Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Minnow Cometh & A Few Words On Ramon And His Ass Grabbing

A few weeks back Donna got an email from a guy on the Corn Islands, on the east coast of Nicaragua. He was very interested in getting a spay/neuter blitz going out there as street dogs are a problem and no one is dealing with it. Super nice guy. Turns out he's from Colorado, too.

I'm not entirely sure of how this all happened but from what I understand he and his girlfriend went out there, found a puppy that started feeding and became aware of the problem out there. He found a nice home for the pup on the island and has been going out to the Corn Islands from the States once a month to work on setting up the spay/neuter blitz and see the pup.

The puppy, unfortunately, broke with demodectic mange. Demodex is nothin', mange wise. My dog, Seamus, had mange when he was younger and he occasionally will get a spot or two of it. Basically it's a mite that most dogs carry - it's passed through the mother. It's not contagious to other dogs. Most dogs will never have an outbreak of it. But if a dog is carrying a heavy load of it and there's some sort of immune system crash -ta-da, let there be demodectic mange.

Minnow, the pup, had a reaction to some flea control and broke with massive, monstrous demodex. Lost all her hair.

Our other dogs have had sarcoptic mange - scabies. Big, scary, contagious awful mange. Demodex, not being contagious, is the equivilent of the sniffles to us. No problem. But sarna - the spanish all-purpose word for mange - is a huge fear to Nicas here. And trying to explain that this is a different mange that is harmless and non-contagious is pointless. Minnow needed to get off the island before someone tried to poison her. Plus her owner on the island - the home the American found for her - has a restaraunt and a bald dog running around...yeah. No.

Until Minnow grows her hair back, an event that should hopefully coincide with the spay/neuter blitz on Corn Islands in June, she’s joined the herd.

The first few days she was a little unsure of this whole mess. Unlike the other dogs at the clinic, Minnow has a home, a bed, an owner. She was scared of the other dogs. She thought the food sucked. The daily ivermectin injections merited temper tantrums - squealing like we were axe murdering her.

But puppies are puppies and puppies, like elastic bands, stretch. First she liked Sherman. Sherman was okay. She would play with Sherman. Then maybe Tessa, our boarder who is about her size was alright, too. Maybe a little fun to chase around.

And then within three days she was being a royal pain in the ass to the other dogs, eating like a beast, tolerating the injections sans theatrics, chewing on my toes and stealing my bag if I put it down.

This is a good sign. And she’s getting fuzzy, too.
Oddly enough her best friend at the clinic is the one dog I fretted the most about her getting along with: Ramon. Ramon can be cranky and impatient with the puppy. Though he’s an enormous marshmallow, he has this fantastic guard dog act that scares the shit out of people passing the gate. He doesn’t like to play. Except with Minnow. They wrestle around like idiots, chase each other. She grabs his cheek and leads him around. He flops over on his back and paws at her.

Sadly, Ramon leaves on Saturday. Not sadly, really. He’s going to a good home. Godspeed, Ramon. But Minnow will miss him.

You have to give the little bald monster credit. I can see why the nice guy from Colorado and her owner on the Corn Islands are so enamored with her. She’s capable of charming the hell out of Ramon.

A side note: we are clearing out. Tessa leaves for Canada tomorrow. Ramon goes on Saturday. Freda has a possible placement on a butterfly farm. Still, however, Porsha and Sherman wait. Though Porsha is taking a few days off from clinic life and staying with Nick and Toni as she had a reaction to tick treatment. No, they can’t keep her - they have other street dogs they’ve adopted. But she’s taking a breather.

A sad side note: The question is not will other dogs move into their places, it’s which dogs. Nick found a half-dead puppy in the gutter that will be coming in. And there’s a cornocopia of other sick, sad, really-bad-at-being-street-dogs street dogs who are good clinic dog candidates. The question is not will but who and how do you even go about choosing?

A Few Words on Ramon

I’ve been having some wireless issues that make posting tough. In the past few weeks I’ve been able to spit out the odd update here and there but I realize the one dog I’ve kinda ignored is Ramon, originally Ticky. When I posted the picture of his ear I got a whole bunch of emails about how gross that was. Welcome to Nica Street Dogs 101. But poor Ramon is now famous only for having a really gross picture of his ears online.

The original idea behind Ramon was a catch, fix and release. He was doing okay on Calle Santa Lucia. He wasn't underweight. He had a touch of sarna when I first got here but I gave him three weeks worth of magic hot dogs - hot dogs with ivermectin pills in them - and that took care of that. Plus he seemed to be an old dog. He was always just sort of lying around by the pulperia, napping in front of my house.

And then there was the tick incident. I don't know how possible it is to spend eight hours ripping ticks off of a dog and not forge some sort of bond. The verdict came in: Ticky stayed. And he got a new name: Ramon.

