Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Day 42: The Cuban Doggie Crisis

June 1: The night turned out to be relatively calm and I slept without any trouble. In the morning, Evenstar got a head start on me, but I wasn't more than 20 minutes behind her and we figured I'd catch up quickly. We were both looking forward into getting into town and our next resupply point of Cuba, New Mexico. Not to be confused with--you know--Cuba, the country. The city of Cuba is much drier and has considerably fewer palm trees. Not to mention that no passport is required to visit it.


The trail followed near the edge of the plateau where we camped before it descended to some gravel roads, then arriving at the paved Highway 197. I hadn't taken more than 10 steps onto the road when two absolutely adorable puppies accosted me.

They jumped up on my legs and ran around me, seemingly excited to run into an actual thru-hiker. They seemed in good spirits, but what the heck were they doing out here in the middle of nowhere? There wasn't a house or structure visible as far as the eye could see, and they definitely shouldn't be playing on or around a highway. They seemed a little too young to be fending for themselves as well. A coyote or rattlesnake would make short work of them.

I was accosted by these two little creatures within 10 steps of reaching the highway.

I set down my pack and wondered what I should do. Leaving them out here in the middle of nowhere seemed cruel and inhumane, but I definitely wasn't prepared to take care of two small puppies either.

I pulled out my phone--which did get a signal now that I was only about four miles from town--and started searching for help. Maybe an hour later, I finally managed to connect with an animal rescue person, but before she would pick up the dogs, she wanted me to call animal control to make sure it's all legal in case the dogs actually have an owner. She told me that dogs were often allowed to run loose but that they actually had an owner (yeah, duh!), and usually it was best to leave them alone. There were no tags or anything obvious on the dogs suggesting if they had an owner or who it might be.

But seriously, WTF? These were puppies! They shouldn't be running around on a highway by themselves! And there wasn't even a structure as far as the eye could see. It's not like they escaped from a yard on the side of the road. "There could be a structure nearby that you just don't see," the woman insisted.

"No, there's not!" *rolling eyes* I got the impression that she just didn't want to deal with this. What kind of stupid animal rescue organization is this?

So I made the call to animal control, left a voice mail, eventually got a call back where I provided all the details they wanted, and got permission for the animal control person to pick up the puppies.

But when I contacted her, she asked me to take them into town. WHAT?! I don't want to take them into town. It's not like I had a car to drive them in. Did she not know what the hell was happening? I was hiking, on foot. How hard was it to drive a few miles out of town to pick them up? But I guess she was busy at the time and couldn't do it, so for at least the next hour or two, the dogs were mine. Crap.

The puppies seemed in good shape. They obviously hadn't been out here for very long, and with the rain the evening before, there were plenty of puddles for them to drink from. I pulled out some of my snacks and gave them a little bit of my flour tortillas which they seemed to enjoy eating. I didn't know if they were really hungry or not, but I only gave them a little. I didn't know what their normal diet was and didn't really want to give them something that turned out to be problematic. But just in case they were hungry, I did give them a little.

Then I tried herding the puppies down the road. They followed me for a bit. One of them didn't seem too excited about the idea of walking, though, so I picked it up. The other one followed me along the road. Every ten minutes or so, it would pass near a puddle and stop to drink from it, and I'd set the other puppy down to do the same before picking it up and continuing along the route. Whenever a vehicle approached, I'd step far off the side of the road and encourage the following puppy to join me to get it off the road and away from the traffic.

This lasted for about a mile, but then the puppy that had been following me stopped in the shade of a guard rail and decided that that was more comfortable than walking in the hot sun and wouldn't continue any further. Or maybe the distance was just too much for it. In any case, it wouldn't leave from the shade of the guardrail, and eventually I picked it up as well. This was very awkward and difficult for me--trying to carry two squirming puppies down the road.

I periodically had to set them down and rest. After maybe an hour of this, I had finally approached to within a mile of town and gave Evenstar a call.

"Hey, Evenstar," I opened. She had already arrived in town and checked into a motel, saying that she was surprised that I hadn't caught up with her on the trail. Typically, I walked a lot faster than her. "Yeah, well... there's a reason for that...." I replied and explained the situation.

"So..." I said, "think you have enough energy to backtrack a mile or so and help me out?"

And, of course, Evenstar loves innocent, adorable puppies even more than she likes resting her feet, so she agreed to backtrack and help.

I picked up the puppies and continued my journey into town, and about 15 minutes later, Evenstar arrived and took them off my hands. I offered to carry one of them--I knew full well how awkward it was to carry both at the same time, but she insisted on taking both for the time being to give me a break. 

That livened up the puppies. They had grown a bit mellow while I carried them, but this was a new person! It was time to squirm and smell and meet a new person! And thus we continued on into town, but I told Evenstar to give me one of the puppies if the two of them became too much to handle.

Evenstar has her hands full with the puppies.

When we got into town, I gave the animal rescue person a call to let her know I arrived (finally!), and she gave us the name of a restaurant at the edge of town to meet at, so we walked over and sat down on the curb outside to wait, and trying to make sure the puppies didn't dart off into the busy street in front of us.

We weren't there for more than about five minutes before the woman pulled up and threw both of the puppies into the back. Originally she closed them inside the hot car and started chewing us out for "rescuing" the dogs. What?! Eventually she opened the back of her car so the puppies could get some fresh air and not--you know--die, but I was astounded that she treated us like criminals and the puppies like groceries.

She explained that once there was a dog that was supposed to guard sheep or cattle or something, but then some "well-meaning" person "rescued" the dog and coyotes killed the herd.

