The following article was written just a few days before Barb Mumaugh, of Barb’s Dog Rescue, passed away. Given the subject matter of the column, I wanted to take this moment to offer condolences and to say that her passing is one of profound significance to our community. For over 20 years, Barb has been rescuing stray dogs here in Peñasco.  Her efforts made a huge impact on the quantity of stray dogs here in our city as well as the quality of life of many ‘street’ dogs. If you have not been here before her efforts were begun, you can’t notice the difference she has made. That difference is significant, beyond my ability to tell about it.

Barb was the type of person who made you a better person merely by knowing her. Her passion and dedication made a tremendous difference in the daily lives of all of us here in Peñasco…and of course the dogs as well. R.I.P. Barb…as Will Rogers famously said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, I want to go where they go!”

It is a given there are always enough negative stories floating around about Mexico in general, Sonoita and Peñasco in particular, to make anything said to the contrary seem to be as making excuses. The speed trap that is Sonoita, the rip-off artists who rent the Can-Am side-by-sides (and then try to tell you that you ‘broke’ this, that or the other thing when you return them, just to extort you) are among the most prevalent, but there are plenty of others. Some are real, others are just apocryphal stories told by people who weren’t involved (my neighbors’ brothers’ friend, etc….) are just urban legends or myths.

As much as I like to debunk these stories, every once in a while, something happens that is so dismaying it makes me scratch my head and think maybe I spoke too soon. Recently a new rip-off has surfaced and you, dear reader, need to know about it.

First let me say I am an animal lover. Most of my friends are animal lovers. Not everyone is. In fact, not everyone is a dog lover, but that’s okay. The flip side of that is if a dog doesn’t like someone, I tend to be suspicious of that someone myself. A lifetime of experience with all sorts of critters…dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, chickens…even some kinds of fish, squirrels, raccoons and coatimundis, etc. has taught the old gringo that animals are a reliable bell-weather in telling you if someone is a nice person or if they are someone you might do well to avoid. You can argue it ad infinitum, ad nauseum, but it is what it is, and those of us who know and understand animals know it to be true.

To many of us, our pets are as dear to us as children. I’ve heard it said that the word “dog” is ‘such a small a word for how much room they take up in our hearts.’ Having said the foregoing, if you have pets, specifically dogs, you need to be aware of a new scam which has reared its ugly head here in beautiful Peñasco: Kidnapping (dognapping?) pets and trying to resell them or holding them for ransom! You read that right! There is a growing problem here in our town wherein some local cabrones will snatch a pet and wait for the distraught owner to make a post on social media and either offer a reward or list contact information. After that the kidnappers will, sometimes, contact the owner and ask (demand??) a reward for the safe return of Fido. Sometimes, if the animal is a purebred and/or perceived to carry special value, these @@@holes will try to re-sell the pet to an unsuspecting buyer. If neither occurs, they just kill the animal or, sometimes, turn it loose on the streets.

This is not only a tourista problem. Locals have to deal with these reprobates as well.  Recently a very friendly, and well loved, local dog named Mercury who frequently visited the American Legion Post on Chihuahua, around the corner from Manny’s, and lived just a few doors down from the post, was kidnapped. Her owners were frantic. We at the Legion were frantic. We all feared the worst. Mercury is not a small dog. She has some wolf somewhere in her lineage (we think) and she is pretty big, so the idea of her ‘wandering away’ unnoticed was dismissed. We all feared the worst; that she had been possibly injured or killed. Not a word was heard until one of the post members (our bartender, Michelle) posted a “no questions asked” reward. Lo and behold, she got a call and Mercury was returned after the ‘ransom’ was paid. Mercury’s owners were ecstatic, as were we all, and are keeping her close, and leashed, to avoid a repeat of this cruel performance. Mercury enjoyed her visits…we all enjoyed them, but because of this incident her owners do not feel safe letting her come by unattended…can you blame them??

So, a word to the wise; if you come to Peñasco with your pet, keep an eye on it and don’t let it out of your sight. Better yet, have your dog ‘chipped.’  This way, even if it were taken, and someone were to buy your kidnapped pet from some cabrone, a vet would be able to identify it, that is, if the prospective buyer were to take it to a vet, and after reading this column, I would hope that anyone who buys a dog here in Peñasco would do that, unless you adopt it from Barb’s.

No one wants the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet, so be on the lookout for anyone who takes too great an interest in yours. If you are unlucky enough to have a pet stolen, and get it back, make a note of who it was that returned it to you, a surreptitious photo would be great. If we all do our part to identify these people, perhaps we can stop this insidious practice before it becomes any worse.