Like pretty much every other dog here he popped positive for erlichia, a tick born illness easily treatable with antibiotics. We treated him. And with his ten thousand hitchhikers removed, he started to get his energy back. As he did we discovered a few things: he was a young, energetic dog once his entire circulatory system wasn't being used to power a small city of ticks. He was a little racist - he barked at Nica men. And he was kind of a pervert - he doesn't bite, perse, but he does like to grab your ass when you come in. Just a nip, but still.

The racism he got over. He actually wound up enamored with the school's quitador, a younger Nica guy, and would wait for him every night by the door. The perversion will probably always be an intergral part of who Ramon is. He knows better than to try it with me but pretty much everyone else gets a nice ass grab when they walk through the gate. Men, women, children, other dogs, doesn't matter. He's going for the butt.

I'll miss Ramon. Ass grabbing aside, there was a quiet, stoic side to him that reminded me of my old lab, Simon, who died a few years back at the age of eighteen. And he was a good guard dog. Aside from the signature butt-bite he never would hurt anyone but he was really good at raising a huge fuss if anyone was at the gate. Reassuring when I would stay at the clinic after dark.

Godspeed, Ramon. May life present you with an absence of ticks and an abundance of passing behinds to nip.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Few Weeks of Ivermectin/How This Whole Thing Works/The Only White Prostitute..

Anyone want to guess who this is? Anyone? Anyone?

This is The Potato after three weeks of ivermectin, antibiotics and regular food. And I cannot take any credit for this whatsoever - I was out gallavanting around the country while Donna was down at the lake taking care of him every morning. I just saw him for the first time in weeks a few days ago and I was dead shocked. All the scabbing is gone. He has hair. His ribs are no longer visible. He looks like a dog. Not much of a dog, true, but a dog. Holy crap.

He actually even has kind of a sweet face.

No he has not been brought back into the clinic and it's highly unlikely that he ever will be again. He's too feral. We can get close to feed him and to occasionally pat him but he has not forgotten his confinement at the clinic and makes damn sure that we get nowhere near him with anything like a slip lead. He doesn't growl, he just sort of skitters away.

Donna got him into sort of a routine where she goes down to the lakefront every morning at the ass-crack of dawn with a big bag of food and whatever meds he was on. The first few weeks she had to hunt him down, the infamous Spud Hunts, but eventually he realized we weren't trying to pull him back in and now he waits for her at the same spot every morning.

And now he brings friends. The little black and tan female he seems to always hang around with who just gets in rougher and rougher shape. She's started developing sarna as well so now she's on Ivermectin hot dogs as well. We're also going to put her on a once a day antibiotic to deal with the mystery cuts on her head. If anything she is schitzier, more nervous than The Potato himself. Despite being older and slower, she's good at dodging hands. Definitely not a candidate for being brought in which is good thing as we are way above capacity as it stands. As I said before, the idea behind Casa Lupita was never to be an animal shelter. But she'll be treated on the street.

There's also another dog, this one in pretty good shape, a really pretty little brindle and white thing. Sleek. Like the othere two she is feral to the core - she comes up for the food but you can't get a hand close to her. Which really is a shame because she's a beautiful dog. But unlike The Potato and his girlfriend, she is either younger or much better at street life and aside from being a little skinny is in good shape. When there's a vet around she's definitely a good candidate to be grabbed, fixed and re-released.

Aside from the three dogs there's a cat who hangs out and waits at the same spot for Donna, too. I didn't get any pictures of it but it's a hugely pregnant black calico. Nicaraguan animals kill me. In New Orleans after Katrina the hungry dogs just ate the available cats. Here they all sit around together and wait for the food truck to arrive. The cat belongs to someone at one of the restaraunts and just shows up because it seems to like dog food. It eats right near the dogs and no matter how many bowls the dogs eat - finishing one and waiting for Donna to pour more in - they never try to grab the cat's stuff. It's all very civilized.

A Few More Quick Notes On The Clinic.
It occured to me the other day that in my orgy of photo posting I've never really put up pictures of the clinic, what it looks like or how this whole thing works.

The clinic is one room in a school house. I guess at one time it was a music room but then they pulled out the stuff and put in an operating table and vet stuff, some cages were added last year. Prior to the existence of the actual clinic a few ex-pats had arranged a spay/neuter clinic here with a visiting vet and used someone's house for it.

The school house has a huge courtyard and when I was here last year there were three cement kennels in it. Since then three more have been added. The dogs very rarely use the kennels - they're primarily for the spay neuter clinic. But some of the dogs are locked up while school is in session. The rest of the time they live in the courtyard, some of them hanging out with the kids during school hours.

