What if you walked away from everything you ever knew?

It seems like an entire lifetime ago but I was once married to one of the nicest people to ever live. That’s a pretty strong statement and I stand by it one hundred percent. Even though I’ve now been divorced for 18 years, I distinctly recall the feeling of wanting to escape. For about the last two years of my marriage, all I wanted to do was load my two Rottweilers in my Jeep and drive far, far away. The destination was irrelevant. I just wanted to get lost.

This year, for the first time in my life, I spent Independence Day in a foreign country. The beaches are closed again due to COVID-19 but other than that it was a regular Saturday. The neighbors were drinking and singing along to their favorite songs. My dogs chased birds. I watched the ocean and social media from our front porch. Twitter was depressing as hell.

I’ve written before about feeling disconnected from the US but I feel like this is different. Right now, I feel like Mexico isn’t far enough away. At the same time, Mexico feels like home. None of this makes sense to me but we’re living a much simpler life here. We don’t own a television and there are no political ads on Netflix, ya know? Maybe it’s a cop-out but I’m done picking sides. All that matters to me right now is my own sanity.

I’m turning 45 later this month and have been reflecting on how people find their places and purposes in life. I’m one of those people who has never quite fit in, no matter the situation. I’ve tried and given up and tried again. It was kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I just don’t belong in a conventional role or a conventional family. Speaking of family, mine thinks I’m batshit crazy and I accept that. People are convinced I’m going to get caught in the crossfire of some cartel war when the reality is I’m walking around the backyard checking to see if the mangoes are ripe enough to eat.

I guess this makes me a selfish asshole but at this point, I have no intention of returning to the US. If I did, I don’t even know where the hell I would go. A cabin in the woods in Wyoming? Civilization is just not working out. How far can we go and still avoid freezing to death? Just north of Antarctica sounds good. Unfortunately, we can’t drive all the way there. You know, the Darien Gap and all that unpleasantness. It’s my understanding the ferries are no longer running through that area. Yes, I’ve actually looked into it. We could take a ferry from La Paz to the mainland and drive to Panama but that’s the end of the road. So then the question becomes how to transport the dogs? Can we all hop a freighter together? Where will they poop?

That’s right…while my home country is burning itself to the ground, I’m pondering the logistics of artificial turf on the deck of a container ship and how much trazodone it would take for my Plott Hound to avoid a psychotic break during the voyage. Sorry, not sorry.

Fallout from “The Great Pitbull Attack of 2015”

Don’t worry…I won’t share any photos of the carnage. That isn’t what this is about.

Five years ago today, my Plott Hound and I were involved in an incident with a pitbull that went from sweet as sugar to batshit crazy in .02 seconds. Lulu ended up with a permanently ripped ear and I took a ride to the ER in an ambulance. Doctors don’t like to stitch dog bites due to the high risk of infection but some of the wounds were gaping to the point where they had no choice. I received 12 stitches, two of which were between my toes. It was not a good day.

I know a ton of people who are afraid of dogs. Mostly, it seems that comes from a childhood bite which traumatized them for life. I would say 99% of my scars are from dog bites over the course of my life. Perhaps I’m learning impaired but I have never developed that fear, which leads me to the current situation in Mexico.

Nearly everyone I have encountered in Baja is afraid of dogs, to the point where they won’t even come inside the gate when invited. Whenever we have people come by to do work at the house, we have to confine the dogs first. This is probably because there are tons of dogs running loose all over town and they aren’t exactly shy. When we take the dogs to the beach, we drive them because walking is stressful as hell with random hellhounds charging from every direction. When I’m out walking alone, it’s common for me to be asked if there are any dogs from whence I came.

As long as I leave my dogs at home, I am perfectly comfortable walking alone and interacting with the local canines. Sometimes, they come charging at me like I’ll be their first meal in days and stop only a few feet away. Sometimes, they’re thrilled to see me and I get the full slobber treatment. I never know what to expect so I employ the over-the-top baby talk method. Each and every dog I encounter is the BEST DOG EVER! I maintain my pace unless they’re begging for attention. They seem to like it.

Maybe I should be worried but I think the fact that I’m not is why I don’t have a problem. They know I’m not afraid of them and they know I’m not a threat. What happened on June 8, 2015 is irrelevant. I hope I’m not jinxing myself.

