A Canine Christmas Tale

“Renee, another stray dog’s turned up!” called the hotel owner, Jan, just as Mark, Scout and I were settling in for the night. “Tom’s got him over by the restaurant.”

Grabbing a flashlight and a leash, Scout and I ran out the door. Nearby we found Tom, Jan’s husband, trying to coax a black dog out of the shadows. We couldn’t see it clearly, but the pup was matted, filthy and terrified. Between us, Tom and I managed to pull her out (she didn’t bite) and slip the leash around her neck. Meanwhile Tom told us what he knew about her. He’d seen what looked like a garbage bag in a ditch at the bottom of the driveway. When he’d shined his headlights on it, it moved and then bolted up the driveway and on to the property. How the dog wasn’t killed on the fast-traffic road, I don’t know.

Because the hotel is up in the hills, the owners here are deluged with stray dogs, some lost, others dumped. So Scout and I volunteered to deal with the poor thing, and we led the dog back to our bungalow. Clearly a pet at one time, the little dog trotted obediently on the leash.

When we all got back to the bunglaw, here’s what we found.

Stray dog in Ajijic, Mexico

The pup had obviously been on her own for weeks. Her matted hair clumped together in big dreadlocks, and her face was encased by hard shell of hair and burrs. She was missing a leg. Her eyes were covered in film.

A gentle thing, she seemed to recognize she’d found safe harbour. She gobbled down two bowls of the kibble we offered her, and guzzled a bowl and a half of water.

Afterward she stood patiently as we cut the hair clumps from her back. It was no use though. After 45 minutes, Scout and I gave up. the dirty hair was too dense and matted to cut. We’d need to have a vet shave her.

We held the poor baby for a while, and then tucked her into a pile of blankets on the screened porch. Exhausted, she collapsed and passed out.

The next morning when the sun came out, I came out for a better look. Here’s what I found.

Stray dog in Ajijic, Mexico

Stray dog in Ajijic, Mexico


Stray dog in Ajijic, Mexico

The dog stank horribly. Her skin was an ocean of worms and bugs.  Gagging, I made a half-hearted attempt to cut away more of the fur, but I couldn’t get in there with scissors. Her eyes were so filmy, I wondered if she was blind.

She needed help urgently, but it was a Sunday. No vets are open on Sunday here. Honestly, as much empathy and compassion I had for this lost soul, I wondered how I could bear to look at her all day.

But then, a minor miracle! Another Google search revealed that a new vet office was opening up and their grand opening was….TODAY. On a SUNDAY. And all grooming and de-worming treatments were half off. Oh my.

We borrowed Tom’s beater truck to take the pup to the vet (five minutes down the road). We didn’t wants all her worms and bugs getting into our car. I wasn’t expecting the vet to even be there…it sounded too good to be true. But it was there, it was open, no other patients were there, and the sweet veterinarian could focus our pathetic little patient.

Vet office, ajijic, Mexico

Vet office, ajijic, Mexico

We filled out some forms and left. On the line for the patient’s name, we wrote “Sophie.”

Two hours later, the vet called. We could pick up the dog. She was fine, though she had “issues.” I wondered if she would need to be put to sleep. We jumped in the car and headed to the vet’s. Here’s what we found.



Sophie, it turns out, isn’t missing a leg. But her leg was injured so she’d been holding it up, and then the fur had grown around it. Her body was covered with sores and lesions. The vet had had to make several incisions to clean out infected parts. She had mange on her skin and in her eyes. She’d lost so much weight, her skin sagged. Her issues, it tuned out, were all treatable.

The vet estimated that poor little Sophie had been stray for EIGHT MONTHS.

So, armed with a bag of de-worming pills, we took her home. After a rousing family discussion, we decided to foster Sophie. Scout & I voted YES; Mark & Archie voted NO. Mark relented, but Archie’s still being kind of a dick about it. We’ll fatten her up, get her healthy, train her, and then see what’s what.

