Stop and Smell the Puppies!

You hear a lot about how friendly the Ecuadorian people are, and it is all true. They are also extremely proud of and loving towards their children. I was thinking about this the other day as I watched parents and their children playing on the beach, and it reminded me of an experience we had a when we were still brand new to the country.

We had been in Salinas only a few weeks since closing on our new home. We had been very busy getting things setup; arranging for Internet, shopping for furniture, learning the area, talking in what I think of as “Tonto Spanish” (White man come from far land, live in condo in sky) and so on, and felt it was time for a break. We decided to take our realtor out to dinner to thank her for all of her help.

We set out walking at 6:30pm. The sun was just about down, temperature in the mid-seventies and a nice breeze blowing, so we decided to eat at a small restaurant a block off the Malecon called Marazul (Blue Ocean). Like many of the restaurants in this friendly climate its three seating areas are all either outdoors or just under a roof.

We took our seats out on the outdoor deck and had just ordered our drinks and meals, when a little boy of about 5 or 6, terribly happy and excited, came over to us from the dining area around the corner to show us his new schnauzer puppy. It was a cute little black thing, barely big enough for him to hold in his two little hands.

He was so excited, he didn’t notice or care that we only understood about a quarter of his rapid Spanish monologue. But it was clear this was the best, cutest, smartest puppy in the whole world, and we absolutely had to see it close up. So he proceeded to set it down right on our table.

The puppy righted itself, and looked around, a little confused about all of the excitement going on around it. We petted it, ooh’ed and ahh’ed a bit, and so satisfied, the little boy snatched it up, put it on the floor, and tried to get it to follow him around so we could see how well behaved it was. His father showed up then, nodded at us, and tried to herd them both back over to their table.

A few minutes went by, and then our little dinner guest came back, chasing his puppy. The puppy runs under our table, so of course our niño pequeño also crawls under the table. They proceeded to go in and out like that while we tried to carry on a normal pre-dinner conversation.  At one point our guest looked at me with an odd expression on her face and said, “I’m being licked”. I told her don’t worry; it’s probably the dog.

Eventually, after much jostling about and a few giggles and squeals, he emerged from under the table holding his puppy again.  At this point, he must have realized what a disservice he had done us by not letting us smell his puppy.  To make up for this, he proceeded to bring it over to each of us and push the puppy’s belly in our faces so we could see how nice he smells – “Huele bien!” he exclaimed with pride.

Since the dad had been unable to keep junior tableside, now the mom comes over, scoops up the puppy and tells her son it is time to go back to the table for dinner.  She smiles and shrugs at us with a “what are you going to do?” look on her face, and we smiled back and got to use one of our Spanish phrases – “No te preocupes! (no worries!)”.

It struck me that at no time did the parents seem upset or angry with the boy. They were friendly to us, and were not embarrassed by his behavior at all. They just accepted that he was happy and enthusiastic, and let him enjoy showing off his new friend.

Later that evening, as we were sitting on our balcony enjoying the breeze and the lights up and down the beach, my wife and I made a deal with each other. We knew it would be a process learning a new language and a new culture. We knew it wouldn’t always be easy, that there would be struggles along the way. But we promised each other that no matter what, we would always remember what that little boy taught us – always make sure you take the time to stop and smell the puppies!