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Surviving Costa Rica – Dogs (and Cats) I Have Known

Surviving Costa Rica – Dogs (and Cats) I Have Known

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My first memory of a dog is Schnapsy, a dachshund whose ears apparently were used as a teething device for both my sister and me back in distant times known as the “50s.” I was pretty young then so I don’t really remember much, although to this day I have a curious urge to eat dog food.

When my sisters first met my future wife, they made sure to tell her they never had a dog growing up because of their brother’s asthma, and that he once killed the house cat (I swear it was accidental) after it jumped into the clothes dryer when he wasn’t looking. Surprisingly, Susan married me anyway.

Susan grew up in what she swears wasn’t a farm in South Texas. She did that whole horse, chicken, rodeo barrel riding-type thing where there were always large spoiled dogs named Luke or Barny, who seemed to end up in their own pickup trucks.

I managed to live out a large part of my life without animals or wives, which of course changed when I accidently bumped into the Woman of my Life. By that time, I had been living the bachelor life rather successfully. Believe it or not, I even had a cat, with the good sense to keep away from the laundry room. Her name was Gudi, named after Heinz Guderian, the masterful German Panzer commander of WWII fame.

After I successfully persuaded Susan to share my home, a monumental power struggle arose as to who was now the Woman of the House. Susan commandeered a particularly sunny part of the house for painting, which was also Gudi’s favorite spot. Susan would apply a little paint to the canvas, step back to look at it, and then step on the cat’s tail, as Gudi had been keeping her eye on the interloper. A ruckus would then ensue, with neither side giving in. Susan would apply a little more paint, step back, step on the cat’s tail…and the turf war kept playing out.

Eventually a truce was formed. We actually thought about bringing the cat to Costa Rica, which apparently would be our new home for an unknown number of years, even going to the extent of buying an travel cage. However, Gudi was getting up there in cat years and we thought she should live out her life in Texas. So I went to a friend, who was an aspiring banjo player and lived outside of town with lots of fields full of mice and lizards and stuff like that. I told my friend she could have my (pretty damn fancy) banjo if she’d also take my cat. She did, and that’s where this particular story ends.

It wasn’t till we moved to far off exotic Playa Langosta that I officially became a dog person. One day early on I came home and was confronted by a Shar-Pei puppy, soon to be named Sun Tzu, who proceeded to be my constant companion and Susan’s surrogate son for the next 10 years. Those of you who have suffered through the years reading this column may recall that Sun-Tzu would be a guest columnist when I, as usual, couldn’t think of anything to come up with. Most readers agreed he was a much better writer.

I won’t dwell on the sadness of losing a pet and friend like Sun-Tzu. So about three years ago, I came home to a new Shar-Pei puppy that Susan had found after a nationwide search for our favorite Chinese breed. Her name is Lily. She continues to be the house dog and a surrogate daughter for Susan, although my relationship with her is much more complicated.

If Lily spoke English, she’d be the first to let you know she’s a real bitch. She spent most of her puppyhood sharpening her teeth on my arms and legs, as well as other appendages not to be mentioned in a family publication such as the Howler.
Although Lily is Shar-Pei through and through, she has a totally different personality than ‘ol Sun-Tzu. He was everybody’s pal and my buddy Michael’s best friend. Lily is capable of ignoring someone to death, won’t acknowledge the existence of most of our friends, and has been extremely rude to Michael.

However, Lily gets along famously with other dogs. Sun-Tzu wanted to whup the ass of any dog that was bigger and tougher than he was. Probably because we fixed him at an early age, Sun-Tzu never won any of these fights and kept the local vets in business throughout his years.

Lily is now a regular of my Pasatiempo jams on Saturday night, and can be heard in the background of most of the videos we post on YouTube.

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