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.

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.

Stone Cold Killa

This is Sherman. Sherman is dumb as a bag of hammers but he’s very sweet. Because he’s such a lovable cuddle bear, people refuse to believe he has a ridiculous prey drive. (RIP all of the lizards.)

The other night, he and his sister, Lulu went outside at about 0300 for whatever dog reasons and I immediately heard them losing their damned minds. I ran to the backyard to prevent my neighbors from hating me and saw a coyote right on the other side of the view fence.

My house backs up to a wash with tons of cacti, trees, and rabbits. Coyotes and javelinas hunt back there all the time. Most nights, they go about their business quietly and my dogs sleep through it. But nooo…

Sherman was barking like an absolute lunatic and I grabbed his collar right as he tried to lunge at the fence. This coyote lunged at the fence at the exact same time. There is plenty of space between the wrought iron bars for noses. Sweet fancy Moses, my Sherman was less than two feet from fighting with a wild animal through the fence and still barking in kill mode.

I marched him inside, blocked the dog door, and went back to bed. My dogs jumped on the bed and crashed like nothing unusual had happened. I, on the other hand, lay there with my heart pounding in my chest like I had just run a 5K in my flip-flops. Sherman didn’t even thank me for saving his life.

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