"We belong...we belong, we belong together." Pat Benetar


How a Mexican Mutt transformed a Former Commitment-phobe

“Okay, so it’s only been two years, is it too late to give her back?” My higher self knew that yes, it was definitely too late to give Zafi back. And to whom would I actually give her back? Her original owners ditched her when she was a puppy, and the gal who gave her to me was travelling between the UK, India and Mexico, so that clearly wasn’t an option. I had to accept, that when I said “yes” to this little scrappy scruffy being two years ago, it meant I was in.

Something happens to me when in relationship after the two year mark. I’m talking about romantic relationship, but still. I’ve noticed that my longest relationship (there have been a few in succession) is just over two years. The break ups have been for different reasons of course, but I’m seeing a pattern here. When the going gets tough....Zarah gets going. Granted, the relationships weren’t in alignment, but there is some truth to ducking out a little prematurely. And so, with Zafi, I’m getting to experience a whole new level of commitment. And that feels good.

Since I never had kids, having a fur baby is the closest thing I’ve had. Getting the Zafster ready for her international travels hasn’t been super easy. The first time around, two summers ago, I had to prepare her for the trip by losing a little more than a pound before the trip. She was weighing in at 21.2 pounds, and the limit is 20. So, the week before our trip I became her personal trainer and fed her smaller portions of food, and had her chase me around on my motorbike. I call it the “Redneck Run”. Please don’t call PETA. It was that, or leave her in the sweltering heat of Mexico, just a month after I had adopted her. We had to bond. She had to come with me. By the time our flight rolled around, she was in accordance with the weight limit of 20 pounds, but in reality was too tall for the bag. If you’ve seen her, she looks like a cross between a gremlin and Wilt Chamberlain. That bitch has seriously long legs for a small dog. If they had asked me to open the bag and let her walk around, we would have been done for. I drugged her sufficiently before we got to the counter, and bragged to the Air Canada person that she was so excited to go back to Canada, and how she just loves flying, as if she was an old hack. The Air Canada representative just smiled at her through the weaving in her back, cooed, “what a sweet little doggie!” and asked no more questions. We were in.

Fast forward two years later, and that little doggie ain’t so little anymore. It could be all the chicharons she finds on the sidewalks in our town (amidst all the other garbage she loves foraging), but it’s most likely that she was actually a lot younger than we thought when I first said “yes” to her, and now she’s full grown. Regardless, there is no way that “sweet little doggie” fits in that bag now. Hence, the crate and having to go in cargo. Hence having to do a detour to San Francisco, or somewhere else that Air Alaska flies. They are the only airline out of Puerto Vallarta that doesn’t have a “heat embargo” for animals travelling in cargo. Westjet and Air Canada stop flying animals the beginning of May, which I didn’t know, as I went to book flights May 3rd. I sussed where I could have a stopover and chose SF because I have friends and family here. That was sorted. What wasn’t sorted was Z’s skin issues just before we left.

Three weeks before our travels, we were camping on the beach and she must have got some sort of bacteria from the damp sand at night. As a result, she ended up with three hot spots which she was licking obsessively, resulting in removing all of her fur, and left her skin raw. I took her to two different vets, who told me to use a cream that didn’t work, and then took her to another vet in La Penita. I needed to make sure she was good to go for the trip, because the USA needs a certificate of good health to enter the country. So, she was on a course of antibiotics and steroids to clear up the skin thing, and my plan of training her to hang out and relax in her crate was foiled becuase she had to wear the cone of shame to avoid licking her spots. Man. Navigating galore. Luckily, the drugs worked, and she got the clean bill of health a couple of days before getting on the plane. And no worries with her crate because I lined it with her favourite blanket, and put a few of her fave things in with her, a pair of my shoes being one of them. Ah, the comfort of the smell of the mistress’s tootsies.

On the first morning after we arrived to SF I was worried that I had traumatized her with the trip in cargo. Turns out, she was just cold. And so am I. Wasn’t it Mark Twain that wrote the coldest winter he ever experienced was summer in San Francisco? Word. Each morning, she’s shivering under the blankets, and I’m strolling the streets wearing my touque (Canadian for hat) and down jacket amongst all of these native San Fransisco peeps in T shirts.

I remember experiencing this variation in climate years ago in the south of France as a student, but in an opposite way. We Canadian students were basking in the late April sun in our bathing suits, and the ladies of the Riviera were eyeing us suspiciously in their fur coats. Seems like my blood has become more Mexican and this weather is taking a bit of getting used to.

What I have been experiencing (besides culture shock) is a deepening of love and commitment towards this pooch. The pros of having her as my sidekick are definitely outweighing the cons of navigating getting her on buses and ferries. She has settled into herself as of late, and I’m guessing feels this sense of me truly being her human. As a solo woman who has been used to just taking care of herself for years, this is an opportunity to grow and evolve. There is a certain surrender that’s happening as I settle into the fact that I am indeed her steward, and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure she’s taken care of. Sometimes, it won’t be with me as I’m a creature of freedom and need some solo time, but it will always be with someone who loves her.  And there are plenty. She’s managed to steal the hearts of the hospital staff where my cousin is staying, and prances around making everyone who sees her smile. When I had a moment of grief at the realization that my cousin is now considered to be in palliative care, I sat on the couch and had a good cry. The Zafster immediately jumped up and began licking my tears, and making me laugh. Recalling my rollerskating days, I find myself singing Pat Benetar’s “We Belong”, (which I often do at Karaoke) and although I wish I could sing it for a lover/partner, who has yet to present himself, it currently totally fits with this little furry-faced pooch. “We belong together”. 

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