Here it comes ... the motors of the tour boat are approaching my cove. Time to start my day. I stretch, yawn, stretch again. One
good roll on my back, paws in the air. Let the grainy,
hard-packed earth scratch the morning's fleas off my flanks and shoulders.
The motor! On my feet again, I shake the dirt off and head for the landing,
tail wagging. Another bueno day in Yelapa. I love my job!
The first tourists pass me, adjusting sunglasses, hoisting backpacks. Hola! Hello! Como esta? Nothing. I wend my
way among their ankles to the middle of the path, wagging furiously. A few
pats, but still they do not understand. Most pass me, heads swiveling on
sunburned necks, craning to see something, anything, the next thing -- the
thing that says "authentic Mexican fishing village." I do not blame them for
their Attention Deficit Disorder. All Americans seem thus afflicted. It is all
part of my job.
I fling myself on the ground in front of them, rolling on my back, wriggling
energetically. "So cute!" "It's a Hush Puppy!" "It's
Snoopy!" Silly Americans, this gambit always works. They can't resist my floppy
ears, my stubby legs, my unfeigned enthusiasm.
"Careful -- it probably has fleas." Alas, there is one in every boatload. As if
the pampered blonde in her ridiculous white Capri
trousers does not already have fleas circling her own tapered ankles, biting
her pedicured toes.
I rest on my usual flat stone alongside the path as the other tour guide, the
human one (the articulate young Jorge from nearby Puerto Vallarta), explains Yelapa, my home. The only home I have ever known, this
village of some 2,000 souls lies just south of the Bay of Banderas and is accessible
primarily by boat. Once and still a fishing village, it has become a haven for
Whoops! Time to move on.
I weave amongst the pale feet in their Tevas,
flip-flops, and sneakers, accepting pats and reining in stragglers. A young
woman in a Colorado State University T-shirt exclaims, "He's just like a little
tour guide!" I bask in the glow of the remark. She "gets it." Eventually, they
figure it out.
Somewhere after the first ironwood carving vendor and before the weaver of
blankets, they learn I am called Charlie. It may have been Pepe,
the wizened old raicilla (it's like tequilla) distiller, or young Pedro,
grandson of the baker, who first called out my name as I passed with my
Now they all acknowledge me: "Charlie!" "Hey, Charlie!"
"Where to next, Charlie?" "How far is the waterfall,
And here we are. The reward for our uphill stroll: the waterfall, with its
sparkling pool and overhanging ferns.
I wade in the shallows (well, of course it's shallow -- my Basset Hound forebearers have equipped me for only the shallowest of
streams) where the creek exits the pool. My tail thumps as I watch them take
their photos, bathe, explore. The first half of my job is complete for today.
The descent is always more brisk, livelier. Souvenirs purchased on the way up
are retrieved on the way down. Chatter increases; they talk of cervezas, swimming, sunning on the beach below. I am
enlivened, soldierly, pleased in the successful execution of my duties thus
far. It shows in my carriage as I trot to keep up with the flip-flops, the Tevas, the sneakers -- ankles of many now decorated with
bead or shell bracelets, calves of some sporting new henna tattoos.
I roll in the gritty earth of the churchyard as I wait for them to gaze at
its crumbling stucco, its patched rafters. Some dip their fingers in the holy
water and make the sign of the cross, while others scratch absently at the
sweat drying on their arms and legs, failing even to remove their hats,
apparently unaware that this is a place of worship, not a cantina. I bear them
no malice, they do not know.
Burro crossing. Click-click! go the camera shutters. Señor Burro and I exchange our solemn daily nod.
Hibiscus plant. Hey! They're missing the photo op. I wind around Señora White Capri's ankles until she slows and notices.
She beckons to her companions and they take the photo in front of the plant, la
playa y la bahia in the
distance. My work is never done.
I wag my tail and lead them down the shadowed cobblestone corridor, from
which we emerge on the coarse, pale sand at the water's edge.
Having dashed ahead -- I do dash, now don't laugh! -- I arrive at the place
where el riachuelo the creek meets la bahia the bay. This is my post, my
daily destination: the completion of my work. I wait for the pats, the photos,
the "Oh, you sweet doggie" remarks, for these comprise my compensation. They,
one by one, two by two, in families and small groups, will cross the sand, find
a spot of sun or shade, squeeze their little fruits into their cervezas, and await the water taxi that will take them back
to Puerto Vallarta, back to their cruise ships. Some, I hope, will take a
little piece -- a photo, a memory -- of Charlie, the tour guide dog of Yelapa.
Sally O'Neal and her friends Mike, Melissa, and Anna had the pleasure of
touring Yelapa with Charlie in March 2010. Sally writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.