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?!?

Stop the Ride

Figuratively speaking, the world is burning and I’m just over here thinking about beach yoga. I’ve been a news and politics junkie for many years and I’m just too tired to pick a side. Have you ever tried to run in sand? I’m really pondering the best way to run on the beach with my dogs without aggravating scar tissue in my foot from The Great Pitbull Attack of 2015. Don’t worry about the Dow; Worry about my Plott Hound being terrified of the ocean.

I have no control over central bankers or their evil machinations but I can absolutely choose how to spend my days. I’m jumping off this ride because it’s expensive and it sucks. I’m taking my dogs to a small town where I will hardly have to drive. We’ll all be in better shape and I mean that in every sense of the word.

Lately, The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand has been on my mind. I’ve never really gotten into the philosophy of Objectivism but I certainly can identify with so many of Rand’s fictional characters. I’ve never lived my life the way people thought I should. Why start now when I can catch mangoes falling from the sky?

When People Think I’m Joking

I love it when I tell people exactly what I’m going to do and they don’t believe me.

It’s been several years since I’ve done something crazy…like load up my dogs and move 1,000+ miles away for shits and gigs. I’ve done this a few times with varying degrees of success and happiness but always with stories to tell. People who have lived in the same place all of their lives simply cannot relate.

Imagine if you knew someone who lived on a beach in Mexico and they told you in all seriousness that you should move there because it’s cheap, uncrowded, and incredibly easy. If you had family obligations or a busy social life, you might take a pass and simply vacation there periodically. Now imagine you’re me. I have no family within 1,000 miles of my current location. I’ve been miserable in my job for more than a year and a half. My only debt is my mortgage. I can work from any location with Wi-fi. What would you do?

On Monday, I’m calling a realtor to discuss listing my house. I’m flying back to Mexico right before Labor Day to confirm this is really what I want to do. Lulu and Sherman will be thrilled because the sitter is staying with them for another full FIVE DAYS! While I’m there, I will ask my full list of questions. If my questions are answered to my satisfaction, I’ll list my house as soon as I get back to Arizona. Real estate is still going crazy in my area and prices have risen to borderline ridiculousness again. When it sells, the dogs and I are gone.

“But what will you do about _________?” I have contingency plans A through E for every possible scenario. That’s what I do every day with everything. So the answer is that I’ll figure it out just like I always do. It may suck and I may be back in six months crashing on a friend’s couch. Or it may not suck and I may find that Mexico is a gateway drug that sends me all over the world. Either way, I would rather experience life than find myself sitting in a nursing home in 40 years telling a story about how I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and I was too chickenshit to take it.

In some ways, I feel like a schizophrenic who finally gets stabilized on their meds and then believes they don’t need the meds anymore. A cautious person would tell me that I’ve worked too hard to get to this place to just throw it away and start over. But that cautious person doesn’t understand what it feels like to never want to leave your house. For the first time in a long time, I don’t just want to leave my house; I want to go everywhere and see everything. I intend to take advantage of that while it lasts.

The Dogsitter’s Dilemma

My flight leaves for DC at 0600 tomorrow. The dogsitter’s nightmare begins shortly thereafter. Hopefully, I’m exaggerating.

This is the first time I’ve taken a vacation without my dogs in more than seven years. Lulu has panic attacks when she hears noises and Sherman won’t potty in a strange place. He literally held it 14 hours on our drive to Kansas and then another 14 hours on the way back to Arizona. I like to think I didn’t make them this way but all evidence points to the contrary.

I have left two pages (single-spaced, natch) of information/instructions for the dogsitter, who will be staying with them for the next week. If I had opted for her to check in twice a day for food and water, I would worry the entire time that something terrible had happened to them between visits. So it’s 100% worth it for her to sleep in Sherman’s bedroom for a week to calm my anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, sweet fancy Moses. I tried on all of the dresses (again) Saturday while taking a break from cleaning to make sure I pack the correct bra for each. So I nearly dislocated my shoulders multiple times zipping and unzipping over and over. Yesterday, I de-Sherman-ed Sherman’s bedroom. He’s a big, furry beast and he was not pleased to be locked out of his room. So I basically spent my entire weekend ensuring my dogs and their sitter have a clean house to enjoy while I’m gone.

Most of the packing was completed last night. Even with it being summer, I won’t be far from a heavy tag situation. I may have to reevaluate my shoe choices. My travel outfit has been identified and is hanging on the appropriate door. @RadioFreeTom will not be travel shaming me on Twitter because I am not flying Arizona casual. You filthy savages putting your bare feet up in the cabin in front of your fellow passengers are being outed every day on the Twittersphere.  If you don’t know, now you know.

My alarm is set for 0300. I’m taking my severe, chronic anxiety to our nation’s capital where I will be interacting with ALL OF THE PEOPLE nonstop for a week. My therapist has been preparing me for this for nearly a year. I’ve got this.

I’m going to Mexico in July and am already worried the sitter won’t be back. *sigh*

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