This is a story about how unconditional love and connection can find you even when you think you aren’t looking or ready!
After I decided to stay in Placencia, my hotel host found me a place to sublease. It was in the heart of the village – a great location to get around by foot! It was a very short-term situation, only a month and a half. I was soon on the prowl for a new place.
I quickly found the perfect house that was North of the Village. It is on the lagoon side in a well-kept compound. There are two other houses on the property, none occupied (score for privacy galore!). It is away from the village noise. It is only a 15-minute ride into the village on the used bike I purchased (about 30 minutes by foot). I was all set!
A few weeks before I moved in, the Property watch-dog had puppies. I visited them a few times a day, marveling at how cute they were and giving them some cuddles and pets. Who doesn’t love puppies? I started calling the Mother Mama Bear. She was timid at first but started to welcome my visits with excitement. I asked if I could have one of the puppies and the landlord told me I could. Of course, as the reality set in, I questioned what I was thinking! It had been almost ten years since my Lovey Boy Zeke had died, but suddenly I didn’t feel ready. I blamed it on not feeling settled yet but the truth was that I didn’t know if I wanted to get attached to a dog again. Puppies take constant care, attention, and training! I was still in shock at quitting my job and staying in Belize. I needed some time to adjust. At least, that is what I told myself!
Dogs in Belize are called Potlickers. They are typically mutts, often strays, that scrounge for food. Dogs are used as Protection and Security here. They are chained up outside the house to watch the property. Sometimes they go without food and water if the owner is not diligent. It is very different than having an in-the-house dog in the States – one that you might cuddle or even let sleep on your bed (shocker!). These dogs live in the dirt, are typically not bathed, and have very loud and menacing barks!
Once all the puppies were given away (no, I didn’t take one), the landlord sent Mama Bear to his Caye (Island) to protect it. He rotated a brother and sister from Mama Bear’s previous litter between this property and his beach property, across the street. I got a leash and tried to take the dog for a walk. It kept looking back at the property, unsure why we were leaving and to where. The dog didn’t know how to heel or walk using a leash. It stood still and wouldn’t move. These dogs literally were not trained! Their life consisted of being chained up, sleeping, eating (when they were fed) and barking.
I asked the Landlord what the dog’s names were. He chuckled and replied, “Names? They don’t have names.” then he pointed and said, “That is Dog 1, Dog 2, Dog 3, Dog 4.” I was shocked.
A year after moving in, the caretaker that lived on the property and helped maintain the landscaping returned to his own town, Independence, which is across the lagoon. The Landlord asked me to start feeding the dog. I was happy to.
Twice a day I would check on the dog. She was chained to a boat. While walking over, I’d start talking to her. She’d hear me and would run out from under the boat to greet me, then she would cower. At least she didn’t come out barking and in attack mode!! I got her fresh water and food. One day I took her dinner and I noticed that her food dish was covered in dirt. I realized she was hiding her food for later as if she didn’t know when her next meal would be.
In the morning I would pass my neighbor’s house (I now got neighbors!) and we’d share pleasantries. He’d ask, “Going to feed Puppy?” and that is how she got her name. By accident. Kind of like how she came into my life – doing a favor for the landlord. I could change her name, but I don’t want to. Puppy fits her. It is endearing. Plus, it’s what she Comes to!!
The real bonding came during the summer storms, a few months after starting to care for her. Thunder! Lightning! I could hear Puppy barking in the middle of the night. I ran out in the rain to bring her in the house. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?) She had never been in a house before. She sniffed around and made herself at home. I put a towel on the floor or her to lay on. She panted and shook. I moved the towel to the bed so I could pet her. She seemed to do better with something covering her eyes. Eventually, I bought her a ThunderShirt (great investment! Highly recommend!) which really calms her down. That is how Puppy started coming in the house. It became a nightly ritual.
After much practice, Puppy has learned to walk AND run on the leash. Hooray! Each morning I would walk out to unchain her and we would go for a walk or a run. Some days I would let her off the chain and she would disappear for hours. I was worried she wouldn’t come back, but my neighbor would remind me, “She knows where to get her food.” So true.
Eventually, she stopped running off so I kept her off of the chain permanently. She now roams the yard freely, finds cool places to rest and gets scraps from the neighbor. I was noticing the other day that she seemed a little chubby. I couldn’t imagine her ever hiding her food again (though she still hides her bones).
Puppy’s Dad and brother live across the Street on the beach. I named them Papa Bear and Brother Bear. Puppy and I walk over and let Papa Bear off his chain so the two of them can run and play. Next is to get Brother Bear off his chain more.
I am always amazed how The Universe provides what we are thinking about even if we aren’t sure we are ready for it or if we want it. Puppy has brought me a lot of unconditional love and companionship in the past year. We have to work on our Selfies, though!