SARAH MESSER KEENAN
aluna – a kind of cosmic consciousness that is the source of all life and intelligence and the mind inside nature too (as defined by the Kogi tribe of Colombia)
When I set off traveling alone at age 24, I admit, I didn't have much of a plan. Little did I know, that I would land right back at home with a new dog in hand. But somehow, all parts of this story came together in a series of perfect synchronicities.
While exploring the cloud forest, Monteverde, in Costa Rica, I stumbled across a small store called "Whole Foods". This Whole Foods was much different than the ones in the US; it was only one small room lined with shelves that each contained a few precious packages. Having spent the day climbing around in the jungle and crawling up the insides of 100 foot trees hollowed out by vines, my hunger was palpable. After blissfully wandering out of the store with snacks in hand, I sat down on a bench with my two travel mates.
While we basked in the sun, a few of the most adorable puppies, barely able to walk greeted us with their presence. Immediately, I was in love. Going against everything in my heart but listening to the advice of my friends, we departed from the puppies and set back off to our hostel. All night, I couldn't stop thinking about the little runt of the pack-she was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Matt and George finally calmed my worries for the welfare of the dog, claiming that if we missed the bus (the only bus) again tomorrow, we would all go back for the pups.
The next morning, we arrived at the bus stop over an hour before the scheduled pickup time, as times there were always a bit flexible. A few hours later, a passerby informed us that somehow, the bus wasn't coming that day. Before the words were out of his mouth, I was off running in my barefeet back to Whole Foods. And there she was, galloping towards me before I could even cross the street.
I had a word with the people around in the neighborhood who informed me that she was in need of a home. Some of the nearby people offered to care for her brothers, but due to her small size and extremely scrappy appearance, she was going to be left alone. In Costa Rica, dogs line the streets much as squirrels do in the US-they are everywhere. Many people find their presence to be evasive at times, especially in the buildings that are open to the amazing fresh air since there is no way to keep the wild dogs out of restaurants and other public facilities. This is why feeding the stray dogs is frowned upon, since they will return over and over to that spot long after the tourists move on.
In the most unlikely of circumstances, I walked away with her hugged so close to my heart and together, we began an adventure that we will continue for many years to come. Raising a dog when you don't specifically have anywhere to live proved to be a challenging and beautiful time for us.
The kindness of strangers we met at a farmers market led us to become aware of the dire situation of the small pup's health. As we sat in the shade, a woman approached me and asked me a series of questions about the dog's behavior-mainly about how many hours exactly she slept a day. It seemed like about 20, so the woman said, "meet me in the morning at the top of the hill under the tree with the giant rock".
And so we did. Just as the sun came up, the woman drove up in her mini SUV and took us to the closest vet. The vet conducted a series of tests, concluding that she had worms, blood and intestinal parasites, and was carrying a tick born illness that was an immediate threat to her life. The kind vet meticulously coached me through every process. We had to follow a strict timeline of pills, injections, fecal collection, and skin treatments.
I already felt such a deep connection to this dog that I knew there were no limits to where I wouldn't go when it came to her health. And so it all began, day after day, slowly but surely. I would spend hours a day pulling ticks and fleas off of her scabbed body. Every 12 hours for 3 months, she had to have an injection in her mouth. Every meal she had to swallow a few tablets. She was so patient and loving. There were days where we struggled and days where we questioned but never days where we ever thought of any other option. I watched her start to grow and play, heard her as she finally started to be able to bark and howl, saw her emerge into her own personality that turned out to be the biggest part of her after all.
Her crate was a bath mat, her collar was an old bracelet, her leash was a purple ribbon. We spent the days in the shade of the banana and mango trees or hopping buses with her in my backpack. Life was simple and beautiful.
And so she was reborn-Aluna.
That small dog has taught me many important lessons about life: responsibility, patience, perseverance, compassion, unconditional love, the power of presence. After our time spent together, it was decided that we would both be coming back to the US. Since then, Aluna has moved to Virginia, Georgia, California, and back again-all the while staying true to her wild spirit.
Although it rarely makes sense or is convenient, love has a way of always prevailing.
"In the beginning, there was blackness.
Only the sea.
In the beginning there was no sun, no moon, no people.
In the beginning there were no animals, no plants.
Only the sea.
The sea was the Mother.
The Mother was not people, she was not anything.
Nothing at all.
She was when she was, darkly.
She was memory and potential.
She was aluna."