Several years ago La Negra showed up at the house of a man down the road; she seemed to live there, along with another dog, Jimmy. The owner once told me La Negra was Jimmy's sister, but the woman at the store around the corner said La Negra was Jimmy's mother. The two dogs bore no resemblance to each other, so who knows? Mother, sister - either way, they were somehow related.
Last year the owner of the dogs started working in Cancun, and over the next few months his trips back to the island were spaced out more and more. La Negra and Jimmy were left to fend for themselves much of the time, but they were loyal and protected their property. Jimmy and La Negra actually protected more than their property - they acted like they owned the entire road, and scared the heck out of us by chasing us and barking. We threw rocks at them to make them leave us alone.
La Negra didn't like Loco, and she took every opportunity to bite him in the butt if he dared to cross her 'line'. Sometimes both Jimmy and Negra would gang up on Loco, and although he was scared of them, he was also fast - he could zig and zag his way through or under their blockade in the road and they'd be left standing there in his cloud of dust. But eventually Loco stopped going down that part of the road, it was too much trouble and he was too scared (which was a good thing anyway).
I started paying more attention when I noticed La Negra eating an iguana and her house looking empty and abandoned. I bought food at the nearby tienda and started putting piles out there for both dogs. I gained a fast friend in Jimmy, who decided he'd accompany me to the store just as a reminder that he needed food.
Eventually both dogs moved closer and closer to my house as it became clear that their owner had abandoned both the home and his dogs. I started putting their food across the street, and they hung out in the road in front of my house. The dogs decided that my part of the road needed protecting, and they became road monsters and scared the heck out of everyone who dared cross. We tried to discourage this behavior, but only succeeded when we were actually out there with them before someone headed down the road. People were not happy about these dogs, and neither were we, but we were really just feeding them, not intending to make them our own.
La Negra seemed to have another house where she also hung out, so I really thought she belonged there but was just visiting us now and then. But Jimmy had nowhere else to go, and eventually he moved to the front terrace for his siestas, and when La Negra was around, she was there with him. This posed a problem for Loco because he was still intimidated by La Negra, and he had to slink around her in order to come and go on his own property.
One day the other 'adopted owner' of La Negra came to the house and introduced herself (she lives around the corner). She thought we were the owner, we thought she was - turned out nobody really was. So La Negra became a shared dog - and just for security, she also hung out on the terrace next door. Negra was not stupid, she was going to have backups fron now on. So we all fed her, and let her hang out wherever she wanted. The other 'adopted owner' told me she had taken care of rabies shots for Negra. We had given Jimmy his shots. So, the neighborhood was taking care of these two dogs and we were rewarded by feeling very secure when they were around.
Sadly, Jimmy died this spring - suddenly, we don't know the cause. Without her sidekick, La Negra has stopped chasing people in the street, she just barks if it's someone she doesn't know. La Negra has shown herself to be a dog who just wants affection and food - the more she can get of both, the happier she is. La Negra no longer scares Loco - they have a truce and can both share the same terrace. She also spends a lot of time with the other family, and they have taken care of some medical problems that arose this year, which started with a cough.
But now we have a diagnosis for the cough. Heartworm. An expensive regime to hopefully cure La Negra. This disease could kill her, but we hope it is a mild case and the treatment will work. If not, we face another round of tests and medication - a strain on the dwindling cash reserves. We don't know how old La Negra is, but she deserves a chance. So, just like we share La Negra, we will share the cost of her medical treatment. If we're lucky, La Negra will be decorating both our terraces for years to come.