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Coraje: perra heroe de la frontera
By Webb Sprague, Francisca Sprague
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Webb & Francisca Sprague
All rights reserved.
Foolishly – very foolishly I might add – Mom and Dad left for vacation without me. I tried everything to keep them from going – but they felt they had to go and the best I could hope for was that they would miss me. That was until I learned that they had been kidnapped.
With news of the kidnapping I began my journey to save my humans from some horrible narco traficantes. I sprang into action and began the dangerous journey south through the perils of the Coachella Valley Desert, Mexicali and onto Sinaloa. A lonely trip and very dangerous – you had better believe it. Tired, sick and frightened, I woke from a fitful night's sleep by the Salton Sea to find a giant coyote less than 10 feet away -150 pounds of red eyed ferocity –with me on his mind. I would fight to the death...my inner wolf would not go easy.
For some reason, Dad loves to quote Shakespeare. And his favorite quote is from The Tempest and it goes something like this, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is surrounded by a sleep." Maybe he thinks he's Prospero. Maybe he is; maybe he's not, but he doesn't understand when dreams become visions and visions become adventures and adventures become quests.
Now, listen to my story, and you'll agree that, while beautiful, I'm much more than just Leash Candy.
* * *
Indio, CA., Monday, March 1, 2010
My humans are going to leave me, I realized most unhappily. How could they leave their Beautiful Dog – everybody calls me that. For good reason – I am Perra Bonita. But they are still going to leave me.
I've tried everything: I rolled on my back, very modestly I might add with my tail between my legs- Dad never resist that move and always gives me a tummy rub – yes, he gave me a tummy rub all right, but he's still going to leave me. I even employed the nuclear option –the Hang Dog Look –gets them every time. I almost made Dad cry, but still no luck.
OK, I know I can be bossy – I prefer alpha: Yes, I always demand the front seat in the car when we go driving, and I know that my leash has two ends. But I also feel responsibility for the well being of my humans. Now, who's going to look after them when I'm not there; they're getting old and Goodness only knows what kind of trouble they could get into.
"Corazon, Sweetheart," I heard Mom say to Dad, "you know we can't take Courage with us. Mazatlan and Sinaloa are too far away to drive and besides that with all the gangas – not very safe. You yourself have said we can't take her on the plane. If we even got her on the plane we'd have to put her in a cage in the baggage compartment and risk her life with extremes of heat and cold. Imagine her in Sinaloa – chasing and probably catching everybody's chickens and fighting with the other dogs –remember how she gets them all riled up when you take her for a walk in Mexicali? And our darling pooch would most assuredly catch fleas – can you imagine how indignant her majesty would be with pulgas? No, darling, you know we have to leave her. We'll be back."
"Mexico ... Shmexico ... Sinaloa.... Shminiloa ... Mom can be so hard; I almost got Dad – at least I made him tear up," I thought as I resigned myself to human betrayal. "Now Abuelita, my Grandma, is supposed to babysit for me while they're gone. She calls me Burra – Stupid? – I think not. She's even older than Dad –as hard to believe as that may be. Perhaps I'm supposed to babysit her."
What about the rest of La Familia? There are so many of them that Dad calls them Los Conejos –the rabbits- and hides from them in his office: Mom's daughter Leticia calls me Burra like Abuelita and tries to make me like her –but I don't- just on basic principals; Damaris – ok we were puppies together but Julia, the Drama Queen, I bit her so the relationship there is somewhat strained; Indian Wells doesn't like the fact that upon occasion I use my teeth to make a point; and Sheradino calls me Perra Mala Mala because of the biting thing. On the other hand, I'm crazy about Pedro – maybe he can come over and play with me, snuggle and take me for long walks.
This whole leaving thing ... human betrayal is nothing new – history is full of it- so I just better get used to it, I thought as I made my way through the wac wac wac of my doggy door and remembered how Damaris and I had pioneered the doggy door together. Damaris is grown now – too big for the doggy door... kind of sad," I thought as I made my way to the fence – the fence that Dad made after reading Siberian Huskies for Dummies. This fence is designed to keep me in the yard, when I didn't want to leave and has just made the place look like a jail. Oh well, when under stress the best thing to do is to take a nap so I laid my head on the bottom rung of the fence and took a nap in the afternoon sun.
* * *
Indio, Saturday, March 6, 2010.
Oh, that was a great nap. Could have slept for a week. Maybe I did. Stretch ... oh stretch ... all the way from my nose to the tip of my tail. Arch my back. Kick out my two back legs and shake all over. Feels great. Humans should try it; maybe they'd have fewer back issues. Now, I'll casually walk wac wac wac through the doggie door and back to the house to see if there's any food. I'm hungry. It was a long nap.