The World is a Cruel Place

I sent the dogs out to do potties right before bed just like I do every night. As per the usual, Lulu came in right away and I had to call for Sherman. He came trotting onto the patio, dropped something onto the flagstones, and made his way to the door. It was about the size of an Indian almond pod so I wasn’t terribly concerned but when I got closer I saw it was a tiny, barely hatched bird that had no feathers or features.

Goddamnit Sherman

It wasn’t moving and it was also pitch black outside so I decided to leave it. There are all manner of interesting creatures that come out at night in Baja and I didn’t want to step on any of them while carrying this dead bird to the fence over which he would be flung. I figured a cat or owl would grab it during the night and the cycle of life would continue.

As soon as I fed the dogs their breakfast this morning, I let them out to take care of business. I remembered the gift Sherman had left on the patio so I went along to see if it was still there. It was there and it was alive.

Goddamnit Sherman

Now what? If I were still in Tucson, I would have called the wildlife place stored in my phone but this is a small Mexican town during a pandemic with Marines in the barracks guard towers.

I used a leaf to roll it onto a garden trowel and began looking for a place to leave it where the dogs wouldn’t find it. This sad little hairless bird was snuggling into the base of the trowel and I just about lost it. Sherman had brought it from the front of our half-acre compound so I wanted to leave it someplace close to the nest from which it must have fallen. There were no options which would protect it from the dogs.

Some of the palm trees in the backyard hadn’t been trimmed closely so I set the poor little bird up high on a shelf left by a long-dead frond and hoped for the best while knowing he was in for the worst. And now I feel like an asshole for just leaving him there, like he’s my responsibility.

Goddamnit Sherman

What happens when your dog gets sick in Mexico?

There have been some pleasant surprises over the past couple months in Mexico. No, the propane has not been delivered so I’m sitting in a cold house unable to warm up with a hot shower. It rained so I can’t even count on the sun to warm up a bucket of water. But…BUT…my sweet Sherman has been treated by an extraordinary veterinary specialist.

About a year ago, Sherman’s right cornea was scratched. I’m not sure how it happened but I’m blaming his psychotic sister. Both dogs are on Banfield wellness plans so Sherman had been seen by a few different vets and was prescribed a few different ointments and an oral antibiotic. The scratch healed but the redness and cloudiness in his eye failed to improve.

Once we got to Mexico, it quickly worsened. He and I both have severe allergies so I wasn’t sure if that was compounding his problem. I had to change his food since Canidae isn’t sold in Mexico and couldn’t rule out a food allergy. The change in climate was pretty significant and my eyes were certainly suffering. Maybe he was experiencing the same?

Veterinary options in our town are limited and I wasn’t sure how to even go about having him seen. Apparently, you walk in and ask. The vet took one look at Sherman’s eye and said he couldn’t help. He didn’t have the equipment needed to test his eye so he gave me the phone number of a veterinary ophthalmologist in Cabo.

I was concerned about calling this specialist with my crappy Spanish so I looked him up online and found the Facebook page for his practice. He had Messenger enabled so I sent him an appointment request copied from Google Translate and he replied within minutes. We scheduled an appointment for the same afternoon and he asked me to send him a message via WhatsApp so he could give me directions to his office. That confused me for a moment but he literally replied with coordinates because the place isn’t the easiest to find.

This guy is amazing. He tested Sherman’s eye and immediately diagnosed him with glaucoma. He explained the treatment process and warned me that it involves a lot of trial and error. He prescribed a prednisone drop for the redness and betaxolol to reduce the pressure. We were told to have Sherman rechecked after a week on the drops. He charged about US$30 for the appointment and testing. My Arizona vet charges more than that for a regular office visit. Specialists charge more than double that amount.

When we returned for the recheck, Sherman’s eye pressure had been reduced but not enough so we added travaprost to his regimen. I should add that Costco carries the prednisone but not the other two so we ordered them from a pharmacy in our town which caters to the gringo population. I am quite certain we are not getting the best price but they are reliable and I can communicate with them reasonably well. It takes three days for the orders to arrive and I can absolutely live with that.

The vet wanted to see Sherman again after we tried the new drops and I was dreading another drive to Cabo but he said he would be in our town for church the following Sunday and could see him there…at no charge. So I met this guy at the local mission and he walked up with his magic wand to test the pressure again. It still hasn’t been reduced to a normal level but he thinks it may take a little time on the new drops so we’ll see him again next week.

