Picking Up Strays in the Tropics

Mrs. ItchyFeet and Mojita

Well, ya’ll remember that doggo that I told you about who followed me home from Playa Escondida several weeks ago? Yeah, well, she is still following me around! My aunt named her Mojito, but she’s a lady, so I changed it to Mojita (or Hita for short). She sleeps on my deck and wanders down to the beach restaurants (or my neighbors!) for meals. She looks happy and healthy so I’m hoping this arrangement works for her because she can’t sleep on my couch per house rules. I have some adorable stories to tell you!

What languages does she know?

I am hoping Mojita has been trained in a language I know, like English or Spanish. I tried asking her to ‘sit’. Nope. ‘Siéntate?’ Nope. French maybe? ‘Assis?’ Nope. How about Italian? Lots of Italians around here. ‘Seduto?’ Nope. Maybe she wasn’t taught to sit (she will sit for treats, so maybe she isn’t motivated), or maybe my French really is that bad? I figure she probably knows a bit of everything and here’s why.

Mojita at the Dominican Stew restaurant
This was taken at the Dominican Stew restaurant. She just slept the whole time.

While walking to dinner on the beach with my aunt and uncle, I mentioned to them we were going for empanadas. During this trek, the street doggo disappeared to get some food from somewhere. She was with me when I talked about the destination, but nowhere to be found when we turned up the side-street toward the restaurant. There’s only one place that sells empanadas near me, but I was still really surprised when we got there and Mojita was on their patio, drinking from a water dish!

She was pretty excited to see us. Unfortunately, the empanada place was by reservation only, so we continued down the street to the Dominican Stew place. Noms! Mojita followed and fell right asleep beside the table. No begging for food. No puppy-dog-eyes for handouts. She just slept peacefully until we were done eating and followed us back to the beach. She ditched us after that, but I hoped to see her again.

Feeding strays

While I would love to give all the stray dogs around here all kinds of treats, I realize I shouldn’t do it at my apartment. What would happen when I leave? If the pup has to make the trip down to the beach to get food, she has more of a chance of getting permanently adopted. However, my neighbors leave out dog food for the stray cats (it’s cheaper than cat food). Mojita took full advantage of the delicious food. Sorry, neighbors! She also took full advantage of their doormat, which they gave to me when they moved “because they couldn’t get the hair out”.

Neighbors' cat checking out the new creature on her deck
The neighbors’ cat was very curious about this new addition to her deck. She quickly got used to her.

At the same time that the neighbors realized the dog was eating the food left out for their two cats (mom and kitty), a bunch of other cats were coming up the extensive staircase to partake as well. Word had gotten out! We started having cat fights in the middle of the night. Their cats didn’t mind the dog, but they really minded cat competition. The neighbors decided it was time to feed the cats (just the two original cats) inside.

With no more food outside and a dog now on the deck, all the other cats determined it wasn’t worth the effort to investigate anymore. I think the neighbors’ cats were so grateful that they showed Mojita how to sleep in their planter box. It does not get cuter than a small dog curled up in a planter box! She had a hurt hip when I first spotted her and I figured she would only stay long enough to heal, especially with no food up here. Those stairs to my apartment are no joke.


I was very nervous about walking into the center of town with Mojita. She’s not the best when it comes to staying out of the street. That might be how she hurt her hip. Plus, she came with me from Playa Escondida, so I didn’t know how the other street dogs would react to her. But she’s not my dog. She can do whatever she wants. I hoped she would ditch me for breakfast along the beach on the way to town, but no such luck.

You would not believe that this dog was a street dog if you saw her in town. The second we made it to the sidewalk that turns from the beach up into the hustle and bustle of the city, she heeled like nobody’s business. Right by my side with her little breath just on the back of my leg. No collar and no leash, and I’m not telling her to do anything. I’m impressed. I’ve never been able to teach a dog to do that!

Mrs. ItchyFeet walking through town with some street-dogs
I picked up another stray as I was walking through town for grocieries! He walked with me for a while, then bailed as I neared the water.

We get to an intersection and she just waits with me. She crosses right when I cross (smart!). She also keeps herself on the opposite side of me as we approach any other dogs. I shoo them off if they get too aggressive. I feel a bit used, but I have little choice in the matter. Not my dog. She can do what she wants. And I would try to diffuse any situation where two dogs were fighting, even two dogs that I’ve never met before. It’s just who I am.

Grocery shopping!

