About three months ago, I was at the mall with Carlos. It was a Sunday like any other; we were simply out for a stroll around the shopping center. Carlos always goes to the pet store to look at the dogs, birds, cats, and any weird animal or reptile they may have in captivation. I have always hated pet stores because I don’t like to think how the animals are treated. How can they be well taken care of if there are hundreds of animals in the store to watch? Plus, I think that in the States, pet stores have a bad reputation for selling sickly dogs with emotional issues. Usually, when Carlos goes in the pet store, I wait outside for him. I think I had set foot in this pet store only once before this particular Sunday. For some reason, this time I followed Carlos in the store.
I made a beeline for the dogs, since they are the only animals that interest me. And then I saw it- a puppy Airedale Terrier. She was a ball of black fur nestled in the corner of her cage. The poor little thing looked sad and left out by the other dogs in her cage. I immediately turned to Carlos and tried to explain to him that this was breed of dog I had during my childhood. I had been looking for an Airedale in Mexico for some time, although not really with the intention of buying one since I was still living with my in-laws.
Carlos had never seen or heard of an Airedale terrier before, so he was pushing for a Lab or a Golden Retriever. However, when he saw this adorable little puppy with her droopy ears and tiny little beard, he also fell in love with her. While I was going on and on about how adorable the puppy was, the sales lady noticed my excitement and asked us if we wanted to hold her. At first I said no because I knew that if I held that puppy, I would have to take it home with me. But I couldn’t resist and I finally asked to hold the pup. Of course I wanted to buy her the second I held her in my arms!
The one very large detail that had to be worked out before I bought the dog was where I was going to put it. I suspected that this would not be my one and only problem because of the dog, but it was the first obstacle to overcome in order to bring home my puppy. I resisted the urge to buy the dog on the spot and decided to take a walk around the mall to think about it. I called my mother-in-law from my cell-phone to ask her permission. She said it was ok, but started to say something else when the phone cut off. I had run out of money on my phone card. Finally, after talking it over with Carlos and making him promise up and down that he would help me take care of the dog, we decided to buy the Airedale.
Since I have had Airedales before, I know a little bit about training them. I knew that I would need a kennel for her. This also solved my problem of where to put the dog. I remembered when my sister-in-law brought home a Great Dane puppy. She left it alone all night in the garage, and it cried and howled the whole night. In the morning, my mother-in-law got a rude surprise when she went out for the paper. The whole main door had been scratched up by the puppy. The puppy was gone that very same day, given away to a family my sister-in-law didn’t even know. So, after witnessing this experience, I knew I would have to leave the dog in the cage to sleep and when no one was around, but I didn’t mind since this is a good way to housetrain a puppy.
The first few days with the puppy were uneventful. She immediately came to love Carlos and me. We slipped into a routine. Carlos watched the dog during the day, and I took her out at night. At first, she howled when we left her in the cage, but she adapted in just two days and never howled again. I took her out roughly every two hours at night for the first week: 12:30am, 2:30am and 5:30 am. It was exhausting and even a bit scary since I was out in the street alone. Thank God this schedule did not last. The puppy quickly learned to control herself, and when my mother-in-law found out about my late-night trips outside with the dog, she put a stop to it. She said it was too dangerous.
One day I asked my sister-in-law if she would mind taking the dog out just once before she left the house for the day. She is a self-proclaimed dog lover and the only one in the family besides Carlos and I who can be bothered with a dog. She agreed. Later I found out she complained to Carlos that she thought it was cruel that we had the dog in a cage. By this time I had bought a book on Airedale Terriers for Carlos in Spanish so that he could read a bit about what I consider to be dog culture. Luckily, I had won him over to my side, and he realized that what his sister was saying was not necessarily true. I had won my first battle against Mexican dog culture, or the lack of it.
Here in Mexico, as far as I’m concerned, there is no dog culture. Our next door neighbor had a dog that I actually NEVER saw. I had lived next door to this dog for almost a year before I found out that they had given it away for some reason. I never once saw them take it out for a walk. They fed it only table scraps, including food that my mother-in-law sent over for the dog. It would howl all night long and wake me up in the morning. Heartworm pills are unheard of here, not because they don’t exist, but because no one even knows that this is a threat to a dog. I cannot even begin to count how many Mexicans have told me that their dog was poisoned to death. I wonder how many of these “poisoned” dogs actually died of heartworm or some other parasite or infection.