It looked that while I was sleeping the whole familia has shown up. Something is wrong. My Spanish has gotten pretty rusty since Dad and Mom have been talking in English almost exclusively but I recognize perder ... that's lost no big deal Dad is always lost when we're driving; Mom isn't much better, but secuestrar that means...Oh my Goodness ... that means kidnapped. I better check this out. I hope my Spanish is bad and not the news.
I overheard the following conversation:
"Stop crying Julia," Sheradino cautioned his four year old even though he was pretty close to it himself. No time for drama. We need to find them. Be strong. But Julia kept on crying and even her sister eight-year old Damaris' resolve was beginning to shake. Nobody was in very good shape.
"I was beginning to get worried when they didn't return as planned," Sheradino continued. "I waited almost a week, and then I called the airline – they hadn't shown up for their flight. With no news from the airline, I called the hotel where they were staying and the staff confirmed that they had left on schedule. No word from Sinaloa. I haven't been able to reach anybody down there. And their rental car has not been returned.
"Then I got this note," Sheradino continued to read: "We have your parents held captive. If you want to see them alive again send 1$ million dollars in small bills. No Benjamins. Instructions to follow: Los Zetas."
"That's crazy," his half sister Leticia interrupted. Where on earth are they going to find a million dollars? He's a retired schoolteacher and she's a part timer at Costco. They don't have that kind of money – not even close."
"I know it doesn't make much sense, but I'm going to Sinaloa tonight. My Mom sacrificed for me – I can sacrifice for her. I know my way around the area – I was just there last month. I'm strong as a bull; Los Zetas watch out."
"Now, Sheradino, you watch out," interrupted his wife Indian-Wells whose aristocratic looks and bearing belied a very humble Mexicali background. "We need you here. The girls and your new son Manuel need you ... your Padre La Familia. We all need you. Now go to the police. This is not Mexico ... maybe they're not Paisano – not your countrymen-but you can still trust them."
OK, I'll go talk to the police –I know officer Reymundo Ortiz down at the station – he's Paisano, but no border patrol-no migras please.
"Pedro, will you please calm down," Leticia told her first born. "And stop raising you hand ... this isn't school. Can't you tell we're having a very serious discussion?"
"Momi, the dog- Our Courage- is gone."
* * *
I must admit that I was a bit frightened when I began my quest, but when I looked back at my breed's history, I found that I was a proud descendent of a long and distinguished line of hero dogs. Now let me assure you that hero dogs are not exclusively German Shepherds or Collies or go by the name of Rin Tin Tin or Lassie.
Mine is a line of true hero dogs: the Siberian Huskies who carried the diphtheria vaccine that saved the lives of Alaska's Inuit children – Iditarod – The Serum run of 1924- as well as those Siberians who during World War II pulled the sleds through the snow that took wounded Russian soldiers from the front to the safety of forward aid stations. My breed has been celebrated in the literature of Jack London; the radio plays of Sergeant Preston and his lead dog King and most recently in the movie "Eight Below."
* * *
Well, that wasn't very hard. Just I just pushed the door open with my nose, out I went and I was on my way to Mexico. That latch never worked very well, anyway. The humans were so worried about Mom and Dad that nobody noticed the wac wac wac of the doggie door as I left or even the creaky gate when I pushed it open.
Maybe Indian Wells wouldn't let Sheradino try to rescue Mom and Dad but nobody is going to notice a dog –beautiful, willful and stubborn as I am – when I track down my humans –and save them.
Sheradino would get himself killed –he's brave, strong and smart –but no match for Los Zetas. I'm cautious and no threat unless of course you happen to be another female dog. Then I'll tear your lungs out – cautiously of course.
I followed a car out the gated complex and made my way west on Ave 48, South on Monroe and then West on Ave. 52. I planned to cross Route 86 - the main north south highway to and from the Mexican border and work my way along the Salton Sea outside the sight of humans, then to Westmorland, Brawley and follow Rt. 111 to Calexico and across to Mexicali.
Because of the heavy traffic at the downtown border crossing, I later changed my plans and went toward the small town of Holtville to cross at the east gate to Mexicali. I knew that I would need some help getting to the train – The Beast- and on to Sinaloa- but humans and others have a way of showing up when you most need them. Then I'd sniff out Mom and Dad.
* * *
Now, back to my story. It was evening cool and the road to Route 86 was pretty easy. But then I said to myself: Those tractor trailers were worse than the garbage trucks.
They were noisy and their owners yelled at me if I got too close. They were dangerous as could be – I just looked at the bodies of some of my fellow coyotes – the canine variety. Now, I had to figure out how I was going to get over the road and not be road-kill myself?
Think girl! Then I just walked down the side of the road – not too close mind you – and looked for an opening.
