New Life Comes To The Geriatrics

(Whether or Not We Wanted It)

Yes, new life had come to the geriatric set, and it was exhausting.

Consider Papi — our puppy. 

My husband Juan named him Papi, a term of endearment in Spanish, translated into English as “Daddy,” but also as a general term of affection for any man.

It became a popular word among English speakers when Jennifer Lopez came out with the song “Papi” (2011).

Its lyrics encouraged one and all to “dance for your papi” (i.e. man).

Our Papi was hardly a “man” when he insisted on my opening our front gate nine months ago. He was 4 months old, and a wild one, to be sure.

He looked like a baby seal: sleek and slippery. And he barked with total abandonment! Energy to the max.

 “You will let me in and feed me!” he barked. Over and over and over again. 

I must tell you, that Papi was not the first animal Juan and I have felt we simply had to bring into the family. In fact, currently we have 7 dogs, 2 cats, and a white lab mouse named Algodon (translated into English as “Cotton”).  Each has house and garden privileges, meaning that I usually stand up because all the seats are taken. And it is a small house.

And during our decade of Mexican living, we have woven into our interspecies family pattern:  mourning doves, multi-generations of starlings, countless humming birds, honey bees, horses, ponies, herds of cattle, turtles, snails, chickens, and a very friendly and frisky pet pig. We have fed them, petted them, played with them, and picked up the gifts they have deposited at our front gate. 

So there Papi was: demanding his rights as a living creation, with not just me to hear his argument, but the other animals that live with us, and everyone else on our street, and in our neighborhood, and in the state of Jalisco, the country of Mexico, and in every nook and cranny of the world.

You see, Papi was and is the voice of all animals (including human ones) who know what it means to be homeless, hungry, and desperate for love. Who want to be part of the group, to be woven into the pattern, to be welcomed into the family. To be accepted for who they are.

So I opened the gate and went outside to give this “outsider” (an adorable one to be sure), some food. I left it with him and went back into the house, leaving the other dogs to vocalize their befuddlement, if not perhaps greed for the hot dog that I had given to the new kid. I supposed — incorrectly — that the gang of canines would soon calm down.

But they didn’t.

The cacophony increased, to the point of it becoming wailing, if not keening. The pack was proclaiming the Day of Judgment’s arrival. My yelling for them to stop from inside the house did not work. The gang was in full rebellion-mode.

So outside the gate I went again, to convince the new kid to continue on his life’s path. But to no avail. Before I could close the gate and go back into the house, the baby seal had snuck into our yard, and had joined the menagerie.

So, of course, we took him in, much to the excitement of the other dogs and cats.

Lots of sniffing, growling, and general chaos ensued. A new kid in the neighborhood had arrived, illustrating his Cirque du Solei skills of speed and agility, jumping and dancing on his hind legs— demanding that the others (including us humans) keep up with him.

“Throw me the ball!” he proclaimed. “Do it again. C’mon!  Play with me! I don’t care if it’s 10 am or midnight! But can you explain to me why the cats don’t like me?”

Unlike the other dogs, Papi managed to squeeze between the iron bars of the front gate and disappear—over and over again. Juan added wire mesh to prevent this from happening.

“I don’t like it!” Papi barked.

You have to understand that Papi was a pain at times, especially so when the other dogs and cats were having their senior-citizen siestas.

Yes, new life had come to the geriatric set, and it was exhausting but also, invigorating.

And as the months went by, Papi started to blend in, although his particular breed — he is a Dachsador (half Dachshund, half Labrador), has a very energetic and commanding persona. His growing out of puppyhood has somewhat caused him to be a bit less frisky — but only a bit!

At any rate, Papi is now one of the family. Not that it has been easy for this to happen. He and the others have had to learn what it means to welcome an “outsider” even if each of them was once an outsider.

Creating a beloved family! 

Moment by moment— a process replete with adjustments, growth of understanding, expanded feelings, moments of amazement, connection, and joy.

Although our Pitbull-Chow Chow Mix Osito will, on occasion, remind Papi that he should not mess with a Pitbull-Chow Chow mix when he is guarding his bone.

And our Belgian Shepherd Paloma is not at all happy that Papi has usurped her ball (and all other balls, and whatever else can be thrown and fetched), and refuses to share any of them.

But our white Labrador Yogi, despite his unquenchable appetite and his need to be Alpha Male in the house, shows a kind of paternal kindness and patience with the pup.

While our Australian Shepherd Muffy, who always acts the queen in our dominion, barely seems to tolerate the little guy’s intrusion into her realm. And she lets him know it directly whenever he tries to chum up to her.

Whereas our oversized Chihuahua-mix miracle child Penny, whose brain damage from infancy causes short term memory loss, and prevents her from taking anything personally, is long-suffering with Papi’s playfulness.

Then there is our Border Collie Blackie, the patriarchal, all-wise, Magi figure and protector of us all; the go-to granddaddy with whom Papi shares guard duty and naps.

Our cat Maggie, a calico who is named for the role Liz Taylor played in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Maggie the Cat); and our cat Naranjo who is named after the fruit because he is orange, prefer that Papi disappear.

Finally there is our white lab mouse Algodon who is named after cotton and resembles a ball of the stuff. She/he/they and Papi apparently are not aware of the other’s existence. And hopefully, it stays that way.

While Juan and I? We have more tails to wag, more dishes to fill, more action generally. Indeed, new life has come to the geriatrics, and despite less time to contemplate how I ever got to be geriatric in the first place (Juan is only middle age), I find myself not having the time to even ask the question.

And I think that is a very good thing, one that those of you who find you have too much time in retirement, might take under consideration.

In other words: ADOPT A PAPI/SAVE THE WORLD! Or at least save a life! Actually, save a couple lives: your own, and the life of your own special Papi, that newest member of your family, the one who is out there somewhere on the streets of Lakeside, seeking your love and care.


Don Beaudreau has made Lakeside his home for a decade. He does, indeed, enjoy a busy family life with Juan, and all the other critters he has referred to in this article.

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