As we trekked up the sand, cocktails in hand, the sun was shining, the air was still, and the scarlet macaws were flapping along two by two squawking their usual banter. At any moment the flip could switch, the sky would darken, the ocean would become angry, wind would howl, claps of thunder would startle me air-born, and the heavens would open up. Ever since the season changed to the “Green Season (aka rainy)”, the beach felt deserted and creepy. I half expected Stephen King’s lobstrosities to give chase at any moment.
I shouted as we went: “Shorty Johnson! Rudy!” Beach dogs answered, house Chihuahuas yipped, the basset hound howled, but no Shorty or Rudy appeared. I had heard about the neighbor’s three Dogo Argentinos and wanted to speak to him about getting one for our own home, so at the same time I was scrutinizing yards for Dogos.
This breed came highly recommended by a jewelry sales lady I met in North Carolina while shopping for wedding jewelry with my daughter. The petite dark haired woman had an accent different from those of the native Southern ladies. When I asked the price of the sapphire and diamond necklace that went perfectly with my satin peacock shoes, she perked up: “Three hundred and fifty, on sale”. I debated and said: “It’s beautiful, but I think it might get ripped from my neck if I wear it at home.” “Oh? What do you mean?” I raised my eyebrows and replied: “I live in Costa Rica”. She laughed: “Oh, I get it. I come from the Dominican Republic. There’s a necklace on the table behind you on sale for $19.95; looks the same. Buy that one instead. What you need is an Argentina dog.”
I looked it up on the internet: “Dogo Argentino; a large muscular dog bred for hunting wild boar.” They look like man-size pit bulls. They remind me of the three-headed guard creature in the Harry Potter movies minus two heads. Yes, that’s the dog for me. I want a Dogo. It became a mantra: Must have Dogo! So, while I convinced Jan and Reid to search for the little wiener dogs that wouldn’t come near the house due to the presence of Horny, the Wonder Dog, my real mission was to find the neighbor with the three Dogos and try to weasel one out of him. I remembered seeing the guy with the three giant white dogs at a distance once or twice walking them on the beach. At the time, I didn’t realize what valuable commodities they were, or imagine that I would ever want one. Never say never.
As we continued walking and scanning for dogs, we felt a few drops of rain. The sun was still shining and we thought it might pass until the thunder claps started. The wind shifted, its strength increased and just as it was about to pour buckets, the aroma of garlic and onions frying in olive oil gripped us. As we were captivated by the enticing smells, it was as though we were transported to another dimension; the lush landscaping with its winding paths drew us in. As we continued to follow the flagstone trail lined with sculpted bushes, colorful flowers, and tidy seating areas with quaint benches. Ahead we saw a large palm-frond thatched roof covering an open-air dining room. The tables were set with white linens, napkins folded to resemble exotic birds, wine glasses sparkled, white jacketed waiters were at the ready, and nobody was seated at the tables. We were bare-foot, sandy, rain-soaked, bedraggled, and carrying our own drinks. Nevertheless, they greeted us enthusiastically and asked if we were joining them for lunch. Lunch? In a fancy restaurant? Now? Reid broke the silence: “Yes, please. Three for lunch.” He turned to Jan and whispered: “I have my credit card.”
There is nothing that will dissipate troubles better than a nicely prepared meal accompanied by a crisp glass of chardonnay, especially if it is cooked, served, and cleared by somebody else. The meal was exquisite, the service like that of a five star French restaurant, the wine perfectly chilled and the company perfect. We talked about art, theater, and music, the world in which Jan and Reid thrive. We talked about Capitola, the quaint California beach town we came from. We talked about the weather; anything but the reason we came.
At the end of the meal I felt ready to step back into the present; the time had come to address the issues at hand. I asked the waiter if he knew about the Dogos that lived on the beach. He wasn’t from the area, but suggested we ask the doorman or chef as they are residents of Esterillos. The conversation started in English which the restaurant staff, no doubt, is instructed to use with the gringo clientele. I slipped into Spanish, which always surprises and delights the locals, and now the conversation took on life. An animated discussion between me and several of the kitchen workers revealed that the Dogos lived a couple of houses away from the restaurant! We must have passed it on our walk but didn’t notice them. How is that possible? We would investigate on the way back. I learned a long time ago that Ticos will give you directions even if they don’t really know the correct answer. It’s more of a pleasing thing than an intentionally mis-leading thing. They may or may not be where they said.
As we left the sanctity of the restaurant and stepped onto the sand, lightning and thunder resumed, the heavens opened up once more and we were drenched within seconds. I told Jan and Reid to run for cover if they wanted to. I was already soaked, couldn’t get any wetter and wanted to look for the dogs. Reid sprinted for a dry spot under a copse of trees (he had a camera and phone), Jan stayed behind with me and we approached the house that supposedly housed the three guard dogs. As we approached, we gave each other doubtful looks; the only noise we heard was rain on the undulating palm fronds.
Suddenly, at about ten feet from the fence, it was as though we had crossed a trip-wire that loosed the creatures. The power of the enormous dogs as they ran toward us at full-speed was palpable. I felt as though my hair were blowing straight back from the energy force. As they arrived at the fence three sets of enormous paws clamped over the top. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the front section of the wooden fence gave way! The noise level rivaled that of the blenders at Magaritaville’s Happy Hour. Jan was frozen and speechless at my side. Neither one of us moved an inch. The trio snarled, bared teeth, their cropped ears stood erect, foam dripped from their jaws and their pink rimmed eyes were emblazoned. After several minutes of this, with no reaction or threat from us, they simply stopped barking, did an about-face and sauntered back to the covered patio from which they came. Yes, I still wanted a Dogo Argentino.
The rain abated, we caught up to Reid, linked arms and did a hearty rendition of “Singing in The Rain”, followed by other show tunes, and sang until we got back to the house, wanting to make as much noise as possible to ward off the lobstrosities. As we walked up the path to the house, Horny, the wonder dog, once again, showed Reid how happy he was to see him (or was that a gun in his pocket?)
I had told the house-sitter/guard we were going for a beach walk to look for the little dogs and would return in twenty minutes or so, but I would take a house key just in case. We were gone for almost two hours and I would have understood if he tired of waiting and went to his sister’s house for lunch as was his custom. The house was dark and quiet, yet the front door was slightly ajar. I called out, but nobody came. “Chaco!” No answer. Louder: “Chaco!” Still no answer. I shrugged and started walking through the house to look for him. As soon as I crossed the thresh-hold I heard water running. Thinking the faucet had been left open, I started for the kitchen. I nearly slipped on the tile as I got close to the sound. There was an inch of water on the floor from the overflow of a bucket placed in the center of the kitchen. Water was pouring through the light/fan fixture! We had paid the roofer twice for roof repair which involved pumping silicone gel into the screws on the roof securing the kitchen light/fan fixture. Reid emptied the bucket, Jan started mopping, and I went to look for Chaco.
To be continued…