The dogs of La Cruz woke lazily, some with the sun, some later, some just to relocate to a shadier or sunnier siesta spot to keep snoozing, after a night spent dreaming of beach runs to the gentle lull of the crashing surf. They stretched into wakefulness with a yoga pose (you know the one) and then either circled around to curl up again or trotted off to get about the business of the day (the dogs of La Cruz are professionals, you see, and with rich inner lives, too).
The shaggy short dog bounced paw by paw from cobblestone to cobblestone as he made his way by the soccer field where the horses grazed at one end and the fishermen strung their nets from the goalposts at the other, tying knots and making repairs as mariachi music strained from a tiny, tinny speaker. He began his rounds through the streets of town, past the open door of the tortilleria where the smell of warm masa rolled out onto the sidewalk and past the corner cafe where the Americanos gathered in their straw hats to sip cafe con leche and, well, americanos.
The tall black dog with the pointed ears eyed the chickens strutting down the dirt road as he traipsed proudly along, a plastic Coke bottle in his mouth, trophy and toy, only deigning to move to the side when a scooter rolled past along the bumpy road, or a rattling police car, windows down. Lazily, the small bearded white dog eyed him from his perch outside the corner store, where roll-wrinkled and bulky Shar-Pei mixes and tiny terriers went in and out in search of sunscreen (too late) and cans of Corona Light (already) stocked in bins of ice.
The Swiss-looking dog, the tricolored one, had a belly growing more swollen by the day, and when her puppies came no one was quite sure what they would look like (though the pit bull that tugged the mooring line suspected they’d resemble the chihuahua— what he lacked in stature he made up in pure machismo and the pit had seen them canoodling when he trotted past the palapas at sunset on more than one occasion).
As for the pit himself, he cut a more solitary figure, barking away the assistance of the lean tan dog that tried to help him at his early morning task of tugging the mooring lines. So far this ambition had been unsuccessful, the lines staying put no matter how hard he tugged, but frankly, he couldn’t really remember why he’d started in the first place, and now it was just plain fun.
The slim black dog couldn’t get the sand out of his fur and gave up, heading to the palm-shaded marina to check out whatever new pooches had rolled in the night before on the freshly arrived yachts and sailboats flying flags of the British Virgin Isles and Grand Cayman.
On his way he passed a trio of pugs who snorted a greeting (he couldn’t discern their accent) as they crossed paths, tangling their leashes together as they beelined for the mercado de mariscos, where the run-off from the ice piled under the day’s fresh catch of red snapper sent ocean-scented rivulets across the trail beneath their noses. There, an unlikely white poodle watched the little yellow dog and its little black counterpart with the turned-out feet sniff around the path where Dona Maria wheeled her wheelbarrow, bent low over the handlebars, stooping further to retrieve glass Pacifico bottles and empty cans of Tecate that she’d later swap for pesos at the recycling center in town.
From the doorway of the cocina economica across the stone-paved street, the buckskin dog with the black eyes watched the butcher unload a whole pig carcass, skinned, from the bed of a truck, and kept an eye on the two brindled puppies snoozing tail-to-tail in a perfectly sized indentation in the curb, under the shade of a tiny ficus tree sized just for them.
Back on the beach, things were getting livelier. The goats that roamed the grass parking lot had been corralled to make room for buses and cars and pickup trucks bearing loads of spiky pineapples and puffed chicharrones and smooth green coconuts, which would be chopped with a machete by hand to order and then left in a heap overnight after the sun-loving revelers dispersed back to towns like Puerto Vallarta and even as far inland as Guadalajara. The dogs moved between town and the beach and their guardposts on their regular schedules, cruising past the restaurants where bowls of red-brothed menudo were spooned into handheld corn tortillas, and pineapple-glazed pork was scraped from spits and heaped into al pastor tacos, and sniffing out fallen snacks under plastic tables and chairs beneath umbrellas planted along the shore.
Across the shimmering swath of the bay, the black silhouette of the Sierra Madre cut a wobbly line graph through the haze. The pit bull laid down patiently, chin on his crossed paws, and watched the kids and the grown-ups splashing in the surf, waiting for the sun to sink and the beach to clear so he could tackle that mooring line again in private.
Elsewhere, back in town, the dogs stayed in the light. When night falls, and the streets fill with taco-seeking strollers and music spills out of open doorways along with plastic chairs and brightly clothed tables, the dogs keep out of the shadows—in the moonlight, La Cruz is for the cats.