They do not allow dogs in the grocery store. Was she going to follow me in? Nope! She knows she can’t go in. She just waits, all patient-like, right outside the sliding glass doors. There was one time she tried to sneak in, but security gave a ‘tsk’ and she stepped back out. I do my shopping and head to the checkout line. That’s the fun part. The out-doors are different doors (and in a different location) than the in-doors.

She must have heard me chatting in the checkout line, because she switched from waiting patiently at the in-doors to waiting all excited-like at the out-doors. Random people will stop and give her some skritches, but really she mostly focused on the sliding glass doors. She is so excited when I finally make it back to her, jumping around and smiling.

Mojita under my table at a beach restaurant
She doesn’t beg. She just likes sleeping under the table.

There I am, loading up my backpack with groceries from the shopping cart, when I see this little girl come running up to Mojita with some bread. She had convinced her mom to let her give the heel of a baguette they were buying (Mojita is real-real good at making people like her). She tore off the piece and handed it to the street dog. Mojita took it very gingerly and put it on the sidewalk. She watched me to see if I was going to ditch her while she was eating and I let her know I would wait. So cute!

Should I feed her?

After eating some bread at the grocery store, she followed me to the liquor store (got to pick up some of the best local rum you have ever tasted!). Again, she waited outside while I went in, shopped, and came back out. So weird. Then we walked back home. I’ve got a lot of weight in my backpack and I’m wearing tennis shoes for the eight kilometer trek, so I kept to the road.

However, once we got out of town and the sidewalks disappeared, Mojita lost all sense of fear of cars and motorbikes. I’m getting more and more convinced that’s how she hurt her hip. Silly doggo. It stressed me out so much that I changed shoes and started walking on the beach instead. It’s a much nicer walk, but slower with all the sand. She loves it. She wanders up to people wagging her tail and smiling, and gets all the skritches.

I saw a kid run at her with bacon to give her. She didn’t like that. A running child must be more dangerous than starving to death. Danger! I decided that if that street dog was going to follow me all the way into town and back (8k!), I should give her a bit of kibble. But not at the apartment! Only in town. I want her to find a pleasant, hopefully forever, home that will take care of her, and she won’t do that if she stays on my apartment deck.

Fishing street dogs in the ocean
These street-dogs are actively fishing! No humans required.

Let’s go swimming!

The ocean here is absolutely gorgeous! Crystal-clear blue Caribbean water. Perfect temperature. Playa Ballenas surrounds this really calm bay. The sand is like sugar, all soft and lovely. I’m going swimming! Mojita followed me down from my deck to the beach and then got real-real nervous when I went into the water. She came in a bit to try to save my life. When she determined I wasn’t listening to her sage advice on drowning, she just sat in the shade of a nearby palm tree and waited for me to come back out.

I think maybe her eyesight isn’t the greatest because she lost track of me as I swam from one end of the bay to the other. She finally gave up and headed to a beach restaurant around the corner to hopefully get some breakfast. I got out further down the beach and headed back to my apartment for a shower. She eventually found her way back up all those stairs, with a noticeably full belly, to sleep on my deck. Silly doggo.

The next few times I went, she did the same thing. Once she tried swimming all the way out to get me. She doesn’t even like getting her feet wet, so she must have been really worried. She kept waiting in the same area I went into the water. I felt bad ditching her, but, again, not my dog. She’s smart though. It didn’t take her too long to figure out where to meet up with me as I extract myself from the gorgeous water.

She’s very picky

Mojita may be a street-dog but she’s not that interested in bread products. I’ve seen her sniff and then walk past part of a hotdog bun. I think she was looking for the meat part but was not willing to eat the bun. Another time, this compassionate lady offered her the last of her buttered-toast. She politely turned her down. Must not be that hungry!

Mojita asleep on the deck
Mojita mostly sleeps… like all the time!

However, I saw her ditch me for an onion-ring by the side of the road. Yes, I know well that onions are dangerous for dogs. They can cause the dog’s red blood cells to lyse, therefore, causing anemia and potential death. But she is a street dog. She eats what she can get and let’s be honest: onion rings are delicious.

She’s also came by in the morning one time with what I thought was blood on her forehead. Upon further inspection, I realized it was red wine. I think she got into someone’s red-cup on the beach! She was acting really hungover. She barely made it to town and back with me that day, but she wasn’t willing to let me go by myself, and grumbled the entire time.

Eat this, not that!

