ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The dichotomies in Mexico, at least where Admiral Fox and I hang our respective Tilley hats, are striking. Some people have Internet and drive nice new trucks, others live in huts with dirt floors and ride burros for transportation. Some folk are very educated, others have very little schooling.
But perhaps the greatest dichotomy is the ability of the Mexican people to struggle with serious problems, dust themselves off and move on - often smiling as they do so...
Case in point:
Admiral Fox, CEO Laura and I went to Tenacatita Beach Thursday for lunch. Adm. Fox and Laura bicycled (into a strong south wind it turned out) while I drove the support vehicle with the boogie boards and snorkel gear.
And, as always, it was fabulous there, with great food and the water temperature quite nice. (CAPTAIN'S NOTE: Thursday, a bus runs from Melaque to Tenacatita so be ready for lots of gringo company...)
Oscar the vet and Julien with a sick dog
But at 2 p.m., we returned to meet with Oscar the veterinarian from Miguel Hildago. He was there to give distemper vaccinations - and most likely to put down a dog that clearly had distemper. The street-side passion play over whether to put the dog down went on for nearly an hour. The owners weren't sure, other residents (especially those with pooches who had been in contact with the sick dog) were very sure. And after a long conversation with a half-dozen adults and many more children, the vet went into a secluded yard and gave the dog a single shot, while I stood by.
The dog was gone in probably 30 seconds and was buried on the beach by our amigo French surfer-dude Julien, who helped calm the dog while the injection was given.
That would have been quite enough for me, except that another family brought over their sick puppy for Oscar to take a look at, a puppy who seemed to be having serious coordination problems and who had stopped eating.
Yup, distemper, too, the vet said.
And so within another half-hour - and much more talking - veterinarian Oscar took the puppy into the yard (away from the owners' eyes) and gave it an injection to end its suffering. And it was suffering, clearly, I could see.
Puppy with distemper
At that point, with Julien headed to the beach to bury the first dog, I scooped up the now-passed puppy and headed to the beach myself on our quad, shovel in hand to bury the pooch, all wrapped up ingloriously in a black trash bag.
After my experience last year - having to put down our dog Lucky - it was extremely hard to witness the first dog's injection and death, even harder to witness and then take charge of the deceased puppy. But it was obvious that the puppy had to be taken away quickly so the family (including a two-year-old, who obviously loved the animal) wouldn't have the body as a reminder.
Puppy grave on the beach
All of this would have sent me to the wine bottle early, except we had scheduled a night of music for the children in the village. Many of the children are taking English classes from Laura. And all of their much younger siblings were interested in the notion of gringo music.
And so, two hours after working with a shovel on the beach, I was setting up cameras and helping Myranda O'Byrne, Michael Hearn and Adm. Fox get ready for the 50 children (and a handful of adults) who came flooding in the Pink Flamingo gates at the appointed hour for concert and music lesson.
Some of the children (and adults) were the same ones who had been involved in the decisions earlier about the dogs.
But you would never have known it. They listened to the music with pure joy.
Music night audience
Myranda with the children
So what are the lessons here?
Well, for one, dogs need to be vaccinated for distemper. That doesn't happen often here, though with Adm. Fox on the case, things are likely to change in this hamlet.
But the second lesson is that death and life are sooooo close to the surface. There is no sterile vet's office where a dog is put down behind a closed door by white-coat-clad medical staff.
And at the same time, the joy of life is so close to the surface, too.
I have never heard such enthusiasm from children singing 'Bingo' or 'Five Little Ducks.'
Even I was singing Quack Quack Quack by the time it was over last night.
And yes, it made me feel a lot better.