Reverse Robbed in Mexico: Early Retirement Surprise!

At 45, I retired early and quit my job to go have freedom and adventure! The plan was to sell everything and go to Mexico with my partner, old fat cat, and geriatric hound dog with only what would fit in our car.

When I told my friends and family about my plan, the responses generally centered around “that sounds dangerous.” My uncle actually said, “don’t call me when you get kidnapped!”

Now, I’m not a risky person, and have traveled internationally quite a bit. I plan and prepare for things to go wrong. I take safety very seriously.

But nothing prepared me for what happened to me in Mexico.

Wake Up Call

I was awakened around 4 am to a weird noise that I didn’t recognize. But that was not extremely unusual, I was living in the busy Centro neighborhood of Mazatlan.

Was it some birds? Was it the neighbors’ dog?

At 6:30, my partner got up to go for a run, while I continued to snooze. He stumbled out of the bedroom muttering that he was leaving, only to quickly sprint back in the bedroom moments later.

“There’s puppies!” he exclaimed, and then ran back out.

Puppies? My still slumbering mind struggled to grasp the meaning.

Finally, it sunk in and I shot out of bed. Running downstairs to the front door, I saw my partner standing with an outstretched arm, pointing accusingly to the source of the sound. It was a pile on the ground of small, black wiggly things.


“Cachorros” in Spanish. Three of them, with dried up, but still attached umbilical cords. Which I later learned meant they were a day or two old, at most.

Someone had shoved them through the metal security door into the small threshold of the front door. An early morning door-dash delivery — we had been reverse robbed!

So, now what?

The Dilemma

I knew enough to know they needed warmth right away. We swaddled them in a towel, and I held them close to my body. Luckily, I had been volunteering with an animal rescue group in town, and had their number on hand.

My call for help was answered by the very kind director of the shelter, who said “how do you feel about bottle feeding?”

All my retirement and moving abroad planning, risk assessing, soul searching….I had not considered “my feelings about bottle feeding.”

Our early retirement plan was to travel as much as possible. Our current pets were easy to care for, and when they were gone, we were going to take a break from ownership.

Being a huge animal lover, that was a difficult decision for me. This was the least amount of pets I’d ever had in my adult life! I had been resisting getting more pets for several years in preparation for this time of freedom!

And here we were only a few months into our early retirement. We were supposed to be FREE…going out and doing whatever we wanted on a whim. No corporate overlords dictating our days to us!

This was going to ruin everything that we had been working towards, sacrificing for! We would have to be there to feed and clean up after puppies, essentially around the clock, for weeks on end.

We could no longer wander town all day, seeing where it led us. We couldn’t stop into a restaurant whenever, or get lost in conversation with a new friend at the bar. Instead, I would have another full time job.

Entitled to a Phone Call!

So, I did what any grown woman would do in times of crisis — I called my mommy.

I laid out my case — “this was NOT part of the plan,” I whined. To which, she promptly replied, “well, you wanted adventure didn’t you?”

I had no rebuttal.

Like always, she was right. After all, I had been advocating for years for people to go out and seek adventure by traveling to new lands, and embracing novel experiences. It was time for me to practice what I preached.

Adventurous animal lover that I am, how could I not give up a few weeks to help some defenseless little puppies? Knowing this about me, my partner knew where I’d ultimately land before I would even admit it to myself.

We’d be raising puppies — at least until they were old enough to go to the shelter.

We grieved our new found freedom and began embracing the adventure at hand.

Puppy Crash Course

Within an hour, the animal rescue director was in our living room with bottles, formula and a bag of cotton balls.

She gave me a few pointers on how to bottle feed, and showed me what the cotton balls were for — helping them to go to the bathroom! Yep, newborn puppies have to have help with that. Mama dogs lick their puppies to help them go, whereas I’d be using warm cotton balls for the next couple weeks.

Along with some words of encouragement, she did warn me that for puppies in this situation, survival was far from guaranteed. I shouldn’t be surprised if some, or all of them didn’t make it. And the next couple days would be especially touch and go.

