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Do you like dogs?

12 Dec

Do you like dogs? Do you want one? I know where you can get one for free. You can even get it checked over by a Vet and Spayed or Neutered at no cost to you!

 

All you have to do is come and visit us here in Baja.

A beautiful Baja sunset

 

Of course the cost of travelling to Baja might outweigh the cost advantages of a free pet but hey, a loving pet is priceless right?

 

I don’t own a dog and I haven’t since I was a kid. My childhood was scared with the tragic deaths or losses of dogs. My first dog was a beagle puppy my Father brought home for me 6 months before we sold everything we owned and left Hamilton, Ontario to move to Vancouver, BC.  We couldn’t take him with us, so our relationship was intense but short. I never saw him again, he got out of my aunts yard and was killed by a car a year after we left.

 

I have to tell you, losing your first love at four, leaves a scar!

 

The last dog in my life was a small miniature lab named Peppy. This one met a terrible end. He’d gotten hold of some chicken bones from somewhere, (not us), and they stuck deep in his throat. It wasn’t until we realized he wasn’t eating and had no energy that we recognized there was a problem. My parents were not capable of paying for the costs of surgery for a pet, so Peppy was euthanized. My whole family was devastated. We never owned a dog again.

 

Richards story is a little happier. His life was filled with dogs. The earliest photos of him as a little boy show him with a dog. His Mother bred Champion show and Obedience dogs and he delights in telling people that he can remember having 24 dogs around at one time and usually never less than 10. He even adopted a dog when he spent two years on a Kibbutz in Israel, to stop it from being euthanized.

 

When we got married, and then had children, we talked about getting a dog and though I’d had terrible experiences I was willing, Richard wasn’t. As he put it, he was “dogged out”. There had been more than enough dogs in his life and after discussing the pros and cons, we decided our lifestyle didn’t have any room in it for a dog, and that’s the way it’s stayed all these years.

 

Sita, short for Mamasita. She was an abandoned Mom with pups when adopted. Don't worry, the pups got a good home too!

When we started coming here, it became apparent that the attitude towards dogs is very different that it is in Canada and the U.S. At home, pets are often treated better than humans are, not so down here.

 

As far as the vast majority of Mexicans are concerned, dogs are plain and simply animals. Don’t misunderstand me, most dogs are loved and cared for by their owners and a few are even treated the same way Paris Hilton treats her Chihuahua, though that’s a rare happening. It is not unusual however, to see dogs, even much loved ones, suffering from Mange, bitches that have obviously had litter after litter, because it’s not macho to get her fixed and packs of scruffy, skinny dogs fending for themselves, because no one can afford to feed them anymore. Now I have to interject here that I have never seen nor heard of dog fights in Baja, lots of Cock fighting goes on, but no dog fights, so no worries on that account.

 

 

It’s actually difficult to describe the relationship between dog owners and dogs down here. Here’s an example, the Market that we go to every Sunday, to purchase farm fresh food has a couple of meat venders, and there are always at least half a dozen dogs in various sad states hanging around. Some of these dogs belong to the various vendors and some are strays that have learned that on Sundays free food can be had for an animal willing to wait for something to hit the ground. No one pays any attention to these animals nor do they seem concerned that some of them appear to be near starvation. There are never any fights amongst the dogs, since survival is more important than dominance, they don’t waste the energy.

 

The owners see no reason to keep their dogs by them all the time and when it’s time to pack up and leave, the dog with an owner will go home with them, and the others will just melt back into the background of the town.

 

 

The problems arise when money gets really tight, since as the most disposable member of the family, the dog is likely to be turned out to fend for itself or driven into the wilds and abandoned.

 

Every town we’ve visited has dogs running loose, often in packs. Some of these are dogs with homes, some are dogs that have been abandoned and others are feral. It’s easy to tell the difference, abandoned dogs wag their tails and will approach humans who call to them and offer them a kind word or a handout, feral dogs go out of their way to avoid humans as much as possible.

You can just make out Bushy and Sandy, the last surviving dogs of a litter of 5 that were rescued by a couple on the beach.

 

You have to understand that there is no SPCA here or any other organization geared to animal control or adoption. There isn’t enough money to look after the human population, let along excess to be used for animal welfare. People come first and since most are barely surviving, there is a long way to go before any thought can be turned to the benefit of anything else. I mean we’re talking about an area where most of the smaller villages have no electricity or running water. One of the Gringos has been trying to solicit donations for a family in Auga Verde, a small fishing village south of us, whose fourteen old son needs dialysis. They need solar panels, batteries and inverters, to keep their son alive, so paying out scarce dollars for a pet is out of the question.

