I stared into her little black eyes as I held her on the back of the motorcycle. We were driving to the vet, hoping to god he was in the office and could see her right away.
She stared back at me, so much strength in those eyes.
She had no outward obvious injury, but she was completely immobile, her small, thin body tensed to protect itself against more damage.
The fleas seemed oblivious to her state, and still ran about in masses through her curly off-white hair.
A few moments earlier she had been struck by a car in front of us on one of the busiest roads in Puerto Escondido. The car that hit her never stopped, but the one behind it did and the driver carried her to the side of the road. We whipped the moto to the side of the road just as he was laying her down. “Pobrecita” he said, shaking his head.
He was the first savior, as she surely would have been killed by the next car if he hadn’t gotten her off the road.
But now, it was just us and her. I feared she had spinal damage, so I picked her up with as little movement as possible, hugging her tightly to my chest, and we sped to the vet’s, those little black eyes looking up at me, fully present, despite the pain she was undoubtedly in.
Three days at the vets and she was home with us. A broken pelvis, broken shoulder, and nerve damage that left her right leg without feeling or movement.
No one appeared to be searching for her, and for her appearance, it seemed quite sure she was a street dog.
She was timid the first few days. I don’t think she knew if she was staying and we didn’t know either.
I think the turning point was probably those fresh chicken livers from the local market. The gourmet food put her at home. And we were more smitten every day by her quirky habits and funny little hop.
Even Frieda, the miniature dachshund I have had for 12 years was accepting her, albeit with some disdain for her puppy antics.
Her name didn’t come into about a month in, at an appointment with a veterinary specialist to get another opinion on the prospects for her damaged leg. He was making videos of her running through the office, leg swinging wildly to the side, as it did.
“La pata loca” – crazy paw, said Dani, my boyfriend, with a laugh.
And that was her name.
After two months of wearing a special brace and prescribed almost daily swimming, the prospects for the leg were grim. It still banged around, dragged on the ground, and generally seemed to get in her way.
An incredibly active girl, Pata Loca had no boundaries. She would fly out of a car window, land rolling, leap to her three good feet and take off running. She would wade right into the waves, trying her darndest to follow Dani into the water as he went out with his board to catch waves.
She would play full on with the great danes at the ranch, not giving a hoot that they were about 12 times her size and had 4 legs each.
Pata Loca lived life full on.
One day, after a full afternoon at the ranch, I noticed the paw on her damaged leg was bleeding. On closer inspection, several of the small bones in her foot were broken. How it happened who knows. Fortunately for Pata Loca, she still had no feeling in the paw.
Another trip to the vet and it was time to remove the leg. “It will never heal, not enough circulation. And she doesn’t need it.”
We still labored over the decision as it seemed like such a massive surgery.
In the end, we left her at the vet’s and off came the leg.
Two days later, she was home once again, running around on 3 legs, no swinging fourth leg to slow her down, and a with a cone around her neck.
One month at home, no running in the dirt, no beach.
It was a long month for Pata Loca.
I brought Canelo to visit, bought her chicken feet and carrots to chew on (her favorite treats).
Finally, the leg healed, bandage off, and we were back at the ranch.
The past Friday evening we were out with Canelo, as we do many evenings, walking around together, doing a little training, and just enjoying each other’s company, the four of us – Canelo, Freida, Pata Loca, and me.
The dogs were laying in the grass, I took this picture of them. Then Canelo walked off, and we all got up to follow him.
Freida and Pata Loca fell behind, surely distracted by some scent in the grass.
Moments later, a group of wild dogs came out from the neighboring woods. They flew after Canelo first and he took off running in the direction of the stables, about 2km away.
I circled back for the dogs, found Freida and scooped her up, I didn’t see Pata Loca so I ran for Canelo at the stables, certain that Pata Loca would meet us there.
I have not seen her since that moment.
I went back to the stable, made sure Canelo was safe and rushed back for Pata Loca, she was nowhere to be found. It was dusk.
I called and called, walked all the trails and caminos, talked to neighbors, and finally feel asleep waiting in the field after midnight.
The next day was the same, but with putting up flyers, posting on all the local social media, checking all the shelters. Nothing.
How can someone we love so dearly vanish so quickly?
As I write this, it is the 5th day since her disappearance. Our hearts are raw. I still feel her and imagine her safe return, but the truth is I don’t know what will happen.
But it is yet another event in life that makes me remember the uncertainty of it all, and the importance of being in each moment. The importance of being present with the ones we love.
When I think of Pata Loca, I feel a very strong little spirit. A spirit with a mission here in this life. She exuded joy, she found the fun in everything, from tossing an old rag, to chasing a grasshopper through the grass. Nothing could slow her down, nothing could stop her. She didn’t carry the baggage of her hard knocks. She just hopped on.
I am writing this to share not to sadden you, the reader, but to share the lessons of Pata Loca, the lessons of living, of enjoying, and of impermanence.
I love you Pata Loca, I have learned so much from you, and I hope you are spreading your light to someone else in these days and will return to us.
We all miss you.