When we first met, I was walking from the zocalo (downtown) to my studio apartment on a tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The sun was beating down and the temp was in the mid 90’s (Fahrenheit). A couple blocks from my home was an old lumber yard where I noticed a scrawny black dog tied to a post in the ground.She had two feet of rope, and that was her whole world. Underneath her feet, where she slept and spent her days, was gravel and feces.

I knelt down and reached my hand out slowly, expecting a fearful and aggressive response. What I received is a moment that’s carved into my memories: this pup, covered in mange and fleas, missing fur on half her body, severely underweight, standing in the heat of the day without water – just laid her head in my palm and looked into my eyes.

Before I scooped her up I decided it best to ensure she wasn’t owned and no one was coming back to care for her. I gave her water and some food and headed home. Not a single thing was on my mind but her that night.  I went back the next day and there she was, same place, same condition, same sweet look on her face. That was it. We chose each other. I made up my mind – this pup and I were going to spend our lives together.

This time, she came with me. We convinced a taxi driver to pick us up (not an easy feat) and headed to my friends house, a local shelter for street dogs, where we cleaned her up and secured flea/tick meds immediately. The next few weeks were all about love and comfort – building up her trust in people (and trust that food was going to be readily available to her) and nourishing her body.

Eight years later, Mija and I are besties and she is truly living her best life. We hike, camp, play, cuddle (yes, sometimes she sleeps on my bed with me), and have important conversations.  There’s a bond with this dog I’m not sure I’ll ever experience again – we have been through so much together.  You may think I saved her life, and perhaps I did. But she has saved me as well. Mija is a certified emotional health dog and brings joy to many peoples lives.

Thousands of pets like Mija are in need of nourishment, healthcare, and shelter. If this story moves you, we encourage you to support our National Pet Month campaign and partnership with the Oregon Humane Society. We’re raising money to support the work of the OHS – they find homes thousands of pets each year. Donate here – Walker Tracker matches all donations!