Toluca, México

While driving through Mexico, I noticed two things about dogs. One, not many people keep dogs as pets. And, two, stray dogs didn’t scare people like they do in the United States. In America, if someone sees a large unleashed dog, they feel automatic dread and run for cover.

I don’t recall seeing a pedigreed dog even once during my last two trips to Mexico, except for my cousin who has an English sheepdog. Most of the dogs I observed on the street were large mutts that were some shade of brown. They usually stood on the curb looking at the traffic as if they were waiting for an opportunity to cross. These dogs were laid back and didn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry. I saw more dead dogs on the highway in the U.S. than in Mexico. These Mexican dogs coexisted peacefully with the people, which surprised me. They often sleep on the streets and sidewalks and no one bothers them.

When I was a boy, I remember laughing at one of the pushcart food venders in Mexico City because he sold hot dogs. I just never imagined any Mexican wanting to eat American hot dogs. But I laughed even more when I saw the sign on the push cart that advertised the hot dogs as PERROS CALIENTES! A literal translation of the name for hot dogs.

In English, I never pictured a four-legged furry animal when I thought of hot dogs. But in Spanish, perros calientes did not evoke any appetizing image of one our typically American foods (As American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie, so the saying goes.). I pictured an actual dog on a hot dog bun.

Well, on this last trip to Mexico, I noticed that the venders who sold hot dogs no longer advertised them as perros calientes, but rather as hot dogs. I asked my cousin in Celaya why that was and he told me because the name conjured up the image of actual dogs, which they didn’t want to eat. Well, in Mexico, according to my cousin, there are people who eat tacos made from dog meat. So now hot dogs are sold instead of perros calientes.