Americans are generally suspicious of medical professionals who practice in other countries, even though many of them were educated in the US. When I lived in Arizona, I learned all about medical tourism in Nogales and heard great things from my friends and coworkers. My Arizona vets didn’t mention glaucoma to me at all and did not test for it. They didn’t refer him to a specialist. It took coming to Mexico for my dog to receive proper treatment from an experienced professional we all like and trust. Go figure.

Trash in Mexico

Sometimes the smallest victories are the most fulfilling. Today, I am overjoyed with my successful navigation of the garbage collection process in my neighborhood. I don’t even know who I am right now.

I have lived on my own since I was 17 years old. When I was in college, I moved every six months and had it down to a science. What I’m saying is I know how to handle things. There’s a list of providers in every location and you just start contacting them to establish services. Easy! Everyone knows this.

Unfortunately, that is not how things work in my little slice of Baja. I asked my US-based landlord for information about obtaining services (such as trash collection) and he completely ignored my inquiry. Okay. I asked a local and was told some neighborhoods have trash collection and some don’t. I was instructed to watch my neighbors and see if they put trash out by the street. If not, there’s a weekly trash collection site about a mile away that I can use for a suggested donation of 50 pesos. That seemed simple enough.

My hearing is borderline superhuman. Two Fridays ago, I woke up at around 7 am and heard what I absolutely knew was a garbage truck somewhere in the neighborhood. Sure enough, the truck came by at precisely 7:25 (too quickly for me to carry my bags through the gate) and I found myself standing on the porch taking photos of it. I thought I needed to contact the company and set up an account. Stupid American.

I spent that morning furiously Googling all things garbage-related in the area. I learned that garbage is collected by the municipality of La Paz (sort of like a county) and is included in the property taxes so I don’t need to do anything but leave my black bags by the road for pickup each Friday morning. Perfect! I set my alarm for 7 am each Friday, thinking that would give me plenty of time to move the bags outside the gate in time for collection. The alarm is a redundancy; those goddamned roosters down the way will never let me sleep so late.

Last Friday, I was ready! The boyfriend and I started moving bags out to the road and he opened the outdoor trash can to remove the final bag.

Let me talk to you for a moment about maggots. I am not a medical examiner. I have no need to have any knowledge whatsoever of the breeding habits of flies. Mexico apparently thinks otherwise. I’m not sure what kind of flies dominate the Tropic of Cancer but these are not normal flies. There is some strain of a highly evolved, freaskishly prolific fly that can lay an infinite quantity of eggs on any surface. This is a scientific fact.

What we witnessed when he opened that lid was the stuff of horror movies. There were maggots crawling everywhere. I mean *everywhere* and what was seen can never be unseen. I am so incredibly thankful he was still there to handle that issue because we were on the way to the airport and I seriously could not deal with that on my own.

In the short time we spent grossing out over maggots and loading my Jeep, the wild pack of dogs from across the street had torn into a couple of the bags we left by the road. Are you fucking kidding me right now? I needed to get him to Cabo to catch his flight. So there was trash strewn about along the road and we had to leave. The bags went back inside the gate for me to address later. I have no idea what time the truck finally showed up but it was well after 9 am. This will be relevant in a minute.

I could have taken the trash bags to the collection point the next day but I had to stay home and wait for the internet installation. So yes, those nasty-ass trash bags sat another week right inside the gate. Honestly, my anxiety over this situation has been a little intense and I am so proud of my doggos for completely ignoring them.

I kind of want to murder the neighborhood roosters but they saved my ass this morning. They were screaming at one another and when I looked at my phone, I saw it was only 6:30 so I tried to go back to sleep. My alarm was still set for 7:00 so it would be fine. Hahahaha….no. I heard the garbage truck and bolted out of bed. Ladies: Have you ever noticed how long it takes to put on a bra when you’re in a hurry? I ran to the gate and barely got the bags to the road by the time the guys arrived to collect them…at 6:55.

While I was victorious this morning, I am extremely concerned that I need to camp outside my gate like a Black Friday shopper just to accomplish what should be a very routine task. What time will the truck arrive? I have to place the bags in the proper location while avoiding the pack of wild trash-eating dogs. Should we place bets? Should I create a flow chart? How much alcohol should I consume today? I keep seeing the dad in A Christmas Story, whose turkey was eaten by the neighbor dogs when they got into the house. This is going to be a thing, isn’t it?!?