Sophie is Scout’s project, and the kid’s doing great job, taking her on hourly potty training walks and spending her meagre savings on dog dresses. Archie’s not thrilled with another dog sharing his space, but I’m working on him. He’s still my baby. 🙂


Stray dog, Ajijic, Mexico


Merry Christmas, everyone. We wish you a happy holiday season and adventure-filled 2014.

Renee, Mark, Scout, Archie, and Sophie!


To those who’ve offered to contribute to Sophie’s expenses, thank you so much! I’ve added  PayPal donation button on the top right of this page. Together we’ll get this little girl ship shape.  🙂

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clélie December 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm

You guys are my heroes! And I’m sure Archie will come around.


2 Renee December 24, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Thanks, Clelie! I appreciate your confidence. We just had an interesting Xmas Eve dinner. Both dogs went mental at the scent of roast pork and barked all through the meal. Cheeky monkeys. Normally Archie doesn’t do that but with a new dog in the house, all bets are off. And Little Miss Sophie needs basic training, quick!


3 Wendy December 25, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Sophie hit the lottery – just in time for Christmas. And your daughter looks like she’s met her new best friend. Archie will come around. What a cute little dog. Poor thing had been so suffering.


4 Renee December 26, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Thanks, Wendy. I can’t imagine what Sophie has been though, but right now she’s got a full tummy and is snuggling with her girl in a warm room on a red, velvety blanket. THe lottery indeed! 🙂


5 Cathryn Haynes December 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm

This is one great story for Christmas! I adore your family–feel like I know you as I am sure a lot of your followers do! My mom had a Jack Russell so I understand how Archie feels! They are about as “territorial” as you can get!! Hope all works out with Sophie–she’s precious!!


6 Renee December 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Thank you, Catherine! Your comment means so much to me. The dogs are definitely making headway, so I think everything might work out. Happy holidays to you. 🙂


7 travelwithkevinandruth.com December 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Great story. Not sure that we could have turned down Sophie either!

In our experience, Mexican veterinarians are in the business because they love animals. Not the #1 reason for vets in the U.S. and Canada.
travelwithkevinandruth.com recently posted..Well that was a different Christmas.My Profile


8 Renee December 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Agreed! So far we have been thrilled with the Mexican vets. They aren’t as money-grubbing as NOB vets and have the best interests of their patients at heart more often than not. For example, when I tell them Archie is afraid of vets, they treat him in a low-key way, while I’m holding him in the lobby. They don’t make him do the (terrifying) $200 exam on a steel table just to get started.


9 Cliff December 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

“Archie’s still being kind of a dick about it.” I love it, too funny. Any chance you can get a photo of the two dogs together, maybe wearing fugly Christmas sweaters? Hmmm, didn’t think so. 🙂


10 Renee December 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Hehe, we’re not quite there yet, but Archie is adjusting. Earlier today they both sat on the same piece of cardboard and he didn’t try to kill her when she ate from his bowl. Baby steps…


11 Tricia December 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It’s official. I love you guys.
Tricia recently posted..Santa’s Twilight 5k – Florida – 5kin50statesMy Profile


12 Renee December 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Thanks, Tricia! xoxox Hope you all are having a lovely holiday. 🙂


13 Syd December 26, 2013 at 7:32 pm

You made my holiday! I know we can’t save them all, but this little sweetie got her second chance. Thanks so much!


14 Renee December 26, 2013 at 7:34 pm

THanks, Syd. Hope you guys are having a lovely holiday! 🙂


15 kate December 26, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Wow, what a lovely story, how lucky that she found you when she did! Merry Christmas : )


16 Renee December 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Thanks, Kate!


17 Carol Wilson December 26, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Blessings on you all. And big thanks for the minor miracle of the new Vet office opening on that Sunday.
My granddaughter ended up adopting a little Mexican dog a few months ago who’s story read like a miracle for her to have survived, and ended up in a wonderful home in Utah.
I love this kind of story.


