At this point in my life, it would be a safe bet to say I have more respect for this Mexican street dog than I have for multitudes of people. Atticus, our Australian Shepherd pup is, of course, in a class by himself - we could not imagine life without him in our lives. But Señor Luna - Luna is bigger than life. Luna is not so much a street dog, as he is a fact of, a force of, and an affirmation of a life lived well, on the edge, and on the square. Sooner or later, living on the streets in Mexico kills most every dog with terribly ruthless efficiency. Over the past three years, that angel of death has taken multiple random pounds of flesh out of Luna. But somehow, in spite of everything that tries daily to destroy him, in this photo, we find Luna not just lying in the middle of a dirt and cobblestone road, but better stated, he’s draped luxuriously in the middle of that same dirt and cobblestone road - he’s filthy, he’s buried in straight-up awful, and he’s smiling from ear to ear - not just his face - his whole body is smiling. With COVID 19 surrounding us, and five days before the most important presidential election in our collective history, whom amongst us can say the same about our lives, with an equal amount of savoir-faire, and an overpowering sense of glee with the whole situation, while simultaneously being covered in this much splatter?
Let me further illustrate the grand scope of this miracle. A few weeks ago, Luna walked up to us while we were sitting on a park bench across from the house. Street dogs usually look pretty torn up, skinny, and desperate beyond measure. Luna’s everyday “look” is the total opposite. Normally, he’s cut like a fashion model, and he moves with the efficiency of a ballet dancer. His coat is street tough, and often it’s naturally buffed to a slick black gloss. But this time, somewhere out on the street, he took a sudden hard turn to the Dark Side. Other dog people are familiar with this Dark Side. This time you could smell him from a couple of years away. It was painfully obvious he had made a personal decision to roll around in something that had been very dead, very foul, and rotting for a very long time. Too often it appears dogs equate rotting flesh with cologne. No clue where this got started, but it could leave anytime, and it would not be too soon. This time you couldn’t get near him, touch him, or even consider him, for fear of what might happen to you years from now as a consequence. You just didn’t want to even consider him. Our recoil from him was immediate and visceral, and he could not have been more overjoyed with himself.
It was hot and windy in San Miguel that day, and if you were outside for any time at all, you couldn’t see for any distance through the wind-whipped haze, and the dust-coated your teeth. Later that same afternoon, I looked out the dirty window and watched Luna wander by on the street. Along with this primer coat of rot, his fur had become matted with maybe an eighth inch of desert dust, which turned him from silky-smooth obsidian black to a dust grey shade of puke. All this, and he just happily curled up asleep in the dirt, under a large maguey cactus, next to a sidewalk in the park. He blended perfectly with the background. Honestly, it looked like he was being absorbed by the high desert of Mexico.
As I stared in wonder at him, I watched an overweight ex-pat senior chap with perfectly combed silver hair, ironed shorts, old Air Jordan’s, and an electric green palm leaf Tommy Bahama shirt walk on the sidewalk from the left side of the frame toward the sleeping Luna, with a coiffed Chihuahua from hell yanking on the leash, snarling, barking, and throwing personal epithets at the world, and specifically at Luna. Luna didn’t open one eye even a little bit. The hysterical Chihuahua pulled up short about a foot behind Luna and then paused to smell him. He then instantly lifted a leg, took aim, and shot a short burst of pee onto Luna’s backside. Simultaneously, the guy looked as though the two of them had just stumbled onto a decayed corpse. He pulled the screaming Chihuahua away and they left. Through the whole thing, I swear Luna never even acknowledged the indignation. I thought about that for a second and shook my head. Actually, kind of a transcendent moment - as though I had actually seen a burning bush. The stench stayed with Luna for maybe a week, until it just wore off out of sheer boredom more than anything else. With due respect to woulda, coulda, shoulda - My man Luna woulda lived on Skid Road curled up at the feet of Charles Bukowski. He coulda been a Nighthawk at 2 AM, outside the diner at Heart Attack and Vine, sitting and waiting for Tom Waits to bring him a bone from the kitchen. He shoulda been on the road and on the bus with Kesey, Kerouac, and Cassady. He would have fit in just fine.
We spot him at maybe 3 years old now. Other than standing in driving rain during the summer rainy season, he’s never taken a bath, and he’s never been near a leash. Deb was lucky to get a collar on him and get him his shots from the vet. He’s put on a little weight because most likely he gets fed at every house within a half-mile of here, but he runs and plays with dog friends all day and patrols the park across the street at night, so he’s every inch a dog version of forged steel. Deb gets him water all day, breakfast, and dinner on the narrow sidewalk in front of our house, and he sleeps on a warm blanket and keeps out of the rainy season through a dog door on our small iron gated and covered front porch. Occasionally he’ll even wander into the house during the day and nap under the table in the entranceway. Up and down the neighborhood, he has dog friends and humans we don't even know personally who know him by his Deb-given name. He proudly remains himself, and sometimes, gloriously in spite of himself, he rejoices innocently in the beauty of being himself. And for me, right there lives the grace of God. Through it all, he remains street smart, vigilantly cautious, positively friendly, and politely defiant - the quadrant of survival on any street anywhere in the world.
A couple of days ago I walked outside with a camera, to photograph something in the park. I was just so God awful depressed at what we humans are doing to one another and the COVID isolation and the general crap we’re being subjected to in the spring/summer/fall of 2020. I needed to go outside and photograph a damn cactus flower, just so I could make a little sense of something familiar - something that could help ground me for a moment. Luna was half asleep in the middle of the cobblestone street just outside our garage. I took two steps outside, saw him covered in this garbage, and just broke up laughing. He raised his head as if to say “Hey baby, wassup?” He was “happy as a pig in mud.” I kneeled, held the camera at street level, and managed one not so well exposed frame before he got up and slowly sauntered away. No idea what he had rolled in this time, but before he left, he assured me it was the very best quality of its kind. I believed him, and I watched him go. The look on his face in this image provided all the grounding and perspective I’d ever need. When queried on the same subject matter, Merriam Webster officially says “Happy as a pig in mud” includes the following corollary: “The important thing is, should you have a pig, you figure out what causes this happiness and then work to procure it for yourself.” With Luna, there isn’t a living thing on this earth I respect more than this guy right here. He's bulletproof, and he’s gonna last forever I tell ya. He just has to. And if by chance he does not live forever, it has been a pleasure to learn how to live from him and to call him my friend.