Friday, December 1, 2006

Puro Zaguate

I have two dogs. They are both mutts. In tico Spanish they are called zaguates. I like to joke that they are "puro zaguates", or "pure mutts". I'm thinking of selling t-shirts.

I acquired my first dog who was about 4-5 weeks old from my father-in-law, whose dog had a litter of puppies. "The bitch" had a litter of 9; one died. She was pure pit bull, not well taken care of, and getting on in years. She had 8 tits that almost touched the sand, was flea and tick infested and had only one eye with vision. The other eye was constantly infected and was the color of sour milk. The father was... well... everything else on the beach. The bitch stopped nursing, probably because she was malnourished, and my father-in-law started giving the pups away. He saved a special one for me.

But first... My first introduction to the bitch was when I first began dating the woman who would later become my wife. I stepped onto the porch of her family's house on the beach one night to pick her up for a night out. The bitch was there to greet me with a growl that set my primordial defensive freeze instinct immediately into action - or inaction. She advanced on me in a crouching position that I've only seen on Animal Planet's "Predators" series when those wild African dogs are featured. The recollection is giving me goose bumps as I type. My wife came to my rescue before the bitch locked on to my leg with the compressive force of a T-Rex (which, as I found out later, was her signature method of neutralizing home invaders).

With the proper introductions made, I made friends with the bitch almost immediately. She would follow us everywhere. She would sleep outside of my house while we were dating and after my future-wife moved in with me. She wanted to kill my gardener, for whom she had the utmost distaste (or perhaps a taste for). She should have, as time would reveal. I loved her. I really loved that ugly bitch.

But she was bad for business at the restaurant. She scared the hell out of ticos and gringos alike. And she was protective and would take a nip at someone every now and then. She would go up against any male on the beach, and any who encountered her had had his ass kicked at least once. So my father-in-law gave her to one of his brothers with a big finca down the peninsula. I miss her. I see her face in my dog's face. I see her actions and instincts in his. She was the ugliest bitch I ever loved (think country 'n' western song).

But unlike his mom, the bitch, my dog's not a biter. In fact, quite the opposite. He'll get in anyone's car for a ride or follow anyone down the beach and spend the day with them picnicking and swimming in the surf. He disappears for a week or two weeks at a time - five days last time. Each time I send out a message on the coconut telegraph to be on the look out for "Apellido" (I'll explain below). The first time Apellido disappeared, he returned to the beach two weeks later after being sighted in a town about 8 kms. away 3 days before his return. The second time, I got a call from a guy I know in the same town he was sighted in the previous time, who found him and tied him up. I went and picked him up. The last time he showed up after 5 days for a fogata we had in the woods behind our new house. I heard his bark, whistled, and he materialized from the darkness. In each instace he returned without a collar (stolen), and very well-fed. It was like he wasn't even gone. I now figure he gets tired of his dog food, gets pissed off and hits the road to visit the next family on the circuit. Hell, they've got REAL chicken, pork and gallo pinto, not this cereal crap!! He's now famous between here and this other town. Everyone's on the look out for the "bago" (short for "vagabundo", or vagabond).

The Spanish word for a last name, or family name, is apellido. My dog has a last name for a first name - like Jefferson. He's named after one of my favorite MLB pitchers. This confuses the living crap out of ticos. Having a last name as a first name does not compute. DOES NOT COMPUTE. It's a concept too far outside of the lines, envelope, box. They laugh nervously as they try to process this information when I tell them his name, thinking I'm messing with them, but maybe not. I ENJOY THIS IMMENSELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When Appellido was about 6 weeks old, he got parvo virus. I had had him vaccinated, and the vaccine set off the virus, which he had already contracted. His brother, the one pup my father-in-law kept, also contracted it. It's tough watching a 6 week old puppy puke his guts out every 20 minutes to the point of beef jerky-like dehydration. So I put him and his brother in the car and rushed them to the vet. My father-in-law sure as hell wasn't gonna spend the money on a vet for his dog - that's just not done in Costa Rica. I don't know how vets survive here. The vet, a Russian-Tica, was direct: "I think these dogs will die." She was wrong - to her credit. I worship this woman. Four days later after being on the brink of death they were well enough to come home, and they fully recovered after about 3 weeks. Two weeks ago the Apellido's brother got into a fight with a three-toed ant eater. He lost his eye when the ant eater planted one of it massive claws in the dog's face. No vet. Dog is recovering on his own - maybe. Last report was that he was vomiting puss. Pura vida!

When Appellido hit 7 months, I noticed something next to his peepee that looked like an infection. Russian-Tica was direct: "It's a tumor. He has cancer." I mean, he's still a puppy for Chrisake!!. And I'm getting married this week!! I immediately put up the emotional armor and came to grips with the fact that I would have to put him down. Russian-Tica suggested chemotherapy. Didn't know they had that for dogs. All I could see were colones signs in my head. She gave him 4 treatments - injections into the tumor - with a night or two of observation each time. Total cost for each treatment: $22. She didn't charge me for boarding him. He's a well-trained and very friendly dog. She kept him in her house. She liked him because he calmed the other dogs down and played with the old ones no one else would play with. He's fully recovered. He loves going to the vet, catching up with the old dogs. Of course, he usually leaves with a new rawhide chew too. He turns one on 3 January, 2007.

The second puro zaguate was reconnoitered with here sister from a trash can on the next beach up from us. Some tico tourists brought them to the restaurant to see if anyone would take them in. I was ambushed by my wife as I got out of my pickup after chopping jungle with the machete. I melted at the sight of that cute little face and put up no resistance. My mother-in-law took the sister (apparently, a good turtle nest hunter judging by the egg harvest this year). She is a small breed mix and she was in pretty bad shape - flea/tick infested, ear mites, malnourished and no hair on her tail. We de-wormed her, de-flead her and pumped her full of Purina Pro Plan and vitamins. She was 5 1/2 weeks old, according to the vet, when we found her. She weighed 1 kg. (2.2 lbs). A week later when we brought her back to the vet for her first round of vaccinations, she weighed 1.6 kg. She eats like a shark. She's named after the Virgin Mary, which is easier for ticos to process.

The two pooches are inseparable. The contrast between their sizes is of no importance. Apellido comes to the Virgin's rescue on the beach when one of the other dogs gets too rough with her. She returns the favor by devouring all of his food. Pura vida! Puro zaguate!

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