oscar’s everyday adventures in life
In an earlier post I introduced ‘Oscar-the-dog’ and promised further tales about his everyday adventures in life. Here’s what happened on 8 March 2005. I remember the date because it was International Women’s Day and because the event was heart-breaking and frightening in many different ways. So here we go …
best friends forever, bff!
Once upon a time, long, long a few days ago, a dog called Oscar lived in Mexico City, on calle Dinamarca (Denmark Street) across the street from an Argentine restaurant and tango salon.
Oscar -the-dog lived on the fifth floor, the only flat on the top floor, along with a communal roof-top terrace. A shared space yes, but hardly anyone but us used it, and it was a great, safe space for a puppy and his friends to run around and play.
On the very first day Oscar-the-dog came there to live, he made a new friend: a neighbour boy, who was delighted about the puppy, and doubly delighted they were namesakes!
‘Really? Is he called Oscar? Did you know that’s my name too?‘ We hadn’t, but so began a nice friendship between the dog, the boy and us neighbours too. We hadn’t spoken before, but soon learned that Oscar-the-boy lived with his mum, grandmother and an uncle on the third floor. He was 13, he’d been born in the US of A, his dad was still there, but he and his mum had come ‘home’ when he was 6.
Oscar-the-boy came every day to play with Oscar-the-dog, sometimes he brought other friends too, sometimes on his own. On weekdays he came after school. On the weekends he came at some point during the day.
So when Oscar-the-boy came on Tuesday 8 March 2005 at 10am, I was surprised.
‘Can I play with the dog?’
‘Why aren’t you in school?’
‘Teachers’ strike. There’s no classes today.’
Fair enough, common enough, and a good enough reason for me to believe the boy had the day off from school.
He was with a friend that day, I forget who, but they took the dog and went out on to the terrace to play.
and then …
Soon though, (15 minutes later) it was time for me to leave, and it was then that I noticed ……. the quiet. That’s odd, the dog’s not barking, the boys aren’t shouting. I hope everything is OK I thought as I went out to the terrace.
No dog. No boy. A neighbour was hanging laundry to dry in a corner of the terrace. Had she seen the neighbour boy or Oscar-the-dog?
Yes, she had. The boys and the dog were on the stairs going down as she had been coming up.
Odd, I thought. The boy has never taken the dog to his flat, but that must be where they are. I trotted down to the third floor and knocked. The grandmother had mobility problems, and the other two adults were probably out working, but if the boy was home, why didn’t he answer the door? I knocked again, and the grandmother shouted through the door, ‘who is it?’ And through the door I explained. Within a minute she managed to come to the door and said – ‘Oscar and his mother moved into their own flat about one month ago, and he’s not here. I haven’t seen him today.’
More weirdness. I hadn’t known they’d moved. And the grandmother said a few more things which made it clear the parting hadn’t been amicable or easy. But she was sorry about the dog, and said the boy was a devil, and I never should have let him play with the dog. This trouble was my own doing.
Wow! All this news. The shock of my missing dog. The tradegy of a family break-up. I hadn’t even got around to thinking about blame or fault, and never would. I just wanted Oscar back! The grandmother gave me the mother’s telephone number and told us where they lived.
Next I rushed downstairs to the street and asked the vendors and shopkeepers if they’d seen the boys and the dog. Yes, they had seen them going off that way (they gestured) about 15 minutes ago.
Wow again. So they were some steps ahead of me.
make a rescue plan
Fortunately Ian was home that day, and I ran back upstairs with the news and we began to make a plan.
First I called work and told them I wouldn’t be in. Family crisis.
Next we called the mother. Her name was Rosa, she was at work but answered her phone. She listened to me and then in a sad voice said ‘He’s run away … again. This is the third time. He’s been gone now about a week. I don’t know. It’s all so hard. His father is in the US, he’s getting to be a young man, sometimes I am not enough. He needs both parents. Listen, I’m at work until 7 tonight, but then I’ll come by and help you look.’
At least that conversation was slightly more reassuring than the one I’d had with the grandmother.
have you seen these two?
But what to do until then? I couldn’t sit around from 11 to 7 worrying about the missing dog.
So we hunted around and found two photos of the two Oscars. Then together we went to the address the grandmother had given us. No one home. Then we decided to split up and visit all the places in the neighbourhood where we’ve seen Oscar-the-boy play and hang out with his friends. We each took a photo and rushed off here, there, and everywhere. We searched and asked – ‘Excuse me have you seen this boy or this dog?’
I felt a bit foolish at first, but the feeling quickly wore off, and a dread and panic set it. What if we never got Oscar back? What if both – the dog and the boy – were now lost forever to Mexico City’s streets? I felt pretty hopeless. And really, really sad. Oscar-the-dog was about to turn 1 year old, and we’d shared a home for nearly a year too. I was too scared and upset to really imagine what I feared.