18 Renee December 26, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Thank you so much, Carol. I’m so glad to hear of another dog finding a home. How wonderful of your granddaughter to open her home. These little pups need all the love they can get. 🙂


19 Patti December 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm

What a Christmas story and I’m awfully glad Sophie found Scout, what a lovely gift you gave Sophie – you saved her life. And what a difference in the before and after pictures!
Patti recently posted..The Best of The Season ~My Profile


20 Kerri December 27, 2013 at 11:10 am

Awww..Go Renee and Scout! What a good deed you all are doing for Sophie! It saddens me to see all the stray dogs on our travels and so many times I have wanted to take one home with me, but have not.
Kerri recently posted..Pamukkale and the Ruins of HierapolisMy Profile


21 Dimini Hedderman December 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing it. Good for you guys doing such a great thing.


22 Donna December 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Tried to reach you via your contact page but it is blank – my family of three is very interested in doing the exact thing your family has/is doing, and I (we) have important (to me) questions I’m hoping you’ll be able to help us with… 🙂
Will you email me to talk further, please?
Thank you so much!


23 Renee December 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Wow, thanks for mentioning this. Our contact form plug-in got deactivated. cheers! Emailing you now…


24 Kim December 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm

You guys are awesome!!!!!


25 Molly December 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm

At first this made me cry, so many awful memories of animal abuse in Mexico (you seriously do not want to hear them!) – but many wonderful stories of folks like you who step up and try to help. And when I saw that sheared face and TWO eyes when yipppeeeeee, she is going to be ok 🙂

Love this story, one of the best xmas tales I’ve read. Big hugs 🙂
Molly recently posted..Introducing “Road Trip USA” Travel SeriesMy Profile


26 Renee December 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Molly, I don’t get it. I never will. The total lack of empathy and cruelty here is beyond me. People tossing hot grease or water on dogs, boys kicking them, etc. On a brighter note, little Sophie is doing great! She’s a real doll and we all love her already. Except for Archie. He’s still pretty pissed about this development.


27 Molly December 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I know, you can’t even think about it much, is too painful to process.
Honestly it was a Canadian gal who pointed out the ‘Catholic’ history of Mexico and the programming that man is superior to animals. I grew-up Catholic, went even to private Jesuit universities (dumb, dumb, dumb but that was my programming) and what she says is very true – that is the top down thinking… the penis is so special and superior, and man is so special and superior to every other species – sickening and pathetically short-sighted.

Thank G. for people like you on the planet 🙂

I have to add – in support of rescue workers in the U.S. and the vets who support them – there is amazing work being done in the states and it should be recognized and honored. You will NOT find anything similar or to a similar extent in Latin America – I can promise you that i.e. laws prosecuting animal abusers, new research with animal DNA to help solve crimes.

Amazing work by amazing people – in the USA.
Molly recently posted..Introducing “Road Trip USA” Travel SeriesMy Profile


28 Sheila December 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

You are awesome, Renee. Archie will come around. xo


29 Renee December 28, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Oh thank you, Sheila. He’s already making progress. Now we need a base though…can’t be backpacking through India or whatever with two pups!


30 Laurel- Capturing la Vita December 28, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Oh my goodness, what a lovely story! I can’t believe that her leg was hiding in all that mess, poor thing. I just love that photo of her with those bright eyes and that tongue hanging out. Bravi to you all for making sure Sophie was so well cared for 🙂
Laurel- Capturing la Vita recently posted..Our Favorite Family Spots in Tuscany for 2013My Profile


31 Amy December 30, 2013 at 7:02 am

This is the nicest Christmas story I’ve read this year! What an incredible transformation once she’d been to the vets – she looks so much happier too. This has really warmed my heart; please keep us updated on Sophie’s progress (and how Archie copes with her!).
Amy recently posted..Our First Christmas on the RoadMy Profile


32 Renee December 30, 2013 at 11:57 am

Cheers, Amy. In one week Sophie is transformed. She’s the most loving little girl imaginable and has been voted into the family. Even Archie said yes.


