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Cruising with Your Dog? Please Read On…

Carolyn Daley and Kathy Mulholland

Shannon’s Spirit
December 5th, 2014

You would think that after three years of cruising in Mexico with our dog, we would be pretty immune to vulnerability in a street-wise sense of the word. You would think. So listen up, you dog lovers who, like us, insist on sailing with our incredible mutts and sharing every bit of the adventure with them. Please listen up and hear our story; we’re writing it for you.

Sophie is a sailing dog. She’s sailed with us since she was a puppy and she sailed with us down most of the coast of North America in 2011, from Victoria, BC to La Paz, Mexico and locations around the southern Sea of Cortez. She’s also a camping, driving, and adventuring dog and she’s accompanied us each year for the past three as we’ve driven to the boat, from Vancouver Island to La Paz, and to Mazatlan and, most recently, to San Carlos.

We’ve always been vigilant when it comes to her safety; you have to be. Everyone knows there are vicious dogs all over, but there do seem to be more per capita in the streets of Mexican villages and towns. We know that, and we’re always checking before taking her out of the truck. We keep her close to us, even on apparently vacant beaches. There are coyotes and stray dogs in abundance. There are dogs that aren’t really homeless but they wander afar and forage for themselves. We keep her on a leash for her own protection and in the belief we will be able to pull her to safety should something dangerous suddenly appear in our path. And so it was on the morning of October 11, 2014 when we stopped for a quick coffee at the Pemex/Oxxo 25 miles south of Nogales, Mexico.

We’d crossed the border into Mexico early and it was only about 7:30 in the morning when we hankered for a cup of coffee. It was also time for Sophie to have a ‘nature break’ and so we stopped at a good-sized Pemex/ Oxxo complex for both. For those of you who haven’t driven in Mexico yet, the Pemex is a very common and well-run gas station and the Oxxo is like our 7-Eleven. The two are often housed on the same property and also offer sanitarios (washrooms) for a 5-pesos ‘donation’. We didn’t need fuel so I parked near the door to the store and went in to get the coffee. Kathy prepared to take Sophie for a short walk. She leashed Sophie, lifted her out of the truck, placed her on the ground and had taken only two steps when Sophie was jumped from behind by a medium-sized black dog. The dog came from nowhere and attacked from behind. There was no warning.

The battle was horrifying and at one point Kathy, hanging on to Sophie for dear life, having grabbed her off the ground, was yanked off her feet and dragged, by the attacking dog that was, at that point, latched onto Sophie’s back. The battle raged and was very nearly lost. Luckily, some staff members finally came to assist and the attacking dog was driven off. Little Sophie suffered a severe injury to her back where a butter-plate size piece of flesh was ripped nearly completely off. As well, she suffered puncture wounds to her back end and the ligaments in her right knee were completely severed. Kathy suffered severely scraped knees (flesh completely off) and some bites to her left forearm. Needless to say, both Sophie and Kathy were shocked and traumatized by the attack. With the help of some staff and a passing woman and her daughters (who spoke a little English), we were able to identify a vet in Nogales (25 miles north). We bundled both patients into the truck and headed north again, back to Nogales, to the only vet we knew of.

Dr. Teresa Dorantes Ramirez, of the Hospital Animal in Nogales, Son., Mexico is a fantastic vet. Thank goodness, because that is what Sophie needed. Dr. Ramirez took us in, and while she tended to Sophie, her assistant vets attended to Kathy’s knees. Sophie’s injuries were and are serious. I write this on October 22nd and she remains in Nogales, with Dr. Teresa. Kathy was released.

We’re still waiting for Sophie to be stable enough to travel. She developed some infection in her back wound and the vet had to open it up for treatment. All going well, she will be released in about a week. Her leg remains in need of specialized surgery and, once she is stable enough to travel, we will be picking her up and heading home to Canada for the surgery and a recovery that will take several months.

And so, dog lovers and friends, I tell you this story… not so you can feel sorry for us… no, we’re doing okay. What we do hope is that, by telling our story, we will remind all of you to be careful out there. We’ve heard some awful stories of similar events where the dog did not survive. We never expected to be the victims in something like this. We’ve always taken great care to be safe. But it happened. And, if it happened to us, it could happen to you.

All going well, Sophie will sail again. She will run (or at least walk) on beaches and she will continue to enjoy sitting in her camp chair and hanging out with friends. She is a sailor, an old track star, an adventurer, and a comic. If nothing else good can come of it, let her experience save your canine pal from having the same. Thanks for listening.

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