
Yes, We Have No Chihuahuas
Regarding the canine species in Mexico and a commentary on how at least some dogs are doing in the central highlands these days
There are several fine books, chapbooks, and even coffee table books available about the doors, windows, and churches of San Miguel de Allende. But what about the dogs? I asked myself that question as I made my way through the town’s small, eclectic bookstore for non-Spanish-speaking types. After all, in the short time we’d been living in that beautiful spot, I’d noticed at least six distinct subspecies or supraspecies of canines. Surely, I thought, these dogs deserve as much attention and photo-spread space as a mere door.
Take Canis barkus obnoxious, for example, a mixed breed with an obvious chip on its shoulder. This dog was usually kept locked inside of a casa or courtyard, and was always heard but rarely seen. Highly valued by Mexicans and expats alike, especially homeowners of the paranoid sort, this local celebrity dog was worth his or her weight in table scraps. Much cheaper than a home security alarm and consistently more effective, the dog could be found in most neighborhoods, from the center of town to the outlying residential areas. However, if you lived next door to this breed you could kiss a good night’s sleep goodbye, for they were relentless barkers. They had one skill, barking, and they knew how to sell it.
A similar breed to your basic courtyard guard dog was Canis rooftopus, a subset of highly specialized canines that guarded a house from the roof only. These dogs were always seen and usually heard. Apparently, any size canine qualified for this, ahem, lofty position, and it was not unusual to see two pint-sized terriers working the same roof. Or two German shepherds. Or a rottweiler and a Shar-pei. More so than your average guard dog, this breed typically worked in teams of two and three. Canis rooftopus was as effective as broken glass cemented to the top of an exterior wall and much more ecologically and esthetically pleasing.
Just below rooftopus sat and barked Canis balconynonus, typically a breed of a very small type that appeared infrequently at a balcony’s iron grill. This dog was clearly well taken care of, preferred to work alone, and only visited the balcony as the mood struck, which meant you had to show ample patience when looking for it. However, a sighting of balconynonus was worth catching, for its bark was often both enthusiastic and hilariously high-pitched. If you didn’t catch this dog on a balcony, you needn’t worry. This species was often seen around town pulling its frustrated owner in several directions.
On the ground was where you usually found Canis roadkillsimilaris, otherwise known as the “Is It Still Alive” dog. These dogs were everywhere and resembled some expat retirees in their fascination with siestas. Canis roadkillsimilaris was the very definition of sloth. In fact, it was often hard to detect if this species of dog was still breathing, short of performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on it. This breed was usually found sprawled out in a driveway or on the side of the road. Although roadkillsimilaris preferred to sleep in the sun, during the hotter periods of the day or year it usually curled up in whatever shade it could find and considered itself on the job. I’m not sure how or what or when roadkillsimilaris ate, since I had never seen any of these dogs actually move other than to swat a fly.
While Canis roadkillsimilaris never moved, Canis wanderlustus was always on the go. Usually traveling in packs of three or more, wanderlustus moved, shark-like, from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood, searching for food and water. Put your garbage out for collection too soon, and you could bet that wanderlustus would find and “trash” your trash faster than you could say, “Beware of dog.” Although they often traveled in packs, I never felt threatened by their presence. If I encountered one of these dogs, I simply picked up a rock and pretended to throw it. The dog was sure to leave me alone since this bohemian breed consisted mostly of lovers, not warriors. — to be continued…