The way Nica schools work there's a huge break in the middle of the day. During that break I go in and let out the ones that are locked up, do morning food and meds, fill everything up. I then go back after school is out to let everyone out again, do their dinners and their meds, hang out with them, that sort of thing.

Inside the clinic itself we have an operating table, a little fridge, some shelving that acts as the pharmacy, a sink and counter, a bank of cat size cages that weren't here the last time I was here. Over time a lot of equipment has been brought in through some means or another - an anesthesia machine, all the surgical equiment, a pressure cooker that works as an autoclave. It's literally one tenth of the size of the operating room we had at the bloated, overfunded shelter that I used to work at. That said, when the doctor is in they put mats down on the floor for recovering dogs, set up every available inch of space and roll through surgeries at a rate even the most well funded, well set up clinic would have trouble matching. It's a machine.

When the actual surgery clinics are going on the school isn't open - aside from the two-stage school days here a lot of schools, including this one, aren't open on Friday. And literally every inch of courtyard and clinic space is maximized. The dog size crates we have are stacked outside in the shade. Dogs are tied out to posts in the shade or under trees prior to surgery. Twenty three animals in one day. Think about that.

Holy fuck.

Non-Animal Epilogue: The Only White Prostitute In Granada.

All the chicken ladies in my neighborhood seem to have closed up shop for the week. The closest one is the only one I make a point of never going to. Unlike the other chicken ladies, she's mean eyed and nasty, her food is always cold. I've never gotten sick off of her but she's always had some bitch issues.

Most of the other chicken ladies know me - if it wasn't for fruit, yogurt and chicken ladies I long since would have starved to death. They know my Spanish isn't great, they joke around with me, give me extra chili, are friendly. I might be an odd gringa but I'm sort of their odd gringa.

But the Chicken Bitch is different. It's actually a chicken family - an older woman, the mean-eyed younger woman, some guy, a few other people - all sitting out on the sidewalk with their grill and their table selling food.

Last night I am shit out of chicken lady options and go back to her. While she's putting my food in the banana leaves - I don't know how there's a goddamn banana tree around here left with any leaves on it from the chicken ladies and the vigaron ladies - the older woman starts talking.

People, my spanish isn't great but I do speak some. And the word for tattoo is the same in English as it is in Spanish. She's whispering - not quietly - to the boy and laughing but I'm picking up some of it - tattoo, dress, street.......whore. Whore. The word for whore is the same as the word for bitch, really, and I'm never anything but friendly so I'm pretty sure it's being used in the hooker context.

There's a million things I can think of to say but I don't say anything. It's fucking outrageous but getting into an argument with them won't do anything. I go home royally pissed off.

My roommate is helping me with my Spanish homework and I tell him about it. Don't let it get under your skin, he suggests. Just don't go back.

When my other roommate gets home I bitch at him about it. He's been here forever. He just shrugs. You know how this place is. It's a sidewalk culture. All they do is talk about other people. Everyone out there is talking about everyone else all the time. They all watch everything everybody does and talk about it. Besides, it's a weird cultural thing - they don't know you and most tattooed Nicaraguan women are prostitutes.

They really do think I'm a hooker. Honestly.

Wouldn't they think a hooker would have a better bicycle? And while I will cop to running around in sundresses and lipstick all the time I look way more like a librarian than a hooker.

Later the same roommate that tells me they probably do think I'm a hooker borrows my bike to go to the same chicken lady. I can't take offense because he lives off chicken lady food, too, and has shown me where all the good ones are. He offers to tell her that I'm not a prostitute. Don't bother, I tell him. Let them think what they want to think.

When he comes back he tells me they looked at him funny when he pulled up on my bike.

They probably think he's a man whore now.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Gratuitous Use of Adorable Puppy Updates To Make You Read Other Semi Important Things

It seems a little fucked up to chase an entry on the difficulty of placing Porsha due to her homeliness with a cute puppy entry. But I rest assured that yeah, you all know Porsha still needs a home. Badly. And some wonderful person in the States emailed me today and is raising money to defray the cost of shipping Porsha to the States if a home can be found for her there. So if you are at all interested in owning what might be the best dog in the world, please see my last entry. And email me. ASAP.

I generally dislike the word 'cute'. It's a banal word. But yes, the puppy is cute. No, the puppy is goddamn adorable. When you last saw him he was a little handful of black and white. Now he is an enormous speckled beast with a name: Sherman. Or first name Sherman, last name Tank.

We have no idea what could possibly have fathered Sherman. When he was just a wee little creepy crawly thing Boston Terrier, Pit Bull, Border Collie were all bandied about as potential parentage. After all Freda, his mother, is black and tan. And then he started to grow. And grow and grow and grow. And his fur went from flat black and white to speckled. So now all we can assume is that whatever Freda mated with was some sort of enormous speckled monster, a cattle dog on steroids, a dalmation large enough to devour a small city. We are clueless.

