Treat yo’ self is part of the motto of our bak’tun, so staying true to my Bak’tun I did just that…
Photos of the first day I met this cute little creature 🙂
One the way home from our Valentines Day/week hike the kids were filled with energy. I don’t know it if was the sugar from the ice cream or the fact that I agreed to let them watch a movie in my room upon our return (I like to hold out on them because otherwise I could never have my wine and movie nights), but they were going nuts on the micro.
Thankfully it only takes about 30 minutes to get from Nebaj to my site, so the grueling screaming/energy-filled children came to a stop as soon as they dropped us off at the top of my street. We all raced into the home to let everyone know of our arrival and the fact that we had successfully completed the 2 hour hike (I’m sure the kids were more into their ice cream, but due to me not understanding Ixil I have to go with the things I told the family). It was when I turned the corner I met what would be my future bestest friend ever.
The moment I peered into the kitchen I noticed everyone’s attention focused on a black blob. When I focused myself on the object I saw the most joyous thing ever: a Beagle puppy. Man was I in for some trouble. I quickly and without much hesitating questioned my host dad about this cute little monster running around the house. Who’s is it? No one’s, it’s for sale. Where did it come from? A man in town. How old is it? 3 months. How much? 500 Quetzales.
In no time my host dad was talking up the little chuchito (“chucho” being the Guatemalan slang for street dog and “ito” the ending they put anything to make it sound like it’s cute). He was telling me the dog could sleep upstairs on our patio, that I could bring her with me places, that she could stay in the garden and play with the other dogs. Little by little this man was convincing me… not that I really needed convincing. I left that conversation with a “I want her but I don’t know if I’ll get her” to my host dad and prepared myself for some very difficult decision-making.
I returned to my room to find the kiddos already waiting for me to put on the movie and asking if I could make some popcorn. I went downstairs to make a quick run to the store for some Pepsi to accompany the fresh stove-top popcorn all the while debating with myself. And texting everyone humanly possible for their input.
The pros of keeping the dog: She’s cute. I mean a beagle puppy? Come onnnnn. She’s cheap. Q500 is a lot of Q, especially for a volunteer, but from previous research I knew that dogs de rasa (race) like this cost a near Q1500 so this was a steal. I would have a reason to not leave site and focus more on my work. Guatemala is huge and most of my friends are in places hours away from me, meaning I would have to do a whole lot of traveling to get any good companionship… unless I get the dog. I would be less tempted to binge-watch the television series I stole from my other volunteer friends because the dog would give me reason to leave my room and wander about. I could probably be healthier overall because the dog would force me to do more exercising. I had already told myself I’d be getting a dog during service later on and this would be much more convenient.
The cons of keeping the dog: I’m down Q500. Since I had just spent a good chunk of my remaining monthly allowance on the boat party and my weekend trips to Antigua, getting her would make a major dent in the Q700 that I had remaining in my bank account. The dog is female, meaning I would have to get her fixed so she doesn’t get pregnant from the millions of male dogs roaming the streets. And getting a dog fixed here is pretty expensive. I wouldn’t be able to leave site, at least, not for long. Which is a stinker because sometimes you do just need to escape your town for a day away from your site frustrations. Technically speaking I would be breaking the Peace Corps rule of waiting until I reached 6 months in site to adopt a pet (it had only been 3 thus far). I’d be responsible for her. While people here in Guatemala don’t really care what a dog does in it’s free time, it is customary in the states to worry about your pets like they were your own children. With the dog being a beagle mix there is no telling where her nose will take her. And there’s also the inevitable problem of fleas.
Some of the views from our hike to Rio Azul
To make things easier on myself, I did my very best to distance myself from her cuteness during this whole process. Unfortunately my family was no help in this matter. They invited me to eat with them that night (Sometimes when I do something nice and inclusive for the fam they return the favor) and taunted me some more with the dog. They already knew my love for animals due to the time they tried to gift me one of the puppies from my host dad’s land and they played on this like crazy. The whole time during dinner the little pup ran around our feet and played with their other dog. I couldn’t do anything but soak up the cuteness. My mind was still not made up though.
