Saturday, December 3, 2022 Dec 3, 2022
62° F Dallas, TX

Save the Mexican Mutt

Is the new dog I ordered from San Miguel de Allende my new best friend — or a drug mule?
By Allison Hatfield |
illustration byTyson Smith

Recently I adopted a dog. From Mexico. That’s right. I support immigration. 

Peluso was an “owner surrender,” a nice way of saying his owner abandoned him at a shelter. According to his online profile, which included an adorable photo of him playing with a toy leopard, he was a 10-month-old poodle mix. He was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in the care of a group called Save a Mexican Mutt. I submitted an adoption application, and, because I am an awesome person, I was approved immediately. A woman named Kelly told me over the phone that my puppy would be delivered in about a month. 

That was just enough time to prepare my cranky old Maltese for the new arrival and wrestle with my own guilt. You see, after my poodle died last year, I began volunteering for a Dallas animal rescue group called Paws in the City. I walked and groomed dogs at adoption events, solicited donations, sold tickets at a fundraiser, and took puppies to meet their new families. And I kept an eye out for just the right dog to fill the gap in my own family. I spent hours on Petfinder and breed rescue sites. I’d considered, and rejected, probably 1,000 dogs. I am a horrible person.

Then along came Peluso (a Spanish nickname for someone with shaggy hair). I loved that he was coming from Mexico (What a conversation starter! I am so exotic!), but I also felt I had committed some kind of dog rescue sin by outsourcing my adoption. I do my best to eat and shop locally, yet here I was adopting an animal that had to clear customs. There was no way to rationalize why, out of the tens of thousands of pets available in North Texas, I couldn’t find one that pleased me. So I reminded myself there are triathletes who smoke and police officers who break the speed limit—hypocrisy be damned.

I told my family. Upon seeing Peluso’s photo, my dad said, “Very cute, but his name is too much like Nancy Pelosi. Gotta find a name that won’t make people flinch.” I thought, “Gotta find a dad that won’t drive me crazy.” Besides, in a short time the puppy would be running the house, just like his almost-namesake and much to the chagrin of his right-wing doggie brother. My friends, though, had other concerns.

I hadn’t questioned the legitimacy of Save a Mexican Mutt. It had a blog! And a Facebook page! I’d even spoken to “Kelly.” But more than one friend raised a skeptical eyebrow. Getting a dog from Mexico? Had I ever tried to cross the border with so much as a burrito? To them, things seemed sketchy. One friend reminded me that a few years ago, the DEA had caught Colombian drug dealers smuggling smack inside some Lab puppies. Was I sure I was getting a dog and not a drug mule? 

The weeks passed. “Kelly” provided regular updates. Peluso had had his last round of puppy shots. (Was this code for “swallowed his coke balloons”?) He’d been neutered. He was a neighborhood favorite. I remained optimistic and bought puppy food and gladly accepted a basket of dog toys from a friend. I ordered a silver tag engraved with his name. And, not knowing if this Mexican mutt would understand English, I tried to learn a little Spanish. (As it turns out, Mexicans don’t tell their animals to sit or fetch the way we do, so I just walked around my apartment practicing the commands with a Spanish accent.) My Maltese sat on the sofa and begged me to make out a will.

Finally, adoption day came. “Kelly” asked if I could meet her at Aloft hotel, in Las Colinas, in the parking lot. It seemed like a red flag. Perhaps this whole thing was a ruse by the Mexican drug mafia to kidnap me. As a test, I asked if she wanted the $150 adoption fee in cash or check, figuring a drug dealer would prefer cash. “A check,” she said, “made out to Save a Mexican Mutt.”

So, funds in hand, I set out to get my puppy. Or get kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. I waved goodbye to my friends.

Kelly and Jim Karger, as it turns out, are not drug dealers. They’re not even Mexican. They moved to Mexico from Irving nine years ago and, after seeing the number of hurt, abused, and abandoned dogs wandering the streets, started SAMM. Also, it’s perfectly legal to transport a dog across the U.S.-Mexico border as long as you have a note from a vet. Peluso made the 18-hour road trip from San Miguel with the couple, a bull terrier, a cocker spaniel, and a golden retriever, all Mexican immigrants now happily living in Texas, draining their new owners’ resources.

I wasn’t kidnapped. I didn’t end up with a dog full of drugs. (Though Peluso did leave a few “suspicious packages” around the house.) I got a playful powder puff with the hair of Don King and the curiosity of Alton Brown. He came with a note that said he is afraid of brooms, “like most Mexican dogs.” And that’s fine. I don’t own a broom.

We are in love, the mutt and I. The Maltese and the mutt? Not so much. He’s ready to move to Arizona. 

Write to [email protected] .