It’s a dog’s Life

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, Costa Rica Service Providers, EX PATS in Costa Rica, Newsletters

Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 107

It’s a dog’s Life in Costa Rica.  

Many years ago, when I lived in California, I had a Black Labrador. What an incredible animal. She was with me every day, and went everywhere: from my office, to the beach. I owned a boat, and used to spend my weekends racing across Lake Havasu Arizona like a madman. She would stand on the front of the bow, life preserver on, barking constantly at the passing vessels. She could smell water, miles before we got there, and would stay in the lake swimming the entire day. If she saw a sprinkler, she would roll in the puddle; when I bought a house with a pool, she would be in it morning till night; when we went to the beach, she was out of control; this dog loved to be wet. She could play Frisbee catch for HOURS and never tire, and was a watchful eye in my stereo store years later in Texas, guarding the shelves, motivating the sales crew. I even took her on some dates. I had decided to name my dog Chief, before I found her, assuming I would have a male. But as always happens in my life, my dogs find me. She was the only one in the pack of puppies, who refused to take her eye off her future dad. “You and me; we’re outta here!” So I changed her name to Lady Chief Beaver; cut me some slack; I was 23 years old; if you knew me then; you would understand LOL.

It's a dogs life in Costa Rica

Chief had one of the most fulfilling lives an animal has ever experienced, but as always happens, it seems to come to an end too quickly. I was moving to Florida, missing the ocean, and she got hit by a car in Atlanta. I was crushed. It was as if my soul was ripped out of my body; my heart aches to this day, 20 plus years later. I had promised to take her back to the beach, before we left San Antonio; God how she loved to crash in the waves. So I brought her ashes to Deerfield Beach Florida, in Broward County, determined to uphold my promise. It was a stunning day, not a cloud in the sky, and there were many families enjoying the afternoon.

I sat on the sand for a long time, having a hard time saying goodbye to my very best friend. I had brought along her favorite Frisbee, and was going to send her off with one final toss. I started to wade out into the water, to about waist deep, when the wildest thing happened. Out of nowhere, this storm came in. Literally, minutes before the sky was blue, and now it was dark and raining. The waves were huge; pounding against the shore. The wind was howling, whistling, and I was being hammered by the surf. I poured her ashes into the sea, and told her I loved her, and with all my might, I heaved the Frisbee out into the sea. What you need to understand, is that a Frisbee will float, it does not sink. Within seconds, the storm was gone, and everything was calm. The sun was back out, and shining on my face, before I even got out of the water. It was the most spiritual experience of my life, and I sat back down on the sand in disbelief. I waited for 30 minutes and the Frisbee never washed back up and I never saw it floating out beyond the break. Chief had it. She was gone and off to a better place.  Something very powerful came to take her away and I know she is chasing that Frisbee to this day and swimming in the biggest pool she had ever seen.

A couple years later, I was walking down that same beach; I lived nearby. I was very close to the exact spot where I sat that forceful day. As I walked down the beach, I saw this man coming towards me. He had a Black Labrador following beside him; a man and his dog out for a morning stroll. As I got closer to them, I continued to notice, that the dog did not take her eyes off of me, and stared at me the entire time I past. It made me wonder if my baby girl was there that day, watching out for me. I refused to look back at first, because I was starting to cry, but I just had to know if I was losing my mind. I stopped about a football field past where we had joined eyes and slowly turned around. Literally, at that exact second, the dog, now 200 yards away, also stopped. She turned completely around, stared at me for about 5 seconds, and then trotted after her master.  

I truly believe she is still watching over me to this day and she is the one who guides my fur children into my life. ALL of my dogs have found ME, I tell everyone. And I know Chief helped them somehow along the way.

It has been a roller coaster couple of years in doggie land.