My neighbors let me know that sometimes people poison the street dogs. I doubt it, though. More likely, someone poisons the rat population and a dog gets sick from the carcass. That would be a sucky way to go. I was really worried about this one morning when Mojita came back from the beach and got sick on the deck (is that blood…?). I cleaned it up and gave her loads of water and again reminded myself that she is, in fact, not my dog. Sigh. She got better over the next few days.

I had a fun interaction with some French peeps on the beach. They spotted Mojita and were talking excitedly. I called Mojita back to say hi and get some love. The lady pulls out a bag of dog-kibble. Yes, please feed the street dog! Take her home and let her sleep on your couch! The friendly lady puts the kibble on top of the bag for Mojita to eat. She sniffs at it, then dramatically shuns it.

Mojita on the beach with cows in the background
I’ve never seen cows being herded with motercycles before! Mojita did not approve but did not interfere.

WTF! I tried explaining in English and Spanish that maybe she wasn’t that hungry? But they only spoke French. The woman tried hand feeding Mojita when she showed interest as the lady was picking it back up, but the food ended up in the sand. It took some real convincing to get Mojita to eat it. Maybe it was too hard on her teeth? Picky dog.

Mojita knows everyone

As far as street-dogs go, Mojita is very popular. Security lets her into the complex. All the other street-doggos clearly know her (she’s friends with some and others she ignores). The neighbors all love her. Plus, occasionally, I’ll be walking with her from town or just on the beach and people will stop and tell me stories about how she had dinner with them at some local restaurant. She just slept under their table. Didn’t beg. Just enjoyed their company.

Originally, she followed me from Playa Escondida, so I thought it would be a good idea to trek back there to see if she would stay over there. Maybe she has a home and just doesn’t want to make the trip alone. She followed me the entire day, and we hiked for miles. Never leaving my side. Which is weird because usually she goes and checks out the restaurants along the walk. She slept like the dead under my table when I finally stopped for lunch/cocktails. So much for that idea.

Mojita at Playa Bonita
I tried taking Mojita back to Playa Bonita, but she didn’t want to stay. She’s really hard to see in this photo. We had a good time though!

I have so many stories of that little perra callejera (street dog). One of my favorites is when she wandered over to a voluptuous woman on the beach, sunning herself face-down on a towel. Mojita gave the lady the best smile and wag and got right up in her face. This woman was clearly a dog person because she started petting the little dog. Mojita was all in! She closed her eyes in bliss and stuck her head right in the woman’s cleavage to take full advantage of all the skritches. Then she rolled over for belly rubs. So cute!

Three-day vacation

It’s whale watching season here in The Dominican Republic and I’m a huge fan of ecotourism. The best place to get on a tour is in Samaná and the best tour company is with Kim Beddall. She’s famous around here. After packing up for a three-day vacation, I headed out to the bus stop with Mojita. I tried to convince her to stay on my deck, but she was having none of it. I tried again on the beach on the way there, and again before the walking bridge into town.

I headed toward the stop where the guaguas arrive, which is a public van or small bus very similar to the colectivos in México, and she started getting visibly nervous. She waited under the bench, but you could tell she thought we should leave this terrible place. Once the guagua arrived, she was prancing all about while the humans exited the van. She snuck around me and jumped right in, wedging herself between the seats. I had to grab her and pull her out of the van. Talk about pulling your heart strings! Poor pup!

I got in and we all took off, leaving Mojita by the side of the road. Again. Not my dog. She lives here… on the beach. I worried she would get hit by a car, but also knew she would be just fine. I really really hoped that she would find some lovely home on the beach with a couch to sleep on. People take care of the dogs around here, especially when they are as nice as Mojita.

Double rainbow as seen from my deck
Double rainbow as seen from my deck! It’s all going to be okay.

Back to reality

Once I got dropped off in town from the three-day trip (I will so blog about it later! Such a great trip!), I immediately started looking for Mojita. It would be better not to find her, but I still wanted to know if she was okay. I started my long walk to my apartment, sticking with the shaded street instead of the sandy beach. If she was sleeping on the beach, I wouldn’t be able to see her.

So I’m walking along and I hear this excited tic-tic-tic behind me (someone needs her nails clipped). I turn around and she is running toward me all smiles, squeeing with delight! After giving her tons of skritches and belly-rubs, we both continued on to my apartment. Back to our daily routines. She still has to go down to the beach for food, so I’m still hoping someone adopts her. She seems happy enough, which is all you can ask for in life.

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1 Comment

  1. What a great story about Mojita. She really does have a good life on the beach. It may not be prefect, but it’s pretty nice.

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