Hector and Angie
By: J.P. Davis
Hector is not to be taken lightly. To make it three years on the streets of Quito is not an easy task. One learns to eat when there is food, run when there is trouble, and dodge the big noisy things that scream down the open hard surfaces. Hector has lost many friends to the noisy things. People throw food but sometimes they throw stones.
Speed is a valuable skill to a street dog. The best survivors know how to read people. Honing these skills gives a smart dog an edge over the environment.
Dogs live in a pack and street dogs are no exception. Safety comes in numbers. Hector is part of a pack of five dogs. He is the biggest and strongest dog in the pack. Hector is German Shepherd, or at least that is what he tells himself. Heading a pack is a difficult responsibility. Someone has to watch out for all the dogs in the pack. The pack has to stay a certain size.
When Hector was a young dog, he was in a larger pack. Finding scraps or reaching kind humans is difficult in a large pack. Many dogs together create suspicion. Hector found this out the hard way. Food is usually scarce. When there is food, the alpha dogs eat first. Street dogs are in constant danger of capture and large packs attract attention.
Having a strong alpha is both good and bad, meaning the pack is reduced in size by casting aside smaller dogs to fend for themselves. Packs even attack their own members from time to time reduce the mouths to feed.
As Hector grew he moved up in the pack becoming the alpha, the leader of the pack. Making decisions for the pack, is a difficult responsibility, cutting members. Many abandoned dogs starve and die, especially pregnant dogs, leaving puppies to survive on their own until they join a pack.
Reducing the pack is counter to a dog’s nature, but pack survival is the priority over any one dog. All dogs know this. Weak, sick or old dogs are left behind. It is always emotional, and many times leads to infighting. Packs break apart sometimes to save the fate of dogs with the loyalty of pack members. Many times, stronger packs kill weaker ones.
Hector is in his prime. His pack is healthy and runs the streets. When another pack comes upon Hector’s, they backed down. Hector has built a nice territory with restaurants, private homes, and two abandoned buildings for shelter during storms or in times of chases. Yes, the life of a street dog has some good moments.
That is, until Hugo. Hugo is the biggest street dog, even bigger than Hector. He is a pure-bred Great Dane, or almost.
Someone threw him out as a puppy when he became too big to take care of. At least that is what he says. One day they drove him into town. They opened the door; he got out, and they left. That was it. Hugo is an angry dog with a big chip on his shoulder. Most people run from him if they see him coming. He is on the dog catcher’s list of top ten wanted animals. Avoiding capture is his primary aim. He is not part of a pack; he is his own pack. However; Hector’s space and pack are appealing. Racing into Hector’s pack, Hugo stops short, snarling and ready to fight.
All five of the dogs in Hector’s pack growl back and stand toe to toe, ready to show Hugo he is not welcome, showing no fear. Fear was a street dog’s biggest enemy. Hector stands in the middle of his five-dog pack ready.
Hugo runs straight at the pack and Hector. All the dogs joined in as Hector and Hugo fight tearing at skin, biting and scratching their way around the block as the other dogs’ bite and scratch Hugo, but he is too big and too strong.
When the fight is over two dogs in Hector’s pack are dead and Hector, badly wounded, knows the rules. His pack belongs to Hugo and the dogs that remained are now part of Hugo’s pack.
Hector knows it’s time to leave. He walks away, wounded and alone.
He moves out of his old territory. He limps slowly past his restaurants, his people, and the safe place that is no longer safe for him. Older dogs do not survive long as street dogs. Hector knows it. He walks the streets alone, resting when he can, trying to heal from his wounds.
He gets scraps and occasionally gets chased out of pack territories. Finally, he comes to an abandoned lot, overgrown with grass and a few scrub trees. He decides this is a good place to die, so he circles two times to make sure there are no spiders, mostly out of habit, not that a spider could do any more damage to Hector than Hugo had already done. He lay down in the shade of an old tin roof, relaxes, and breathes what he believes is his last breath.
