Written by Liz Gangemi of Texas
I am almost 50 and I haven’t ‘loved’ a dog since I was about 22 or 23. When our dog Daisy died, something inside of me died too and I guess my ‘dog-loving-capability’ went on self-protect mode. I’ve had other pets, and felt affection for them, but I can’t say that I have truly loved one… until Chiquita Banana came along.
One day this summer, on a trip back to my daughter’s home town of Garza Garcia in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, we went to take an early morning walk at the Calzada del Valle. It is an activity where the mayor ordained that a very important long street of the city be closed off for traffic each Sunday so that families can jog, ride bikes, walk their pets and just have a good safe place to go, safe from our drug war.
This one particular weekend, my daughter took her Yorkie named Beba with her. We were walking her when I saw a little girl in front of me walking a small Chihuahua with a bright orange little apron tied over her back with the words ‘Adopt Me’ — ‘Prodan’ written on it. The little girl was riding a tricycle and the little dog was just walking along beside her, sometimes trailing behind, and it seemed like the dog was trying to look into the child’s eyes as if though to say “So, what do you think — do I get to go home with you?”
I slowed down my pace and was hypnotized by the interaction and also eavesdropping in on the child’s conversation with a man who appeared to be her grandfather, who kept reminding her that they were ‘only’ walking the dog, not keeping her. I wondered how the doggie would feel if she could understand.
I went at that snail’s pace until I had followed them both up the Calzada and back down it, just watching the dog’s expression. She had the most communicative eyes, and the ugliest under bite that you could imagine — she looks like a piranha from the side — and I could understand why she wouldn’t be a ‘favorite’.
I Was Crying in Despair, “I’ll Take Her!”
When we finally arrived at the location where she had to turn in the dog, the little girl kicked, screamed and cried, but her grandfather was firm….”No! I told you we were only walking the dog, NOT keeping her!” He shouted even louder and the doggy’s head hung down. I could swear that until that final deep-voiced remark, she probably never even imagined that she could be turned down.
When the dog handler took ahold of her leash, the doggie turned and looked at me with the most forlorn look I could have imagined a dog could have. It was of utter sadness, disappointment and humiliation (which I must have deep down identified with) and before I could even contain myself, I was crying in despair and raising my hand to say “I’ll take her!”
The little Chihuahua looked at me and I think she ‘knew.’ I think she somehow felt my concern and interest and again she looked at me with those sticking-out-eyes and slightly raised her head, cocking it to the side, and just looked at me, almost like she was afraid to either move or hope lest she break the enchantment and ruin things for herself.
A Crying Mess, I Begged Them to Let Me Bring Her Home
The Prodan volunteer looked at me like I had lost my mind and I think must have wondered what the heck was up with this snotty-nosed crying person who was expressing an interest in a dog that she had not interacted with. How could she have known I had been following the family for more than an hour?
My daughter was just as surprised, because she knew how sensitive I am towards animals in need of rescue and how emotionally debilitating it is for me to even go into a pet store. I don’t think she even believed that it was going to go beyond me bawling my eyes out and that I really was going to take her.
But then we had to do the paperwork and this agency’s policy is to go and inspect where the dog would live before they let you take them. So I had to explain to them that I moved because of the war and that I lived more than 150 kilometers away, now back in the USA, and that it would be impossible, which only upset me more and made me cry harder.
I explained how we travel back ‘home’ on the weekends and as evidence offered to let them see how we had our Beba with us, and I guess that when they saw the little bows on her head, her leopard-colored sweater, her leash with the water bottle and doggie bag dispenser hanging off of it, along with my daughter’s concern for me — they said that they would make an exception and 600 pesos later, the doggie was mine.
At First, She Was Nervous But That Soon Faded
She was shaking like a leaf, sitting there looking at all of the exchange going on around her, looking at our Beba and I think trying to understand what another dog had to do with anything. She smelled like urine when I picked her up and she yelped very frightened when I tried to cradle her stomach-side-up as though she were being skinned alive. Nevertheless, tummy-side-down she allowed, always turning to look back up at me and not wanting to get down for anything.
I have had her for about four months now. In that time, I have completely fallen in love with her. She, with her incessant scratching on my legs to pick her up when I am at the computer; with her high-pitched squeal when I put her out to do her duties in the patio and with almost biting my fingers off when I give her snacks. She has taught me how, with patience, it is possible to love again.
Now she lets me cradle her and rub and kiss her tummy, and even drifts off to sleep tummy-side-up, in this so vulnerable of positions for a doggie. She follows me from room to room and sleeps in the crook of my neck at night. If I move her, she licks my hand or face and very drowsily just falls back asleep again totally at peace and happy. She sits patiently in the kitchen to wait for treats and snacks, and takes a bath with my daughter.
She plays with the Yorkie and has won her over and even steals the bones and snacks from Reyna (our Malanoise /large breed dog), to which Reyna only sits down and looks at her quizzically as if to say “What’s up with this Mini-Me?” because their coloring is so similar.
Because of her, I have learned that given the right person and circumstances, it is possible to love again, and because until I truly opened my heart and really loved this dog, I had not realized how closed off I was to many things. Sometimes I wonder who rescued who?
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