Left Behind

Every day, I drive past dogs that need help.  I don’t stop. Why? Because in Mexico City, there is no good place to take stray dogs. The few shelters (refugios) that exist are bursting at the seams. One of the largest is Refugio Franciscano. Currently, one-thousand eight-hundred dogs live there. Let me repeat, ONE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED dogs. The refugio does its best but it can’t afford to feed them all. So, it accepts bread past its sell-by date from a big mexican bread company.  It’s the only way the dogs will get enough to fill their bellies.

I have driven past starving dogs. I have driven past dogs with broken legs. I have driven past dogs with collars embedded in their necks. Each time I fail to act I feel a tiny bit more destroyed inside, a little emptier.  That’s life here. My house is full-up with pets. I sometimes bring a dog home, but I shouldn’t.  It’s just too much. And so I leave them behind.

Some of the street dogs actually seem okay. They aren’t really okay, but they don’t seem to know that. They just know the life they have. A few I feed regularly, like a shepherd mix I call  “India”.

India on the street

I don’t know why I call her India. It’s a pretty name, which I think she deserves. For me, it also conjures up images of poverty and hardship, and that suits her too.  I see India three or four times a week. She lives on a busy road that leads up and out of the city into the mountains. The very first time I saw her, she was terrified, running back and forth across the road, as so many lost dogs do. She was thin, so thin. I stopped to feed her but she was too frightened to come near me. I left her some food and hoped she’d find it. The next day, she was still hanging around the same spot. And the next day, too.  She never left.

India sleeps in front of a shut-down disco. Across the busy road is an empty dirt lot where, a few times a week, vendors set up an informal market. I think she must find food scraps there. India eventually lost the fear that drove her back and forth across the road. But not before she got hit by a car.

I saw her one day, on her back, with one leg stuck straight into the air. I couldn’t tell if she was sleeping or dead. For weeks after, I’d watch her move slowly about,  dragging the damaged leg. It hung from her body like a limp rag. I imagined her hip was broken.  She was heavy with pain.

That was a few months ago. She’s doing better now. She can’t put weight on the leg, but the pain seems to have subsided. When she sees my car, she comes running up. I still can’t get near her but she knows I have food and so she stays pretty close.

One day, India will be gone or dead. A vet once told me the average life span of a street dog here is four years. Not much. And not much of a life. But that’s what India’s got. She’s a street dog, nothing more. For now, this bend in the road is her home.


I’ve added a few pics of some of the dogs I feed when I see them.

This is Yogi. I love this dog. He always greets me with a wag. He's got an injured back leg and an infection in his urinary tract but he keeps on truckin'.

I hardly ever see this dog. He shows up only when he's really hungry.

This sad dog with the matted coat just appeared one day.

Looking for food in the road

India after I left her a little food

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