A dog's life

For the past few nights I’ve been woken by the howling of a dog. And it’s not just indiscriminate yowling, but a really heart-breaking sound that breaks the quiet of the night, makes you sit up in panic and refuses to let you rest until it subsides. I haven’t yet been able to locate the dawn howler or the reason for the crying.

Most dogs here have a sorrowful existence. And if you hear one complaining, it’s more likely to be caused by pain than anything else. There are literally thousands of strays of all shapes and sizes, wandering the streets. Those that are ‘owned’ are often categorised by a handkerchief tied round their necks, but they often walk the streets as randomly as the rest. The unwanted, unclaimed, dogs have to get by as best they can. This means locating enough food and water (or befriending the right kind of people who will provide this, even sporadically), negotiating the intense and indifferent traffic and finding suitable shelter dictated by the weather conditions (including earthquakes, torrential rain, thunderstorms etc).

Rabies is still present in Mexico, although, I admit that I have not yet met any dogs foaming at the mouth…. The main problem here seems to be that for many families it is too expensive to neuter and spay dogs, so that when, tragically, (although perhaps inevitably in an uncertain economy such as Mexico’s where one week you may not have enough to feed the family, let alone the pets) they are deserted or left at the wayside, their procreating abilities remain intact. A number of charities, looking after homeless dogs, are recognising the extent of the problem and are beginning to offer a free neutering service. (I’m going to research this, improve on my photos, and post further info).

A few years ago, we were walking down one of the many four- lane freeways in Mexico city. My heart went out when I saw a small dog, like this one,  obviously disorientated, walking down the highway – along a stretch where there was no pavement. It was clear that it was only a matter or moments before it was hit. I realised the urgency and was quickly distraught; I began looking for a break in traffic – coming thick and fast – to run across and pick it up. Jaime had to physically restrain me. A few yards further, a few seconds more, and it was all over. It was an emotional moment that oddly has stayed with us both. I know it sounds crazy - what is a strange dog’s life worth to most people, after all - but I felt at the time that it was an omen or premonition of something more terrible. The memory of that dog, it’s foolish sense of purpose as it walked towards certain death, the handkerchief around its neck so confidently waving in the breeze, the eager pants, its semi-erect tail… And when I returned from Mexico, that time, I learned of my mother’s illness.