You know how they say you can never go back? Not to a favourite restaurant, a favourite neighbourhood, a favourite beach? It will have changed, and not for the better, so goes the theory, and your fond memories will be forever overshadowed by those altered states. Well, never say never. Maybe not everything and every place changes completely, and not always for the worse.
It’s been four years since we walked the long sandy shores of Playa Blanca, just south of Zihuatanejo. We had heard it had been “discovered”, thanks to a prideful website touting it as “the last best beach”, and an impressive whale research project, which grabbed the attention of scientists and tourists alike. We feared the inevitable flurry of fancy homes and fancier hotels towering over crowded beaches teeming with oil-slicked sun-seekers lounging under synthetic palapas, blue skies filled with drones and para-sailers, and even, gack!, roaring jet-skis tearing up the waves. In other words, the inevitable destruction of all that made the place special in the first place. It happens all too often.
It didn’t happen. Not here, not yet. Sure, there are a few more homes that have been built, there’s a new hotel or two, a condo building here and there. But they’re mercifully small and modest. And because the beach stretches nine glorious miles, those new additions are spaced far enough apart they’re hardly noticeable. There are still plenty of large lots, tangled and choked with weeds and shrubs and thirsty palms, still the ramshackle shrimp shacks, brittle palm fronds for roofs, their rickety plastic tables and chairs jammed into the sand. Also mercifully, there are no crowds, no para-sailers, no drones, no jet-skis. Playa Blanca is, for the most part, unchanged. We went back, and we don’t regret it.
The good friends we made from our first visit 10 years ago are still here, although sadly more than a few pets we cared for are not. Gary and Zoe’s cute, neurotic little Clinker has long passed, as has goofy, loveable Coffee and, most recently, Tessa*.
In their place are an even goofier Schnauzer who goes by the name Mojo, an excitable Papillon named Kona, and a Mexican mutt called Roxi, whom we profiled from the last time we were here in 2015.
Mojo is another rescue (abandoned and with a large growth on his face that was promptly treated), Kona arrived by way of American relatives who felt she would do better at the beach. And who wouldn’t? We were tasked with caring for this motley crew for a few days, and immediately both Mojo and Kona, who have “issues”, were determined to let us know just how much they wanted nothing to do with us. Mojo growled and bared his teeth every time we tried to touch him, Kona simply ran away and hid. By the end of two days, Mojo was on our heels wherever we went and Kona was cuddling on my lap. Sure, it’s highly likely because they realized we were the keepers of the kibble, but it’s nice to think they took to us because they like us, they really like us.
We assume Mojo is a standard Schnauzer, as he’s a bit bigger than a miniature and definitely smaller than a giant. They all share the same traits, however: good with adults and kids, high energy, vocal watchdog (boy, is he vocal). Hailing from the Bavaria region of Germany as far back as the Middle Ages, the Schnauzer was bred as a hunter, ratter, herder and overall farm hand. They first arrived on North America shores around 1900, and careful breeding and grooming has defined their trademark beard and mutton chops.
The American Kennel Club describes the Papillon as a “quick, curious toy dog of singular beauty and upbeat athleticism…a true doggy dog with a hardy constitution.” Shorter than a foot, the dainty Pap gets its name from its large, wing-shaped ears that resemble a Papillon (French for butterfly). Their multi-coloured coats are long and silky, their tails plumed. They apparently snag top prizes in agility contests and are open to learning tricks, thanks to their cross breeding with spaniels. For centuries, however, they were bred as lap dogs for noblewomen such as Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette, and often appeared in portraits painted by such masters as Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya and Toulouse-Lautrec. Rather than perform any tricks — or go on walks — this little Pap preferred to lounge on the porch couch, ever vigilant for any outside activity that required her high-pitched attention.
Mojo and Roxi, however, were game for a good stroll, if allowed leeway. On our first walk with him on the beach, the untrained Herr Mojo strained and pulled and twisted on his leash (leaving deep slashes behind my knees), so we released him. He went berserk chasing and biting the waves, and literally ran circles around the still-leashed Roxi, carving up the wet sand, until he was so pooped he slept the rest of the day. If we were to let Roxi loose, the two invariably would shoot into the toolies or trespass on private grounds. With Roxi leashed, Mojo stayed close behind.
Tessa*, sadly, came out once, walked a few feet down the beach, sniffed the sand, and headed back. The once high-energy girl who sprinted down the shoreline, gleefully chasing seagulls, was now too aged to indulge in silly games. She preferred to spend her days snoozing on the couch, the old dog equivalent of a rocking-chair, I guess.
And we were happy to accommodate and accompany. Days were lazily spent reading, writing, and gazing out at that 10,000-mile front yard, contemplating our good fortune. Some things never change.
*Tessa, as noted in our last blog, died shortly after we left at the end of May (we returned in July). Age had caught up with her, but she led a remarkable 15 years, considering the start to those years. Adopted as a pup by one of the enramada owners, when Tessa was a year old and growing out of her adorable phase, she was cast aside, as happens all too often. Driven to the end of the nine-mile beach and dumped, the plucky puppy managed to make it half-way back, but faltered in front of Gary and Zoe’s beach house. They scooped her up, took her in, and were rewarded with 14 years of love and loyalty. As heartbreaking as it is to lose a faithful companion, they treasure the memories of this special dog, as do we. Sadly, she’s the last of the originals from our first set of sits in 2010, a bittersweet side-effect of the gig. And the one change hardest to accept.