Driving Baja

Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway?

We decided to cross the border in Mexicali to save time and money. After being delayed due to a late Amazon package and a bad wheel bearing (not mine), we left Arizona much later than we expected. As a result, the crossing we intended to use was closed for the weekend so we used the busier one on the west side of town.

Being in two vehicles can be a challenge, especially when the leader gets pulled over for an inspection and is extorted to the tune of 3,000 pesos. We sat for a couple hours while they decided what to do with us and the psychotic hound had a panic attack requiring a dose of trazodone. Great start to a nerve wracking drive.

Highway 5 from Mexicali could have been in the US. There was a ton of traffic in San Felipe and the road quickly deteriorated after we left heading south. Little side detours for construction were unpaved and extremely rocky in spots. Some of them included very steep climbs and descents and I thought I would need 4WD a couple times. A large unpaved section that continued for a few miles was a little sketchy, especially considering we were running out of daylight. Views of the mountains and Sea of Cortez were absolutely breathtaking but it was impossible for me to divert my attention to taking photos while driving due to the road conditions. I learned my dogs are not fans of off-roading. My Jeep was absolutely made for those conditions and it would have been fun, had I not been carrying cargo with feelings. I feel like I should get a cheesy t-shirt that says something like “I survived driving Highway 5” but I’m content to settle for bragging rights.

We made it to Highway 1 right before dusk and had no choice but to continue after dark. There were no shoulders and terrible (mostly nonexistent) road markings in most spots. Mountain curves were terrifying after dark. It was impossible to see. We had been up since 4 am and semi-trucks were driving way too fast for the road conditions. We finally made it to a hotel just outside Guerrero Negro at about 10 pm. Lulu wasn’t even talking to me by then.

The lead vehicle lost its fuel pump as we were leaving the next morning so we sat until after lunch and only made it to San Ignacio where we stopped for the night. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful aside from being utterly confused by Mexican towns and whatever rules drivers seem to haphazardly follow. We finally made it to Todos Santos at about 8 pm the next night and my dogs and I were toast. They weren’t listening to anything I was trying to tell them and I was beyond exhausted. We got the keys to our house and completely crashed.

The drive was better and worse than I expected. It is my sincere hope that I never have to do that again.

Untethered

Last Friday was my last day at work. I cannot clearly articulate the relief I felt upon exiting the building. A neighbor caught me while the cargo box was being installed on my Jeep and asked me 20 questions. Among other things, she wanted to know if I’m retiring. I really didn’t have an answer for that, so I told her I am for the time being. I plan to mentally detox from that godforsaken environment until at least the first of the year and then see how I feel.

My house has been officially sold and I have received the proceeds. My departure from Tucson has been delayed by a tardy Amazon package, of all things. I’m fine with an extra night in a hotel but my psychotic hound wants to go home. There currently is no such place. Good luck explaining that to a dog.

All of the stress of preparing for this move and stirring up a ton of dust has wreaked havoc on my skin. I didn’t need a reminder of what being a teenager looked like. I’m also covered in bruises from carrying items in excess of my weight limit. My dogs seem determined to dislocate both shoulders by zigging when they should be zagging. It’s all 100 percent worth it.

My stress level is shrinking along with my to-do list. I feel pretty good about the fact that my biggest problem is Sherman’s continued refusal to do potties while on the leash. My temporary solution is to take them to a dog park a while after their meals so they can have their privacy. That won’t be a viable plan for much longer so I really need Sherman to get on my wavelength.

Speaking of waves, storms are still forming in the Pacific and I really hope we can dodge them on the way down through Baja. I’ve been told I should learn to surf in Scorpion Bay due to the little baby waves, which are the ocean equivalent of a bunny slope. I would love to stop there on the way to my final destination but the weather will decide.

For now, I’m waiting for an Amazon notification and my dogs to finish their afternoon naps. This is easy.

Happy Adoptaversary!

In September of 2009, I was living in a tiny Kansas town and minding my own business with my two Rottweilers, Rommel and Patton. There was a super obnoxious little puppy who lived across the street and she would run into my driveway to bark at me when I would pull my car into the garage. I had no idea what kind of dog she was; I just saw a brindle behavioral nightmare.