It's a dog's life in Costa Rica

One of my favorite places to hang is Coconutz Sports Bar, on the main drag of town. (By the way, there is a new owner there now, Pete. Stop by and say hello, he is doing a stand up job carrying on the epic legacy of the bar.)  You can find me here almost any afternoon, enjoying a cold brew. I guess the Zaguates (local street dogs) can too and word has spread. FIND THE GRINGO, he will take you home. Twice within a couple weeks of one another, I added a new member to the pack. Manny was first. This rail thin goofy black dog, with big droopy ears, just appeared under my table one day, begging for a piece of my chicken strips. He had what appeared to be a leash, so I just assumed he had arrived with one of the patrons. You see, most bars and restaurants will let you bring your best friend, as long as they are well behaved. As I was backing out to leave, I saw him again. He was frantic, in the street, completely lost, dodging cars, hoping for the best. I noticed that it was a rope tied around his neck now, not a leash, and I knew he had escaped from his personal prison. I opened my door, and he jumped right in. I made a weak attempt to find his original home, but he is now the new hombre at the casa. “I hear you have a job opening for a man” he asked.

You see just a week earlier, my only other male dog, Macho, passed on. He was such a stud, hence the name, and had finally just given up. He had a very rough first 8 years or so before he found me, but the last couple was truly paradise.

I will miss you buddy, but I know that Chief is there to guide you.

Not much more than a week or so later, I was paying my tab again at the cash register. Pamela, who is also a huge dog lover, was nursing this poor creature behind the bar. “Please Mike, take her home. She is so sick and needs a good family.” Without hesitation, she was in my arms and we were off to see Dra. Sharine. We counted almost 100 ticks on her that afternoon, but thanks to the marvelous care by the greatest vet in the world, Missy is doing great. She has this marble color to her that is just fascinating and for some unknown reason, the whitest teeth I have ever seen. I am going to sell her smile to Hollywood, to help pay for the food tab at the hacienda.

I was just about up to the cashier with a cart full of groceries, when my phone rang. I saw it was Pablo, my caretaker at the house. Very rare for him to call me so I knew something had to be up. “Milagro is dying!!!! Hurry up and come home!!!!” He was frantic and shouting and I raced out of the store leaving my food behind. I haven’t driven that fast in a long time, and I got home as quick as I could. My maid Lorena was kneeling over the old gal, holding her and crying. She had passed quickly and with no pain at all, the sand just ran out of her hourglass. She was still warm when I hugged her, and whispered in her ear. I knew she could still hear me. It is going to be OK baby. Your friends will be waiting for you. Milagro was the sweetest animal I had ever known. She never growled, was never in a bad mood, and was the most loving creature on this earth. I named her Milagro (Miracle) because it truly was that she was still alive. She had been hit more than once by a car, and still kept on keeping on. I will see you again my sweet child. She is buried in the doggie cemetery at the back of my yard.

As fate would have it, Chief must have been blowing the dog whistle, when I exited the bar again, just a few months later. This pesky little trooper, started following me to my truck. My clients and I got in, and she just watched us drive away. We went about a mile or so down the road, to my Remax office, and went in to sign a contract, impossible for this dog to have followed. Yet when we came out 20 minutes later, there she was; sitting and waiting. “Are you going to take her home?” my clients asked. I guess so I replied, as she hopped into the back seat the second we opened the door. It was a Wednesday, and I was running out of names with an M, so Miercoles it was determined, was now her new hash tag. For those of you without Google Translate, Miercoles means Wednesday in Spanish.

She is a lot like me; totally independent; needs no one lol. I know now how my parents felt, because she also marches to her own beat, taking a different path in life than was projected (I was supposed to be an Orthopedic Surgeon.) Deep down in her heart, she always wanted to be an officer of the law, but somehow was dealt a different hand. Maybe she went to doggie police training school and failed, I don’t know, but she refuses to play the game like the rest of my fur children. None of my animals will ever leave the yard without me. They know the rules, even without a fence. Yet, every afternoon Miercoles bolts and trots to the front of the development. She spends the evening with the guard, protecting our little community, proud to be the last line of defense. It is quite humorous to see her when they pass by my house. She is in the front seat of the golf cart, riding shotgun, ears perked up, eyes peeled; scanning the horizon for anyone or anything that might possibly be out of line. She actually growls at my other dogs, as they sit at the edge of the property, a chatter of barking ensues, attitudes flaring. “Don’t even try it!!!” she snarls. “I’m a cop!!!”

