Friday, March 30, 2012

Bosque del Niño

I was an invited guest to the World Water Day celebration at Bosque del Niño (Children's Woods). My two retired tico buddies, Heriberto and Gerardo, and I may have a volunteer gig making trail signs at this park, which is located in San Isidro de Grecia.

It is oh so hot these days in downtown Grecia, so driving the half hour up up up into the mountains to this park was lovely. The air was cool and fresh.

There were local and national dignitaries at this event, along with the principals and a few selected students from each elementary school. The winning essay was read by its author, a sweet little girl about 9 or 10 named Jimena. She wrote about water being a precious resource. Each school that participated in the essay contest received a laptop, printer and sound system.

I went up to the principal of the school that's just a few blocks from where I live and introduced myself. I asked if she was interested in having me go to the school on occasion to speak English to the kids. She was very interested. All kids learn basic English skills, but usually the teachers don't know how to speak the language. So I'll go and the kids and teachers will listen to a native American-English speaker.

Monday, March 26, 2012

End of the Chapter

I had to find a new home for Frijolita. After seven weeks of increasingly bad behavior, she dug five too many holes. She is a digger; I am a realist; and I woke up Friday morning, solid in my decision to part ways with her.

Once I put it out to the universe, a loving home showed up the same day. I asked my friend, Cindy, up in Tilaran, who raises and trains dogs, if she could take Frijolita. She is building a kennel and currently has 13 dogs living in crates. She takes them out 2-3 times a day to walk and train them. I wanted Frijolita to keep her free spirit, but I was desperate. However, Cindy just couldn't take one more dog.

She did, however, recommend a woman in Atenas, Cheree Quinn, who had recently adopted a crippled dog. I emailed Cheree, described sweet Frijolita, attached a picture, and Cheree immediately fell in love with her. Cheree and her husband just moved to Costa Rica in November from Hawaii, and have eight dogs. Frijolita would be #9.

We did the handoff on Saturday, Frijolita doing much better in the back seat, but still very scared of riding in the car for 40 minutes. I am so glad that I leash-trained her, because I had to walk her in the center of the city, which was full of people and noise from a fiesta, and she stayed right with me.

Cheree is a lovely woman, and obviously in love with dogs. She is about 40; she and her husband decided not to have kids, but to have dogs instead. She assured me that Frijolita would be well taken care of. I can still see Frijolita sitting in the back seat among her food, treats, bowls, toys and pillows that went with her.

I bawled my eyes out. I couldn't believe that I got so attached to a dog that I didn't even want after just seven weeks.

The next day, Sunday, I wept some more and dragged myself around the house. Finally, I emailed Cheree to see how Frijolita was doing. I wanted to know, but I didn't want to know, too. She wrote back that Frijolita was a little shy with the other dogs, but was spending time with one dog, Roxy, her new best friend, and digging holes and chewing rawhide bones. They were planning to introduce the other dogs to Frijolita one at a time. That first night, Cheree's husband slept in the guest room with Frijolita so she wouldn't be scared.

I am so very grateful to have found the right home for Frijolita. I know she will be happy there.

And no, I am not looking for another dog. But I am glad I had the experience of her.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Danger and Excitement on a Sunday Morning

Sometime during the night, Frijolita took down the yellow Danger tape surrounding the piles of rocks and dirt being used to make cement for the house going up across from me. She thoughtfully brought me a piece of the yellow tape, which says Peligro (Danger).

I tricked her into coming over to me on the couch so I could put her leash on, and we walked into town. She resisted on many blocks so she could run away from stray dogs (there are lots in Costa Rica), but I kept her with me to show her who was the Alpha dog.

As we were walking up the street to our house, a big brown ferocious-looking dog (part Rottweiler) followed us. He had a leather collar on, so he must have escaped from someone's yard. He seemed harmless and Frijolita didn't seem to care about him, until he trespassed on our property. Frijolita barked as though her life depended on it. (If only I could get her to bark at unwanted people on the property instead of dogs...)

