Chicos journey to Minnesota

The 60 degree difference in temperatures from his departure point to his arrival at MSP would feel insignificant to the drop of another 45 degree three days later. He walked off the plane, more precisely out of the carrier, as though he enjoyed 25 degrees — a temperature he’d never experienced on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Maybe he was simply happy to be out of the bowels of the Northwest airplane, which had transported him to a new life in Minneapolis. It was the end of January, 2007.

When we arrived in Akumal, Mexico at the beginning of January that year, we heard there was a new stray in town. Dan said, “No dogs.” Hannah and I smiled at each another.

On our final morning a week later, we finally met the new resident while we ate breakfast at Turtle Bay Café. He was running with a small group (pack sounds too dangerous) of dogs. When a cat was spotted, the group began a chase. He got up, headed in that direction, circled back and laid down at Dan’s feet. After a few minutes of conversation at our table, where Hannah and I talked about the joys of having a dog, we began a discussion with our friend, Jen, who owns the restaurant and looks after many of the strays in town, about the technicalities of adopting the dog Hannah had named Chico. Easy enough to take him home: all he needed was a rabies shot. Yes, that simple. Since the U.S. and Mexico are contiguous, a shot was the ticket. Oh, there was also the airplane ticket.  

But we were leaving in six hours on a charter flight that didn’t transport dogs. Solution: with the help of our friend Jen, Chico could get spayed, recuperate and relax until we could find someone going to Cancun on Northwest Airlines who would agree to bring home a dog. Easy.

So, 30 minutes after Chico strategically curled up at Dan’s feet, Dan was walking to the ATM to get $100 to cover the board, operation and all the shots. Deal.

We sent out the “who’s going to Cancun soon and is willing to bring home a dog” email as soon as we arrived home. Our friend Joan asked a co-worker Tom who was heading to Cancun for a long weekend. We didn’t know Tom, but he loves dogs. And this would be an adventure! Three weeks later, we took Tom to the airport and handed him a dog carrier.

“Someone will meet you at the airport with a dog.”

“How will I find them?”

“You’ll have the dog carrier. They’ll have a dog.”  

The transfer happened magically.  

Three days after Chico arrived, the temp dropped to a bone-chilling negative 20 degrees. Chico didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t figure out how to pee, because he couldn’t stand on three legs at a time; his first trial as a Minnesota dog. Quickly, he learned.  Now, he loves the snow, but his favorite wintertime activity is sitting in front of the fireplace, his version of the Mexican sun, until he is panting.  

Chico spent the first year of his life wandering the villages, beaches and forests of Mexico. He survived through the kindness of strangers. Every restaurant in the area is al fresco. Restaurant owners and staff accommodate polite animals — ones that don’t beg or steal food off tables. If the dog or cat passes this test, he can hang around, which translates to food! Chico was a perfect student.

Walking around the neighborhood in Southwest, I’m regularly asked, “What kind of dog is that?” He’s short-haired, with long legs, and the look of a beagle/terrier/whippet mix.  The dark eyeliner around his beautiful brown eyes produces a warm, exotic look.  After many attempts to describe his possible heritage, Dan came up with a new breed — Mayan Beachhound.  

Maybe someday I’ll write a “Good Dog Chico” book on the benefits of taking a risk in a far away land on a Saturday morning and saying “yes” to all the new possibilities in life!

Welcome Jerde is a new columnist for the Southwest Journal. She lives in Lynnhurst with her husband, Dan Berg, a dog, two cats, and occasionally, Hannah, a college student.