By Justin Porter Biel
When we spotted the dog, he was frozen like a statue in the middle of the dirt road, holding his ground like a sentry. His sleek, gargantuan body a black mass of muscle and bristled hair dusted in dirt. As we approached, the dog stared at us with those unflinching eyes. Neither one of us spoke, but my fiancé and I were thinking the same thing.
Should we continue, or turn back?
Past the dog laid green shrubbery at the base of tan dunes, and over a mound of sand awaited the Pacific coastline we’d driven thirty hours to reach. I looked at my woman, my pride suddenly on the line, and I decided to stand my ground. It was now or never. So I walked forward; sure that I was headed for a puncture wound from the canine’s sturdy jaws. At first, the dog didn’t move; he just eyed my approach with deadly attention. Then, like a gun from a chamber, he shot forward, all those muscles working at once, his lips pulled back, his yellow canines exposed in the mid-day heat.
While the dog charged forward at tremendous speed, my brain offered one repetitive thought. Run you, idiot, run! I saw myself turning to flee, flying by my love at top speed, clouds of dust pounding up from my feet. “Run!” I would say, “Go, babe! He’s coming.”
But no, I could not flee. That was insane. I had to stand by and protect my love. I had to show this dog that we were not intimidated. And if I ran, I would appear even more like prey. So there I stood, biting my lip, ready to test my strength, man against beast on a deserted beachside road.
I walked towards him, hands in front of my body, braced for the oncoming attack. Then to my horror, the dog jumped, his body flying through the air like a torpedo locked on its target. We collided, and his weight knocked me backward. I collapsed in the dirt. The animal’s hoof-like paws crushed into my chest. I fought to push his head back, but he surged closer, snapping jaws only inches from my face.
I was losing to the canine, but I was still in the fight.
When he reached my face, I thought it was over, but something strange occurred. The dog didn’t bite.
Instead, he rubbed his massive skull against mine, bashing our heads together in some animalistic greeting. His paws pounded down, holding me while he got a better shot at licking my face. I dodged the tongue the best I could, but the purple slug eventually found its way in. He went after my mouth, then my ears, and finished with a long lick up the side of my head. When I got to my feet, my hair was moussed in the opposite direction, and I had paw prints the size of a mountain lions etched upon my shirt.
It was my first day in Mexico.
I had met the neighborhood alpha dog.
And apparently, I had a rambunctious new friend.
We walked closer to the dunes, my fiancé gripping my hand tentatively as the dog circled, clouds of dust rising around us like a stampede. Then he jumped at me again with his paws outstretched. But this time, I caught him under the front legs, pushed, and it was he who fell back into the dirt.
“Perro loco,” I said, “Tranquillo.”
Afterwards, with Perro Loco as our guide, my fiancé and I crossed the dunes and sat by the beach. It was our first time seeing the massive, churning break, and it left a profound impact knowing this place was our new home.
Our new friend Perro Loco refused to leave our side for the remainder of the day. So while we sat in the sand, watching the sunset, the animal climbed upon me, and kicked sand on our towels, and did his best to keep his weight squarely upon my body. After the beach he followed us back to the palapa where we lived, ignoring every attempt we made to shoo him away. He waited outside our house for hours and then finally wandered off sometime near dusk.
We never found out whose dog Perro Loco was, or if he had a home at all. Sure, Perro Loco was a bit of a menace, but there was also a beauty in the way he lived – un-caged, wild, and free. Much like the country of Mexico, Perro Loco eventually accepted us. But first, he had to test us – just to see if we had what it takes.