How Many Dogs Are Too Many Dogs?

My pamper pups Pirate, Tigger and Chica

One of the reasons I had to leave Chicago was sorrow overwhelm. There were so many homeless people: old people, families, mothers with babies, children. It became more than I could bear. I tried to help with money and donations. I hope it did help someone, but it did not help me. My anxiety swelled as winter approached. I anguished over what would happen with the homeless people I knew, the ones I saw every day, and bought cigarettes, coffee, lunch.

Once I let a homeless couple move in with us. Felipe didn’t think it would help them. He was right. They needed a lot more than a room and bath. I couldn’t give them self-worth, social skills to function in the job market, or the tools to overcome addiction.

Where I live there are many people living in poverty, though very few with no home. I feel sad about the cobbled houses, and kids with one pair of shoes that are way too big.  I help when I can; knowing it’s not enough.  It’s a gift that no one has a winter to endure.

One sticky situation I have gotten myself into is with the dogs. There was for years an abundance of painfully thin, sick, and dying dogs in my neighborhood. I was unable not to help any emaciated dog that showed up on my patio.

There are more concerns about feeding them than their health. These dogs are not strays. They are my neighbor’s property.  By feeding them I am communicating to my neighbors: you don’t take care of your animals, you are poor, I’m so rich I can feed everyone’s dog, but not their children, and dogs are more important to me than people. What is anyone to make of this really? I don’t know what to think of it myself, other than, if emaciated children ever show up for breakfast I would certainly feed them.

Lucas. He was so emaciated and infested when Felipe took him in we doubted he’d live. But, He’s gaining weight…yes, he was thinner.

Once we had a dog named Lucas. He was so ill when he came to me, he had a hole to the bone in his leg that was eaten by maggots. Felipe nursed him and he became a beautiful, wonderful companion. Then we were told he had an owner and they wanted him back. Felipe refused to give him back, but when we traveled Lucas would return to his old home. So, we took dog food and paid them to dog sit for us. This was Felipe’s way of negotiating to keep him.

Lucas with his favorite person

Capi, Sam, Canello, and Jane having their breakfast

Every morning four of my neighbor’s dogs come for breakfast. Capi was the first. He was so thin I couldn’t believe he was able to walk. He’s eaten breakfast here for three years now. He is owned by an older woman, and when he’s with her and sees me on the street he acts like he doesn’t know me. I’m thankful for that.

I’m happy to say there has been a large effort made to sterilize and vaccinate dogs in our area. And, there seems to have been a shift in the belief system about feeding household animals. I don’t see as many suffering dogs as I did when we first moved to Las Lajas.

There isn’t a moral here. I don’t have any advice. Sometimes I can’t help but help. I cross my fingers every morning hoping there won’t be another I can’t deny.

What would you do?

Sangre de Iguana and Coke

Felipe’s dog, The Bear, is obsessed with iguanas. She spends most of the daylight hours running a well-trod course between four large trees on our property, where she keeps vigil for a few minutes to several hours, depending on whether or not she sees or hears the iguana that resides there. Only once has she caught one, with a little help from Felipe, which only intensified her addiction.

Today, Felipe returned home to wild barking in the forest, and me yelling at the dogs thinking they were harassing cows. He quickly assessed from over 200 meters that it was something on the ground and headed over at a run with a machete, there are large constrictors that live in that area of the wood that eat our chickens and he kills them when he can—they are a danger to the children that hunt there as well.

The Bear, Elvis and Mochi (two more of my dogs, I have four) had an injured iguana surrounded. Felipe promptly bonked it on the head and brought it home for dinner.

But first! He chopped its head off, bled it into a cup topped it off with coke and drank it. I will pause while you recover.

My mother in law claims iguana blood and coke is good for the eyes, the coke is just to get the warm blood down. She insists the reason she does not wear glasses in her seventies, is the due to the many iguana blood cocktails she has consumed. I have imbibed this odd beverage. It’s not bad, though I admit a fondness for raw, red meat which probably makes it more palatable for me.

Felipe was thrilled with his dog; he gave her the head, a prized piece because they have big jowls. He had just been saying he had a taste for iguana, and though we have several on our land we never kill them. We think of the Piedra Rahada (our land) as a reserve for iguanas because the boys in town are constantly hunting them with for pocket change to buy refrescos (soda pop).

I am not a huge fan of iguana. Lizard taste like fish and I prefer that only fish taste like fish, but I will prepare it and dine on this windfall of Darwinian order with gratitude.

Have you ever eaten something your dog brought home? Or road kill? We once ate a rabbit we accidentally hit with the car. Do you think waste not, want not applies in these instances, or is it just gross?

Caldo de Iguana

Campo (wild game) meats are not cooked in the same manner as farm raised meat. The first time I saw a rancho (free range) chicken in a pot going at a rolling boil I cringed at the thought of having to gnaw my way through dinner, but was amazed to find my piece fall-apart tender and the broth exquisite. This recipe is the standard soup recipe in Morelos; it can be used for chicken, to poach meatballs or eggs, or for vegetable, tortilla or bread soup.

5-6 guajillo chilies

Half a pound tomatoes broiled, do not remove the blacken skin

3 cloves

1 clove garlic

½ t. dried oregano

Carrots and onions

Liter of stock or water

Salt pepper


Wipe the chilies clean with a dry cloth, seed and remove the stem. Toast them on a griddle over medium heat, taking care not to burn them or your soup will be bitter. You want chilies that are browned in places not black. Place the chilies in boiling water for about 3 minutes, remove from heat and soak for another 5-10 until they are reconstituted.

Grind in a mortar and pestle the cloves, some salt, the oregano and the garlic glove.

Blend your now soften chilies with just enough water to release the blades. Press the chili thru a sieve to remove the tough peel.

Blend the tomatoes with the ground seasoning; add the chili to the jar, blend to mix.

Heat oil on medium heat, in a large casserole when the fat is hot add the chili mixture and fry stirring constantly for three minutes, take care not to burn it. Add the stock correct the seasonings bring to a boil and add finely chopped carrots and onion and your meat or vegetable of choice.

Serve with lime wedges, chopped cilantro, raw onion and tortillas

If you care to make this mas simple y facil (simpler and easier) replace the guajillo with ancho chili, and omit the straining, they are not as authentic but your soupa will still be very good. I use ancho most of the time out of laziness, and I like their rich flavor and meatiness.