At the crack of dawn, as the first rays of light peek over the volcanoes, she comes bouncing down the driveway, ready for the morning run with the pack. She is welcomed back, although there is a little bit of jealousy from the rest of the team. They take off down the driveway, like a herd of Buffalo, barking insanely; ecstatic to be alive. There is nothing more enjoyable than watching a bundle of dogs, playing, wrestling, rolling over each other, without a care in the world. To see the joy in their eyes, as they dive bomb into a lake, race at full speed after a bird or chase a squirrel with no prayer of catching it. They tumble and smash, bouncing up instantaneously to continue their gallop to some imaginary finish line. Even my neighbor’s dog Noah tags along every day.

On Sunday’s we pile them all in the back of the Toyota and off to the beach we go. My dogs are truly free here, having miles to run, no leashes; no rules. Monita and Malina, two of the oldest now, are still the first ones out of the bed, and taunt each other all the way to the waves. Mommie, who I had taken off the beach many years ago, is in doggie heaven when she returns to the sea; it is still in her blood. She has had cancer since the day I rescued her, and was only supposed to live another year or so. That was 6 years ago, and she is still trucking along. I truly believe that happiness and love are the best cures for anything Mother Nature can throw your way.

One weekend back, as we were terrorizing Matapalo beach, I had to rub my eyes and take a double look. Was that Sammy Hagar on the beach? This wild looking man, with crazy white long hair, was fishing with a string, and camping under a tree. He had nothing but a loin cloth on; could have been Ted Nugent too. Pablo, who couldn’t tell Sammy Hagar from Sammy Davis Junior, even had to point it out, shaking his head in disbelief. This old kook, crazy as a bat, found himself down on the ground like a 5 year old, playing with the group, rolling in the sand. Nothing puts a smile on a person’s face, like the slobbering love of a doggie kiss.

“Mike. Can I have Montana?” I was a little thrown by the question, as it is not every day that someone asks if they can take one of your family members. Tatum is my 9 year old neighbor. Her parents Amy and Bryan, along with their son Thomas, moved here a year ago in search of a better quality of life.

Unfortunately, their two family dogs, passed within a very short period of time to old age. I would come out some mornings, to find this adorable little girl, playing with my dogs, and she was specifically enamored with my little runt. I had rescued her years ago from a trash can, and if it wasn’t for the outstanding care of Sharine Alice, this special creation wouldn’t be here today. So you can imagine that it was a little difficult for me to even consider parting with one of my favorites of all time, but this was an extraordinary circumstance. After confirming with her parents, that they too would love to have her as a house guest, the trade was made, and the little mutt changed addresses. Every 9 year old girl needs a Montana, and every Montana needs a little Tatum.

It was 11 o’clock at night when I heard the bing of a text. This is usually bad news, and I cringed as I looked at the phone. It was my client’s daughters, who were here visiting for the week, telling me to call. I was concerned they had gotten in an accident or had too much to drink, and I dialed their number in hesitation. “We rescued a dog on the side of the road. You are going to love her! She will fit right in with all your other rescues.  We are coming over right now.” CLICK. You just have to love the assumption, don’t you? They are going to make fantastic sales people one day, going directly to the close. I have to be honest with you, I wasn’t overly excited about ANOTHER mouth to feed, but as I told you in the beginning, these angels find me; not the other way around. The girls named her Maya, and she was not in good shape when they got here. She was anemic, and starving, and as usually is the case, loaded with ticks. She was not much than skin and bones, and had almost no energy at all. She was totally lethargic. But she had this twinkle in her eye, which just told you how thankful she was to be held in your arms. Wow how times quickly change.

Within a few weeks of Sharine’s amazing care, I had a Mexican Jumping Bean on my hands. Maya can leap 4 feet in the air, do a full 360; she should be in the circus. She, Missy and Manny, must have been created from the same destructive mold, as they have since become the Three Musketeers. They can demolish a Welcome mat in seconds, and have since graduated to patio furniture. One morning I awoke, and could swear that I was back in Denver, looking out at a snow storm. Thousands of tiny white pieces of padding, littered my yard, and all 3 of them had little balls of upholstery and remnants of foam clustered in their whiskers and beards. The look in their eyes was priceless. “Whaaaaat? It wasn’t me!!!”  Tails wagging, heads swirling, doing the doggie happy wiggle; you can’t get too pissed off.

I am always donating to dog rescue centers and shelters; one of my favorites has some fantastic T-shirts with awesome slogans.

Every time you make a purchase, they donate meals to dog shelters. I have dozens of items hanging in my closet.