 

Rattlesnake Beach seems to be a favourite place to abandon a dog, probably because the owner really doesn’t want to hurt the animal and they know that chances are good it will be adopted by either one of the campers or someone they know and will go on to a better life. At the moment there are six rescued dogs here that have found new owners and a much better life. Not to mention the feral bitch and her puppy that are being fed by at least two if not three of the ladies that are camping on the beach right now.

 

Sometimes it’s funny listening to the owners of these dogs as they will tell you that regardless as to how young the puppies were when they were adopted, they never lose their Mexican identities. Mexican dogs eat constantly if allowed and they eat anything and everything. It doesn’t matter if they are so full they can barely move, if someone offers them something, they will take it. I think that there must be some sort of starvation memory in these animals, similar to the ones that our parents generation seem to have if they lived through the Depression in the 30’s. I don’t know about you, but I know quite a few older adults who’s cupboards are absolutely full of packaged and canned goods, just in case the the world goes to hell and they can’t get any more food. I’m guessing that starvation teaches to eat when you can.

 

We have managed to find homes for the two dogs that were dropped off in our campsite over the last few years. It’s funny, all our fellow campers seem to assume that we are incomplete without a furry companion and have tried at various times to suggest that nothing could be more perfect than for a dog to magically appear at our doorstep, but Richard lets them all know that it’s just not going to happen. Not that we don’t love to visit with our friends dogs, Richard even sometimes carries treats in his pocket, but it’s like other peoples kids, fun to visit with but eventually they go home to their own family.

 

As for the free Veterinary I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is a group called Animalandia, that comes to town on a fairly regular schedule that does rescues, surgeries, examinations and other necessary work on pets, free of charge. It is made up of a group of volunteers, very similar to Doctors without Borders, though obviously with a different patient focus. Thanks to these folks and the kindness of the people on this beach, as well as those who live in Ligui, Juncalito and Loreto, many dogs have been rescued, fixed, adopted and now live all over Canada and the United States. This is a much better fate than that which they would have faced with had they been left to fend for themselves down here.

 

So as I said at the beginning, are you by any chance in the market for a dog? I happen to know of a very fat, happy puppy that’s going to be looking for a new home soon…

 

 

 

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IT’S ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

27 Oct

So how are things going with you? Hopefully you’re working or maybe collecting U.I.?  Maybe your benefits are just about at an end and the prospects of collecting Welfare are starting to loom large. Ever since the recession hit, things have been pretty rough and if you watch American T.V. you’ve certainly come to realize that things are way worse in the States than they are in Canada. Europe is constantly in the news, as Greece slides into financial chaos soon perhaps to be followed by other countries that have been unable to control their financial messes.

A cardinal comes to sample our oranges in the early morning

Through it all, how much have you heard about Mexico? Probably the only things you’ve heard about have been the drug wars and innocents being murdered by the drug Cartels, or perhaps the media ranting about how unsafe it is because some tourist has been mugged or killed. I’d be willing to bet you haven’t heard a word about how the Recession has impacted down here have you?

Things are very bad, very bad indeed. First let me explain a little about Mexican Employment Law. Once you have been hired, unless you do something so egregious that you could be arrested for it, you can’t be laid off or fired. The only way you leave a job is to retire, quit or die. Our social services such as Welfare and Unemployment insurance either don’t exist here or are offered only sporadically depending on which State you live in and Baja Sur has neither. Now I exaggerate, but not much, you can be laid off but it requires a large severance package to be paid.

So imagine what happens to cities and states that have all these employees, but no money to pay them. Not only do they not have money to pay the employees, they have no money to run the basic infrastructures that keep cities functioning. Since they have no money to pay in wages, they certainly don’t have any to pay out in severance packages to laid off employees, so they stay on the payroll.

Trying his luck, fishing at dawn

Let me give you a little background here, so you’ll have a little understanding. Mexico is a third world country that has lots of petro dollars and like every other similar country; it also has lots of corruption, from the local city cops right up to federal government ministers. It also has very wealthy drug cartels.

Now this is going to sound a bit strange but when there wasn’t this huge crackdown on the Cartels, things worked better. The Cartels held areas of the country, mostly along the border and in a few other states such as Sinaloa and Chihuahua. In these places the Cartels ran everything, including the schools, hospitals and charities. They made sure that the people were looked after. Sure the elections were rigged and only those politicians who were being paid by the Cartels were elected, and if you crossed them your life wasn’t worth a plug nickel, but things worked, maybe only in a warped way, but they worked. Money trickled down eventually to everyone.

That is no longer the case.