In America puppies start on their mothers milk and then are gradually weaned over. First you make a mush with some wet food and puppy food, then gradually you make it more solid, then you feed just puppy food until they graduate to dog food.

This is not the way these things work in Nicaragua. One day Sherman was nursing, the next day he bellied up to Freda's bowl, stuck his nose in and started eating dog food. He kept occasionally nursing off of her for a while but for the most part he just up and decided to eat dog food one morning. And now he does. He eats his weight in dog food every day. He's gotten so bad that Freda started hoarding food to keep him from eating everything so now they have to have seperate bowls. This would be easier if we had enough bowls. Instead he eats off a plate. Until he finishes his plate, then he tries to eat Freda's food. And if that doesn't work he takes off with the empty plate forcing me to chase him around the yard to retrieve it. For a five week old puppy that wobbles around like a drunk after happy hour the little bastard can move.

I would feed him in the bowl and give Freda the plate but Sherman is really big on up-ending things onto himself. Water buckets, dog food bowls, garbage cans, whatever. And he's a little too short for a real bowl yet.

This brings us to a non-puppy related interlude - and do not worry people, the puppy porn will continue after this brief non-puppy interlude: we are not an animal shelter. We are not set up to be an animal shelter. Casa Lupita, the clinic, is one room in a school house with some cages built into the wall outside. The original idea was for it to be used by visiting vets to do spays and neuters. Maybe hand out invermectin tablets to the street dogs with sarna when there was a vet tech or someone around to do it. The idea was never to accumulate a collection of these dogs, let alone have a dog give birth there.

With spaying the street dogs, it should be catch and fix and release. Or treat on the street and bring in to fix and release. But some of them just cannot just be caught and released.

First there was a dog so sick and tame it would not have survived treatment on the street. That was Scabby. I believe he was the first one though I could be wrong. He lived at the clinic last year when I was here while we treated him for mange, severe malnutrion and a bunch of other infections. But being there makes them too used to people to be effective street dogs. And most of them sucked at street life anyway which is how they wound up so critically ill. But living at the clinic they lose the instincts that keep them alive out there. Scabby - now BB - wound up being adopted by a wonderful woman, an ex-pat who treats him like a king. And he is a beautiful dog now.

Since then other similar cases have arisen. The criterion are always the same - the dog is very sick, incredibly tame and needs more critical care than can be given on the street. But we are not set up to do this. At most we can handle one or two of these dogs, daily care wise. Now we have five counting Sherman with one more boarding dog on the way. And this doesn't even take into account finding them homes in a country overrun with street dogs where anyone can find themselves a puppy.

But now back to our friend The Tank. Aside from his abrupt decision to eat dog food, he's also scorned any attempts to make him puppy-size water bowls. We made him one out of a cut off soda bottle and he up-ended it and then chewed it up. We gave him water in a smaller bowl and he stepped in it, played in it, and then up-ended that on himself as well. If the big dogs drink out of the big bucket, then Sherman will drink out of the bucket, too. Come hell or high water.

Very high water.

I have to check the bucket a few times a day to make sure the level is high enough that he can get his face far enough in to get water. Nicaragua is not a cold country - everything here needs extra water when the temperature climbs into the nineties. I also have to make sure that it's heavy enough that cannot upend it on himself which he has done numerous times. This is delightful to watch but not terribly good for keeping everyone else hydrated.

And sometimes because he is a puppy and hence an instrument of mass destruction he needs to try to eat the bucket. Just because. Luckily metal, unlike my toes, shoelaces, Porsha's ears, and the garbage, is completely immune to his pointy little puppy jaws.

There is an odd juxtaposition about having Sherman at the clinic. Yes, there have been other puppies there. Remember Tyson, the pup we pulled out of the ditch the first day I was here? Puppies have come through. But unlike the other puppies Sherman has never spent a day of his life on the streets. While the other dogs have had to forage for food, dodge taxis, avoid being poisoned, Sherman has always enjoyed the security of regular meals and a protected place to stay. I'm sure he'll grow up somewhat fucked up and in need of a doggy therapist - an only child raised by a horde of mange ridden and tick infested half dead street dogs in recovery - but he has lived a life of relative luxury and safety. He's sort of like a baby born in a drug rehab in a bad neighborhood. Maybe the other ones tell him stories - if dogs can do such things, which I doubt - but he doesn't know what it's like out there. And it's pretty unlikely that he ever will. Yes, he is already the size of a tractor but he is still a puppy. And a puppy under the guardianship of people who will insure that he winds up with a nice family.

Even if I do have to fish him out of the garbage sometimes.

