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San Miguel's School of Hard Knocks

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

A neighbor of mine told me an upsetting story the other day. Ten days earlier, in front of his house on an alley here in San Antonio, a street dog had cornered his cat. From the barking and hissing, he grasped the situation when he was still inside. Quick to protect his cat, particularly when it was on its own ground, he sent a menacing holler over the wall as he made for the street door.

Exiting, he saw a pretty bitch, with a collar, slight and of less than medium height, had trapped his cat on a window sill, in a slightly elevated position. The dog, not obviously malnourished, looking like it had been at least recently cared for, was barking ferociously, waiting its moment to advance and sink its teeth in.

My neighbor's continued yelling and physical presence gave the dog pause. It backed off 15 feet and continued barking, now at both the cat and my neighbor. My neighbor bent down to pick up a rock. The dog, clearly familiar with the human capacity to fling projectiles, hurried away out of range and out of the alley. The cat and my neighbor did not give the matter another thought.

Some days later, the dog was back in that alley. This time an elderly woman, who lives a couple of doors down from him, chased it away, also by bending down for a rock.

Then, the day before yesterday, this neighbor of mine, was riding his bicycle across the plaza in front of the Church of San Antonio. While doing so, he barely noticed the dog lying on the elevated part of the plaza; its presence not really registering consciously with him. Sixty seconds later, before reaching the Ancha, realizing he had forgotten something at home, he turned around, retracing his route. Passing by the elevated section of the plaza, he felt something restraining his right leg.

Because there were a lot of people around, he had been moving slowly. Slowed down further by the pulling of his leg, he stopped. Looking down, he saw that street dog quite close, now slinking away.

He explained that the pants he was wearing had an overgenerous cuff. To keep that cuff from being caught in the chain and sprocket of his bicycle, instead of binding it close around his leg with a band, he had gathered the excess material to the outside of his ankle and tied it up there with a rubber band.

The dog, giving no warning, had snuck up on him and sank its teeth into this bunched up cuff, mistaking it for his soft, vulnerable flesh.

A couple, sitting on the nearby bench, who had seen the whole incident, were startled by this naked, dastardly, unprovoked aggression. My neighbor made a joke of it, "La perra no le gustan los gringos"; the dog doesn't like gringos. But it was no laughing matter.

In my experience, street dogs here in Mexico are timid, wary of humans. In the country, or in open spaces here inside the city, in packs, they have been known to attack and even kill people. But on any street, if you leave them alone, then they leave you alone. I have heard of people, in the city, being attacked by dogs who, chained up all day, suddenly break free and run out onto the street. Maybe this dog, new to the streets, didn't know the rules. Then, as cyclists know, some dogs are provoked by a moving bicycle. Maybe this had something to do with it.

My neighbor didn't take time for such reflections. The dog ran back up the stairs, crossed a corner of the elevated part of the plaza and then descended another of its sides, moving away down the street.

As this happening to be my neighbor's route home, he found himself riding in pursuit. To defend himself from further canine aggression, he picked up a rock lying there on the cobbles. He told me that had there been another smaller stone there, he would have picked it up instead. As it was, the one in his hand filled his palm halfway.

The dog had stopped 15 yards down the street, in front of a house, on the side of the road where there were no cars parked. It was not sixty seconds since the beast had tried to sink its teeth into him. His hormones were still flowing. Riding by, he had an unobstructed target. He stopped, pulled back his arm and fired. The dog howled in pain when the rock made impact. Then it hurried away.

"What was I supposed to do?" my neighbor asked me when he told me the story the next day. "I did nothing to provoke such a response in the dog. And if I didn't punish it, it would feel free to sneak up and attack me any old time it saw me riding by."

He told me that his action was haunting him, that he was actually something of a dog-lover. When they are not threatening the physical well-being of his cat, he gives water to the strays who sometimes visit his alley. He's even fed them, but never in front of his house, as he stops short of adoption.

I tried to comfort him, telling him that most of us extranjeros are fortunate enough to live insulated from life's harsh realities. It may be desirable to turn the other cheek, but, to defend yourself, sometimes a strong response is needed. He couldn't let his cat or himself suffer physical harm. We both hoped that, at no more cost than that of a bruised rib, the dog had learned its lesson.

The fact that we have an inner world, that we are aware that we are aware, is the most wonderful wonder. Our inner world holds Beauty, Truth and Goodness sacred. The ethical life tries to make Beauty, Truth and Goodness manifest in our outer world, and we hurt when we fail in that.

I tried to comfort him. I don't know if I did. But his story is now bothering me. It's a hard lesson about life on the streets of Mexico; hard for my neighbor, especially hard for the dog, and hard for me.

Addendum: A Happy Ending

I am please to announce that the story ends well. My neighbor, seeing the dog visiting his alley again, offered it a bowl of cat food, putting down the bowl and stepping back. Coaxed over by his cooing, the dog approached, took a few bites and hovered around for a while. He told me, "It doesn't look like a stray." My neighbor, the dog and I are all more at ease.

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Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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