The entire plan for my trip through Central America got screwed up because a stray dog bit me a few days ago. The bite wasn’t bad at all – not too deep and only about an inch long – and so far I’m healthy, but going right to Guatemala from San Cristobal de las Casas is no longer practical because I need more rabies injections and they are free in Mexico.
After the bite (the events of which I will explain later) I went back to my hostel and cleaned and put antibiotic cream on the wound. Because the bite wasn’t so bad or deep I didn’t think much of it, but a few locals persuaded me to visit the free doctor, who told me that I absolutely needed tetanus and rabies vaccinations and to take a taxi to the local health clinic right away.
After a long wait – many children were getting immunizations – the amused staff gave me the tetanus injection and an appointment for the rabies injection the next day. I came for the second appointment the next morning and it was painless – no longer in the belly but two in the shoulders like any other shot. The hospital was small, crowded, and clean, and most people weren`t speaking Spanish but their own Mayan languages.
However, the really bad news came afterward – no drinking alcohol or being in the sun for three weeks, until the injections are completed! I need one in one week and another 2 weeks later.
It happened in La Canasta, a park just outside of central San Cristobal. As I entered the park, near a small building, a large group of stray dogs approached, seemingly harmless and friendly except for a nasty growling and barking one that I scared away by lifting up rocks as if I would throw them.
Four of the dogs followed me the entire three hours I hiked up into the mountains – three nice, cute ones and the nasty one, keeping its distance but no longer snarling. After about 3 hours of hiking, as I was leaving it began barking and charging at me again. I scared it away with a rock, turned my back, and the next thing I knew its teeth were sunk into the back of my calf! Luckily I was wearing jeans or it really could have done some damage.
I limped back to the hostel with the nicest of the friendly dogs following me out of the park and all the way into the city. Whether it felt bad about what its friend had done or just genuinely liked me, I don´t know. I bought it some food but it still followed. I worried that it would never find its way back to its friends and mountain home. It was small and the other stray dogs we passed frightened it quite a bit.
Finally it started walking ahead of me. I turned a quick corner and ran out of sight, ditching it. I went back to the hostel and my whole vacation changed. Rather than buy another handful of beers with my new Mexican friends and hostel-mates, I spent the afternoon in the local free hospital.