But the other dogs, even cranky Ramon and timid Tessa, treat him like their own. Porsha lets him chew on her ears and pull her tail. Ramon will occasionally growl if he's being a little too mouthy but the other dogs look out for him, take care of him. And god forbid something does happen to him that elicits a whimper - I step on him, he gets his paw stuck somewhere - all four dogs come flying over to make sure no one is messing with their puppy.

Though Freda does sometimes kick his ass when he needs it. But she's his mom. These things are allowed. And it's kinda fun to watch. Particularly after he just finished chewing my toes to shreds.

***A quick note on rehoming these dogs: I can't stress enough what frickin' rock stars Nick, Toni, Kit, et al are. Because of them a bunch of these dogs that had no chances in hell before now have homes. Tyson and others have moved out to Laguna, to neighbors of Kit's. Toni and Nick have worked the hell out of their Peace Corps network to place others like Quixote and Tripod. I've said it before - I show up for a bit and do my thing, work, but I'm the one who has the time to write the stories. The real heroes are the ones that are here all the time.***

A brief non-animal related interlude: The Best Heckling Ever.

Like most Americans without a great grasp of Spanish I have a tendency to invent Spanglish when I don't know the world for something - tack an 'o' or an 'ina' on to the end of an English word and assume that people know what I'm talking about.

I always assumed that this particular form of Spanglish was only spoken by native English speakers. Today I am in the Mercado in Masaya buying a new bathing suit when I walk by a group of taxistas - cab drivers. I'm not wearing a damn bathing suit, just a sundress but it doesn't matter what you're wearing, heckling is going to occur. There are the usual whistles and hoots and hissing, a 'you are booteeful' and then one of them says 'Holy Crapp-o, las piernas." Piernas being legs, though I'm probably butchering the spelling on that.

But Holy Crapp-o. Crapp-o. I had a little Holden Caulfield moment right there and that just killed me. I started laughing which embarrassed the hell out of the poor guy.

Holy Crapp-o.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Ugly Dog Problem, A Boarder Joins The Hoard and a Few Updates.

We have a black and tan dog problem. We now have five dogs at the clinic - Freda, Porsha, Ticky (who is now Ramon), the puppy, and now a tiny little timid thing named Tessa who is only boarding with us until she's fat enough to fly to the states.

Of the five of them Porsha, Freda and Tessa are all black and tan. It looks like a goddamn Guinness convention in the yard. Black and tans every which way. Despite being familiar with all of them I sometimes have to check for the presence of an eye or a set of larger ears before I start calling them by name.

Which brings me to a bigger problem: The Porsha Issue.
Tessa already has a home. Freda is unavailable for adoption until the puppy is old enough to be on it's own. But Porsha, sweet, happy, beloved Porsha, could go at any time. She's ready to leave. She's more than ready to leave - she needs to leave. While most clinic dogs get sick of clinic life, dislike the chaos of the kids at the school, balk at the confinement of the yard, Porsha loves clinic life. If we offered her a lease for her kennel there she would sign it. In a heartbeat.

Which leads us to Porsha's biggest problem: She is the best dog in the world. She loves other dogs. She loves kids. She's good with cats. She's so mellow that she's the only dog allowed in the clinic on spay/neuter days - she just sprawls out and keeps an eye on the recovering dogs. She breaks up fights between other clinic dogs. When the puppy chews on her ears she just wags her little half tail. When Quixote bit her so badly she needed antibiotics she refused to fight back. Of all the dogs, she has had the most surgeries and the most invasive surgeries: she was spayed, what was left of the eye was removed, her rear dewclaws were taken off. Later there was a problem with the eye removal and she had to have another surgery. She has taken all of these in amazingly good spirits. She wags her tail during injections. Her body also bears the greatest signs of abuse - a scar around her neck where a cord grew into her skin. A punctured eye. None of it has effected her goodwill, her good nature, her trust in the universe. She plays with the puppy while you trim her nails. She is the perfect goddamn dog.

So where is the problem exactly? The problem is that Porsha is ugly.

We think she's beautiful but to other people she is homely, unsightly. In the states a medium sized non-descript black and tan dog is a tough enough sell in a shelter. Add in the missing eye, the hairless ears (which might still grow hair, all is possible), the scar around her neck, the fact that her hair that did grow back in came in grey and it's impossible not to see her through the eyes of other people: she is an ugly dog.

And she is not in a shelter in the states, she's in a clinic in Nicaragua. To get her to a home in the States or Canada would cost hundreds of dollars. It's doable, it's been done before. It will be done again shortly with Tessa, our sad little boarder who was lucky enough to have a Canadian find her on the streets and fall in love with her.

To be perfectly honest, all of us want Porsha to go to a home in the States or Canada. We are all in love with this dog, her ridiculous grin, her unbelievable tolerance for anything, her absolute passion for food that has resulted in her not only being an ugly dog but also kind of a portly ugly dog.