After dinner I went and had myself a shower when I did some more thinking and listened to the pup cry. The family left to go do some errands (or mandatos as they say here) and left the poor pup tied to a tree outside the kitchen. She howled and howled and the sound was making me that much sadder, so I took it upon myself to show her some love. I brought down my iPad (photo op) as well as a stuffed animal I had bought for a gift exchange that never happened in an effort to play with the dog. For the next two hours or so I cuddled, petted, and took pictures with the pup. I also was able to teach the kiddos how to play skipbo and Heads Up! (but in Spanish). The dog stopped barking when people were around it, so we spent much of the night playing with the dog and with my iPad.
When my host parents finally returned home they questioned me again about the pup. I asked for a few more days to think it over, but I also asked for permission to bring her into my room for the night. While they were worried she would poop and pee everywhere, I wasn’t too concerned. I figured if the dog was going to be mine she’d learn eventually, but I just wanted to see if she had the potential to bond with me.
Immediately upon stepping foot in my room she headed for my makeshift couch and started to play with my stuffed duck toy. The host family stopped by to check on how she was doing and found this hilarious. My host dad even got out of bed in solely his underwear to take peak, to which the daughters laughed and tried to hide his bare legs with his body, more embarrassed for him than anyone else was. In no time the dog tired out and fell fast asleep on the couch. Me being me, I doused myself in bug spray (because fleas) and carried the little cutie to my bed. I secured her a spot outside of my covers and away from my skin as an extra layer of precaution, but from that moment on she didn’t move a muscle.
The next day I awoke early to head to Nebaj for a hike with two other fellow volunteers and left the dog at home with my host family. Surprisingly the dog didn’t have any accidents but I was still on the fence about her. This Saturday we decided to mix it up and do a 4 hour hike from Nebaj to Cocop to Rio Azul instead of the 2 hour hike to Acul (we both had done it many times and figured we could take advantage of the nice weather). It also allowed me to hash out my concerns about the dog, and service, with some other volunteers. By the end of the hike I was leaning more towards not keeping the dog. I had gone and bought her some dog food but still wasn’t completely committed. I knew my host family had taken the dog somewhere that day and resolved that if she wasn’t at home I wasn’t going to ask about her.
When I arrived home I found that the dog was not present. While a bit heartbroken I was also relieved. Having to see the pup tied up outside again would’ve pulled at my heartstrings and I would not have had the man-power to say no. The last time my host family took the other puppies on a trip they never returned, so I secretly hoped for the same fate of this one. However, my relief was short-lived. While I was making my dinner the pup showed up once again, invoking my inner-debate once again. Already a bit more accustomed to me, the dog perked up when I came downstairs to play with her, and once again I asked to let her sleep with me for the night.
The dog must’ve known or sensed my hesitation in keeping her though because that night she bypassed the covers and snuggled herself right next to me, her head resting on my arm while she slept. And just like that I was hooked. Sure I debated another day what to do with her, but that Monday morning I marched myself to the bank, exchanged my reserve USD and went ahead and adopted Sky.
I can happily report that life since the adoption has been great! While the first two weeks she had a few accidents in my room, she is now completely house-trained. I am also no longer waking up in the middle of the night to take her out as she sleeps the whole night without accidents. Talk about a proud mom! She has also learned her name as well as the commands come (in English and Spanish), Sit and is in the process of learning stay and lay down.
Above and Below: photos from the first hike I got to do with Sky and some other fellow volunteers in Cotzal
The first few weeks I tried keeping her closed off in my room, but I quickly learned that she needed more room and exercise. Little by little she is expanding her circle, first from the patio outside my room to the yard to the street. She learned the hard way what happens when you approach a bigger, territorial dog on one of her adventures and now doesn’t go to that area. I’m still having some problems with her wandering off to the neighbors’ homes, to which my host mom tells me to tie her up with the leash, but I’ve learned that if I take her for an hour or two hour was each morning she is too tired to do any wandering on her own. In the case that she does wander off and I can’t find her I can normally whistle a few times and throw in her name and returns home, tail wagging, happy as ever to see me.
Definitely the best Valentine’s day/week gift I’ve ever gotten, even if I did get it for myself. Stay tuned for more adventures of myself and Sky!
Abrazos y besos a todos 🙂
P.S. Here are some photos I forgot to upload from the last post about Carnaval/Valentines day