Meet Roy

We have taken the next step in settling here in Mexico … by getting a dog. Let’s get the niceties out of the way first. Obligatory adorable photo:

Photo of dog lying on floor
Roy on his first day with us, following bath and sporting his snappy new collar.

And the obligatory action shot (I use the word “action” advisedly):

Roy with one of his rapidly multiplying toys.

We had to let go of our dog Lucy just over a year ago, and while both M and I have enjoyed the freedom from the schedule of walking, training, and the unexpected complications of various kinds of accidents and illness, I have been sorely missing canine companionship. Lucy, and Anya before her, were grounding presences in my life. Their need for food and walks and training and petting kept me from getting unmoored– a real risk when you are always attracted to new things to do. And who knows? Maybe I also just wanted to up the cuteness quotient in our lives.

Roy came to us named Roger. He was previously owned by a middle-aged Mexican couple, who got him as a puppy to entertain their grandchildren when they came to visit. So “Roger” was actually pronounced á la Mexicana like “Roy-yer,” which may or may not sound stranger to American ears, as a dog name, than “RAH-jer.” Regardless, we had trouble pronouncing “Roy-yer” and weren’t crazy about the name anyway, so we changed it to Leroy, or “Roy” for short. The name seems especially apt because we discovered, after he got a bath, that he has golden fur, and he also walks the way a lion does, with long steps and a little sway in his back. He is, we think, a bit kingly, comme le roi.

Regal bearing aside, his past has not been a pretty one. I learned about him from a Facebook post from his former owner’s neighbor, who’s been providing him some basic care, or at least occasional supervision, since August:

Facebook screenshot
Who can resist this face? And that wagging tail?

I had first seen this picture of Roy in October or early November, right after we’d moved into our house on Calle Amapolas. I was tempted to find out more about him then. But it was a terrible time to adopt a dog. We were deep in the process of setting up the new house (still underway–pictures soon!), and we were also going to be away for half of November to visit family back in the States. So I let it go. But when I saw his picture again last week, I felt like it was a sign. I discussed it with Matt–who was and still isn’t crazy about the idea, but agreed to go along with it.

When she brought him to meet us, the neighbor (we’ll call her Renée) told me that he had been well cared for and much loved by his previous owners, especially the grandkids. She thinks they left him behind when they moved away because he had outgrown his puppy cuteness and had become a large dog with large-dog needs for food, veterinary care, training, et cetera. Being out in the country, it may have been easier, or at least less guilt-inducing, to leave him behind. There was plenty of room for him in the hills, after all, and the Mexican countryside is already full of loose dogs. He would blend right in.

Over the next few months, Roy-yer stuck around, occasionally hanging in Renée’s yard and getting into a few scrapes that required her to come to his aid. Even in his underfed state, he probably weighs about 50 pounds, and when he stands on his back legs he can rest his front paws on my shoulders and look me in the eye. He must have been intimidating to strangers who encountered him running loose. (Dogs in Mexico are generally much smaller than what you see in the US.) Renée said that people threw rocks and things at him and probably kicked him as well. At one point, one of his front paws was hurt badly enough that he wasn’t able to get out of a neighbor’s swimming pool that he’d jumped into to cool off, and Renée rescued him from drowning.

In looking out for him, in looking for a new home for him, in simply being there, Renée effectively saved his life. But she already has three dogs and can’t take another one.

He is probably bigger than a dog we would have adopted if we had planned out all the details, but rescue adoption, like life, doesn’t really work like that. I was grateful to know at least something about his past and his general demeanor. Renée had also gotten him neutered and had kept up with his flea and deworming medications. She said that despite everything he had experienced, he had remained untraumatized– he was still generally trusting of people, had not regressed into fearful aggression (like our first dog, Anya), and had not gone feral. “He just wants a home,” she said. And so here he is.

Roy is nothing if not lovable, and he desperately wants to please. But the first few days still have been predictably hard. Despite having lived with a family, he came with no training at all. Renée is American but speaks fluent Spanish, and said he did not seem to know any basic Spanish commands– not even “sit” (asientate) or “down” (abajo). We have discovered that he responds immediately to “No,” though– which sounds the same in both English and Spanish.

