When we first moved to San Clemente in 2011, Mary and I were both a bit shocked to see what looked like homeless semi-wild dogs roaming the streets. Many of these dogs looked like they were underfed and hungry. We also worried about their safety as they seemed to live on the street and had nowhere safe to sleep.
There was one dog, named Bobby, who “belonged” to our caretaker Giovanni and his family. Although Giovanni considered Bobby to be his dog, Bobby came and went as he pleased, did not know what a leash was, and slept outside in the roadway above our parking area. Although Giovanni and Maria put out food occasionally for Bobby, he seemed willing to pick up food from our doorway and elsewhere around town and often would roam away for several days before returning to his resting area in our yard.
As we have lived here we have learned that that is the way dog “ownership” goes here in San Clemente. It is more a case of the dogs adopting people as their caretakers than vice versa.
That being said… We have a dog! Sort of…
Sometime in September of 2013 a black female dog showed up at our door looking very hungry and thirsty. She cowered away from us when we tried to pet her, but reluctantly came forward to lick our hands. We put out some dog food and some water and she ate the food and then dug around in the dirt under some trees and went to sleep.
The next morning, she was gone, but around 7:00 AM she showed up wagging her tail waiting outside of our screen door. We gave her more food and water and she hung around in the yard again that day. By the end of the week we were calling her, “Our dog” and, since we did not officially give her a name she started answering to, “Good Girl” because that is what we called her.
When we left to visit friends in Playas in early November, we gave a bag of food to Jacinto (our new caretaker/gardener) and asked him to feed Good Girl while we were gone. When we returned from that trip, we were greeted by a tail wagging smiling Good Girl.
Let me make two small side notes here…
First – Yes I did say, “smiling” in reference to our dog. We believe Good Girl is a daughter of our friend Shirley’s dog, “Lady.” Lady has since passed away, but here is a picture of Lady and Lady Bob from 2012 when Bob and Lori visited us here in San Clemente.
Lady had the unique ability to smile! Whenever we would see Lady on the street she would run up to us and bare her teeth in a way that might be menacing at first blush, but her wagging tail and happy yips let us know that she was happy to see us and was actually smiling. Well, to a somewhat lesser extent, Good Girl has inherited Lady’s smile and does a dog-smile whenever she see us.
One other note – While many of the dogs here seem to be thin and underfed, there is no need for any dog to be hungry in San Clemente. Many people put out food scraps for the dogs and others actually think they “own” certain dogs and put out dog food and water. In addition the fishermen work each day to pull in nets and the stray dogs are first in line with the pelicans and frigate birds swooping up fish that are cast aside. We have watched dogs eat raw fish right off the beach every time we see the fishermen pull in their nets. There is no shortage of food here for San Clemente dogs.
Still, we worry about our little Good Girl and are relieved each morning when she shows up for her daily ration of dog food and scraps.
About two months ago Good Girl showed up with several male dogs in tow. You guessed it – she was in heat and there was no shortage of male suitors ready to help nature along. Mary checked the internet for information and determined that Good Girl should be a mother by January 14th and marked the calendar.
We were a bit worried about where Good Girl would decide to have the babies. She had been sleeping more and had dug some areas up to lay down in around our garden and under a big palm tree, but we did not see her at all on Sunday and hoped that she had not had an accident or been hurt.
Our fears were allayed when she came around the corner to our back yard this afternoon wagging her tail and looking appreciably thinner than she had the last few weeks. Good Girl took some water, but started to leave before Mary could get her fresh food. Mary called to her, but she turned her head and smiled and seemed to be talking as she yipped and yapped something we could not understand. Mary went after her and Good Girl waited a moment for Mary to catch up, yelped a few more words, and led Mary toward the fence leading over to the Vistazul condos.
Behind the Vistazul complex there is a hillside where many burrowing ground owls have nests. The hillside looks like this from our parking area.
Close up you can see many areas where the small ground owls have made nests.
But, as Mary watched she was surprised to see Good Girl scamper up the hillside and disappear into one of these nests! The one Good Girl entered had been enlarged and deepened to accommodate a young mother and her new babies!
I went back to the house for Good Girl’s food and water and put it near her new temporary home.
When I returned with the water and food, Mary had climbed up the hill and was half-submerged in the den. She counted perhaps nine new puppies, but it was dark in the den and the little ones were climbing over each other to claim a feeding spot.
After Mary had her look, I climbed up with the camera and, using the flash captured these photos of the proud mother showing off her new brood.
See if you can get a clear count. I think there are at least eight puppies showing in this picture.
Good Girl might not officially be “our” dog, but she did think enough of us to come by to announce the birth of her babies and to lead us to her new home. And, yes, she did smile with pride as she let us in for the photo-op!
But, eight is enough! In a few months when Good Girl is healthy and the pups are weaned, she will be visiting with the veterinarian for shots and procedures to make sure that no additional stays are added to San Clemente’s growing population of smiling dogs.
It’s a Dog’s Life here where….
Life is good in Ecuador.