33 Heidi @WagonersAbroad December 30, 2013 at 10:40 am

Oh you guys are just incredible! I love this story. From my gasp at the initial photo to near tears at the end. How wonderful. I vote with the girls.
Heidi @WagonersAbroad recently posted..Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…And A Little Creativity!My Profile


34 Renee December 30, 2013 at 11:56 am

Thank you, Heidi. Little Sophie has charmed her way into our family and will be staying permanently. Even Archie has relented. 🙂


35 Beverly December 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I DO have tears in my eyes! my daughter, heidi, share this on her website…..what a lovely story and such a happy ending! You are a terrific family and thank you for sharing!


36 Renee December 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Beverly, thank you so much! 🙂


37 Emiel January 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Great story! What a wonderful way of helping little Sophie. You can be so proud! Happy New Year and here’s to a healthy new life for Sophie.
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38 Nancy Grieves (Arthur's Mom) January 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Hi D’Antoni family,
What an absolute heartwarming story! You did something kind and wonderful and the result appears to be a real keeper of a dog. Love the name…Sophie.
I think of you guys all the time. I keep painting Scout from the photos I took.
I will show them to you soon. Scout, I love your face and your personality.
Luv, Nancy
P.S. Scout, Sofia sent me a message telling me she’s crazy about you, but, she feels a little ridiculous wearing a dress. “I am not a human being,” she barked.


39 Renee January 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Nancy! So glad you stopped by. We can’t wait to see any portraits you do. You’ll pleased to know that Sophia no longer fits in her dress. 🙂
Renee recently posted..Mexican Tilapia CevicheMy Profile


40 Patty January 9, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Oh my goodness. Thank you for taking care of these guys. Very nice story!


41 Renee January 11, 2014 at 10:51 am

Thanks Patty. Archie is my baby who’s been with us since he was 8 weeks old. But yes, Sophie needed safe harbor, and she’s found it. 🙂


42 Judy McFerran February 13, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Love to you for being a hero for this adorable furry four-legged sweetheart!


43 Renee February 14, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Thanks, Judy. There are so many dogs here and around the world in need. If everyone could help one or two, we’d be in business!


44 Chris February 19, 2014 at 5:07 pm

That first picture of the “new” Sophie is amazing! She looks absolutely thrilled as she smiles for the camera! I hope Archie adjusted and you decided to keep her (I’m a little afraid to read more). We are visiting the area now and considering moving here; if we do I plan to regularly buy caged birds at the market and set them free, poor things.


45 Renee July 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

Hi, Chris. Sophie needed a non-traveling home, so after careful searching, we found her a great home in Texas where she is loved and spoiled. I miss her, but it’s what was best for her…and Archie.


46 Teresa Jasper May 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Thank you. Thank you, thank you for not turning away from Sophie when you found her in such a mess. Dogs that have been pets do not know how to deal with being suddenly out on their own in the kind of terrain and environment we have around here. So horrible. But you did such a humane, wonderful thing. I admire you and Scout immensely. The “after” pictures of Sophie are so heartwarming. I hope all continues to be well, and that Sophie continues to have a home with such a wonderful family. Thank you. – Teresa


47 Renee July 29, 2014 at 9:01 am

Thank you, Teresa. Sophie is doing well. She is living with a lovely family in Texas now. But I miss her and think of her often. A real bond formed between us the night I found her, and I wish she could have stayed with us. The travel lifestyle wasn’t great for her though, and my dog Archie, who was diagnosed with cancer, never did adjust. Saying goodbye was so hard, but I try to remind myself that we did a good thing and helped her on her journey. Still, I miss her.


48 billie bybee July 29, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Renee, I am so thankful for people like you. I am a lover of animals, especially those who are neglected. I have a little Shi Tzu who is now suffering from a kidney disease she was born with. She is 5 years old now and hanging in there. We give her IV ‘s several times a week to keep her going. I have had many dogs in the past and have loved them all. Please keep up your good work!


49 Renee July 29, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Thanks, Billie. You too! Love & belly scratches to your Shi Tzu. 🙂


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