The Story of Inside/Outside Ping Continues

Ping used to be a city dog, and so was I. He went on regular walks on hard side walks—sniffing the other dogs’ messages. He was cooped up all day in our apartment, and tried to escape every chance he got, and succeeded several times, creating heart-pounding adventures for us, and for him. Once, he was able to sneak into our upstairs’ neighbor’s apartment and finish their left over chocolate birthday cake, another time he ran across the street, a main highway in Oakland with very fast cars, and ended up trapped in someone’s backyard.

In 2009, Lucas and I packed our 1980’s Toyota Land Cruiser (which waited until we arrived at our destination before it literally collapsed and was never driven again) with a small percentage of our enormous amount of belongings, as well as Ping, and with our unborn son in my belly, we drove down the Baja Peninsula from the Bay Area, to meet our uncertain destiny. We had some savings, a piece of raw land that we didn’t yet own, and some used camping gear, and that was about it.

Ping adjusted to country living quite quickly, and soon found his true calling as at the best watch dog in the world. He has a skittish and serious nature that lends itself well to barking at anything that moves, including pieces of dust and figments of his imagination. We live on a homestead that is one and a half acres in the middle of what is called a Tropical desert. In the summer it’s like living in the tropics, we are prone to hurricanes, loads of bugs, heat, and humidity, but also the desert turns bright green, and wildflowers bloom all over the valley. During the winter it is cool in the evening, and warm and crispy dry, during the day, but the landscape is brown and crusty. Nature makes sure to deliver a gift with every loss, and a devastation with every gain.

Since arriving in Baja, Ping is free to roam the land, smelling and exploring whatever he wants. Barking at whomever he wishes to bark at (real or imaginary). His beast nature is in alignment with… well, nature. This arrangement is blissful for him, as well as for us, but it also has its down sides. Being a country dog means he is covered in dust, fleas & ticks—this made him go from an inside to purely outside dog. He was no longer an inside dog. I really missed that part of my relationship to Ping, as inside tended to be way I had mostly connected with him. He is my first dog, and as a child, I feared dogs, not understanding that barking was a form of communication and not an aggressive act meant to destroy me. When Ping first barked loudly at me, as a puppy, out of frustration, I cried, I was afraid he was going to bite me. My husband laughed at me. But since, I have learned to trust him deeply—and happily stick my hand inside his mouth, whenever necessary.

Two summers ago, there were a lot of lightning & thunderstorms. We live at the foothills of the Sierra de Laguna mountain range—and are prone to all sorts of mountain weather.  The sound of thunder, as is true with most dogs, often triggers a flight response in Ping. Sometimes he cowers in the corner, shaking, but many other times, if he can, he runs with no thought to where he is going. He runs straight for the highway, as fast as his long legs can carry him, which is very, very fast. This happened a few times when we were not at home, and he got hurt—once being hit a little by a car, luckily only a little graze, and another time, he had ripped the pad off of one of his paws. The sight of this was unbearable, as you can imagine, but he recovered.

We realized that if we wanted to keep Ping alive, we would have to turn him back into an inside dog, or rather an inside/outside dog that has to be locked up when we leave the house, just in case thunder comes, and he runs. This shift has meant yet another major quality of life increase for Ping. He now officially has the best of all worlds. The comfort and coziness of the indoor human lifestyle, mixed with the sheer raw freedom of beasting around outside. (This is what we all have, if we take advantage of it. Emilio, now 6 certainly does.) Ping’s updated status has benefited me, as well. We are closer again, and I am more aware of his presence, and our relationship. I admit it is my habitual nature, of being a city girl for 35 years of my life (though I spent most summers in the countryside), to be an inside person. We live in such a gorgeous spot of raw nature, and yet I spend most of my time indoors. I really do forget to go outside, if I don’t have to. We live half a mile from the beach, but I can’t even remember the last time I walked on the sand. Fortunately, we have set up our homestead in such a way that it requires leaving the house. We have two buildings (and a third guesthouse is currently in construction, more on that project in a future post)—a kitchen casita, which is one main room, with a small kitchen, living and dining room. (It also includes a space that has evolved into a music practice space and recording studio. More on that later as well.) And then the other building is our bedroom—2 bedrooms and a bathroom. (Another side note: Emilio just spent his first whole night sleeping alone in his bedroom, with the help of a brand new Star Wars Bad Guy Cozy Blanket).  We have an additional bathroom, just outside the main space—adjoining the front patio. This requires leaving the front door to go to the bathroom. This might sound inconvenient to some people, who are accustomed to a different lifestyle. But it is so great that I must leave the house in order to change clothes, take a shower, or go to the toilet. At night, during my short walk from the living room to the bedroom, I always make sure to pause and look up at the sky, and it always reminds me of why we live here. So that we will never forget the stars. So we will never forget that we are nothing with out nature, and that nature is within us, as well as around us. I forget this every day of my life, but everyday, something always shows up to remind me.

Last week, Ping received his first treatment for Heart Worms, which is a parasite that can affect a dog’s heart—causing to enlarge it and make it work extra hard. His treatment went well, but now he has to be kept from getting excited for 2 weeks. This means no roaming free, no running & barking after dogs or cows or mosquitos. This means being back on a leash for peeing and pooping. So today, I took Ping on his first morning walk. I was impatient—trying to rush his process. Not letting him check every scent he wanted to check, not letting him take the path he wanted to take. It was the busy time of the morning, and I had to get Emilio ready for school. I had to drink my coveted coffee. I had to get back inside. After a short walk where he peed/made his mark a few times, I took him back in the house so I could continue with my indoor morning routine. I took Emilio to school and when I came back Ping was barking politely at the door. Lucas said: “He needs something and I have to go, can you take care of it?” I said” “He doesn’t need something. I already took him out, he just wants something.” I took him out again, grumbling. Once outside, he insisted on walking down the deep slope towards the arroyo (dry river bed) near our house. He stopped several times to sniff, and continue his peeing/mark making. Then after several minutes of walking, he found his spot to poop. Then I started to relax more—realizing that this is his usual outside routine, which happens while I am “busy” with my inside routine: writing emails on my computer, or fretting about some imagined event in the future. I had a moment of deep compassion for him, remembering that he is a beast, and he needs to do his thing, outside. And then I thought this is yet another blessing of something that could easily have been dismissed as “annoying” or “inconvenient,” but really was a wonderful opportunity to get out of my head, and observe the isness of nature. It’s always there, we just usually ignore it. But animals, they can’t ignore it. It’s necessary to them. And I believe it is necessary to us too, after all, are we not animals as well as human beings?

Do you have a story where an animal or other aspect of nature taught you or reminded you of something unexpected, or took you out of your unconscious routine?

p.s. It also must be noted that Mexico is Ping's third country of residence. He was born in Taiwan, and was rescued from being lunch by a woman who flies all over Asia rescuing dog's from being eaten, and then flies them back to the US to be adopted.