Hector awakens to a constant licking of his face. There is a dog standing there. She brings over some food and leaves it for him. She moves back a few paces and waits. She sits. Sitting shows obedience and giving another dog permission. Here, it means to eat. Hector leans over and takes a bite of the food. The dog leaves. Strange. She brought food, licked him back to health on all his sores and his face, and left. Hector stands. He feels better. He does not leave this place as he is not strong enough to move along. She returns with, of all things, a bottle of water.
Street dogs know how to drink water from just about every container. She rolls the bottle to Hector and, like before, she sits waiting for him to drink it. Hector turns the plastic bottle up, bites down on the cone shape, and water leaks out into his mouth. He wants to finish the whole bottle but thinks better. He tosses the half-full bottle back at her; she catches it, turns it in her mouth, and with little spillage laps it finished.
“I’m Hector,” he says.
They look at each other. Hector smells that Angie is pregnant. He does not react as an alpha would in a pack but moves closer to her and they touch noses. They sniff each other for a long period. Hector goes back under the roof and lays down. Angie comes over and lays down with him. They go to sleep.
In trying to create his own death, Hector has found a new place no pack has claimed. Hector gets stronger as the days go by with Angie bringing him food and water. Finally, he feels strong enough to venture out and take a walk.
Angie goes with him. They move through a small village with a few shops and two restaurants nearby.
“This seems like a good place, food, water, and nice people.”
“I think so,” Angie says.
They go back to their camp. Hector and Angie know what is coming. Someday soon, puppies will be here, and they will be much harder to protect. Street dogs dislike competition and especially tiny hungry competition. Now with just their pack being two, with both dogs larger and older, they could fend off a slight attack, but once Angie has to feed and care for puppies, it may be too much of a task protecting she and puppies. He is old and after the attack, he is not as strong as he once was and will never be that young dog again.
“We have to make a plan,” Hector says.
“How close are you to having the puppies?”
“I will gather as much food as I can. You close the opening as much as possible where only you and I can get in. Where are the water bottles?”
“At a store in the back. The one with the big tank and the crates behind the fence. There is a hole in the fence behind the crates.”
“I’ll bring back as many as I can without getting caught. Then I will go for food.”
“I’ll make a place to lie down with the grass and pull the tin as closed as I can.”
Hector and Angie go to work. It’s a dangerous time for both. The puppies will be noisy and draw the attention of the dogcatcher, people, and other dogs. They hope the closure will keep away any curious souls, and Hector still has a good growl which he will use if he must. It’s a last resort because he does not want a confrontation.
The day arrives. Hector stands by as Angie gives birth, two puppies. One is stillborn, dead at birth. Starvation and dehydration have taken their toll on the little fellow and he did not make it. But the other one is a hardy little girl, all white from her head to her toes. Both laugh at her color wondering how this little white baby came to be in a world of brown dogs with big ears and shorts tails.
“This child is special,” Hector says to Angie.
“Yes, she is. She will take what she wants. She will see many things and go far from this place with a life we could not even dream of.”
Hector continues to bring food to Angie and Cho Cho, their baby girl, while keeping a lookout for dogs who may find their secret spot. So far, so good. The days drift by and the family of three get along fine. Hector searching for food, Angie and Cho Cho staying around the compound keeping an eye out for intruders.
Finally, the time has come for Angie and Cho Cho to go out into the world. The three moves cautiously out the tin gate into the street to look for food. Instantly Cho Cho attracts people. A small white street dog is a rarity here. Her distinct features make it easy for her to get food, but they also make her a target. She differs from all the other dogs they encounter along the way. Even walking by many see her as a threat, a prejudice that is unjustified but there none-the-less. She is smart; she is beautiful. Hector worries constantly about both.
“She will get into trouble.”
“That’s what young dogs do, Hector,” says Angie.
Cho Cho ventures out by herself, but Hector follows behind at a safe distance.
She goes across a busy street, one of the larger ones, but knows somehow instinctively to watch for cars. She waits with other people at crosswalks. When they walk, she walks. The people smile at her as she crosses with her sexy little Latin posture walking straight with her head held high as if she is a queen walking to a coronation. Hector still follows her as best as he can but it’s difficult for him to cross streets, unlike Cho Cho. Hector does not have the grace or the cuteness qualities she has that attract people to her. He is a big older dog many humans fear.
