Lots of Baby Boomers are looking for places to retire. Some want sunny, some want green, some want cheap. But Baby Boomer Mark Saunders, who created “Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak,” has gone to a place where simply having someone sweetly pull his cheek has him sold.
Since the last time I lived in the central Mexican highlands town of San Miguel de Allende, which was más o menos five years ago, the dog-walking scene has changed dramatically. And, I might add, for the better.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of such groups as the “Sociedad Protectora de Animales,” which is Mexico’s SPCA, and “Save a Mexican Mutt,” and their generous supporters, now that I’m back I notice fewer stray dogs wandering the streets or working the restaurants. I’ve also noticed more professional dog-walkers, who are usually fanny-pack-wearing males tethered to a pack of mismatched breeds, a motley crew of ears, legs, and tails.
In my own case, I walk one poodle. Now, let me pause for a few seconds to get all the poodle jokes out of the way. And if you still have a joke to tell about poodles, be careful not to tell it in front of mine. Duke is a 75-pound, apricot-colored Standard poodle that looks like a baby Wookie, which is that tall, hairy, alien species in Star Wars. He has long legs and sits on the sofa like a human, with two of those four long legs on the floor. When we leave a book on the coffee table in front of Duke, it looks like he’s reading it. He very well could be.
And, of course, Duke loves to bark. He has the deep bark of an opera baritone who is enthralled to hear his own voice. I’m training him to bark to “Old Man River,” thinking if I can pull it off, we’ll both get on the Letterman Show.
But one afternoon when I was walking in town without Duke, I noticed a couple ahead of me walking their dog. The dog stopped suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk, squatting to take care of business. The man did what many husbands do and picked up his pace, putting some serious distance between himself and the dog. The woman did what many wives do. She opened her purse, took out a small tissue— admirable but inadequate for the task at hand— and bent down to pick it up.
I rushed over and said, “Don’t do that, ma’am. Here, use this.” I handed her a doggie pick-up bag. The woman, at least my age or younger, pulled my cheek affectionately and said, “What a sweetie you are.”
Now the last time I had my cheek tugged like that I was ten. And that’s the beauty of living in San Miguel. This town makes you feel young again.