Puppy Dogs and Other Creatures


Steve Chism


Have you ever walked into a kennel yard that was full of puppies? Dozens of them everywhere you look! At first they’re all excited and dancing around you.  Then they begin to settle down. Mama Dog comes by for a little scratch and a pat on the head. The pups get the idea and they want some too.  Pretty soon you have one or two trying to get in your lap and another one walking in circles around you.  He’s just out of reach but he has one eye one you.  Mr. Timid.  He’s not sure if he’s shy, bashful or scared.  Then there’s the other guy over in the corner, jumping up and down, raising a general ruckus all by himself.  He acts like he’s saying, “Why doesn’t somebody come over here and play with me!” You will also find one or two just laying around with their chins on their paws as if they were bored to death by the whole scene.  But when you move over next to them they immediately roll over to get their tummy rubbed.  Others are running around from one person to the other like someone shopping for a used car and can’t decide where the best deal is.  After this goes on for a while the mama dog moves back in for another pat and a scratch.  She then gives the pups a little “snarl job” and they all move off someplace quiet for lunch and a nap.  By now you have had some laughs, been intimidated a couple of times and probably had a bit of an adrenaline rush.  But it was fun! Well, I’m about to tell you a story that happened to me that reminded me of a puppy kennel…a BIG one at that!


On February 18th a friend and I took a trip on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur.  On February 21st we left Campo Rene about 7:00 AM looking for a route around Lagoon San Ignacio from north to south without returning to the pavement of Highway 1.  We found a route that’s shorter than what is shown on the maps and were at the south shore fish camps by 1:30 in the afternoon.  We talked to some people that had been whale watching.  We decided to go do that too.  When we made arrangements to go they would not let us take our dog.  Now my friend’s dog is a full size groomed white female poodle.  She makes a good “ice breaker” in small towns and villages wherever we go.  When we turn her loose, everybody comes to see her.  So, my friend was not too happy about leaving his dog in camp alone.  He suggested that I go by myself.  After a brief discussion, we decided to go ahead together and if there were no whale sightings, we’d cut it short and come back.  We tied the dog up and got into the waiting panga. 


After about 10 minutes out the boat was in deeper water.  We were seeing whales, LOTS of whales! I was so excited I started taking pictures of whales 25 to 40 yards away.  What a waste of film! Soon we came to another panga that had two whales nestled up beside it. Our skipper slowed down, put the engine in neutral and started to drift in toward the panga.  Soon we had three whales up and around our boat.  In a few minutes more I had a double handful of whale nose right up over the side of the panga.  I burned all the film I had with me in the next thirty minutes. 


We stayed close to the mouth of the lagoon with about 15 or 20 other around us, all with whales close by.  We just watched for a while.  When whales would come close to our boat, we’d lean over and pet them. We were just about to head back to shore when two full size whales came up on each side of the panga.  Now, when you have two 50 ft., 60,000 lb. live animals, one on each side of the boat AND within arm’s reach, it makes you think about your own mortality! By now we had done or seen everything I’d ever read about the behavior of Grey Whales in the lagoons of B.C.S. So we headed in to shore. 


Back on shore we turned the dog loose and made lunch.  After lunch we loaded up again and headed for San Juanico.  We took the route south through the salt flats where there’s not much scenery.  As we road along, I began thinking about our experience with the whales back in the lagoon.  Then it struck me! Lagoon San Ignacio is probably the biggest “Puppy Dog Kennel” that I’ll ever see in my entire life!