The dog hung around here, and a little while later, the neighbor from down the street came looking for him. It seems the battery died on his invisible fence collar. Frijolita and the dog were playing hide and seek in the sugar cane field. Finally, I brought out the big guns: liver. I got the dog to come over and feed out of my hand (he has teeth!) and I grabbed him by the collar. My neighbor slipped the leash on him and all ended well.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Frijolita refused to go on the leash this morning. Not even the enticement of liver dangling from my fingers could get her to come anywhere close to me. And we were doing so well, or so I thought.

I walked down the street without her, but she followed well behind me. I crossed the busy street, and had to leave her to fend for herself. She followed me for several blocks, then she met up with a couple of dogs and a park with smelly trash. I didn't see her again until I made the downtown loop and back up to my house (over a mile). Shortly after I sat down on "our" couch on my patio, she came trotting up the driveway. She still wouldn't come near me, although she was happy to see me.

At this point, she is providing more aggravation than pleasure. The night before last, she woke me up at 1am, 3am and 5am with her barking. She doesn't bark at people to protect the property; she barks at other dogs that enter the empty lots across from my house. Her barking wakes up not only me, but also the two doctors who live next door (one is a surgeon who has to operate in the morning).

Frijolita continues to dig deep holes in the yard. Yesterday I bought some industrial-strength onion and garlic powder, added water, and sprayed most of the yard. It's supposed to be a deterrent to dogs, bugs and rodents. But it didn't deter Frijolita. I have also put moth ball flakes in the dirt, but that doesn't repel her either.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Introducing Frijolita

Frijolita is officially leash-trained. Hallelujah! We have taken three morning walks on the leash. I still carry liver bits just in case, but she has just about forgotten that those are the incentive.

Today we walked into town. We were both a little freaked out by the trucks and cars and barking dogs, but she stayed with me and was very good. She trusts me more and lets me be the Alpha dog.

I went with some friends on a day trip for several hours. We had a great time. When I got dropped off, Frijolita jumped up and down and turned around, so happy was she to see me. Then I spotted the hole that she dug right in front of the patio. After a brief welcoming pat, I got the water bottle, dragged her over to the hole by her collar, and said NO, and sprayed her face with water. She slunk into the sugar cane field and stayed there for an hour.

I filled in the hole, but this time added some ground up moth balls to deter her from digging there again. We'll see if that does the trick. geesh

We took a walk late yesterday afternoon on the leash, and she did not do well. She resisted me for two blocks before I gave in and led her home.

This morning, Sunday, when there is little traffic, was going to be a perfect morning to take our usual walk into town, but on the leash for the first time. Or so I thought. I went out onto the patio and Frijolita wouldn’t come near me. She is such a smart and perceptive dog. I waited on the couch for five minutes, coaxing her to come over to me, but no, she wouldn’t. Finally, I walked down the street on my own, not looking back. I got to the bottom of the hill, walked across the street, and a block later, I finally looked back. She was frolicking in a field on the main street. I whistled for her – thank you Mr. Boudakian, my high school driver’s ed teacher, for teaching me how to whistle with two fingers – and she eventually made her way to me. As soon as she was by my side, I put the collar on her and the leash, and we started our journey.

When she tried to pull away from me because of known bully dogs along our route, I kept her with me. She walked all the way into town and back (about two miles) on the leash! We only stopped once, in the park, where I gave her some liver treats for being such a good girl.

As a spayed puppy, she doesn’t antagonize dogs, but there are some bullies out there who bark and scare her (and me!). Just like with humans…

I just went downtown and bought a big plastic container and some dog bones. I put about 2" of water in the tub. I nuked one bone with some garlic powder and let Frijolita smell it. She wanted it bad, especially since I found her with a sharp pork chop bone this morning and took it away from her. I held the bone above the tub and told her to get in it. She knew what I was saying, but just gave a wide berth to the tub. Finally, I picked her up and put her in it. I rinsed her as best I could, then let her get out. My beginner's mistake was in not toweling her off. I gave her the bone and she crawled up the dirt embankment to the sugar cane field, where she is now enjoying the fruit of her labor, as fresh dirt and crap adhere to her wet fur.

