One way to dinner late yesterday afternoon, barely three hours after uploading my previous post, Stew and I spotted a grayish dog on the opposite side of the road who was panting, exhausted but determinedly trudging somewhere.
It was Benji returning home.
We called her name, she answered, and I loaded her into the car. She didn't resist or wiggle to get free; in fact she seemed relieved as she curled up in the back compartment.
We turned around to bring her back home, where we fed her and she joined the other dogs in her pack who seemed to be waiting for her—or for more food.
The more we thought about Benji's feat, the more amazing—almost miraculous—it seemed. She probably had never been more than two hundred meters from our front gate, except once, to a spay-and-neuter clinic held in Sosnabar about a kilometer down the road from us.
And the last few days couldn't have been more stressful for her: A trip to the vet, where she she spent a couple of nights, ten days at a nearby kennel, her trip to her new owner and now her perilous return home.
She'd managed to get away from her new owner, wander back seventeen or eighteen kilometers on her own, over a period of about thirty-six hours, through a strange town, stretches of open highway fraught with all manner of dangers, make the correct right turn onto the Jalpa Road and was on her way home.
Félix had no doubts she would return home; he had heard similar stories. "Los perros son muy listos," he said, in that somber tone of country-boy wisdom he adopts when he feels he's teaching city-slick gringos a thing or two.
"Dogs are very smart."
But this is way beyond "smart". Do dogs have a GPS planted in their heads, set to "home"? Do they follow familiar smells? Or do they simply remember routes and sights? Or follow some innate instinct or sonar we don't begin to understand?
I need to ask Dr.Vazquez, her vet, who also seemed quite sure she would return.
Benji was covered with burrs and weeds, stank as if she'd had a run-in with a skunk or something dead, and was ravenous. Other than that she wagged her tail as if to thank us.
We called Jack, the guy who had adopted her, and he was thrilled too. First thing, he said, he's going to the hardware store to get some fencing material to seal the perimeter around his place, and then drive here to deliver the antibiotics Dr. Vazquez prescribed.
But we also agreed that for a couple of days Benji would be better off hanging out at her usual haunts with her usual friends. She's already stressed enough.
Stew, her closest human friend, just went out to feed her and reported that she's fine back home with her friends, but needs a good brushing and some attention to calm her down.
I still can't believe, much less understand, how Benji managed this incredible feat.
I'm also left wondering if Benji—and us—would have been better off if we had left her alone in the first place, despite the seemingly terrific person who's coming by in a couple of days to pick her up.
Now I'm not sure now if she was the beneficiary, or the victim, of human compassion.