As I walked and when I didn’t have any passerbyer to ask ‘Excuse me have you seen this boy or this dog?’ I found myself repeating this mantra: ‘the boy will bring him back, the boy will bring him back … ‘
We walked and searched until finally at 3pm we decided there was really not much more point. And besides we were tired and it was lunch time. We went to a small place on a small leafy plaza with a fountain near home. Big Ben was the name of the restaurant, but the only thing British about it was the fact that it was located at the intersection of calle Londres (London Street ) and Dinamarca. It served tacos and the usual Mexican fare.
Then we went home to wait, and I repeated my mantra: ‘the boy will bring him back, the boy will bring him back … ‘ what else could I do?
Rosa to the rescue!
Just as she said she would, Rosa was at our place by 8pm. She quickly explained that the times before when he’d run away he’d going to his friends’ house in the Condesa (a nearby neighbourhood). The family was large and extended. One more kid at the dinner table was normal and the two times before he’d run away, he stayed here, with this family.
So with that destination in mind, the three of us set off on foot, this time Rosa was the one greeting neighbours and beat cops. She inquired and informed ever so casually – Hi, remember me? I’m Oscar’s mother, you’ve helped me before when my son has run away. Have you seen him today? Well, he’s gone again, and this time, oh is he in trouble! This time he’s walked off with the gringos’ dog (gesturing towards us), also called Oscar. So here’s my phone number, let me know if you see him, please.’
Shortly we arrived at the family’s house on a corner of Parque México in the Condesa. They ran a family-business selling plumbing goods, the shop was on the ground floor, the family lived in the three storeys above.
Rosa greeted two men in the shop and asked, ‘have you seen my son today?‘
Well, he had been around, yes, yesterday or the day before, but today, no one (not the men nor the gang of five kids ranging from small to teenage-size) had seen Oscar-the-boy. With her thumb she gestured towards us and added ‘well, he’s gone again and his time he’s walked off with the gringos’ dog, also called Oscar.‘ The two men just shook their heads as if to say ‘uh-oh, this time he’s been really naughty!’
‘Yes, please,’ I pleaded. ‘Here’s a picture, are you sure you haven’t seen them?’ I had cried my tears dry that morning and afternoon but they still hung in my voice. Everyone looked at the picture, but shook their heads, no, they hadn’t seen them.
‘Well, I know he’ll run off as soon as he sees me, so we’re going go hide in those bushes over there in the park, and watch to see if he comes here. It’s getting late, he needs to sleep somewhere tonight.’
Hide in the bushes in the park? That was Rosa’s plan? Too sad and disappointed to argue, we went together to stand behind some bushes and wait.
Mother knows best and we were in the bushes for only minutes, when a couple of the bigger kids came over and said, actually thinking about it now, they had seen Oscar-the-boy today and yes, he had had a dog with him. Yes, he had bragged about shoplifting a dog’s lead from the pet shop at the shopping centre down the road.
Well that was good news I thought. I had been worried about how the dog had managed in the city streets all day.
‘Well, where is he now? Or where’s the dog? What do you know?’ Rosa demanded in her best ‘mother-is-angry-you-had-better-watch-out’ voice. And I genuinely added some tears and gently beseeched them to tell us what they knew.
Oscar-the-boy had come by at some point late in the afternoon. He had had a dog with him. He said he’d found it. They had all played together a while, then Oscar-the-boy said he was tired of the dog. All its barking, whining, need for attention. He had tied him to a sign post outside a parking garage a block away near the shopping centre. The dog had been there until about 9pm, but then he dog was gone. The kids thought the attendant in the parking garage had taken him in.
So we walked over to the parking garage, and sure enough, the attendant had rescued Oscar-the-dog. He said he saw the boy tie him up, but then the boy never came back. And it was getting late, it was supper time. So he’d taken the dog inside to his little office and shared his dinner with Oscar (tortillas and chicken). ‘Besides,’ continued the man, ‘he looks like a ‘perro fino’ (a fine dog) all groomed and well-fed, he is not a street dog, so I thought it was odd the boy had left him tied up there.’
And while we stood there, listening to the missing bits to Oscar’s big adventure, Oscar-the-boy returned, and as Rosa predicted, he fled when he saw her.
Rosa walked with us all the way home, apologising over and over again. I, happy to have Oscar-the-dog back, also felt very, very sad about Oscar-the-boy and wondered when, if ever, anyone would rescue him and reunite him with the ones that love him. And also very sadly I don’t know. Nine months later we left Mexico City (another Oscar every day adventure for another day) and never saw Rosa or Oscar-the-boy again.