When we first arrived and got the tour of this beautifully designed and decorated home, we heard the dreaded crows of roosters emanating from the neighbours’ yard, over the high wall. We figured, ah well, since we didn’t have an alarm clock, we would be awakened by nature’s call. Imagine our surprise when, instead of a dawn cockadoodledoo, we were roused by the cavalry.
Every morning at daybreak, the town gas truck, Gas del Lago, patrols the streets, heralded by the old military bugle call, the prelude to “Charge!”. This is followed by a loudspeaker that intones: “Gas!” (which the driver pronounces as “goss”). The voice starts out as a friendly announcement, then builds to what sounds like great disappointment as he passes by and you haven’t flagged him down for all your fuel needs. So it begins, innocuously enough as “goss”, then becomes a more insistent “go-oss”, then an I’m-warning-you-this-is-your-last-chance “goooo-oosss”, and finally, in a lower tone of resignation at your lack of response, “goooo-ooosssss”. And then he’s gone. Until tomorrow.
Lee and Judy, the couple we’re house/petsitting for, are Americans who have lived in Patzcuaro, on this non-descript street behind tall, unassuming doors, for nearly 10 years. Over that time, they’ve collected enough original works of art from talented local craftsmen to open a museum. Over the next few weeks, we’ll notice something new we didn’t see before. And their home? They showed us old photos of the property they bought, and our jaws dropped. It looked like a bombed-out war zone. How they imagined — let alone designed — what would become this gorgeous oasis is a testament to their vision and tenacity. Building in Mexico is notoriously fraught with starts, stops, misunderstandings, miscues and, ultimately, a crash course in cultural oddities. But they did it, and they’ve truly created a wonderfully rustic-chic hideaway.
Their dog, whom I call “Senor Orejas Frias”, due to his eternally cold ears, is compact, muscular and fierce-looking, but a bit of an oddity himself. Lee and Judy found him half-starved, severely abused, and left for dead. Consequently, he was angry and scared and certainly not socialized. They took him home and, over the next few months, fed him, cared for him, gained his trust, and were eventually able to train him. And boy is he trained. He won’t eat, sleep or walk without permission. Even his morning constitutional occurs at the same time and place every day: at 8:42 on the grassy knoll next to an 18th-century former convent. He’s a true creature of habit. He’s also extremely affectionate, and wants to be petted all the time. But he refuses to play. Maybe the memory of his horrific puppyhood has stolen his capacity for joy. But he’s a handsome specimen (and he knows it): his ears stand straight, his eyes are clear and sharp, his coat is close-cropped like a horse’s, and gleams in the sun. As for that menacing demeanor? Well, let’s just say we feel rather protected when out for a walk with him. Tough-guy teens step off the sidewalk when we approach, and mothers pull their kids close. We feel like the cock of the walk. If only they knew this ferocious-looking beast wouldn’t hurt a fly. In fact, he whimpers when a fly buzzes around him. And he hates to get his feet wet. And he requires an antacid before he goes to bed. And he leaps onto our laps during thunderstorms, a daily occurrence at this time of year.
Over the next few weeks, we fall in step with his rhythms and fall in love with him. Even if he does snore like a drunk and pass the kind of gas that is so foul and so dense it could mutate into solid matter. Who needs the gas man with this dog in the ‘hood? We’d be more than happy to crack a window and have him fuel the entire neighbourhood for free.