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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

LIVING in Cuenca by Star

I've seen some dead squirrels and birds before, but I had never seen a dead cat or a dead doggie. Friday on our way back from doggie play day, mom and I saw both. The cat had been dead for a while, but we actually saw the doggie take his final breath. There was nothing we could do and mom was so very distraught. I didn't know what to make of it. I wanted to lick them both back to life, but mom wouldn't let me. She told me someone had poisoned them and that this is an unfortunate part of life here in Cuenca. There are many folks who love animals here, but there are as many who don't, and these people poison dogs and cats. She let me know that I have to be extra careful not to pick up anything from the streets. The doggie was just a pup and the kitty was also very young. Mom could not take their images from her mind the entire day. She told me she felt so powerless. Not sure exactly what that means, but I know she was very sad all day.

Then Saturday was a day of discovery for all of us. We woke up early as usual and had to wait till the rain stopped, which was close to 8 AM. The sun even came out around 8:30 although there were too many clouds around for us to really believe it was going to stay for long. However, we hoped it would. At any rate, mom has this thing about trying new routes. I am happy with our routines; but mom is another story. It must be the Gemini in her. So, we decided to humor her and let her choose the way.

We started in a familiar route by the University of Azuay, and it was there where it all started for mom -- a continuation of yesterday. This huge beautiful tree had been taken down, a eucalyptus that was as tall as a 10 story building. Mom examined the tree for apparent disease, as if she knew what she was doing, and then decided to ask a man who had obviously taken part in the murder of this tree, why the tree had to come down. Once the man understood what mom was asking (which took a few tries by mom and a few minutes for the man to process mom's question) she finds out that the tree was leaning against some electric wires. Mom was very distraught because it was a gorgeous tree.

As our eyes examined the body of the tree and followed the fallen limbs which had dropped on the Yanuncay river, there it was hung on a rock, a white and black cow which had drowned. This was even more upsetting for mom who dealt with her distress by going on and on to me about why I shouldn't get close to the river. She should know better by now, I don't get close to that river even if you pay pay me with a big juicy bone. But that's the problem with being a dog, I can't say much back, so mom goes on. However, with my strong powers of observation, I have develop a new skill --the ability to translate words into noise which can be easily dismissed by focusing my attention on something else. Mom says that this is a general male skill, I think it should be genderless, since it can be quite helpful. So mom goes on and I go frolicking around minding my own thoughts.

We continue our walk at this point taking a different path than we've ever had before, this time by the side of the Tarqui river.

First there was no path and we had to find one which was not really easy to do. We finally got to a place where we could make our way to the street. However, we had to come really close to a house, more like a shack, really. This is the place where the cows that feed by our house and by the river close to us live. Probably, this is house of the cow that drowned. And, where there is livestock, there are dogs. These aren't your happy go lucky street dogs kind, these are mean watch dogs who are serious about doing a good job guarding the animals on their watch. Mom panics and, to be honest, I don't like it a bit. We sent dad in the front to hush the dogs away, and we crossed the street and quickened our step always looking back. Of course the dogs also crossed the street and came after us, but just to let us know we weren't welcome. I get it, I get it, gee whiz!

We continued our walk. This isn't the nicest of neighborhoods. There are mostly car related businesses, no sidewalks, and shacks where nice people live, but which also translate into loose dogs that make mom nervous. After maneuvering through most of this community we get a few yards from two very upset dogs. They lived on the last shack on that road, and their job was to take care of the chickens, which were not only on the right side of the street, but also on the left. Dogs being on the right side, we decide to cross the street, but we soon realized that this is where most of the hens and their chicks were, so here come the dogs letting us know we better watch it. I knew these dogs meant business and so did mom, but the aroma of chicken droppings was so alluring that mom had a real hard time getting me to move fast away from the dogs.

We finally made it away from that road. Phew! We landed so to speak in a beautiful park that mom wants to get a picture of share with you when she fixes her camera. It has a huge metal sculpture of a nativity scene. We go on. Mom wants to go one way, dad the other ... this happens often. Dad wins and we entered this very interesting neighborhood called La Isla (The Island). There is a pack of dogs that want nothing to do with me, so mom thinks she can breathe. Yet these dogs do something I've never seen before. They chase cars! Whoopee! Does that look like fun or what! Mom goes absolutely crazy every time a car comes down the road... dogs chase; mom covers her eyes; drivers go by, wave and laugh at mom; dad's embarrassed; I want to join the dogs in their chase; mom pulls my lead, scolds me and tells me that chasing cars is dangerous. We do this for three blocks or so until we pass the dogs and mom can regain consciousness again, breathe and relax the lead. Good now I can breathe too.

We find that this is a beautiful neighborhood, but we missed the significance of the name. 'Hey guys an island may not have an exit... dah!!!!'. So we walked for a while until, of course, the rain started to bless us with its drops and we couldn't find a way out, so we had to retrace our steps the long way.

Yet, the walk back was uneventful although wet. We came back to the University and there was a graduation ceremony going on so there were lots of happy people, lots of cars and lots of commotion. The fallen tree was been sawed into pieces and the cow was still laying across the rock in the middle of the river. I found a piece of the tree to play with and attack like I love to do with sticks. I found that Eucalyptus is very soft making it a great chewing wood. Mom watched me with a smile on her face as I played with the stick for a while.

We got home and I slept while mom and dad went out to meet new friends. They came back talking about the great time they had. I was happy for them.

Later that day mom was talking to dad about the richness and fullness of the day we've had. Mom had her philosopher's hat on and although I couldn't understand much of what she was saying, I always enjoy it when she talks like that because she puts her emotions aside, and it is peaceful.

She told dad: "you know; dogs and cats are killed, and trees are taken down every day in the world; every day there are cows that die and people who mourn them; there is suffering in this world and somehow in the States I can close my eyes and not see it; not participate. I don't watch the news, so I'm protected. 

I can't run away from life here. It hits me at all times. There is no place to hide. Life is full here. Suffering is all around me and so is joy and laughter. love and fear, health and disease, life and death, light and darkness... my nice quiet protected life in the US is over. Yet, I'm starting to embrace the richness and fullness of life here in Cuenca. A vibrant lesson every day... It's as if I'm Siddhartha leaving the castle for the first time."

With that last sentence she totally lost me and I fell asleep thinking of the lessons learned that day as mom continued to blab. 


  1. Star, your mom is an incredible woman and you are so blessed to have her! What an incredible story!!! Peace and Love to you all! xoxo

  2. Very touching story, Star. I really enjoyed it, even though there were some really sad parts when you saw the animals who died.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! We look forward to meeting you and your family in about 8 weeks.

    Take care, be safe, and enjoy your new surroundings!!