Porsha needs a porch to lie out on, a sofa to crash on, some kids to play with, maybe another dog to chase her around sometimes, a few trips to the dog park. She deserves these things. Not that the other dogs don't but Porsha is, well, special. Different. She also needs someone who will understand that prior to coming to live at the clinic she inhabited another universe - a harder, crueler universe. It's highly likely that Porsha has never seen a sofa in her life or laid out on a porch. It's a certainty that she's never been to a dog park.

Cultural differences being what they are, trying to find the kind of home for her that we would like her to have is near impossible.

Toni and I were lamenting over her the other day. The dog that will be the hardest to adopt out is the one that we will be the pickiest about finding a home for. And it's all because of one simple problem: Porsha will always be wonderful but she will never be beautiful. At least not in any sort of Dog Fancy, Westminster sort of way.

The Boarder.

Look, it's another black and tan female dog! What are the chances? I'm not entirely sure where exactly Tessa came from or how she won the Nica Street Dog Lotto but she's only with us for a few weeks. Apparently a Canadian woman found her on the streets and fell for her. She's too underweight and sickly to get a health certificate now so she's staying with us until she's well enough to travel.

She seems like a lovely dog, if a little timid. Unfortunately, though, the clinic dogs all have pretty strong personalities so poor Tessa comes off about as interesting as a dishrag. I'm sure once I get to know her and she relaxes some she will become as endearing as the rest of the lot but thus far I can't think of much to say about her. She likes to lie around. I have her on the anti-Atkins diet - she gets kibble loaded with pasta to try to throw some weight on her but she's not a good eater. She trembles and throws herself onto her back when you scratch her behind the ears. She's astute enough to realize that Freda hates every other dog until she gets used to them and she stays out of her way. That said, yes. We have a boarder.

Apparently it's becoming known that we are a safe place for these dogs. Next week we'll have another one coming in. We don't really have the room but it's just another short termer, a dog from the Corn Islands named Minnow who needs to hang out and recover from some mange and other issues before moving on to a home they already have lined up. Do we have room? Not really. Resources? No, not terribly. It's very hand to mouth here. But we'll make it work. We always do.

Some Surgery Updates.

They did a bunch of clinics while I was out gallavanting around and slammed through a ton of animals - twenty three in one day. I think they did surgeries for three or four of the seven days that Dr. Tom was here. Crazy. What makes it even more amazing was that it was cancer week: a lot of the dogs that were coming in had tumors, a result of venereal diseases they pick up on the streets. So not only were they doing the spays and neuters and removing the tumours they were adminstering doses of chemo. The cancers won't kill the dogs now that they're removed. They could use more chemo but it's pricey, hard to adminster to dogs owned by people who can't afford a regular trip to the vet. The one dose they do get should keep them well enough. But Tom, Kit, Nick, Toni - all of them - are goddamn heroes, at the table for hours a day.

They also went and got Lolo, the dog with the broken jaw. It is still alive. Unfortunately, due to equipment limitations repairing the jaw was impossible but he was able to work with it a little, make it more comfortable, make eating a little easier. Lolo will never have a normal mouth but he will, and does, survive. And his family continues to care for him.

In between my trips I went in for a few hours one day, cleaned some instruments, did some shaving. But they worked twelve and fourteen hour days that week to make it happen.

Right after I did get back we had a different vet, Dr. Troy, for one day. I got back on a Thursday and was expecting a Saturday surgery clinic. In the absence of a vet we function primarily as a very small shelter and do some work with dogs on the streets themselves. But we were going to have a vet and thus the ability to do some surgeries. So the word was put out on the street: Bring animals on Saturday. We can operate.

Woopsy. Date confusion. We actually had Dr. Troy on Friday. Thus Friday morning finds us all set up for surgery with no surgeries to be done. Screw.

We paid the neighbors 100 cords - about $5 - to let us fix their dogs. It's a shame we did have to pay them but they keep cranking out puppies and well, particularly in the poorer communities it's hard to make inroads into the prevailing attitudes towards animals and sterilizing. Thus we bribe.d. Not as a habit, not as a matter of course, just this once. But we did.

That's two.

At eight AM I find myself driving around with Nick, Donna and Jeff the Farrier (more on him in later entries - what a cool guy) trolling for animals to fix. We drop Jeff off at the carriage owner's union and one of the drivers says he has a dog we can fix. After we set Jeff up we take the guy back down to his barrio to pick up the dog. While we're there his friends and neighbors come out with other animals for us - another puppy. A cat. We load the back of the truck. On the way back to the clinic we pick up a dog at the abandoned hospital. Apparently the dog has been living there for years and the police that guard the place take amazing care of it - she is fat and happy. But they can't control the fact that she cranks out a litter every year. They had actually approached Donna or Nick in the past about getting her fixed. We toss her in the back, too, and head back to the clinic with full crates and a cat in a pillowcase.

