Here in rural Costa Rica, few dogs enjoy the privileges of their northern cousins. In the towns, disease-ridden dogs drag themselves from doorstep to curb, in search of scraps. Many dogs run wild, and still others sit all day chained to a fence or post. People seem equally likely to throw a rock at a strange dog as extend a hand to be sniffed.
And then there are the dogs that kill chickens. Farmers here don’t appreciate chicken-killers, as we learned last year, when we briefly adopted a dog with that propensity. Because many Ticos absolutely avoid confrontation, chances are good that a chicken-killing dog will be done in on the sly, often in horrific ways, like being fed poison, or meat with ground-up glass in it.
When we first moved here, two years ago, we stayed in a furnished house on the other side of town. A few little dogs visited our house every day, and we enjoyed the company, especially before my dog, Buddha, arrived from the States. The only female, Macha, was the least of our favorites. She was an un-endearing creature, a dachshund-like, dirty, mottled white and black mongrel, but she was docile, and hungry-looking, so we shared our table scraps with her as well as her cuter canine companions.
When Macha went into heat, her buddies became her tormentors. Day and night, a barking horde chased her around the neighborhood. I tried to shoo them away, but they tenaciously held their ground. She began to seek me out, sensing an ally, I guess, and I tried to protect her, but she wasn’t my dog.
“Why don’t they have her fixed?” I asked the next-door neighbor, Arturo, who shrugged. “We like the puppies,” he finally said. I knew what he meant. Macha’s last little brood of sweet-faced pups were irresistible.
For three days and nights, the pack chased poor Macha. I decided to take her to the vet, and when I saw Arturo the next time, I asked him what he thought. He shook his head, then raised the index finger of his right hand to his neck, and drew the finger swiftly across.
I was horrified. Why didn’t they have her fixed, I wondered. And if they were going to kill her, why did they wait so long to do it? Images of that sad-eyed dog haunted me. So when our friends asked us to rescue a neighborhood puppy from a similar fate, we popped her into a book-bag and smuggled her back to our house, to join Buddha and our two cats.
Lucy Lieu had only to exist to earn my love. Adorable and affectionate, she soon crept into my heart. When I took her to the vet to have her fixed, I learned that her insides were completely askew. “Nothing was where it belonged,” said the vet. Not long after that, she developed a limp. Another visit to the vet brought the information that both of her hind legs might require surgery. We wondered what else could go wrong.
Then she killed her first chicken. Once again, we began to worry about poison. If someone tried to poison Lucy Lieu, might Buddha also become a victim? The vet told us to try aversion therapy, and Jack took her, on a leash, to visit the chicken coup near our house, but Lucy Lieu didn’t even glance at the chickens. “Maybe she found the chicken, already dead,” we said, until she killed a second, third and fourth chicken.
We made the difficult decision to have her euthanized this week, and now she’s gone, just like Macha. I miss her sweet face already, and I guess I’ll always wonder if we made the right decision…