Gulp. No pressure!

And with that, she was off. We were left alone to figure it out.

First 24

The first day was definitely crunch time. They had to eat immediately, as puppies need consistent blood sugar, or it is quickly fatal. And they had already not eaten for a dangerous amount of hours, based on when we first heard the noise.

We whipped up our first batch of formula. Luckily, two of the three were immediately voracious eaters. But the little runt was difficult to get a drop of formula into. She was frustratingly fussy and spit out the bottle over and over.

After seemingly an eternity of trying the bottle, I remembered we had a needle-less syringe, brought along to administer cat constipation medicine. (Old guy gets some hairballs from time to time.)

I was so stressed out — I just wanted to get some formula into her tiny little belly!

I put a small amount of formula in the syringe, and shot it down her throat. She screeched even louder than normal!

“Oh god, did I hurt her? Am I shoving it in too far?” I was full of self-doubt.

But I had to ensure she got enough. So, I repeated the process over and over again. Every attempt with the syringe, either ended in all the formula just pouring out of her mouth, or her screaming bloody murder.

We would repeat this cycle several times that day.

“She will thank me later,” I thought. 

Ha! Delusional motherly thinking had already set in.

Getting Creative

I fashioned a sling out of a sarong so that I could carry them around the house with me while I was mixing up formula, cleaning bottles and doing other chores. It helped keep them warm and from wailing non-stop.

Of course, the troublemaker runt figured out how to squirm out of it, and flopped on the hard floor. I screamed and cursed myself…”I’ve killed one already!” as I frantically checked over the little thing for immediate signs of injury.

It was amazing how much the blind, deaf little buggers could push and pull themselves around on their four, uncoordinated noodle limbs.

Miraculously, she was fine! The second time she had escaped death that day.

The cat pitched into help, too. He shared his carrier with the new roommates. It was soft-sided with a top load zipper.

I could dangle my arm inside, while I dozed on the couch. My arm gave them something warm to aim their wiggling towards and allow them to take brief rests from screaming into the abyss.

And thus, we all survived the first day!

Settling In

The next week or so was spent almost non-stop rotating between trying to get these little ones to eat from the bottle, making formula, and rubbing their butts with a swab to help them poop.

All three had made it so far, even the runt, who had given me such fits!

Eventually, I did get to sleep a few consecutive hours. We got in a good walk down to the beach with the dog each day. We were able to get back to our Spanish lessons, and even could grab a bite to eat out, if we wanted.

They could go longer in between feedings — but had outgrown the cat carrier and were making bigger messes all the time.

My partner fashioned a playpen from a cardboard box. He was constantly having to tweak it to accommodate their growth. And I was constantly changing pee pads and washing out blankets.

Their eyes opened. Hello world!

Their little legs started to be able to support their chunky little puppy bellies and over-sized heads.

One day my partner commented, “you guys are almost like real dogs now!”

A couple weeks in, they were so much fun to watch and be around! They started to interact with each other, with us, and play with toys. I didn’t even miss going out. In fact, whenever we left the house, I’d be thinking about how I’d rather be at home with them!

They started to look very distinct from one another. The two girls started to grow long curly hair. And they seemed to be outgrowing their brother, even the runt! His coat stayed slick and while smaller, he seemed to be made of denser stuff than his sisters.

Apparently, litters of puppies can have multiple fathers. Its not that terribly uncommon with street dogs in Mexico, actually. We suspect that may have been the case here.

Even watching them sleep was fun. They had puppy dreams, causing their little paws to twitch and flail, their chins and tails wagging.

Are dreams of chasing squirrels innate?

Failure to Launch

At five weeks, they were totally weened off formula and were eating puppy food. Technically, they were old enough to be surrendered to the shelter. That was the goal, right?


I knew I couldn’t keep them long-term, but I couldn’t imagine them going to the overcrowded shelter. They could get sick, they could get hurt. Who would move them onto their blankie after they passed out from playing?

We could keep them, just a little bit longer.

