Our Beloved Puppy, and the Mexican Cartel

In the summer of 2020, Korbyn and I were living in a camper-van that we built out by ourselves and spent all of our money on. We were woking in Northern California, running a campground in the Sierra National Forest that was a 45 minute drive up a mountain with no cellphone service. The Forest Service had assigned us a walkie-talkie that didn’t work at that elevation due to the density of the trees.

We had been considering getting a dog for some time, but on different occasions several potential adoptions fell thorough. One morning, we came down into town as was our routine every five to seven days to resupply and do laundry. That morning, when we got back into cellphone service range we were disappointed to see that someone else had beaten us to a puppy that we had inquired about. We decided to take it as a sign; that perhaps it wasn’t the right time for us to get a dog, and continued with our chores for the day. 

About an hour later, we found ourselves at a small laundromat struggling to get an old washing machine to work. A shirtless man with tattoos on his head and unusually muscular arms saw us struggling and somehow fumbled with the machine until he got it to work. As we thanked him, and he began to walk away, he paused and mentioned “by the way, my dog just had a bunch of puppies, in case your looking? She’s a pit, and I think she got out and fucked a black lab that lives down the street.”

Korbyn and I looked at each other in disbelief. This was too much of a coincidence. We replied saying that we’d love to see the puppies and asked him for his phone number to plan a time to come by. He said that he didn’t have a phone, but he pointed to the closest mountain just East of where we were and said: “Im living on a piece of land up at the top of that mountain. I’m headed up there now if you’d like to follow me.”

Still in shock, we agreed. In the parking lot, I watched him get into his truck and noticed an array of chainsaws sticking out of the bed of the truck. I remember feeling scared as we were about to follow a man that looked like he could easily kill us with his bare hands up a mountain without any cellphone service. But the absurdity of this coincidence gave me some kind of faith. It was a sign from somewhere, telling me not believe my rational brain and to trust in the path that was laid ahead. 

After a long drive, we made it up the mountain, and saw that he lived in an old RV atop the very mountain that he had pointed to from below. As we talked, he confessed that the puppies weren’t in the best shape. He said he had a bit of an obsession with methamphetamine, and that one of his drunk friends had accidentally ran over one of the puppies just a few nights prior. And that another one might have been snatched by a coyote. So only ten of the original twelve were left. Right away, one of the puppies walked up to us and thats the one we decided to take. Even though she was only five weeks old, we like to think she chose us.

After picking out our dog, he continued eagerly conversing. He made an off the cuff comment about the Mexican cartels deliberately starting forest fires in this area. I replied saying that I didn't know what he was talking about. He said “You don’t know where you are, do you? This is NorCal bro, this is cartel country.” He told us that he was a tree cutter, and that most of the time he worked for the Forest Service, thinning the forest to prevent wildfires. But on occasion, he had been hired by Mexican Cartels to clear areas in the mountains as landing strips for airplanes that were smuggling in drugs. He said that it wasn’t uncommon for the cartel to start a fire to divert attention, and proceed fly in their private airplanes full of narcotics. 

He must have been around thirty five, but he had a youthful spirit. With a childish grin he told us he wanted to show us his rope swings. He took us around the back of the property where we watched him swing off the edge of a mountain with his dog trailing below.