I was in NYC for a conference a few months back. Although it might be the best city in the world, I just kept thinking to myself; where do I walk my dogs? There are no trees for 20 miles. On the off day, I was cruising around Manhattan checking out the sites. If you have ever been to the Big Apple, you can attest, that they are not the friendliest people in the world, and NOBODY looks you in the eye and says hello. Over a dozen people stopped me on the street that day to comment on my T-shirt and even take a photo. Dogs do transcend and it is a common bond for people all over the world.

BOING BOING BOING SNAP! Little Millie Dolores goes bananas for a treat. She bounces up and down on her hind legs, like a bucking bronco. So when I saw her back leg go sideways, I freaked out. It turns out she had torn her ACL and MCL and she had no ability to stand or put any pressure on it at all. Immediately, Sharine went into action. She found the top veterinarian orthopedic surgeon in the country and made me an appointment on the spot; I was in San Jose a few hours later. I have never been so impressed in my entire life with the process. She was treated like a rock star; with a personal nurse; she was given 24 hour care. As soon as the surgery was over, she was assigned her own private physical therapist, who worked around the clock to help her recover. You have to understand how inconceivable this entire scenario was. First off, a doctor had to perform a complete rebuild of her ligaments. Remember, her leg is the size of a chicken wing, and the knee equal to a nickel. The fact that this surgery can even be done; ANY WHERE in the world; let alone Costa Rica; is mind boggling. Also, Millie is pushing 13 years old, so she is not a young pup anymore. She was walking by the second day; her leg wrapped in a pink cast, and was beyond happy to see me when I would visit. I could tell that she was in good hands, because she had no fear or anxiety about going back inside the hospital with her therapist. She actually seemed to love her; the gal was amazing; a real sweetheart. She was released after 5 days and the ENTIRE ordeal cost me less than $800!!!!! Surgery, anesthesia, antibiotics, nurse and therapist, food and shelter for my princess; it would have been $5 K in the USA. (By the way, Montana also blew out her knee. She got rolled up on by a bigger dog and the same procedure was performed. She is running marathons today with Tatum.)

It's a dog's lie in Costa Rica

 A few months earlier, I had tried a new, innovative and very progressive process with Millie; Stem Cell Therapy. Sharine was sure that this would add years to her life, and I signed up on the spot. Within weeks, I was seeing the difference. Her skin was softer, her energy more abundant and she slept better than she had in the past. I am sure this had a lot to do with her quick recovery, because within a couple weeks after the operation, she was back to her salsa dance. SUPER PERRO is her new nickname.

As I am sure you can tell by now, I am HIGHLY impressed with my Vet. If you missed the last Newsletter, here it is again.

She has been a God send, who has helped keep my family going for all of these years. I do not know what I would have ever done without her. She has been so loving and caring, always going above and beyond the call of duty for my pups. Unfortunately, there is a sad and tough side to her devoted career, yet she is still there to help me through the most difficult periods of my life. Meeka was the very first soul to capture my heart, here in Costa Rica, and she lived an unbelievably satisfying life, finally passing on at almost 14 years. She was the leader and mother of this impressive clan; always providing love, protection and guidance to each new member as they arrived. My wonderfully caring dog groomer, Meli Gonzalez, came that day and gave Meeka her final bath. She had an hour long oatmeal massage, and everyone got to say good bye. All of my other dogs knew something was going on too. They sat in a half moon circle; quiet and captivated; as she was given a sedative to relax; she looked each one of them in the eye. When it was finally time to say goodbye, Sharine was a rock. 

There is something very touching about being with your best friend when they die. It is very difficult, but also very special. To know they trust you enough to let go; to hear their last breath; to whisper in their ear. “It is going to be OK Baby. I love you so much. I will see you again soon on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. Everyone is waiting for you. Thanks for sharing your time with me, my old friend. Good bye.”

Thank you Chief for always looking after us; I love you. Take care of everyone for me. See you soon.  

I wish that I could hold you.

And say the things I never told you.

And if I could, I’d bring you back to life.

For one more chance, just you and I.

To watch the stars fall from the sky.

I wish we never had to say goodbye.


Hope to see you soon, Michael.


Meli Gonzalez

Please donate to your local rescue centers /shelters and ours in Costa Rica.




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