Got it. That blue car stopped at the light – I caught them before it changed. I figured that I could hitch a ride or at least get across this darn road without getting killed. I used my charm and good looks:
It was an old blue Datsun. Humans were getting out – four of them – two adult humans – one female and one male; and a boy and a girl. The adults looked kind of angry:
"Look, my Serpents Teeth, if you kids don't stop fighting, I'm going to leave you by the side of the road and you'll starve to death or worse in this god-forsaken desert," the male adult, Joseph who was of average height and in his late 30s, said to the children.
"You can't do that," the boy, James, a nerd in training at about age 10, replied. "It would be tantamount to child neglect, abuse and besides that it's illegal.
Even I could tell that the adult human didn't mean it; the male human loved his kids to distraction and would die himself in this place for his kids if he had to.
"James hit me" Martha- the cute younger daughter- said and began to cry.
"You were in my sector of the back seat," her brother replied.
Mary, the adult female, cute as a button, blonde and significantly younger than her husband, could only smile to herself in relief that these monsters in training were her step kids and not her biological issue. But she loved them anyway – perhaps because she didn't have to.
Another reason to love them was because she had lost her only child Jessica not too long past. Would there be another baby? No. That one broke the mold. She died so early. Never really born.
"Look Father," Martha said – tears now a forgotten nuisance. "There's a beautiful wolf coming to us. Can I pet him?"
"Oh? Martha" James replied, "that's not a he –she's a she – we'll talk about that issue later- and not a wolf but what appears to be a Siberian husky."
"She's beautiful," Father agreed. But at this point, he thought to himself, I think I need to change my medication. Here I am in the middle of this God forsaken desert, with two bratty kids and my girlfriend.
And now there's a ... Siberian husky sitting on my lap," Mary observed, "No, Martha, we can't keep her. Your father and I both work full time and, you know, dogs need a lot of attention – not like our cat."
"I'm hungry. I want to eat now," James demanded.
... OK ..." Father replied. "There's a restaurant on the other side of the road – looks like something out of the 30s – we can get a hamburger and be on our way to Mexico with our blood sugar to a level where we might begin to resemble human beings."
In her most plaintive voice, Martha asked "Can we get a hamburger for the dog too. She's must be very hungry."
"OK, but then she's got to leave after that," Dad replied.
I waited patiently outside the restaurant until my newly found and somewhat querulous family emerged –with the promised hamburger -from the restaurant. Upon receipt of the hamburger – which I "wolfed" down- I left my new family and continued my journey to the banks of the Salton Sea and south to Mexico.
As I left, I thought about the family: Nice people, the three of them really want a dog –the male adult will be happy with one, the female adult will take in strays both human and canine, and the girl will love all animals and have a very tolerant husband. The boy is a cat person.
Nice people ... very nice people ... a lot of love between them, I thought again, but I saw a fault – as big and as deadly as the San Andreas that lies just east of here; a human fault that ran through that family and caused a deadly emotional earthquake in less for than five years; it broke them up and caused lasting personal devastation.
I just knew it. I know things. Maybe that's why Dad and Mom call me La Brujita – their little witch – but we dogs know things that humans can't see, hear or even feel.
Again, passing strange ... Being with that family was like a visit from the late 70's –early 80's. Can't be. Or could it? Of course it can be. Dogs and humans know that time is mutable dimension and that seemingly unrelated events can intrude from what we term the past or future. Dogs live with that knowledge –humans deny this reality and could never deal with it even if they could understand it.
Too bad ... nice people, if they only had a dog that relationship might make it, I thought and then trotted off to Desert Shores, the Salton Sea and a nice cool bath and a long cold drink.
Excerpted from Courage by Webb Sprague, Francisca Sprague. Copyright © 2014 Webb & Francisca Sprague. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsAn Open Letter to my grandchildren, vii,
Courage: Much more than Leash Candy much more, xi,
Chapter 1: Kidnapped, 1,
Author drawn map: Indio to Desert Shores, 15,
Chapter 2: Friends Indeed, 17,
Author drawn map: Desert Shores to Calipatria, 37,
Chapter 3: Hermanos: Male and Female, 39,
Author drawn map: Santa Cruz to Calipatria, 60,
Author drawn map: Calipatria to Holtville, 61,
Chapter 4: THE BEAST, 63,
Author drawn map: Holtville to Mexicali, 95,
Author drawn map: Mexicali to Culiacan, 96,
Author drawn map: Culiacan to El Dorado, 97,
Chapter 5: THE CACTUS SMILED: Part 1, 99,
Chapter 6: THE CACTUS SMILED: Part 2, 137,
Author drawn map: Culiacan to Tijuana to Mexicali East Gate, 169,
Author drawn map: Mexicali to Coachella by way of Glamis and Desert Shores, 170,
An Epilogue, 171,
About the Authors, 173,