Tonight I walked down to the Grecia Social Center for dinner. I had hoped to sneak away while Frijolita was eating, but she saw me, left her food and came tearing after me. I used my strong, angry voice to tell her to go back. And she did!

One of the waiters, Ibo, gave me a new word for the type of dog that adopted me: un come cuando hay. It means a street dog that eats when there’s food. I’ve turned her into a dog that can count on receiving two filling meals a day.

Today there was a big cement truck in the middle of my street for the house that's getting built. The driver moved it so I could get out this morning, but when I came back, I parked my car at the bottom of the street/hill and walked up. Then I walked down the street to get my car to go to the farmer's market, and Frijolita followed me, thinking she was going to get a second walk today. Uh oh. She stared at me, unsure what to do, when I got in my car and drove off. She's not clear on NO yet. Or STAY. Fortunately, just as I was about to pull into my street after the farmer's market, the cement truck was pulling out. I think it's coming back tomorrow, though. The diesel fumes and the dust and the noise in this terrible heat is exhausting. I feel bad that Frijolita has to stay out front and endure it. I close the drapes and windows so the house stays somewhat cooler. Right now it's almost 5pm and I want to go out and train her on the leash again, but the workers are shoveling two loads of rocks and dirt (that go into making more cement) from the middle of the street where they were dumped to the side of the street so traffic can pass. They're making a lot of scraping noise, so I need to wait so Frijolita won't get scared. Geez, the things we do for our dogs!

My front yard is filled with hot sun, and my dog is suffering. She was digging holes in the dirt between my yard and the empty lot next door, but this morning I filled them with concrete and rocks, so she's just lying on the ceramic tile of my patio, looking done in. I put a wet towel down for her, but she won't go near it. I tried putting it on her, but she moved away from it. sigh

I am at my wit's end about Frijolita's digging. She is digging up my yard and the property in front of mine. I have to get her to stop before I get sued. I think she's doing it to get cool. If I could catch her digging, I would spray her with water. But she does it when I'm not looking.

I've been trying to train Frijolita. She understands Come and Sit - when she wants to. But she is stubborn as a mule on the leash. Turns her nose up at the liver, even. Today I wanted to take her for a ride in the car, to show her that riding can be fun and not just a trip to the vet. She puked on the carpet in the back. I have to go get the car washed and cleaned in 35 minutes. I just don't know how to train this sweet dog.

I'm trying to train Frijolita to Come and Sit, as well as walking on a leash. She has so much energy and is so excited whenever I pay attention to her that it's difficult to get her to calm down. I bought 2 pounds of liver, cooked it, and cut it into tiny pieces to use as incentive for her. She does respond, but not 100% yet, and then the next time she forgets what she already learned. It's like working with a cross between an ADHD kid and someone with dementia. I'd like to take her to the beach and let her run in the surf. But then she'd be all wet and sandy coming home and mess up my car. Plus I don't even know if she'd get in my car again, after the last time when I took her to the vet, the place she ran away from. Poco a poco, little by little.

The vet stopped by today to remove Frijolita's stitches. What a doll that vet is. She speaks English, thankfully. She's Dutch, and I think she speaks five languages. She said that Frijolita is only a puppy! Between 6 months and a year. Geez, I had no idea. I'm going to start training her to go on a leash. She's more stubborn than an Aries and a Taurus put together, so I am going to have to bribe her with lots of treats. I have to be able to bring her to the vet, though. The vet also said I should bathe her once a month. Yikes. I don't want to do it in the shower, and there are only rocks and cement in my front yard, so that will have to do. Or else I'll get her to a point where she can go to a groomer, but that will be in the future.