Another woman shows up with another cat. All in all we do eight or nine surgeries. Dr. Troy is awesome - careful, conscientious. Eight or nine is not a ton but it's something. And here anything is something fantastical.

***A future note - I am getting caught up on my blogging so I should be churning out for the next few days. And I know what the people want and so yes, puppy updates and pictures coming tomorrow as well as the Progress of the Potato and a note on Jeff, who actually just might be the most popular farrier in the world right now. Or at least the Americas.***

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Interlude: The Story That No One Will Believe/Zen & The Art of Pali

Pre-Prelude: Blogger is having some wacky formatting issues so I've tried to fix the paragraph issue about 20 times and add more photos to no avail. Screw it. There's some funky spots that should have paragraphs and did have paragraphs but blogger robbed me of them. And the Toilet Terror photo won't post. I'll have worked this out next time but as most of the people who read this do so for the clinic stuff - and this is not a clinic entry - I'm not going to lose my head over it.

Prelude: Pointless Nothingness.

I am trying to read La Prensa, the Nicaraguan newspaper, in Spanish. Humbling. The only things I can really read are the gory car accident stories. Luckily they love gory car accident articles here - photos of dead bodies and what not. Lesiones gravados means grave injuries. Muerte means dead. These get used a lot in the gory car accident genre. I can't speak enough spanish to buy a shaker of pepper in the grocery store but I know how to describe someone being disemboweled by a steering wheel.

If it wasn't for comics and the unquenchable thirst Central American news agencies have for reporting on overturned buses and dismembered taxi drivers I wouldn't understand a damn thing.

I try to follow the politics but am forced to resort to the Nica Times, the English language newspaper, to follow the whole Ortega/property rights disputes/ASLN vs ALN thing. But I get all of my gory car accident and Far Side from the spanish language paper. Go me.
The Coincidence I Wouldn't Have Believed Had It Not Happened To Me.

Okay, so here is the odd story of the week: Last week I was travelling around with my friend Kristen who visited from the States. We went to Leon where my camera got boosted (see last post re: karma really needs to bite someone in the ass) and hung out there for a night. A lot of people love Leon but we thought it was hot, dusty, and overrated. Lot of cool revolutionary murals, a few left over bullet holes in buildings, some interesting history but hot and charmless.

After a few hours of dragging through the city we decided to do a quiet dinner, go back to our room and then head to the beach in the morning for a few days. The pizza place we were going to go to looked gross so at the last minute we switch gears and go to this restaraunt over by all the hostels and the college. While we're waiting the fifteen years for our food to arrive (Bienvenidos a Nicaragua! Order an hour before you want to eat!) this Nica girl comes over and starts talking to us.
This is a very odd little interlude and one that I'll mostly pass over. Basically she has tattoos which is unheard of here. The idea of tattooed women is akin to the idea of two headed cows or food that comes within an hour of being ordered. Kristen has witnessed the Finn-gets-camera-phone-photo-ed on public transport phenomenon. But she saw my tattoos and came over to speak to us. Next thing we know she and all of her friends are at our table, there's some bad Spanglish going on, they speak a little English, my bad Spanish, my attempting to translate for Kristen. They're with a ton of other university students and our table is now full and we are speaking very loudly.

Out of nowhere I hear an American voice behind me. You are, the voice said, from Olympia, Washington, aren't you?

I turn around to see a face so devastatingly familiar it kills me that it takes me a second to place it. It's my old roommate from Olympia, Kyle. For six months I shared a bathroom with this man, spent hours talking to him, watched him moon, Charlie Brown style, over the cute Chinese girl across the street. I lost track of him about three months before I left Oly. After he moved out I would run into him every now and again and we would hang out but then I left without seeing him and yeah, just sort of fell out of touch.
Until I run into him in a restaraunt in Leon, Nicaragua.

He sits down with us and we reminisce about the old times, he tells Kristen some stories - In Which Finn Assisinates The Kitchen Rat With A Pellet Gun, In Which He Scares The Shit Out Of Me So Badly I Throw A Chair At Him Because I Think He's An Intruder. I tell some Kyle stories - the 'I Didn't Realize It Was That Kind Of Massage Parlor' story, his penchant for coming into my room every night and sitting on the floor next to the radiator with a beer and talking while I was trying to fall asleep.
It's like running into a long lost but endearingly wacky relative.
Somehow it is decided that we will all go to the beach together the next day.
And then there is the interlude that winds up with us being the only white people at this odd disco that our new Nica friends insist we go to, Kyle getting essentially molested by the tattooed Nica girl , my camera going boosted.
And then there is a nice few days at the beach with a good group of friends and lots of good conversation and boogie boarding and me biffing it and eating sand more than a few times while Kristen takes photos. Thanks K.

