El perro loco y otras cosas
Where are all the stray dogs? There were tons of cats in San Juan but few stray dogs. Well the answer is the beach. Stray dogs, or “beach dogs” litter the beaches of the southwestern corner in Puerto Rico. One dog, who I named Penelope, followed us home twice. She is a black and white dog with a sweet face that is around 30-40 pounds. She had a line on her neck like at one point she had a collar on. Other people who have seen her call her simpatica and she really does have the sweetest face and demeanor. She seems totally content to get belly rubs and follow you around.
There are lots of owned dogs as well. They stay chained up on long ropes or chain links to the fences that enclose them. I realized it is not only El Combate whose homes are totally enclosed, but also every town we have been to have homes surrounded by some sort of metal fence posts. Needless to say these dogs seem like outside dogs that do not get the same spoiling Emma does. My favorite fence dog so far is this golden retriever that lives down the street on the way to the beach. I always call her over and she sticks her smiling nose through the fence while I rub her head and neck and give her lots of que lindas. I try to compliment the dogs because I feel like a majority of them are used to being yelled at. Many bark at their fences but when you walk up to them will timidly wag their tail and let you pet them.
Last weekend when we were in Guanica, a nature reserve where the northern end is covered with dry forests (one of the last areas in the world) and the southern end is littered with beaches along the Caribbean Sea. On our drive by the beach we drove by a band of puppies. There were about 10 puppies ranging from black and white to ones that looked like St. Bernard mixes, all foraging on the side of the road. Some barked when we got near and others quickly ran off into their new home of the nature reserve. It was so sad. People had obviously just dumped a litter or two of puppies at the beach where they will grow up fearful of humans, predate on the wildlife and form a small feral band of dogs, which if any of them have vicious tendencies can be very bad. Further along the beach were dogs with huge sagging- nipples from a recent birth and ones covered in mange, missing chunks of fur. They all looked pretty pitiful and were very timid. They would run into the forest when we tried to call them over or would shyly walk a few steps toward us before stopping and just staring- presumably waiting for us to give them food. I felt really bad for these dogs but tried not to dwell on it because ultimately there is nothing I can do for the beach dogs. I hope that someday Puerto Rico and other developing countries with stray dog problems will have spay and neuter clinics that will at least control the populations. I also hope that someday people can claim responsibility for their pets.
When we were leaving the beach we saw a man, surrounded by the beach dogs, placing big plastic trays splattered with dog food on the ground. The beach dogs were excitedly jumping around this kind man who was a friend and provider for these beach dogs.
One day I was at Playa Sucia, alone, minding my own business, when I see this cute golden retriever mix probably about a year old so naturally I whistle at it to come over. It bounds over and starts jumping on me and is all excited and seems nice. I lay down to relax and the dogs starts to play with my hand chewing on it until it gets kind of aggressive with the chewing so I was like, “screw this I am going in the water where you can’t get me dog!” (ironically, lots of the beach dogs do not know how to swim but can wade). So as I hop in to enjoy my swim I see the crazy dog grab my rainbow flip-flop in its mouth, start shaking its head from side to side sprinting up and down the beach. I was like, “oh hell no”. I got out a.s.a.p., grabbed my stuff, wrestled my shoe out of the dogs mouth and tried to walk away. Big mistake. Now the dog thinks I am playing with it, and clearly because it has no training, and has dredos behind its ears- signaling it has been at the beach for a bit- it starts full blown jumping, biting and mildly attacking me, although playfully (in its mind). At this point I start yelling at it “NO! NO!” and its jumping on me scratching my legs as I am only covered by a bikini, biting my hands super hard etc. I finally scruffed its neck pushed its face on the sand and yelled “NO” when I released it, it was more hyper than ever, like “best day ever!!”. So I booked it out of the beach where I saw a Puerto Rican who I asked if he knew the dog. He said he didn’t and I told him it was crazy and a bad dog and he told me it just wanted to play. Oh please, he did not just get brutally scratched and bitten by this thing. Of course he calls the dog over and it sits down and stares up at him- you’ve got to be kidding me?! I swear he had something to do with the release of this dog…maybe it’s his beach dog. With my adrenaline racing and many hasty glances backward to see if it was following me, I walked home, beach day ruined.
A few days ago I returned to the beach alone, was reading my book “When I was Puerto Rican” about to take a nap when I feel something fuzzy and warm come right next to me and start licking my ear. It’s F***ing perro loco! It lays down and is all nice and cuddly and licking me, completely invading my space, so I pet it and think to myself- maybe if I just stay calm it won’t try to “play”, but I got to get the hell out of here before something happens. Slowly I started to pack my things up so she/he couldn’t chew on them. This time I also put my long t-shirt on before my departure. But then there the dog is, lying on my towel and in order to get it off I have to pull my towel out from underneath it, which is surely a sign to play. I tried to do it slowly and the dog started gnawing at my towel. I saw some guys drinking beers not too far away so I figured if this dog went total ape shit on me I would at least have some Puerto Ricans come to my rescue as my leg was being mauled- wishful thinking? So I grab my towel sling my bag on my shoulder and sure enough beach dog is like “it’s gooooooooo time!” and starts biting my bag walking alongside me holding onto my bag. This bag has travelled with me through several countries I was not about to have this damn dog rip it open. So I walked to the guys asked them if they knew the dog- they did not- I told them it was crazy and I left the dog with the two young men with manicured eyebrows.
I was lucky that time. But now my trips to playa sucia are strained because I never know when I will run into perro loco… I wish Penelope would find me again.