Pepe is back, let the celebration begin

Helena Rodriguez

Pepe is home again.
Our precious little dog who disappeared from our front yard on July 1 is back home, thanks to a woman only a few streets from our house who responded to our lost Chihuahua ad in this newspaper on Thursday.
It’s a big relief to know Pepe is safe and sound now. I thought I’d never see our beloved family pet again. This time last week, I was in a depression and was getting sympathies from well-wishers who read my column about his disappearance.
“I hope you find Pepe!” “I’m sorry to hear about Pepe!” strangers told me and eagerly shared stories with me about their own family pets.
“I don’t know what I’d do If I ever lost my dog!” one woman said.
You don’t realize how much a pet becomes a part of your family until their familiar barking and companionship is suddenly gone. I was already jumping to conclusions about conspiracies and underground Chihuahua smuggling operations. Chihuahuas have remained popular since the Taco Bell dog hit the airwaves in 1998.
I still find it strange, though, that several other Chihuahuas have recently disappeared from our neighborhood in North Portales.
I thought about Pepe often, wondering where he was and what he was doing. I even recalled horrible episodes from the “101 Dalmations” movie. I pictured all of these Chihuahuas hopelessly locked up in an old warehouse, heavily guarded behind a huge barbed wire fence, trying desperately to break out and return to their owners while evil dognappers plotted a way to make money off of them. I also had horrible thoughts of people making tamales out of our black and brown Chihuahua. Sounds horrible, but that’s what I’ve heard they do in Mexico. Maybe it’s a tall tale; maybe not.
I was ecstatic when I got a telephone call from my daughter, Laura, while at work Thursday. “Somebody wants to say ‘hi’ to you!” she said. I figured it was my 1-year-old niece, Marissa. She moved the phone to someone’s mouth but I didn’t hear a thing. She did it again and I heard soft whimpering. It was Pepe!
A woman on North Avenue C had Pepe at her home for a few weeks but said she only saw the newspaper ad on Thursday morning, an ad I almost didn’t place because I didn’t think it would bring Pepe home.
Laura described Pepe to a “t” and within minutes she and my dad were at the woman’s doorstep. Pepe immediately recognized them and ran to them.
The worse part of the ordeal is we made some stupid mistakes along the way, mistakes I hope others can learn from.
• Mistake one: We let Pepe run around the neighborhood freely. He always came home, but on July 1 it was night time when he went with me to check the mail. We never let him out at night. I had just gotten home from work and was tired. I took him without a leash and Pepe took off running. I thought he’d be right back like always, but our Chihuahua was not used to being on his own at night.
• Mistake two: Not having a fenced yard. Other Chihuahua owners who have lost their pets in our neighborhood do not have fenced yards either. We will get one.
• Mistake three: I procrastinated. We had just taken Pepe for his shots a few days earlier but I planned to wait another day before turning in his registration fee and papers. He had his tags, but they were not on him yet, so basically, our dog was out there without any identification.
• Mistake four: I did not file a police report and place a newspaper ad until almost a week later. I didn’t think it would do any good, but decided we had nothing to lose. We were lucky. The more time that passes, the less likely you are to get your pet back.
We are thankful to have our Pepe home, but I urge Chihuahua — and other pet owners for that matter — to carefully guard your perritos.

Helena Rodriguez is the lifestyles coordinator for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com