At one time, I was a good-looking dog, that is before I came to live in Tela Vieja. Right now, I’m living quite well under a shack behind a hotel with sand for my bed and cool breezes at night.
I arrived here, young and skinny with a toned body. My face was handsome until the fight with the pit bull over territory. He bit off my left ear and left a bloody stump, which the sand flies feasted on for days. However, the right one looks okay and my teeth are sound.
Before I came here, I lived with a man whom I called “Jefe”. Along with his wife and son, we lived on someone else’s property in a small wooden one-room house. It had a tin roof, dirt floor and a door to close at night. The kitchen was out back, andconsisted of a pit with a spoke for cooking and a concrete slab for a table.
The son was small and frail with grayish skin that resembled a fish. He might not have been well because he stayed in bed most of the time and when he did come out, the wife put him in a hammock by the palm trees. He could not walk or maybe he did not know how. I was not sure but maybe we could have played together.
The wife was not nice to me. She worked all day, cleaning and taking care of the son. Her body was hunched over and she had deep lines running through her face, which did not add to her looks. She never missed a chance to hit me with the broom whenever I sneaked into the house for shade or in search of food scraps. I usually ran and hid in the weeds which made her angry.
I loved Jefe! I knew what he thougt and what he was going to do because it was easy to read him. “¿Perro, que estas hacienda?”, he would sing or say to me with sluryy words. He was a happy man who worked hard in the fields returning home covered in dirt. He was stocky and round with brown hair and an unshaven face topped off with a black hat and a feather sticking out on one side. He had the widest brown eyes that smiled at me when I pleased him.
Jefe loved to play games of paper with other men. They would sit around the concrete slab out behind the house and throw paper at each other. The paper had funny drawings on it and every time Jefe played with them, green paper that was kept in his pocket ended up on the table. If Jefe gave away many green papers during the game, we went hungry. During the last game , I think he finally made the connection with giving away the green but it was too late.
For two weeks, the family did not have enough food. Jefe would say, “¿What do I do now?” to the air and the son cried endlessly, “I’m hungry. When are we going to eat?” The wife walked around talking to herself and pulling out strands of her hair. She beat me senseless when I got in her way.
At the end of the first week, Jefe had to steal mangoes from the neighbour’s year. The wife screamed at him for embarrassing her and he spent the rest of the day with his head hung low with shame. I had a hard time trying to eat those mangoes due to their shape and my mouth but my stomach was knotty and hurt from hunger.
The end of the second week Jefe broke down and stole a bag of rice from the Mercado. He stared at me and I swore he said, “Meat would go nice with the rice. ¿Como cocinar?” Later I heard him ask the wife, “Should I season it first?” In addition, she was too quick with her instructions on seasoning ‘tough meat’.
At that point, I knew there was no choice but to take my chance on the streets. I made my way down to the hotels near the beach. I figured food was not far from where humans playbecause humans and garbage were inseparable.
My life is now on the streets and I cannot complain. I hunt for food in the morning and at night; the dumpsters behind the hotels are packed with discarded meats and moldy bread. Weekends are wonderful because the city people rush to the beach with their picnic baskets. They invade the area for leisure and pleasure and I can smell the food in their baskets. Sometimes its arroz con frijoles (rice and beans) sometimes pan de coco o (coconut bread) and on rare occasions pork or steak. My stomach growls and I salivate at the aromas.
When they leave on Sundays, the discarded food, which they call garbage, stays behind. I have to fight with the local perros to get at the food. First, I chase away from the food, down the beach, then run back and grab it before the others get it. The others are the turkey vultures and they are vicious but I can outsmart them most of the time.