Soon after Jaguar started showing up at my house, but before I took her in, I had to go to Connecticut for a family wedding. I asked a friend to put food and water out for the cat a couple times a day while I was gone.
Apparently the food dishes attracted someone else. When I returned from the trip, a dog was lurking around my yard. She, too, was extremely skinny. I could clearly see her backbones and ribs. She looked fairly young, possibly under 18 months, but had already had a litter of puppies. She didn’t want to come near me, and her tail was perpetually tucked between her legs.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out what had happened. Since she had every appearance of being homeless, I decided to give this poor creature some much-needed food. At first, she wouldn’t come near me when I was putting the food out, and would wait until I was back in the house and the door was closed before scarfing down the food. But after a few days, she got more comfortable with me and would even let me touch her bony head and back.
Fast-forward a couple weeks, and the dog is now basically in my yard all the time. She really wants to come in to the house, but with Jaguar recovering from her spaying surgery, I didn’t think that was a good idea. The dog sleeps by my front door and “guards” my house…primarily from the monkeys in the trees, which, I’ve decided, are the jungle’s version of squirrels for dogs. And – and I think this is the most important – she has put on some weight and wags her tail when she sees me.
She also follows me wherever I go when I am outside, including when I walk the five or so blocks to the library, where I am doing some volunteer work. Dogs are not allowed in the library, but she comes on in and is usually lying under my chair while I am working on creating a database of all the books in the library.
I bought a collar for her and put it on her. The next day, she went on a brief excursion and when she returned, the collar was gone. She came with me to the library that day, and then, as we were walking back and were about two blocks from my house, a woman started calling “Nena! Nena!” The dog’s ears perked up, and she ran to the woman. It was obvious that the dog belonged to her. I knew I would miss the dog but was happy she was with her family.
Two days later, the dog is back, sleeping by my front door. I walked, with the dog, to the family’s house and asked if the dog was theirs. They said yes. I explained that the dog was in my yard all the time. They said the dog was theirs and that it had three puppies. I asked if the puppies were there at the time, and they said yes. Then they asked me if I wanted to buy the dog. I told them no, because in my mind, the dog should be with her puppies. (Granted, I don’t know how old these puppies are, and Nena doesn’t appear to be nursing.)
I thanked them for their time and then continued walking to the library. The dog followed me, and the family made no effort to call her back to them. That was yesterday. As I write this, the dog is sleeping by my back door.
So, I’m not certain what to do.
- Do I keep feeding the dog? It’s obvious that she has not been getting enough food. The culture in Guatemala is different when it comes to pets. Dogs and cats are expected to fend for themselves when it comes to food – catch geckos, frogs, etc. Dogs may occasionally be given some table scraps, but not enough to constitute a healthy or sufficient diet. The people here love their animals, but they do not view them as “furry children” like we do in the United States. Theoretically, I could just feed the dog, give it some love, and keep things status quo in terms of ownership. While the owners haven’t given any indication that they are concerned about the dog, or that they want the dog in their yard, one of my Guatemalan friends said they could come forward at some point and give me a difficult time about this.
- Do I stop feeding the dog? After some time, she might go back to her family, but I know it would be difficult for me to watch her be hungry in the meantime.
- Do I go back and say that I will buy the dog? She is a very sweet, loving dog. I’d have to take her to the vet and get her all of her shots (I’m fairly certain she hasn’t had any) and get her spayed (I definitely don’t want puppies). But I don’t know if her puppies need her. And I’m not certain how Jaguar would respond…and if the dog is trainable at this point. And, in all honesty, I hadn’t planned on getting a dog!
I am not sure what to do in this situation and would love suggestions!