According to the international brotherhood of insurance salesmen, a car or truck is stolen every 12 minutes in Mexico. That priceless bit of information is the marketing pitch for more and better coverage. Sign on the dotted line.
Believe me, it is a bad experience to lose your wheels, anytime, anywhere. It is worse for migratory snowbirds, far from home, afflicted with language deficiencies and a little short on supporting cast.
It is a tragedy if your dogs go missing, too, inside the camper shell, in the back of your stolen pickup truck, previously parked in what appeared to be a nice, safe place, under a streetlight, just outside your hotel.
White Nissan 4x4 king cab long gone is a serious shock. Lost dogs hurt hearts.
Sad story, dear readers, but it happened to Dottie Miller and husband David, on the outgoing main street of colorful Barra de Navidad, on the west bank of the beautiful state of Jalisco.
In the beginning, Dottie and David were just desperate. A little later, they felt sick at their stomachs. After that, their lives seemed to fall apart. What to do? File a police report and put up 200 flyers all around town, with pictures of Stony and Tess.
"It was a total do-it-yourself project," said Dottie. "The hotel did nothing, wouldn't even call the police. They did point us around the corner to the office.
"Immediately a tourist police officer who spoke English appeared to get on the case. In fact, he and others were worthless. We called every day, and they would do nothing.
"At one point, driving around in a rental car, we thought we saw the truck being painted at a shop out on the highway. We rushed back to the police and they were very hesitant, scared to go take a look. They had to get approval from the chief. It took at least 30 minutes before they agreed to go.
"Another time, when we heard the truck was for sale in La Huerta, they wouldn't go there. They told us we had to go. It was late, dark, and a little daunting. We insisted and had to really press them, to call the local police to receive us."
The La Huerta police seemed very interested. They took all the information. On the third day, they got around to looking for trucks for sale. They didn't find any.
"Amazing," said Dottie.
After a few frustrating days, Dottie returned to their winter home in Punta de Mita for insurance documents and a photo of the truck. She came back to Barra with a friend who speaks Spanish. She retraced some steps, filled out comprehensive forms (very important, she says) and rejoined the hunt.
She was greeted with good news, a phone response to one of the "lost dogs" flyers. The dogs had been seen in Punta Perula.
"The guy that 'found' the dogs was suspicious, but at that point we were so excited, we didn't care."
Dottie went to a hardware store to get new collars for the dogs. She told her story. The storeowner raised his eyebrows and asked what license plates were on the truck.
He pointed Dottie out front where he had placed one of the plates, thinking it had been lost and might be reclaimed. He had found it that morning in front of the store.
"He led us to the police. They had seen our dogs on several different days, walking up and down the road from the square to the beach. No one knew about the theft, but they were curious about the dogs. We now think Stony and Tess were going from the truck to the beach, looking for us. We think the truck was there all week."
Dottie phoned the police the next day. No news. She called again two days later. The police had forgotten all about the case.
Dottie and David never recovered their truck. They eventually collected some insurance money.
"The lesson learned is to have enough Spanish to fill out the required reports. We limped through the first phase. Our friend made a wonderful difference in obtaining certified copies.
"To get any insurance payment, you need that certified copy of the local police report. You then must go to the Federal police, Manzanillo in this case, to get another report from them. You need your car title, license plate numbers, temporary importation information plus the receipt that you paid at the border. It is also a very good idea to have pictures of your vehicle.
"Make copies of everything. You can never have too many copies!"
Dottie and David had to prove that the truck was indeed stolen, an absolute necessity if they ever intended to bring another vehicle into Mexico.
"I had to go to the local Hacienda in Vallarta to show them all my paper work, police reports, etc. After three hours, they produced a paper which said I was indeed telling the truth. They stamped a lot of documents and shipped them to Nogales, where we came into the country."
"After all that, they said 'no problem.'"
Dottie and David purchased a van from friends. They and their dogs returned to Colorado. They'll be back this winter -- if all goes well at the border.