A dog’s lessons in love, life and heartache

Former Chicoan finds comfort in time of grief

The author wrote about moving to Puerto Vallarta from Chico in a CN&R cover story (“Gone to Mexico,” Sept. 8, 2016).

In the fresh stages of grief here in Mexico, I started receiving messages from old friends in Chico, where I lived for 30 years.

We heard what happened … You need a change of scenery … You can stay with us. Just book a flight and don’t think about it … Do it now.

How they found out my dog had died suddenly, I didn’t know. I moved to Puerto Vallarta five years ago and was afraid I’d feel like a ghost roaming my former haunts. But for lack of a better idea, I did what they said. And escaping back to Chico for a while was a life-saver.

People on the streets I hadn’t seen in decades welcomed me back. Many said something comforting about the loss my little best friend. Others held me while I sobbed. One friend pointed to the wall of a downtown business, where his friends had mounted a photo of a dog he had lost, to that same merciless master known as Time.

Snickers, the mighty Chihuahua, lived with me in Chico from 2008 to 2013. He’d been rescued in Mexico by Kathy Cangello and her Chico organization, Small Dog Rescue. Snickers performed in five theater shows with me, was hopelessly friendly, loved children and adults, and reminded me every day how to wake up in a good mood, grateful, and ready to take on the world. Anyone who’s lost a pet knows my heartache.

I’ve never felt so surrounded by love and support as I did during my recent visit to Chico. I notice a chain in how Cangello saved Snickers from the streets of Tijuana, where he lived homeless his first year; Snickers rescued me, and when it was time for him to go, the heart of Chico saved me from the grief.

It’s given me the perspective to marvel at how relatively easy my life has been—how free of loss, illness, homelessness and other traumas that can wreck a human soul. So many lessons, from a 7-pound pup who—once upon a time, in a land far away—nobody wanted.