But honestly, what the hell are the chances?

Zen & The Art of Pali

Wal Mart has been trying to move into Central America. I can understand them wanting Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, but I am sure who ever brokered the deal to buy a couple of chains of stores in Nicaragua never actually set foot in them. Or in Nicaragua, period, for that matter.

Nicaragua does have a few chain stores - La Colonial, La Union and Pali. La Colonials, which I have never been in, are supposedly big and expensive and very Americanized. La Union, which I was in for the first time in Leon, is like a smaller La Colonial - well lit, lots of stuff, very un- Nicaraguan and quite frankly the flurescent lighting, air conditioning and well stocked shelves threw me into spasms of culture shock so badly that I insisted we leave immediately after Kristen purchased her Toilet Terror. *

And then there is Pali. Pali is La Union's ugly little bastard child. We have Pali in Granada - they are small, dark little supermarkets with no air conditioning, surly staff and completely non-sensical product placement. Rat killer is next to spices is next to dog food. Flip flops are next to toilet paper but a good four aisles away from paper towels. The three different kinds of yogurt they sell are so well spread out that it's practically a scavenger hunt. And sometimes they move things so just when you start to remember that granola is with the cookies you become completely disoriented again. **

La Union owns Pali. Wal Mart bought La Union and hence Pali. For all of us who hate Wal Mart, we should all take a moment to chortle with delight over the fact that Wal Mart must be shitting itself over finding itself in possesion of what must be the least appetizing chain stores on the planet. Oh and all the Pali employees now where Wal Mart badges so their oh-so-carefully branded logo is attached to what can only be described as the Crown King of Shitholes.


Unfortunately, Pali is unavoidable. Everyone dreads a trip to Pali like the plague but at one time or another we all have to do it. They have some stuff that is near impossible to find any place else. I buy all my produce at the mercado or off the fruit ladies who push their carts through the street. I buy water, soda from the pulperia near my house. But when I need granola, yogurt there is no other choice to suck it up and fall into the black hole that is Pali.

There are certain givens about: Pali it will be packed. Every aisle will be blocked with big carts of stuff they're trying to find random shelf space for. There will be one or two lines open and they will not be staffed by anyone to whom efficiency or speed is a priority. You are going to be in Pali for a while.

When you do get up to the counter you are going to have to wait while the counter person carefully wipes the counter. And you are going to have to bag your own shit. They just toss it into an empty grocery cart next to the register. And you have to buy your bags.

The trick to Pali is either go during the rare slow times - very rare, almost impossible to predict. Or go with someone else and have them immediately get in line while you shop. By the time you fill the cart they might be near the front of the line. And watch out for line cutters.

Line cutting is a goddamn art form in Nicaragua. It's not malicous, it just is what it is. If someone can get in front of you, they're gonna do it. By any means necessary.

I am in Pali by myself yesterday, standing in line. The world's most adorable five year old child comes up and tries to get in front of me. No. I say to her vehemently. She looks up at me sadly with big dinner plate eyes, clutching one roll of toilet paper. No.

There are a few other gringos, tourists, in the store and they are all looking at me like I am the biggest asshole in the history of humanity.

Trust me people. I live here. I know this trick.

She tries once more.

No. Adios. Va.

She shuffles off to the next line looking like I just pistol whipped her. A redhaired German girl motions for the little girl to get in front of her, shooting me a nasty look. You cow-fucker, I can practically hear her thinking, this poor little girl just needs a roll of toilet paper.

Twenty minutes later when we are all still standing in line it happens. The rest of the little girls family shows up with two - two - gigantic carts of groceries. They muscle in front of the german girl who is stuck standing there looking stupified and saying nothing. The family motions another family - probably friends- to get in line behind them. Instead of being third in line the German girl is now fifth behind three overloaded carts.

As I'm walking out she's still standing in line looking stunned. The adorable little girl, now tucked under her mom's arm, is beaming beautifically.
* Toilet Terror is a form of toilet deodorizer you hang on the outside of the bowl. You don't buy it to use it, you buy it because, well, it's called 'Toilet Terror'. And that is very, very funny.
** In all fairness they did just open a Pali in San Juan Del Sur that looks like a La Union. It is nice, clean, well stocked, well staffed. I have been in four other Pali's in Central America, though, and they are all shitholes. The SJDS one is the exception, not the rule. Trust me.
***A few random notes: More animal updates coming shortly. The spell checker on is down and I am too lazy to go back through this or put it in word and check it there. I really need a new camera as I'm sure this is tedious as hell without photos. Hence I stole the lame photo of Kyle, my old college roommate, from Kristen but most of her pics are too large for blogger to download. I typed most of this on a Latin American keyboard so excuse the funky punctuation. And yes, I do like to make excuses for my writing shortcomings***