I’ve seen lots of beaten down dogs in Mexico City. Dogs whose spirits couldn’t withstand the lack of food, the nasty kicks, the ugliness of their lives. I think of them as hollow dogs. Alive but not really.
Mara should have been like this, but she wasn’t.
I found Mara on a little strip of grass between Mexico City’s busiest highway and a four-lane road also jammed with speeding cars and peseros, the broken down buses most working class people use to commute. Mara was just standing there, tail between her legs but head high as if she were deciding if she were in a crisis or an adventure.
I pulled over, grabbed a leash and threaded my way through the cars to Mara. She came right up to me. She was filthy but beautiful and I could see that between her legs, her tail was wagging. She was terrified of the leash but let me carry her to my car. She huddled on the floor for the drive home.
Mara was a street dog, born and bred. The first time I tried to coax her into the house, she looked at me like I was asking her to step on hot coals. The first time we went for a walk on the leash, she ran back and forth across my path, thinking that might make the lead go away. But Mara accepted her first bath with noble humility. And she soon discovered that the best place for sleeping was our big bed. From then on it was a battle of the wills…I say off, she says on.
Within a few days, Mara was one of the happiest, most self-confident dogs I’ve ever know. As my husband put it, “She’s an optimist.” Nothing was going to keep her down. She expressed her joy in life constantly, digging holes with abandon in the garden, playing with our other dogs like a pup. On jogs through the neighborhood, she didn’t so much walk as bound. Her happiness revealed itself in every movement on her body.
I usually worry that no one will want the dogs I’ve picked up off the streets. So many of them have damaged souls or wounded bodies. But not Mara. I think she let me know there was nothing to worry about. Mara’s glass wasn’t half empty, it was brimming over.
When I posted Mara for adoption, a friend of a friend saw the ad. She was interested but lived in Colorado. When she heard Mara lived in Mexico City she thought there would be no way to make it work. But it just so happens I was soon headed to Colorado. It was a done deal.
This is what I can tell you about Mara’s life now. She is deeply loved. She is safe. She is fed. That should be enough, but not for Mara. Mara also takes regular road trips into the wilderness because her owners are rock collectors. She gets to bound through meadows and chase the birds. As I write this, Mara is in Montana, on a summer camping trip. Just as it should be for an optimist like Mara. I can see her, flopped out by a fire, bathed by starlight and the sweet fragrance of pines, exhausted after a day of adventuring. Mara wasn’t meant to die alongside a Mexico City highway. She knew it, right from the beginning.