Much to their delight, Cho Cho makes her rounds every day bringing nice fresh food back to both Hector and Angie and life is good.
Two days later a big truck shows up at their site with several men. They see the three dogs, kick and curse at them, chasing them away. They dismantle the fence and destroy the site, at least that is what it looks like to Hector.
“We have to move on,” says Hector
The three move back onto the street searching for another place. Cho Cho travels to the nicest neighborhoods bringing back the best food from the places where people go.
Cho Cho is nearby as they move through the city together. She sees it happening before her mom does. A car is fast approaching an intersection as Angie is stepping out into the street.
“No!” Cho Cho screams and rushes to shove her mom from the street, but she is too big for Cho Cho to alter her movement. The car bounces right into Angie and hits Cho Cho on the rear as she tries to save her mom. Hector runs into the street dodging cars as he hears Cho Cho howl, but when he arrives, it is over. Angie is dead, and the car has wounded Cho Cho.
Hector pulls Cho Cho out of the street by the neck and drags her to a park in the middle of a busy part of the city.
He pulls her under a playground set as she is panting heavily, losing water out of her mouth, having what seems like a stroke to Hector. He pulls her further away from the people into the bushes near the fence at the playground. This is a dangerous place. Traffic on all four sides, children playing which means many adults on the lookout for stray dogs. He covers her up with some straw under a bush and leaves to go find water, dodging the busy traffic and trying to do as he has seen Cho Cho do many times. He follows the people to the places where the cars stop, crosses when they cross. It seems like an eternity to both Hector and Cho Cho, but he finally returns with a large unopened plastic bottle of water. He bites the bottle deep into the cone part and flips it over to pour water from the hole into Cho Cho’s mouth, trying to be careful not to give her too much and not to spill any more than he has to. She drinks it and calms down, panting less. The nice water soothes her pain. Hector decides this place will have to do for now since the traffic is too much and people are everywhere. He lays down with Cho Cho, covering her as best he can, and she goes to sleep.
Hector stays awake wondering the entire time if there was any way he could go check on Angie, but she looked bad when he pulled Cho Cho away. She was not moving, and her aura had already left, moving on to another time and place. The accident left nothing of Angie but skin and meat in the street. A meal for some hungry dogs and peace for Angie, knowing she had raised a family and had the love of a big dog.
Hector continued this routine for three more days bringing food to the park and nursing Cho Cho there as she healed. All this despite being hit by a car himself. He had no time to lick his own wounds.
The words of Angie rang through his head. “This child is special, she will do things we cannot even dream of.”
His mission is to see Cho Cho survive by showing her courage and stature. He has led another pack, be it much smaller. He helped Angie raise Cho Cho. He will find Cho Cho a home. He owes Angie that; she saved his life.
Cho Cho soon recovers but her hip never does, which makes her sexy Latin walk even move curvy and gives her more appeal as people see her walking down the street. Hector stays with her and gives her protection from dogs they encounter along the way.
One day a beautiful young woman is crossing the street and Cho Cho walks along beside her catching her attention with her cute little curvy walk. Cho Cho and Hector follow the young woman home to a nice place in the city.
“Here you go,” the young woman says as she puts out some food and a fresh bowl of water. Hector sits back and lets Cho Cho ferociously eat all the food as a good little street dog should. He smiles thinking of the times he barked and bit so many dogs for trying to steal his food, and now here he is happy about a dog eating all the food.
The next day Cho Cho and Hector are there when the young woman comes home.
“You two are back, are you?” She says as she goes inside. “Well, come on in.” Cho Cho goes right in just as she did yesterday, but the big burly Hector stays out.
“Come in,” Cho Cho says to Hector.
“This is not my place. This is your place. Stay here with this girl. You will travel far and see things and live dreams that Angie and I cannot imagine. This is your home.”
“I know, I don’t want you to go. You have meant so much to me.”
“It is the way of things.”
“Goodbye, Cho Cho.”
The two dogs snuggle noses and Hector leaves.