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March 15, 2007

In Memory of Calipso, a Dog that Learned to Trust

Calipso lived on the streets for many years, usually hanging out near the local Western Union office, where the proprietor. Elena fed her table scraps. Her scrappy
appearance was made worse by the numerous people that took pleasure in throwing mud and rocks at her, and kicking her out of the way. The origin of her name is unknown, but it is a male dog's name.

It must have been a surprise when people realized Calipso was in "the family way." She had gotten herself into trouble with a one-eyed rogue, Rocky. Since Rocky was
Elena’s pet, she felt a responsibility, and called me to intervene. Calipso's gypsy lifestyle came to an end, and we brought her to the Amazon Community Animal Rescue,
Education & Safety No-Kill shelter to live. She bore a litter of 7 puppies, which usually signifies that she had born numerous litters, all of whom probably did not survivebeing born on the streets. She also had enlarged teats, another indication of many pregnancies. Her long shaggy coat had hidden her gender, as well as her tendencies to hide in dark corners, had hidden her gender. Perhaps we should have re-named her "Yentyl," but it was too hard to explain to my Peruvian employees.
I have been gone for months & SOMEONE needs a haircut!

Calipso was a devoted mother, and it was heartbreaking as each puppy failed to survive, a common event when pregnant dogs are malnourished during much of their pregnancy. Her age was an unknown factor. Her teeth were mere nubs due to years of scraping food off of concrete streets. Following years of living on the streets, lacking security and affection, Calipso exuded fear and shyness, qualities other dogs could sense. Even our most docile shelter dogs frequently attacked her without provocation.

For her protection, I brought her to live inside my home. We feared adopting her out, not wanting her to suffer any possible mistreatment, and also because she was a “runner,“ a true gypsy that loved life on the streets despite it's harshness.

I already had four house pets, and was reluctant to bring in another dog. To my dismay and surprise, even my tame indoor pets occasionally attacked Calipso!!

Luckily, my live-in household employee, Lady, chose to “adopt” Calipso. Lady took responsibility for Calipso and Calipso slept in her room at night. I still had the benefit of watching over Calipso and her well-being.
The Gift of Unconditional Love, Calipso/El Regalo de Amor Incondicional, Calipso.

Timid Calipso constantly hid, preferring darkened rooms. We would search the house only to find her hiding under a bed, behind the washing machine, or even behind a toilet! To resolve this I began closing all doors of the house, forcing Calipso to remain in the living room area. Despite this, she still found a place to “hide” under the dining room table and against the wall. Lady and I were determined to bring Calipso out of her shell. We devoted hours per day to showering Calipso with affection. At times I would even force her to sit on my lap so that I could stroke her fur and whisper sweet nothings to her. Eventually, she would choose to join me on my lap, and I when I looked in her beautiful brown eyes and called her name, I was rewarded with the distinct sound of her tail thumping against the floor!
Calipso is dog-tired!

Eventually she would even lie on her back so I could rub her tummy. She truly learned to love, for what was probably the first time in her hard life. She was finally living in a safe environment, with protection from the constantly changing tropical Amazon environment, and a daily supply of healthy dog food. Yet Calipso was a true vagabond. She often hid under a table in the darkened garage, and as soon as the door opened, she snuck out, usually so stealthily that we failed to notice her escape! I chastised my employees for not taking better precautions, until I experienced one of Calipso’s escapes first-hand. Hidden in a darkened corner, the moment the garage door opened to allow an employee to store a bike or motorbike, she ran out the door with a speed that belied her advanced age. I often chased her for blocks, sometimes even grabbing a three wheeled “motor-taxi” to catch up with her, to no avail. Because our shelter dogs had collars and ID, we would sometimes get phone calls from employees of the numerous chicken joints around Iquitos. Calipso
preferred chicken scraps to dog food. She usually returned within one or two days looking fat and happy. Often a heavy rainstorm would awaken me in the middle of the night and I would go to the door to find Calipso soaked to the bone. I would dry her off and welcome her in. On these nights I would open my bedroom to her. My other dogs happily joined me on top of my bed, but Calipso still felt more comfortable sleeping under my bed.Calypso, recovering from major shyness

Following one of these heavy rainstorms Calipso returned home with a cough, from which she never recovered. A part of me will always blame myself for not being more vigilant about preventing her escapes. As her condition worsened, she began to withdraw into her shell once again, and she no longer seemed eager to escape the house. Eventually we sent her to live with a volunteer in an apartment above the
Veterinary Clinic. My Veterinarian revealed that Calipso had an enlarged heart.

Recently, while in the US, I received an email from my Veterinarian telling me that Calipso had gone to a better place in this vast universe. She died of natural causes,
and I am heartbroken that I never got to say goodbye to this special dog, that taught me as much as I taught her. It brings me some comfort knowing that I provided for her well during the final three years of her life.

Because I work in the animal rescue field, saying goodbye to special animals is inevitable. I believe all of these special animals are together in a beautiful and safe place, where they are free of fear, illness, and painful memories. I am convinced that Calipso has reunited with her puppies, and she can finally eat all the chicken she desires.