Metro Mensch in Mexico
Stories by Adriana Maciel and Agaton Navarro

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Maria and her Animals
By Adriana Maciel
There lives in my city an 82-year-old lady who loves animals. Her name is Maria. She has two canaries, about 10 cats and a dog.  As a girl, she recalls, she would make plastic shoes for the cats, enjoying herself as she watched them walking around and shaking their paws.

First thing in the morning she cleans the birdcage while singing to them. Then she replenishes their food containers. All the while she praises them for their beauty, and in return they answer by singing for her as well. She chose those two birds because they have a funny ruffled crest.

Only three of her cats live inside the house. There is a small black one called Chilindrina who  always has the tip of her tongue out because she has no front teeth.  There is also this big long-haired bright grey one called Violeta who would not stop having babies until Maria had her sterilised. “She is a common prostitute,” Maria used to say. But she has a special love for her because every time Maria has a rest on her sofa, Violeta leaps up and rubs Maria’s head until she falls asleep. And when Maria goes out Violeta jumps up on to the roof of the house and follows her, bounding from roof to roof until Maria gets to the corner and takes the bus. Amazingly, when Maria returns Violeta is still there waiting for her. 

Maria recalls that when Chilindrina and Violeta had kittens at the same time, whenever one of them was out, the other one fed the babies of both of them!  The third one, La Flaca, is  striped like a tiger and is Chilindrina’s daughter. La Flaca loves Adolfo, Maria’s grandson, who is her only human companion. When Adolfo arrives home she climbs all over his body until she reaches his shoulder and perches there for a while, just like a parrot.

Maria also has a white female dog called La Güera. She first came to Maria’s notice when she was a very young and ugly street dog. But Maria rescued the hungry, sick and badly injured animal from the streets. Now she is as big and strong as any pedigree. Maria tells her every day how beautiful she is.  La Güera has always wanted to be a mother, Maria says, and when La Güera feels the need for a child, Maria gives her a furry toy that she keeps for her for those special moments. La Güera treats the toy as if it were her puppy, feeding and washing it, and so on.

Maria is old now and suffers from her spine. She can hardly walk because her legs and hip cause too much pain. Yet she does not want to sell her house and live with any of her children because that would mean abandoning her beloved companions, and that would hasten her death.  Throughout her life Maria has rescued abandoned cats and dogs from the streets, but her age and lack of money and room prevents her from taking in animals as often as she would like. She suffers inwardly whenever she comes across an abandoned cat or dog in the street; knowing she cannot take them home with her. Nevertheless, she carries food with her every day to feed them in the street on her way to the home of her widowed son. There, she has another collection of rescued dogs! Her son cannot prevent her  - “It’s just impossible,” he says.

Maria never wanted to get married and have children. But when she was young a man in her home town threatened her with a gun, telling her that if she did not accept him, he would kill her or her family. So she married him, and had four children. 

Maria has never actually said that she loves her animals more than her own children, but whenever you see her talking to her pets, you realise the deep bond that exists between them.  She is indeed a great lady - she is my mother and I love her dearly.


The Life of a Dog
By Agaton Navarro
His name was Toiffel. He was a German shepherd dog that my father brought home one winter’s day around 40 years ago. He knew I was eager to have a pet dog, so when Mrs Henkel telephoned, asking if he wanted to have Toiffel, my father's immediate answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Toiffel was 30 months old when we first had him. He was a tall magnificent specimen of his breed. He was 29 inches at the shoulder with a long body that had a smooth, grey washed out colour and a living serious look in his brown eyes. But (there is always a but) it was an extremely fierce dog that could only be controlled by his master. This was the main reason why Mrs. Henkel had decided to let him go.

Toiffel arrived at the Henkels' when he was a two-month-old puppy. He was bought by Dr Henkel, a family physician in his late thirties with a passion for big dogs and fast sports cars. Toiffel showed his fierce temperament from the very beginning, and the only one allowed to establish close contact with him was his master. He was the only one who could feed him, clean him and hold him for things such as immunisation. As he grew, it became evident that he needed to be kept in the backyard where only Dr Henkel could play with him at the end of the day and at weekends. Understandably, no one else in the little family wanted anything to do with Toiffel, who was not only very fierce but untrained. Mrs Henkel was pregnant and she, as well as their daughter, Adriana, three, and their maid, Ignacia (called Nacha), were all afraid of the big dog.

There was a strong link between Dr Henkel and Toiffel; you could properly say they loved each other - the type of link that could only be established between a dog and his master.
Enrique and Adriana Henkel were my parents’ friends. I remember one December Sunday morning, Enrique came to our house to show my father his brand new car. It was a splendid Plymouth Barracuda with magnesium alloy rims, race class wheels and a brilliant green pale colour. He had just bought it with his "aguinaldo", a kind of December bonus. I remember him being excited about his new acquisition, showing us the V-8, 235 horse power engine, with her four throat carburettor, that could do 0 to 60 miles per hour in the "blink of an eye".

The following weekend the Henkels left Tampico for Mexico City to spend the December holidays with relatives. They did not get far. The Barracuda crashed on a curve in the road, partly because of excessive speed and partly because some irresponsible people had spilt diesel over the road. The car ended upside down in a deep ditch by the road. Enrique was killed instantly, but his wife and daughter miraculously survived, almost unharmed.

I could not be happier when my father brought Toiffel home, but this happiness lasted only a few days because I soon realised that the dog would never be my friend, never be my pet. As a matter of fact Toiffel was not welcomed by my mother who could not allow the dog to go freely in our patio, having a family of a ten-year-old boy and three girls aged nine, seven, and three. She saw the dog more as a menace to our security and safety than as a pet and a guardian, so after two weeks she asked my father to get rid of him.

My father then asked Chuy, his compadre, who owned a butcher’s shop, if he wanted to take Toiffel. One day Chuy came home to see the dog and almost immediately they became acquainted. Chuy said this was because of the smell of meat coming from his clothes. So he took Toiffel with him, saying he needed a guardian. Chuy attached the dog to a pole with a two metre long chrome plated steel chain and put it in the backyard of his shop. This was a 10 metre-square foul-smelling space. Once there, he never went to see the dog again.

Toiffel died of sadness three months later. He’d had plenty of meat for food. Every morning one of Chuy's workers came to feed him with a bowl full of pieces of calf's lung and the remainders of meat from the butchery, and to change the water. That was the only moment someone stayed with him. He spent the rest of the day alone, lying down in a corner and sleeping most of the time. Soon he started to refuse to eat. He began to lose weight until he was just skin and bones, even though there was plenty of food. Toiffel was found dead one morning and his remains were thrown on the city dump.

To me, the teaching behind Toiffel's story is that, as it is often said, the most important things in life are those things that money cannot buy and among them are love and freedom. The other is that you cannot take life for granted, for destiny can change one's expectations in the blink of an eye. So live the moment with fierce passion. Past time no longer exists, and the future somehow never quite arrives.