When we bought the dog, I immediately brought her to be vaccinated and bathed, and I bought her toys, heartworm pills, tick and flea repellant pills, and Eukanuba dog food. Carlos nearly choked when he found out how much the dog food cost (almost $60 for a 35 pound bag here in Mexico), but he didn’t put up a fight. Our next problem however, was a major one. The funny thing is, until we bought the dog, I had never really seen any major cultural differences between Carlos and me. But thanks to Lexi, the Airedale, we fought a lot about the role the dog would play in the family.
After we had had the dog for about a month, we moved into our new house. My idea was the keep the dog in her kennel when we weren’t home, but let her out in spurts throughout the day when we were there so that she could get used to the house and we could housetrain her. Here in Mexico, no one keeps their dog inside the house. Carlos’s family had had dogs before, but they always lived outside. It was very difficult for me to break Carlos of the idea that letting a dog live in the house is completely, entirely, 100% unhygienic. I understand his point. I would never let a typical Mexican dog in my house either, since they are rarely bathed and almost always infested with parasites! But a well-cared for, groomed, trained dog is not a serious health threat. I tried to reason with Carlos. If people all over the United States have dogs in their houses, and people in Europe even let dogs into their teeny tiny apartments, it couldn’t be totally unhygienic. I explained it was more a matter of culture than cleanliness. He still resisted, but I was pretty determined to win this battle.
When we moved into our house, the first thing the dog did was pee on the floor. I tried to explain to Carlos that this, too, was normal. She was marking her territory. Not to mention, we had suddenly changed her surroundings on her. She was still a puppy, and she didn’t know what she was doing. But Carlos was furious! I couldn’t believe he would be so angry and disgusted over a little bit of dog pee. I honestly didn’t understand what was so bad about it. She hadn’t peed on a rug or anything, so I calmly wiped it up with a paper towel and a spray disinfectant. Done. No big deal. I put the dog in the cage, but every time I took her out that day she peed on the floor. Luckily, I was able to wipe it up before Carlos noticed. At the end of the day, he remarked that the dog hadn’t been so bad after all. I just agreed. I had a secret, but I decided to keep it for the sake of the dog. I didn’t want her to be immediately relegated to the back yard for the rest of her dog life.
Lexi quickly learned not to pee in the house, and my secret was never found out. Carlos was coming around. He seemed to actually enjoy having her in the house. But then, one day, it happened. The dog got a little too close to our brand new sofa. Her tooth caught hold of part of the fabric towards the bottom of the couch. When we saw her and yelled “NO!” she immediately let go of the fabric, but not before her tooth had pulled on one of the threads and left it hanging out. Carlos was furious. He spanked the dog on the bum pretty hard, and she went skidding off, not understanding why her “Dad” had gotten so angry with her. Then Carlos got angry at me for letting her near the sofa. He went upstairs and refused to finish his breakfast or come down until I had put the dog back in her cage – where she belonged. At this point, I was very angry that he had hit the dog, and I was willing to let him stew about what he had done upstairs. I threw away the rest of his breakfast and proceeded to play with the dog. I realized that what she did was wrong, but she had always been very respectful of the sofa. We managed to tell her “NO!” when she actually had her mouth on the sofa fabric, and this was really all we could do. Hitting a dog after the fact is completely ineffective.
Later, Carlos came down and we talked about it. I promised to watch her more carefully, and he agreed to give her another chance in the house. Since then, Lexi has behaved very well, and Carlos loves her more than I could have hoped. He has really come around from the typical Mexican “dog-lover” to what I would consider a humane dog-lover. He takes her for walks, buys her toys and treats, and loves to cuddle with her. Whereas this might seem like something insignificant, the dog has been a symbol of cultural differences that exist between us. We have been able to get through these differences with a lot of patience and a lot of talking. One of the things that finally helped me to win Carlos over was that I think he finally realized that I have made an impressive effort to learn to live in his culture. I have adapted in every possible way that does not go against my conscience. But I explained to him that even though Lexi is a dog, she is a living being, and you shouldn’t buy a dog if you aren’t willing to walk it, feed it decent food, entertain it, and keep it healthy. I won this battle because in truth, Carlos has won just about every other since I came to Mexico. So if you have a cultural issue of your own, fight for what you think is right. You have to choose your battles, but if you use the right tactics, anything is possible. Pretty soon, I might even have Lexi sleeping on her king-size dog bed in the same room as us….