Frijolita is teaching me to let go - of what I think is best for her, of my expectations, of my desire to control her, todo. She lives on a couch on my front patio. The first thing I did was have her spayed. When she opened her up, the vet said she was pregnant with 7 puppies, but I didn't know it. Maybe Frijolita sought me out because I believe in abortion and that there are too many unwanted dogs and cats in the world. When the vet tech left the door open as Frijolita was coming out of the anesthesia, the dog jumped off the table and ran away. The vet tech (owner) and the vet ran after her, all the way up to my house (about 3/4 miles away), but Frijolita is smart and didn't want to be caught. She finally came back to me the following night, stitches intact. There's more that happened, but suffice it to say I've had quite a week with her. She's calmed down now and is always very happy to see me. At least someone is. ;-)

I decided not to sell my house right now. I've got a tenant/housesitter for June to December, when I'll be in St Pete, and I don't want to disappoint yet another housesitter, even though this one hasn't bought his airline ticket yet. Plus this house is perfect for me and for Frijolita, and even though I could have made 70% net profit (I thought it was 50 but it would have been more) over what I paid for it just 10 months ago, I decided the peace of mind was worth more. I don't want to have to pack and find another place to live. It's hard to find a quiet place in this noisy country. So I'm staying put, at least until I get back from Florida at the end of the year.

Frijolita came back this afternoon about 4:30. Didn't bark or anything. Just stood in front of my door. She seems fine, despite all she's been through. She was VERY happy to see me. She was also hungry and thirsty. The vet tech who screwed up is bringing over meds for her tonight. He could not stop apologizing and said he didn't sleep last night, worrying about Frijolita. He's learned his lesson about keeping the door shut, and I forgave him. I hope he can forgive himself. Phew.

I brought Frijolita in to be spayed this morning. The vet said to come back at 1:30. I did, and they told me that she had run away. The vet tech stupidly left the door open and Frijolita jumped off the table and headed out the door, stitches and all. The vet tech and the vet went looking for her for an hour. They also lost the collar and leash I brought her in on. I made them give me another collar and leash, and then I drove around looking for her. I didn't see her anywhere. I called Dolores, my dance buddy who volunteers for the pet adoption agency here in town, and she walked all over town looking for Frijolita, also to no avail. I came back to the house and put out water for her, and am looking out the door every few minutes in case she shows up.

The poor thing did not want to go in the car or on the leash this morning, she underwent anesthesia, her stomach is shaved and she has stitches and pain. She is out there somewhere without antibiotics or pain relief. If I were her, I would not come back to my house after what I put her through. I know I did the right thing in getting her fixed. Oh! She was pregnant with 7 puppies! But only about 1-2 weeks along. So I am sitting here wondering if I still have a dog. I did not pay the vet bill.

I broke down and accepted that the sweet little street dog was not going to leave my house after staying on my front patio for two weeks and following me into town and back on my morning walks. So I bought bowls and dog food and made an appt for her to get spayed Tuesday morning. She may already be spayed, or even pregnant. I don't know how to tell. She is so sweet and demands nothing. When I feed her in the morning, she is more excited to see me than to run to the food dish. Someone in Costa Rica is happy to see me! I know, that's an exaggeration. I do have friends here. I named her Frijolita, which means little black bean. I don't know if she understands Spanish or English or nothing. She's good with body language, though. And knows when to cross the street and when not to. I bought a collar and leash, but I don't want to take away her free spirit, so I'm not going to use them except to take her to the vet. I put Frontline Plus on her for the fleas, but it hasn't kicked in yet. This is NOT what I was looking for in my life, but this is what showed up. I'm allergic to dogs and cats, but I learned to live with Schmutz for 20 years. Frijolita is going to live outside on my patio. Right now she looks like a queen (reminds me of Maggie Suarez) because she has claimed the red fainting couch that I want to sell as her bed. I put a sheet and some other material on it to try to keep it in good condition. I will probably buy her a dog house. I have a dog. So weird to write.