"I'm pretty sure these puppies aren't guarding sheep," I pointed out, not even mentioning that there weren't any sheep or cattle anywhere to be seen in the area where I found the puppies.

She went on for all the other reasons we should have left well enough alone. Maybe there was a mama dog and I just separated them (again, I saw absolutely no sign of a mama dog taking interest in these pups).

And then she said that she got a call from the police that someone reported seeing someone stealing two puppies and he was walking down the side of the road, obviously hinting that it was me they were referring to. Annoyed, I pretended to be stupid and said, "Well, I hope they got the guy. That's just awful!"

She didn't seem to think it was very funny, though, and mostly just gave me a scowl.

She went on to explain that she already found the owner of the puppies--I guess a police report of stolen puppies gets people talking--and asked, "You really found them near mile marker 4?"

"Yes. You think I made that up?"

"That's a couple of miles from where they live." She seemed to suggest that they couldn't have possibly wandered that far away from home on their own.

Really? I had told the woman that there weren't any structures or houses anywhere near where I found the puppies. I assume the puppies lived somewhere on the road, probably around mile marker 2 if they were a couple of miles from where I found them. I probably walked right by their house without even knowing it. Of course, if the puppies had dog collars with a phone number or address, I might have known that. It certainly would have saved me a lot of effort carrying the things into town which I never wanted to do in the first place.

Both Evenstar and I were astounded at the heartlessness of this woman, and why wasn't she chewing out the owner of the dogs? The owner obviously hadn't been keeping a close watch on them, obviously hadn't put tags on them and apparently didn't even realize they were missing until someone reported that I was "stealing" them.

"That's just the way things are done out here," she told me.

Well, that's f***ed up. Would the owners have been so forthcoming if a car wrecked when it tried to avoid hitting puppies on the road and caused bodily injury to someone? I suspect not.

Anyhow, eventually the woman left, and I was just left angry. Evenstar tried to console me that I did the right thing, but that wasn't necessary. I knew I did the right thing. I was just angry at the woman's heartlessness. What's the point of even having an animal rescue if their advice is "you shouldn't rescue them under any circumstances"? It's just stupid. Cuba was not leaving a good impression on me.

On the way to the hotel, I dropped by the post office to pick up my laptop. That, I'm happy to report, went well and was uneventful. But my Cuban problems weren't over just yet....

Evenstar told me that the credit card machine at the hotel was broken so they were only accepting cash for the time being--which was problematic for me since I didn't typically carry around much in cash. Evenstar said she'd front the money for me until I could pay her back, but even that turned out to be problematic when the front office was found to be locked up and closed. Unable to find an employee to check me in, I dropped off my maildrop in Evenstar's room, then we went out for lunch at a restaurant nearly across the street from the motel.

Lunch was delicious!

While eating lunch, Pez texted us. He had finally got a SIM card that allowed him internet access, phone and texts without wi-fi when we were in Grants, and he texted that he had just arrived into town and gotten lunch at a taco truck at the far edge of town. It was a shame that he had just eaten and didn't join us, but oh well. At least he had made it. We could go out for dinner or something later! =)

Pez did stop by our table at the restaurant to catch up with us a bit where we told him about the puppy fiasco. He decided that he was spending too much money in trail towns, however, and decided to camp at the RV camp in town instead of the motel with us, so he headed off to do that. 

It wasn't more than an hour later, however, that he contacted us again to say that the place wasn't hiker-friendly at all and had kicked out another hiker who had recently arrived in town that afternoon, Diesel. We couldn't get any information about why they kicked out Diesel, however. (Some hikers have been known to cause problems. I don't know if Diesel is one of them, so I can't really say whether I think him being kicked out was justified or not without knowing the full story.)

In any case, Pez informed us, he decided just to resupply and push on without stopping in town for the night at all. Evenstar and I were a bit disappointed about this since we wanted to hang out with him later, but that wasn't going to happen now.

After finishing lunch, we returned to the motel where I was finally able to score a room for two nights--using cash provided by Evenstar. I definitely owed her big time!

The rest of the day, I just worked on my laptop, and ended my journal entry grumbling that I was going to stay only one zero day "in this godforsaken place". I had been thinking about taking another double zero to give the snow in Colorado more time to melt and get more work done, but my first impression of Cuba made me want to leave the town as quickly as possible. I'd have been happy to leave the next day except that I really did have work I needed to get done online, but I could get by with just one zero day and leave this place.

The morning's walk along the bluff of the plateau was really quite pleasant!

'Twas a long walk into town with two puppies to carry....


Unknown said...

I can't believe that that woman was so rude to you!!!

Tina said...

That's an awful long way for puppies to wander from home. People would be shocked to know how many puppies and kittens are dumped.

Evenstar said...

Oh, I loved those puppies soooo much. Definitely a highlight. Ms Grumpypants, definitely a lowlight.

Michael said...

I remember one time I was walking in the woods when an unleashed dog followed me. After following me a long time, it was clear he was going to abandon his home to follow me and not turn around on his own. So I walked back to his home and took the time to lose him so he wouldn't leave his home to follow me. Based on how you described it, these puppies did not leave their home. You saved their lives when they were impossibly lost long before you arrived.

Thanks for being willing to share about your experience. It's unfortunate and consistent that many different government places seem reluctant to do their job (e.g. they get kudos when there are less reports). I wish you had the badge # so that an official complaint can be filed.

Why couldn't the worker take the time to empathize with you to realize you saved their lives? Instead she attacked you as if you were stealing dogs.