When I first arrived here in Pachuca, there were two dogs I really noticed in my neighborhood: Mama and Lady. These are not their actual names. Mama earned my name for her due to her being pregnant when I arrived. I named the other dog Lady because she is a Cocker Spaniel.
The two dogs were very different at first. Lady is an incredibly friendly dog, always ready to play and get love from any person she sees. Her owners adore her and she is a very well cared for dog. I named her long before I named Mama; this is mainly due to the fact that I was afraid of Mama when I first arrived. She is a big dog, probably a good 50 pounds or more, and covered in thick fur that just makes her look bigger. But her size wasn’t what worried me when I first met her–it was her demeanor. Mama was a miserable and angry looking dog. If you walked to close to her, she would put her head down and growl at you before retreating. Her stare as she watched you felt angry. Nothing about the dog seemed welcoming.
One day, as Salvador and I were walking to get dinner, Mama approached Sal wanting to be pet. It was a shocking moment. Sal gave her a few quick pats on the head; she then growled at me and ran away. When we returned from eating, I had a box of fries we had not finished. I decided to give them to her and then went home.
The next day that we went for food, she ran out into the street in front of us. She went to Sal for a quick pet and then decided to sit on my feet, her back facing me. I pet her a bit, then stepped backwards to get from under her. She continued to roll backwards against my legs until she was lying on her back in front of me, showing me her belly. I gave her some belly rubs and then went on my way. When I came back, I had saved a little bit of my meal for her.
From that day on, Mama thought she was my best friend. When I walked home, she would follow me to my door. When I went to the store, she would walk me to my gate and oftentimes waited for me to return. She would tear apart others trash cans and go to the bathroom in their yards, but my house was immune to these things. I began leaving water outside in a bucket for her and would gather whatever food I could give; she usually appeared outside my door after dinner time, waiting for her meal.
It was about a month after she attached to me that it became obvious she was pregnant; it was at this point that Mama became her name. Her belly was big and heavy and she was having difficulty walking. Before we knew it, Mama had vanished. Weeks went by and we weren’t sure where she was, but we figured that she had her puppies and was brought inside. Eventually, we glimpsed Mama in the backyard of her owners home, tied to a tree with a large rope. It is nothing out of the ordinary here, so I didn’t think too much of it.
Eventually, Mama was released from the tree, likely after her puppies no longer needed her milk constantly for survival. She immediately came to my open door and the smell of her was awful. I reached out to pet her and I realized where the smell was coming from–the rope had been too tight and created a gaping wound on her neck. Later, I bought antibiotic ointment and began treating the wound when she would let me. To my surprise, it healed.
Soon, Mama’s puppies were sold–my understanding is that they were sold cheaply to people wanting roof dogs. We were back to our usual routine together for a couple of months. Then I left for a few days vacation in the US. When I returned, Mama was gone. The food Sal had put out for her was eaten by other dogs. I assumed the worst–that she went outside the privada and was picked up by the dog catchers, sent to a horrific death. Or that her owners had become sick of her and given her away or put her down. It was nearly a month after I returned that I saw Mama again, limping her way into the privada.
I didn’t know it at the time–in fact I only found out about a week ago–but Mama had, indeed, been given away to someone in another city. She ran away as soon as she arrived. Over a month’s time, she walked all the way back to home. This became the story of the privada–a story my language barrier kept me out of–and other neighbors began feeding her as well, delighted with her apparent spunk and resilience.
At the first of March, Mama went into heat again. I wanted her spayed, made the offer, and was flatly refused. I assume that the future puppies were seen as valuable since they were able to sell them for whatever trivial amount the last time. They were fierce-looking, lean, and large; they lacked high value due to being mutts but their look made for good guards.
But the owners have not been caring for her during the pregnancy; Mama has taken to spending most of her time in my yard or in those of other, friendly neighbors. She frequently comes to my yard panting with thirst, her water bucket I give her already empty and still needing more. The days have been warm and her long, black coat is too heavy for the moment. And she herself is getting bigger by the day.
I have been feeling guilty. I feel guilty that I have let her be hurt because she was “owned” and I did not have permission, that I let her love me and then let her down. I’ve started bringing her into the house, trying to get her to feel that it is where she belongs. I put Georgia’s old collar on her a few weeks ago. After a few days, a vaccination tag was placed on it by someone else. And a couple days ago, I put Georgia’s old name plate on the collar, a message to the dog catchers that this dog is owned. That someone loves her and, if found on the street, she should not be killed.
Right now, Mama is rolling around in the living room floor, doing her belly rub dance. Her tummy is full and she drank all the water she needed. Sometimes she comes to me for a pet. Most of the time she simply sleeps. Eventually she will decide she has had enough and wait at the door for me to let her run through the privada. My hope is that as soon as our gate to our yard is fixed (again), she will get better about staying here with us, and that, one day, she’ll quit needing the street and be happy in her home.