I just happened to notice one day that the neighbors across the street appeared to have moved away but their ill-behaved puppy was still there. I called the City Clerk (small town, right?) and she confirmed they were gone. What kind of monster just moves away and leaves their pet behind to fend for itself?

I immediately took food and water over to the little monster and noticed she was definitely malnourished. She was also covered in fleas. I was able to get close to her but it was obvious by her reactions that she hadn’t been treated well. Another neighbor and I took turns feeding her and she was just hiding underneath whatever she could find for shelter. I learned from some kids in the neighborhood her name was Lulu and they said her people left her because they didn’t want her to potty in the car.

It only took a couple days for me to decide the little ragamuffin was coming home with me. But first, flea and tick prevention! I dosed her with Frontline Plus and continued feeding and getting to know her for a week before I brought her across the street to her new home. She heard the deep bass of my Rotties barking and was terrified but we got through the flea bath and she quickly learned her new brothers would tolerate all manner of unkind behavior from her.

Honey Lulu is no fan of costumes or parades. She loves people but generally has no use for other dogs. She is extremely reactive and to this day will flee the area if she sees a flyswatter. Her noise phobia is worsening with age and she requires Trazodone for severe panic attacks.

She regularly smacks me in the face with her bear claws and goes in for the hard boop without warning.

On the other hand, she loves her brother and will go into Sherman’s bedroom in the middle of the night so he can accompany her to the backyard for potties and a perimeter check. Before my bare foot found its way inside an angry pitbull’s mouth, she ran a 5K with me nearly every day.

She travels well and has assured me she is ready for our move to Mexico.

Today, I celebrate 10 years with the ultimate hall monitor. She’s a pushy broad but I love her.

I do love a challenge!

I listed my house last Friday and received a full-price offer two days later. My dogs were at work with me half of yesterday due to the buyer’s inspection. Assuming nothing goes horribly awry, we’re looking at closing on October 15. I need a drink.

Packing should be super simple because I’m only taking the absolute essentials that will fit in my Jeep. Family heirlooms and photo albums are going in storage. My realtor will facilitate the sale of everything else. Should be pretty easy, right? It’s *so* easy I have chest pains every time I walk into the bedroom I use as an office. That’s where the paper lives. ALL. OF. THE. PAPER. I didn’t go through the Great Depression so why am I like this?

My dogs and I are getting every single appointment imaginable out of the way before we leave for Mexico. Annual physical exam, dental cleaning, fall veterinary checkup, labs, eye exam, mammogram, Jeep checkup…OMG. Mexican auto insurance. Bet you didn’t think about that one! My Sling account has to be cancelled because I can’t use it outside the US without using a VPN and I don’t care enough to worry about that. Anyone know if you can just convert your Amazon Prime account to the Mexican version? I’ll be looking into the best option for that as well. What mail forwarding service should I use? I have to switch dog food because my dogs’ bougie brand is unavailable south of the border. What will I do without Chewy???

I’m getting super stressed about the drive through Baja. Depending on which route I take, it could easily be more than a 26-hour drive. That’s stressful by itself. Then factor in the foreign country/language component and the stress level increases just a smidge. Then remember I’ll be doing this with two large dogs and the stress level increases more than a smidge. There’s a very real possibility that I will be juggling all of this alone.

*RED ALERT*

In the three plus years I have had Sherman, he has never done his good boy potties while on the leash. The last time I drove to Kansas (14 hours one way), Sherman refused to take care of business until I sat down on my mom’s patio and he could finally relax. He did the same on the drive back to Arizona. He doesn’t care about the beauty of the park, the softness of the grass, or the shade from the trees; He’s holding it until he feels comfortable. I lack confidence in my ability to chill out enough for him to work with me. Lulu, however, will potty anywhere other than Hatch, New Mexico.

The timing of all of this is critical. I have to be out of the house prior to closing but may need to be in the area for a couple days around that time to take care of housekeeping items. My dogs do not understand the concept of couch surfing. If my employer refuses to allow me to work remotely but is slow to recruit my replacement, I will need to process payroll the day before closing from somewhere. All I need is WiFi but people have feelings about things. Ugh…feelings.

Have I mentioned my therapist is still out of the country?!?

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