Stella is a timid girl. She lived on the Puerto Vallarta streets for most of her young life. Weighing in at about 12 lbs. caution meant survival. She lived in hiding under cars only dashing out to eat. Then one day she was rescued by a passionate, affluent, dog loving activist here in Vallarta. She had been watching and coaxing the frightened pup until finally she could bring her off the streets. The two adored each other and Stella blossomed in her two months of care!
We got lucky and were able to adopt her after she was psychologically and physically strong enough to go from her rescuer’s home to a permanent one. It was a hard separation, but she got along fabulously with her new bro, Strider, another rescue pup. A little older, a little smaller he also had a tough start and was glad to have a frisky, friendly — not large — companion.
Unfortunately, PTSD doesn’t go away so quickly. As I’m writing we’re enjoying a tropical thunderstorm. After a particularly loud thunder clap, Stella got off of the bed and crawled into the small space under it. Now that it has stopped, she unceremoniously hopped back up and went to sleep.
A few nights ago, coming back from a walk, she got spooked by a little dog that dashed out his door yipping and chasing. In a split second, she wriggled out of her collar, leaving it, her leash and her i.d. tag behind. She ran like she had a hell hound on her heels. Tail solidly between her hind legs, I swear I saw both back paws in the air at once as she raced off, small dog on the chase, and two teenagers behind him, screaming for their dog. Fueling her nightmare.
Some blocks away they found the trouble-making pint-size attack dog and brought him home. Meanwhile, Stella kept running. And running. Away. It was dusk and we called and ran and walked and jogged and called some more. It was hopeless. We knew she was crazed and by then, completely lost.
The kids pointed to where they last saw her, and the hunt was on. Until dark and way beyond. One of us dashed back home and grabbed the car, one rode shotgun and the third kept watch in case she came back. We quickly printed up fliers. When I had house watch I took a deep breath and posted her picture on Facebook.
Then I waited for the recriminations I knew would come. You, You did this. You big human You lost a tiny, timid, puppy dog. After all she’d been through. And in the rainy season to boot.
I heard it all, over and over. Plus anything else awful I could throw my way. I replayed every horrible moment and tried to see who, other than myself, I could be angry with. OK, so maybe I wasn’t being reasonable. But I got a lot worse by morning.
I gathered my courage and checked FB again. Kindness! People I didn’t know began to repost. For the sleepless in Vallarta. More reposting. More compassion. By early morning my FB page was filling up with prayers, hopes and shares.
At first light we were out again. My son, visiting from the States, jogged around the streets we thought she might be in. We drove and looked and hung fliers. A little rest. Repeat. repeat. Meanwhile each time we printed out fliers, I checked FB. I tried taking time to answer a few, but the response was too large and the clock was ticking.
My nasty voices began to recede, overtaken by the kindness, support, and drive of others. Most were strangers. They were helping find a dog they had never known and reunite her with a family they would never meet. I lost track of when I was crying out of gratitude, when out of grief.
One thing was sure. I was no longer drifting alone, hanging fliers, cruising, looking under cars, asking strangers. I was part of an invisible, powerful army. I was part of the largest dog hunt Vallarta had ever seen.
Late morning the call I had been dreading came in. Stella’s original savior. She was devastated, as I knew she would be. I steeled myself for the criticism. The only one I heard was ‘Why didn’t you tell me right away?’ Then she jettisoned into action throwing her considerable influence behind the hunt.
She put her business and personal life on hold, made her own fliers, put out her own reward, in addition to ours, sent out fleets of cars, and more. She contacted the media, the pound, the fire department. Her assistants canvassed the neighborhood like detectives.
Meanwhile my FB page exploded. Stella’s picture was shared at least 100 times. By the time she was found in the late afternoon, some 300 comments of support, prayer, visualization, and finally joy flowed over my FB pages.
The village’s efforts paid off. A local woman who spoke no English noticed a frightened little black and white dog run out from under a car twice, both times almost getting run over. She took pity on her and managed to coax her to safety. Two hours she kept her not knowing what to do, until the network of calls, requests and fliers bore fruit. Someone told her to look at the flier hanging at the grocery store.
She later told me she still wasn’t sure. “It looked just like your dog,” she said, “but she had no collar or I.D.”
The power of an ex-pat community combined with FB turned out to be the stuff of dreams. Speaking of which, this was a while later. Three tired troopers:
This blog post is dedicated to all who showed up in our lives when we so desperately needed you. With ten thousand thanks.