Who watches the watcher?

First came the American war on drugs and the billions of dollars offered to the Mexican Government to do away with the Cartels. Now, I’m not saying that was a bad thing, since at the same time Calderon was also getting rid of those in his government from Customs Officers to Federal Ministers who were corrupt and replacing them with honest people who would work for the betterment of the country as a whole. In the minds of right thinking people this was a wonderful idea and full of good intentions. The problem is we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.

Calderon was using the American money to try and break the Cartels and was siphoning other monies to the cause from various Government agencies, when the recession hit. Now the Cartels are no longer looking after the people in their areas, they are using it to fight a war against the government and the Government no longer has excess money to spend on anything. The people are suffering.

A school of fish paying me no attention.

Down here in Baja, the city has employees, but no money to pay them and hasn’t for 2 years, there is also a drought that’s in it’s 2nd year and the fishing is getting worse every year. Unemployment is rampant and even those with jobs are only holding on in hopes that eventually some money will appear and they will get some back wages. The Rancher’s animals are dying because they can’t afford to feed them and there is nothing left to eat in the desert. The fishermen, generally the poorest of the poor are bringing in less and less all the time and no one has any money to buy their catch anyways. Even the big tourist developments have stopped work because the tourists are not buying anymore and they certainly are not coming in the numbers they used to. Things are very bad.

Now, try to predict what happens in places like this when every 6 months, there is a large influx of what look like rich tourists who come to stay for 3 to 6 months at a time. Do you think you’d look upon these folks as fonts of money? Bingo!

When we arrived a few years ago, the economy was booming, condos, golf courses and hotels were being built at breakneck speed and all the beaches that were accessible were free to all. That changed in 2009, with the introduction of a rental fee for the right to stay on the beach and call the space you occupied yours for the season. Now we are talking a million dollar view for a pittance. The rate was 1940 pesos per month, that’s about $160.00 Canadian.

This little fellow was just as curious as I was.

You can imagine the hue and cry that ensued, with some flat out refusing to pay and actually being escorted away by the local constabulary. I mean let’s face it, none of us, regardless as to where we come from, could find anywhere at home for that price, probably not even a rat infested flophouse.  So most of us coughed up the money, knowing that we were is some small way helping the locals.

The price stayed the same all of last year, but and it’s a big but, no one was quite aware as to what the local Mayor was up to. It seems after the election in Loreto last February, it become obvious that the previous Mayor was a big time crook and he took the city for ever last cent they had, then buggered off. The city is absolutely, flat out broke and there is no money to be had from the State of Baja, since they can’t get any from the Federal Government. What’s the new administration to do? Why, raise the beach rates of course.

The fellow who has always collected the monies came last week and told us that the new Comptroller wanted to raise the fee to 3600 pesos a month, (about $300.00 Can). Since we are all rich tourists we could afford it they thought. Wrong!

Heading back to his home.

Off we all went to see this gentleman and to try and disabuse him of that impression. Most of us who spend 6 months of our lives every winter in this beautiful place do so because we can’t afford to live in our own counties full time. We are the poor (but not impoverished) of Canada and the United States, who have to travel to a poorer country in order to survive on our limited pensions and incomes.

We made a new friend that day and we all came away with a new understanding as to the struggles we are all facing in this new age of financial uncertainty. He understood that we could afford a small increase and that all of us try very hard to spend as much money as we can afford to support the local businesses. We were made aware of just how bad things are down here and how far they need to go to get back to where they were just a few years ago.

So rent has gone up to 2400 pesos a month, (about $200.00 Can) bringing in some badly needed funds into the cities coffers and helping to pay city workers that haven’t had a pay cheque in months, we got an offer of garbage pick-up, better security, a little work on the road coming in here and maybe, somehow they’ll bring in water. We’ll see, sometimes money in hand down here means we won’t see anyone again until next months rent time, but since we now have a better understanding as to what poor means down here, none of us mind. We pay our rent and this beautiful spot is ours for the winter and if we can help the locals make it through the bad times, so much the better.

We may not have much but for those who have nothing, we are rich beyond compare. They see us arriving with our cars, motorhomes, campers and boats and see wealth. We see old cars, motorhomes and campers that are past their prime and boats that need TLC to keep them afloat and constant tinkering to keep the motors running.

I guess everything really is relative and people judge things based on the only reality that exists for them. We all see our selves as poor or just getting by, yet we all seem to feel ourselves lucky to be here at this place and in this time. Even the locals who are suffering, will tell you that they know folks who are in worse shape than they are and that though things are not great, they could certainly be much, much worse.

Life truly is seen simply through the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?