By Maggie Van Ostrand
Cejas and the Great Escape
The mean streets of Tijuana finally dispatched something other than media reports of killings, kidnappings and cartels. The bloody, dusty, bullet-ridden streets of Tijuana have watched Cejas emigrate, even without proper papers. You may be wondering, Who is this Cejas of whom she writes? Is he a Mexican hero? Is he a famous actor using another name? Is he an undercover foreign agent? Or, since the word “cejas” means “eyebrows,” might it be a code name for Andy Rooney whose eyebrows enter a room five minutes before he does? It’s none of these.
No, he’s not a gang member out to visit relatives in the U.S., a mule for drug guys or a people-smuggling coyote. However, like real mules and coyotes, he does have four legs. Cejas is a little Mexican dog.
He didn’t get out of Tijuana by himself. He had the help of many, including angels, Santo Toribio Romo González, Mexico’s ghostly benefactor of “illegal aliens,” and a quick-witted missionary grandmother.
Every three months, trucks filled with toys, blankets, and food make their way from the U.S. to poor colonies of Tijuana. Last December they caravanned to La Colonia El Mont Bonito. Part of their mission is to bring food, bowls, and water for the unfortunate dogs of the area.
One little fellow caught the eye of Grandmother Reyna, who recalls, “He was ‘very matted, dirty, and smelled awful.’” Their eyes met, she saw his “sad and tender look” and made a decision to bring him back with the church group. Other members wondered why she would take a street dog in such bad condition, and were rightly concerned about trouble crossing the border. What would the border guards do? Would the missionaries be arrested? Would Cejas go to doggie detention? After all, he didn’t have the required records of inoculation, no license, and he looked pretty bad. But Grandmother Reyna decided to rescue him, despite the danger.
She stayed calm during the two-hour wait at the border. When their van, driven by her granddaughter, got to first place, the emigration officer asked, “What are you bringing back from Mexico?” They replied, “Nothing.” Then the officer peeked in the back window and spied Cejas asleep. “Whose dog is that?” the officer asked. Granddaughter replied, “My Gandmama’s.” The suspicious officer asked Grandmother Reyna what the dog’s breed was. “Terrier,” she said, with an innocent expression. “What is the dog’s name?” asked the officer. Fear of being charged with smuggling turned her mind blank. She could not remember the dog’s name, and boldly gave the first name that entered her head, “JoJo.” The officer was fooled. I would not want to play poker with Grandmother Reyna.
Back in the U.S.A., she took the little dog to the veterinarian, who bathed and neutered him. It must have seemed a strange welcome to a new land, but Cejas just shouted “¡Ole! Now can I play?”
Cejas came to live with us in California where I currently work. His upper lip snags on one of his few remaining front teeth resembling Elvis Presley’s famous sneer. He prefers burritos to dog food, and is not yet bilingual.
He comes when called, does not enter a house without permission, and tolerates a leash when we take our daily walks. He’s hooked on Cesar Millan’s “Dog Whisperer,” and it takes a commercial break before he will look away from the TV screen.
Our little illegal escaped the mean streets of TJ and fearlessly crossed the border to a new life. Moral of this story: Be nice to grandmothers. You never know when she can get you out of a bad spot.