Roy is a country dog, used to lots of open spaces but not concrete, cars, motorbikes, or city noises. Or leashes. Renée said he had never been walked on a leash before, but we discovered when I met him for the first time that he took to it almost immediately. In this, as well as other basic house dog behaviors, he has demonstrated himself to be a quick study. But he gets spooked around traffic, especially around noisy motorbikes and rattling panel trucks. He also reacts unpredictably around men, I’m guessing because it was probably men who threw things at him on the street and kicked him and such. We will be working on these things, one step at a time.

What he seems totally unfazed by is other dogs. This is a big adjustment for me–having so many dogs around, many of them loose on the street. There is no such thing as a leash law, and it’s considered totally OK to leave your dog out in the yard 100% of the time, even if he is the kind that never stops barking. The people across the street from us at our initial rental house had 3 little dogs–a chihuahua, a yorkie, and a mini schnauzer–who raised an unbelievable ruckus any time they were left out in the yard, which was for hours every day. It was unbelievable to us that the owners could even put up with it.

And then there are dogs on the roof– for many people, the roof is the largest outdoor space they have access to in the city. It’s kind of a “Mexico thing.” You can do an image search for “Mexico dogs on roof” and you’ll see what I’m talking about, but here is one typical example:

Photo of four dogs standing on the flat roof of a house
Dogs on roofs frequently come in matched pairs.

Unlike us, Roy finds random street dogs and dogs on roofs completely normal. But I digress.

He has bonded to us very quickly–almost immediately. But that, too, has caused some unexpected problems. Since he was used to being outside on his own, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to leave him on our patio if we needed to leave the house for any length of time. We had signed up for a day-long tour of Teotitlán del Valle, a nearby town renowned for its weaving of rugs and textiles, and I also have a couple of musical gigs (more on these, like our home decor, later!) in the next few weeks. It became quickly clear, though, that given how very bonded Roy seemed to be, leaving him alone might be a challenge. We postponed the tour. After I left the house a couple times for short periods without incident, I went to a practice at my friend Judy’s on Wednesday, 4 days after his arrival, and the poor boy had a panic attack that had him launching himself against the windows and doors, frantically trying to escape the house. (M had to witness and then manage the meltdown.) Yikes!

So we are ratcheting things back and taking things slowly, giving him super-special things to chew on when I leave the house and getting him used to being on the patio as the Place of Best Treats. He seems to be responding well to this–I was able to leave for practice yesterday for 2 hours without any problem. He doesn’t seem to care much about M’s comings and goings, but we haven’t both left the house at the same time, so we’re going to try that today. Wish us luck! We can use all we can get.

In the meantime, yes, he is adorable and sweet–a gentle giant, as Renée described him. And that goes a long way.

3 thoughts on “Meet Roy

  1. Of course I wish you both luck. What a great unfinished story.

    You might not know yet, but Happy (the one in wheels) died in September. Gracie is still hanging in there and moving very slowly. Plus we have two new dogs.

    Sid arrived in March, and is a 6-yr old cockapoo rescue from his life as a stud dog at a PA puppy Mill. It’s fabulous to have watched his acute case of PTSD melt away as we administer heavy doses of love daily.

    And to help with his social and play skills, Susan found us Cokie, a 5-yr old miniature poodle in September. She’s a rescue from a farm where she obviously was well loved. However, she came to the shelter with a crushed paw, after probably a horse or a cow stepped on her. They had to amputate in July, so she’s a tripod, but no sympathy needed.

    She is always leader of the pack, can walk twice or more as far as us on an hour long walk in the park without flagging, and can easily out run Susan and I. So it’s fortunate she doesn’t want to.

    I love our dogs and what they bring to our lives.

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    1. Peter, so sorry to hear about Happy. He was a model for us all. Sounds like you and Susan have some great new additions to the household— lots of personality!

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