Earlier this year, “Firulais” – the fearless leader of our house passed abruptly from latent ehrlichiosis. I have come to understand this is one of the bacteria that can be found in ticks and, despite nearly a decade of medicated baths, vaccination shots, and monthly applications of flea & tick medicine, can lay dormant for years and then quickly shut down a dog’s system without early detection.

Ehrlichiosis (err-licky-osis) is a tickborne bacteria similar to “rickettsia”, or rather, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). This is noteworthy as just last year Sonora led the nation in number of rickettsia cases and deaths in people while Puerto Peñasco led Sonora in per capita cases and fatalities. In 2022, Puerto Peñasco actually led the entire country in cases of rickettsia (in humans) per capita!

It continues to be a top health menace locally and addressing it requires comprehensive programs, clinics to apply flea & tick medicine, fumigation of homes and yards, intensive trash clean-up campaigns, as well as spay-neuter clinics.

Despite being responsible pet owners, our Firu still passed away with complications from ehrlichiosis; the bacteria had apparently been lurking there all along. You see, Firulais (“Firu” – or “Frito Lay”) rescued himself from the streets when he showed up at our construction site in 2016 as a mangey skeleton-of-a-figure.  At first, we couldn’t even tell what color he was, but he survived and thrived!

Firu el Maestro

Firu taught us through example the possibility of transformation – from a scrawny sickly street dog to head of household, by just showing up. Perhaps one of the most essential lessons he left us at the end, and what we want to share with folks here in Puerto Peñasco given all the rescue dogs, is the importance of testing for any dormant diseases, particularly after “life on the streets”.

Had ehrlichiosis been detected earlier, we have learned a 30-day regiment of medication could have helped rid him of the bacteria. Maybe if we’d just had him tested for ehrlichiosis when he first showed up. Maybe, just maybe.

Our Firulais passed away at the vet’s pet hospital sometime in the early hours of May 15, 2023 – Teacher’s Day in Mexico. We brought him back to Casa de Firulais and he is buried in the backyard. The day after we buried Firu, we took our other two dogs – Max and Chikis – back to the vet to get tested. I am happy to say they were both negative. Thanks for the lesson, maestro, and so much more.