How to Make Friends in San Miguel by Paul Schiratti (It’s published under Mr. Grumpy’s name, but I wrote it.)
Years ago, while waiting in line at the Teatro Angela Peralta, I overheard the stranger behind me say he needed a fourth for tennis.
“I brought my racket,” I said.
“Great! Here’s where we’re playing…”
I’ve been playing with them ever since.
That’s hardly a unique experience in San Miguel. Five minutes in the Jardin and you’ve already met two new people and received three restaurant recommendations.
I’ve met many wonderful people and had many exceptional experiences in San Miguel, but the most fulfilling, the one I hurry back to each year, is walking the dogs at the S.P.A.
No sooner do I unpack, when I head down Canal Street to see my friends. My welcome is deafening. Barking, howling, baying—a sweet melody of doggie greeting. I walk through the well-maintained, volunteer-run facility, past each brightly painted cage to see old friends and new faces.
There’s Dulce and Guera, Shy and Nube. I’ve been walking them for years.
I’m delighted to see them, but it breaks my heart they’re still here, year after year, hopefully awaiting their forever homes. No matter how clean and bright each cage is, it’s still a cage. Dogs need a home of their own and a family—even a family of one. Add a dog, and now you’re two.
I volunteer because I love dogs, San Miguel and walking and making new friends—of both the human and the canine varieties. The S.P.A. satisfies all my passions.
I walk the larger dogs, together with other volunteers—strangers one minute, best buddies the next. My wife prefers the smaller dogs, and sometimes “socializes the puppies.” (Read: plays with them.) Cats, too.
Sadly, this year, we stayed home because our older rescue dog had grown too frail to board. And indeed, she crossed the rainbow bridge just before Christmas—too late for us to change our plans and join you in SMA this year.
I miss San Miguel, the Jardin, the coffee window, parque Benito Juarez. I miss Azteca soup and the soulful violin of Pedro Cartas. I miss the music and the dining and the art and the people.
But most of all, I miss the dogs.
No, it’s not my dog that’s fractured, it’s my brain. Sure, you do it, too. Sing customized songs to your dogs and cats, right?
This morning at the dog park, the dogs disappeared for a few minutes. Upon their return, I could tell they’re flouted my, “No swamp!” edict.
The Bad Billie Song (sung to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”)
“You got mud on your face,
Wagging your tail all over the place.
We will, we will walk you.”
Okay, just me then.
Each year, some wonderful soul selects a little pine tree in the dog park and decorates it. I’m a little leery of their choice to use glass ornaments in a park frequented by many dogs and home to much wildlife, but that’s hardly the point.
Here’s the tree last week, and again this morning after last night’s snowfall. We may have had a green Christmas, but Toronto had a white boxing day!
New dog Stormy and old dog Billie continue get along, although Billie, the female, is definitely the alpha. Stormy is happy to leave the decision-making to her. (Wish he’d convince Mr. Grumpy of that wisdom.)
At first I thought Stormy was the cleverest dog evah. He appeared to know nothing when we got him, but quickly learned “sit” and “come”. After a few panicky moments and one actual disappearance, he now walks close on the dog trails. I can safely take him off leash and not worry about him running away. That leaves my mind free to figure out what happens next in The Reluctant Reaper series.
Then puppy class started. The instructor warned us that the older a dog is, the slower he is to learn, well, new tricks. I was sure this wouldn’t be the case because he’d learned “sit” and “come” so quickly.
Three weeks of intensive training and he hasn’t learned “down” yet. So obviously, the reason he took to “sit” and “come” so quickly is that he must have known them before. I would love to know his history, but sadly, he was abandoned in a parking lot, unfixed and with tarter-covered teeth.
So sadly, Stormy isn’t the smartest bark in the park after all. But still very, very sweet and very, very cute. Especially with his newly cleaned teeth.