Friday, June 21st, 2013 marks the official First Day of Summer and the longest day of the year. Although there is some speculation by Shakespeare fans about the true marking of the Summer Solstice, if you go by the weather here in México, you will think it is several weeks before. To no surprise, one group that seems attune to dealing with the heat is the dogs.
Although we haven’t experienced the ridiculously-scortching temperatures of Sacramento, CA, it has been hot and it will only get hotter, and then the rains will come. Every day, for an hour or two, just enough to cool things off. (If you feel inclined to bet on this weather, Que?Pasa has a Rain Pool to guess inches, a few squares may remain!)
My first visit to México was in July 2011. With my head full of summer travel tips from TripAdvisor.com, I felt prepared: a good rain jacket, plenty of sunscreen and stylish ways to wear my long hair up and off my neck (to avoid what I call the “hair blanket”). What I wasn’t prepared for was a junior suite apartment with no air conditioning. Surprisingly, I survived the heat and rain, fell in love with Vallarta, and now experience this as my daily climate.
Growing up in Charleston, we didn’t always have air conditioning, and instead found relief from humid days and nights the old-fashioned way: several fans set to “high”, a kiddie pool out back, and copious amounts of chilled iced tea. Now that I live in Puerto Vallarta, I am learning from the locals how to beat the heat.
Of course, people here love bien fría cervezas and paleta from the cart, but another favorite trick to staying cool is taking a dip in El Rio Cuale. Yes, the same river that I clean on the weekends with La Brigada de la Basura, is also “Vallarta’s swimming pool.” It’s said that if you drink the water from El Rio, you will never leave Vallarta. I’m incredibly challenged by the premise of doing either: drinking the river water and never leaving – there’s a big world out there to explore (and I’d like to be healthy when I go)!
The dogs here seem prepared for hot summers, and they are everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. Dogs swim in the river, “help” in the businesses and trot in the streets. Sometimes they are with their owners – like the tiny Chihuahua that sprints along with its dad, running the length of the Malécon in the evenings – but more often than not, they are free, with their own unique techniques to staying cool.
On Saturdays, volunteering with La Brigada de la Basura, we often encounter dogs resting in shady dirt beds and splashing in small water holes along the river. The kids play gently with the dogs they know and often invite them to walk with us while we pick up trash. We talk about how important it is to keep dogs cool in the summer and give them plenty of fresh water to drink so they don’t overheat. The kids seem to love the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet, especially when it’s hot outside.
Recently I enjoyed a relaxing, fun afternoon at El Rio BBQ Bar with some friends, swimming in the river and sipping a few bien fría cervezas. We were greeted by a young dog at El Rio named Julieta, a Shepard mix who stayed with us for most of the day.
Julieta splashed in the water with us and played catch using an old plastic bottle. Though she growled a bit to show dominance to our friend’s puppy, Arturitio, we also wondered if it was out of jealousy because he is so irresistibly cute.
As I give thanks each day for my life in Puerto Vallarta, I also count the ways of keeping cool during the summer months. For now, I will trust the unique methods developed by the dogs and my friends in México: heeding their creative ways to stay cool and drinking the river water only by accident, which, by the way, I already did.