The daily grind: how a 4-legged gypsy taught me the value of happiness

Gitano,  a gypsy spirit

In business and especially working in industry, it seems like you’re always on the grind, under the gun, time is money. Now it’s true, working in the Amazon was an exhilarating experience for me. But at the same time I needed to maintain a live-work balance. I know that’s a very popular catchphrase today, but it’s valid. Without the strength and rest, and connection with the rest of the world, it’s impossible to run a proper business.

Our company recently moved into our Amazon home. It was an apartment/office complex with a good fence around the outside. Emptying out the trash required that we take and place the garbage for pickup outside of the fenced property. On one of those garbage trips, I met Gitano (Gypsy in Spanish). 

At first glance, he looked to me like some kind of monster-perhaps a lizard or some Amazon exotic animal. I soon realized that the monstrosity was in fact a canine. You see Gitano had been hit by a truck, his lower jaw broken, his body emaciated.  He was in really rough shape. However, he was alive and I had a choice 1) I could ignore him, 2) I could end his misery, or 3) I could try to help him. Actually, there never really was a choice for me, I knew from the moment I saw him that I was going to help him.

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Gitano was hungry and scared.  I found him scavenging the garbage. With his broken mandible hanging like a zombie’s, he attempted to eat the scraps but just couldn't quite get at it very well.  He gnawed at morsels from the side of his mouth, yelping every time his jaw noshed. The puss oozed from the sores on his body, he was lathered in it, and blood, and mud. 

Undeterred I lured him in with soft bits of meat and a bowl of milk. As soon as he was inside our compound I closed the door. We gently washed and sanitized the rough state of his face injuries and numerous body wounds. A veterinarian arrived and took most of the day to stitch and bandage his wounds as best we could. Once sedated, I assisted the doctor in stitching and cleaning. We expected his little heart to stop at any time, but he was a trooper.

It’s strange, how humans, myself included, can become attached to a canine. I’ve often marveled at their capacity for love. They seem to have an endless supply of unconditional love
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Eventually, Gitano would go through three very painful surgeries. The wounds on his face made him look like a zombie.  Time passed and while his bones fused and he could eat again, his facial lacerations continued to leak. Every time he sneezed, huge snot bubbles would form on his head. But he had an indomitable spirit.  

I gave up on the banana republic veterinarians and took it upon myself to Krazy-glue Gitano's wounds. Miraculously the wounds finally began to heal. Gitano ate quite well and gained a lot of weight. He came into his own and sprouted into a beautiful male dog. The hair on his skin once clumpy, brittle, and falling, now appeared full and lush. I helped this beautiful animal and that made me happy.

Gitano was my buddy. At the time, we explored in the Amazon and took extremely lengthy week long hikes. It became apparent very quickly that Gitano was a jungle dog. He could run through the underbrush all day without tiring. The leader of the pack, he explored ahead of us, keeping the path free of any animal or other dangerous object. On one occasion, for example, Gitano stopped cold in his path, warning us. We heard the growl of a jaguar up ahead, our entire team stopped and literally our blood ran cold. Carefully, we backed out of that area. I still wonder what would have happened if Gitano hadn't warned us?

On yet another incident, in one of our exploration camps, unwelcomed Colombian visitors entered the premises-fierce, mean-looking, with guns, machetes and such. We negotiated to have them leave and I believe a big part of the reason they left was because of Gitano. Even on a leash it was challenging to restrain him- barking, growling, jumping, gnawing at his leash, breaking the stitches in his face, covered in blood and puss. The Colombians were actually scared of our monster-hell dog. Yes, Gitano saved my life more than once in return for the help I had given him. It's strange, how humans, myself included, can become attached to a canine.  I've often marveled at their capacity for love. They seem to have an endless supply of unconditional love. At the same instant, maintaining their wild origins. I'm one hundred percent convinced that Gitano would have died within days of our original meeting if we hadn’t offered help. 

I really found a good friend in Ecuador. When we prepared to launch another jungle excursion, Gitano sensed it and he would sit in our truck waiting for us, anticipating. I believe, in his canine mind, the joys of running through the jungle, as head guide, translated to ecstasy with the smile to prove it.  Gitano absolutely loved backwoods nature.

But I worried about him, he was fearless when it came to snakes and spiders and all of the other creepy-crawler's that you find in the jungle. That was his home. Gitano didn't do well in the city. While on a city walk, Gitano broke leash and ran directly in front of another truck.  The contact killed him instantly. In shock, I grieved for weeks.

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I suppose in life we shouldn't focus on the grief and loss, even though it hurts so. Remember the happiness that animals and people bring us. We should be happy for the good things that we do on a daily basis for others. Do what we can to help, with the little time we are given. I consider myself joyous to have seen such a spirit as that beautiful dog. 

In business and especially working in industry, it seems like you're always on the grind, under the gun, time is money. Now it's true, working in the Amazon was an exhilarating experience for me. But at the same time I needed to maintain a live-work balance. I know that's a very popular catchphrase today, but it's valid. Without the strength and rest, and connection with the rest of the world, it's impossible to run a proper business. After all we are humans, are we not? I enjoyed this connection with my dog, Gitano.  I loved the long walks he needed daily, regardless whether we were hiking the jungle or not. I learned a lot about interacting, gentleness and patience, from that one animal. I saw reward for kindness and was repaid hundredfold. I'll always remember Gitano and I think of him often, buried in his Amazon home. Rest in peace my good friend.  Thank you.