black t shirt
Zapata, Perro de la Playa
Zapata, Dog of the Beach
Ola, my name is Zapata. I am not named after a shoe or because I love to chew shoes, which I do, but after the famous Mexican revolutionary and freedom fighter, Emiliano Zapata. He said, “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees,” with which I agree, especially since I have four of both. I will tell you how I got my name, but first let me tell you of my life as it is now. The present is so sweet, and we dogs appreciate it much more than humans who like to live in the future or the past. The past is like a tail that follows you around and is good only for keeping away flies, and the future, que sera, sera.
I live in Samara, a beautiful little town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. I meet many turistas there, from Canada, Switzerland and the United States, among other countries, who come to study at our Spanish Language School. They have lessons in the morning and are free in the afternoon to lie on the beach, eat at one of our many delightful restaurants, shop in our quaint stores, paint or ride horse back or travel to other wonderful spots in Costa Rica. I have not been out of Samara myself, but I hear wonderful stories of trips to Monte Verde and the cloud forests, and Volcan Arano where there are zip lines, hot pools for bathing, and rafting. Someday I hope to travel in my beautiful country with my owner, who is the proud manager of a Spanish restaurant in Samara. It is one of many charming restaurants, but more exotic than some others. People often come to our establishment if it is raining, and they want to come off the beach. We have great wine I hear, and I can recommend the paella and the bones.
I met my friend from the United States when I was lying on the sidewalk outside the restaurant taking a siesta in the heat of the afternoon. Gringos do not seem to notice the heat and walk around in the noon day sun like mad dogs or Englishmen, of which there are a few of the later in Samara. There is little water to fill their dishes in England or so I hear, so they come here where our water dishes are full and our rivers cascading to the sea. Often they complain that they can’t drive their four wheeled monsters through the rapidly flowing rivers along the coast. They should just be happy to lap up the cool clean water, but back to my story. The gringo lady saw me and fell in love with me immediately which is not unusual for the great Zapata. I was lying on the sidewalk, very relaxed, and she thought I was sick. She tried to give me some tacos and water, which I gratefully accepted. I didn’t tell her la verdad, the truth. I think she wanted to take me home, but was afraid to move me. I am good at playing possum.
The next day I saw her again as she took one of her paintings to an art gallery. It was a painting of the beach and was not bad, except that it contained a cat, a most despised creature. How could she prefer el gato (cat) to el perro (dog)? But she continued to dote on me asking her husband, in her strange language which I have learned a bit of thanks to the turistas, to look at me. He didn’t seem very impressed, but I loved her attention, especially the treats. That evening I saw her and her husband drinking an Imperial on the beach and admiring the horses that came from the fields in the evening to enjoy the Pacific. She seemed very surprised to see animals free on the beach. I wondered why, but hoped I never found out. I would have to fight for my freedom, if it were ever in jeopardy, just like my namesake, Emiliano. They did not see me, but I followed them down the beach where I saw them giving food to my amigo, Migo. He is a lanky, black hound dog who lives at a beach restaurant and is even better fed than I. The tourists on the beach love him. They miss their dogs at home, I’m sure.
Another morning, I saw her wildly greeting a friend that she knew from home. This was very surprising to her as she had not known the friend would be in Samara. I guess she doesn’t have many friends, or the world is very much larger than Samara. I see my friends from town all the time. Another day her husband took a surf boarding lesson. He was not very good, but tried very hard. Many tourists don’t know that it takes a long time to learn to ride the waves. I would also like to try, but my owner won’t let me, a small freedom that I am denied. But I like to swim in the waves, and turistas do too. The ocean has many moods however, and one must swim when it is not angry.
The couple became friends with the family on the beach who had given them surf boarding lessons, and bought a large fish from them. They took it back up the hill to their house on the mountain top to cook. I would have eaten it raw, but humans like to roast their fish. I was hoping to get some. Later the family offered them a puppy from a litter that had just been born. I had tried to get to know their dog with the beautiful black hair, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with me, saying I was a beach bum. Maybe that is true, but how could she resist my thick coat of white fur and my brown lion’s mane. Many people say I resemble a chow dog, and I certainly like chow. Like Emiliano, I am very attracted to the ladies, and they to me. But, “Compañeros, no se puede ganar en todos,” or as gringos would say, “You can’t win ’em all.”
After several weeks, I saw my gringo friend on the beach one night drinking an Imperial and looking very sad. I overheard her say it was her last night in Samara. She said she would miss the beautiful beach and the friendly people. She also said that the people here care about the environment, and have resisted efforts by large companies that pollute the landscape to build in Costa Rica. We also use renewable energy, which I think means we bury our bones to use later. This made me glad, but a little afraid. I hoped that our beach would always be the same. We are often called the greenest and happiest country. We have a plenty to eat and still have plenty of trees to lie under.
As my story is drawing to a close, I will tell you how I got my name. Once when I was a younger dog and lived in the city, I freed several of my friends who had been rounded up by the dog catcher and thrown in a truck with a cage on the back. There was also a beautiful babe dressed all in white fur with a diamond collar in the cage. When I saw her I fell head-over-tail in love, but how was I to know that she belonged to a Great Dane who belonged to the mayor. I only knew I must rescue her which I did by jumping up and pulling on the ends of the cord that tied the doors of the cage. The dogs burst from captivity barking, “Zapata, Zapata to the rescue.”
I followed her home where she gave me a slurp on the nose, but said she belonged to another. Still my reputation was made, and it sticks with me to this day. I have made many a conquest based on that one fortunate day when I also earned my name. Now I decided I must exert my powers to cheer up my gringo friend. I gathered my amigos together, a lot of strays, with a few haughty Chihuahuas in the bunch and led them down the beach toward her bench. She jumped up, crying, “There he is, my sick dog from the sidewalk leading a pack of dogs. I glad he feels better, but I hope they aren’t going to attack us!
I was very surprised to hear her say this, but proudly led my friends down the beach in full parade formation for her enjoyment, stopping only to bow in front of her, and wave my tail. She exclaimed in delight, “He is the leader of the pack and has come to say goodbye.” Yes, she had recognized my greatness, and my appreciation for gringos had grown by leaps and bounds. As the red sun sank beneath the white-capped waves, and the coconut palms swayed gently in the breeze, I, the great Zapata, bid farewell to the nice gringo lady. Although she called me Sam, I’m sure she will never forget me.
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write by Dilys