Circle of Life

In the meantime, my old loyal dog of 17 years, Lola, had developed a tumor in her mouth. Surgery in that area, for a dog her age? And there were signs it was pretty widespread. There was basically nothing that could be done.

Lola had hardly noticed the puppies, at first. They, like her, mostly just ate and napped. And as they grew, she happily shared her house with them, easy going girl that she was. But the juxtaposition of watching them grow and develop as she declined, was heart wrenching.

The circle of life was happening right before my eyes.

Being a pet mama, the only thing worse than bottle feeding fussy puppies is having to make the decision as to when they should cross the rainbow bridge.

Freedom Day for Lola!

The day came where it was apparent that Lola’s tumor had reached the tipping point. I made the dreaded appointment with a local vet, using my broken Spanish.

It was agony, the time between making the phone call and the actual farewell — roughly two days.

We spent them at home, mostly laying on the floor — playing with puppies, and snuggling Lola. We looked at the thousands of photos of her and reminisced about old times.

We cried buckets, but there were lots of laughs and smiles, too.

On her freedom day, we took one last slow walk around the neighborhood. Cinematically, there just happened to be a neighbor sitting out with his acoustic guitar, who serenaded us. The sun was out, and it was a beautiful spring day in Mazatlan. It was hard to be gloomy with such beauty all around.

After the vet and our goodbyes, we managed our way back to the apartment to hungry, feisty 6 week old puppies. I had actually adopted Lola when she was exactly that age.

I tried to take solace, imagining long and happy lives, like Lola’s, unfolding in the future for each of them!

Change of Circumstances

The plan was to escape the hot summer in Mexico and return to our Rocky Mountain home town for a few months. We would visit family and friends, and then continue on with our travels.

So, at this point, we had about a month left in Mexico before our trek north.

We also had one less passenger to take back to the US than we had planned. This freed up some space in the car. But, we would be living in a relatively small apartment, and had a list of places to still explore.

Before I could even say it out loud, my partner knew what I was thinking. “We’re taking the puppies back with us, aren’t we?”

Yep, we would just have to manage!

Puppy Palace

The next month was pure puppy chaos in the apartment. We used every piece of furniture in every way possible to build play areas to keep them safe and our sanity intact.

However, they would all, one by one, figure out how to escape whatever we constructed. It was usually the little boy, who we had dubbed “Chunk,” that would figure it out first. Then the feisty runt, we referred to as “Flaca” — Spanish for skinny. Then the beauty queen, the little girl with the pretty markings and sweetest disposition, we lovingly called Lola junior, LJ for short.

There were epic play sessions, wrestling matches, and exploration missions. Impromptu forts were created, and who was protecting vs who was invading rotated spontaneously, as well.

They also developed super-powers for being right under foot when least expected! One even magically popped up in the shower with me!

“How did you get in here?!” I exclaimed, only half surprised, really.

The cat did his best to supervise and educate them. He would taunt them with his twitching tail, but give them a bop when they came near. He enjoyed the action, choosing to be around them, when he could have easily withdrawn to puppy free areas.

We attempted to train them to go exclusively on pee-pads, with moderate success. I still ended up having to mop twice a day. We had no outdoor area, and until they had all the necessary vaccines and time to develop immunity, they couldn’t go for walks.

We worked with the animal rescue group to get them all their shots and documents to be able to take them back with us. But they wouldn’t be fully protected until we were back in the US. Mexican born, they would never actually set foot on Mexican soil!

Run for the Border

The day came, and we crossed the threshold of the front door where the puppies had been left for the last time! We loaded up the car and headed for the US border.

We drove 800 miles on Mexican highways in a sedan with the cat in his carrier on the front seat, and me in the backseat with three ten week old puppies roaming free. They had Lola’s old dog bed, and there were pee pads and fake grass lining the foot areas. Toys were strewn about everywhere.

They played, ate, napped. They mostly went on their pads — only a few paper towel inducing accidents. Driving down the road at 100 kpm while juggling puppies and changing out pee pads was exciting, to say the least.

Finally, we were across the border with 3 new Americans!

The border patrol guy didn’t even bat an eye at us. I thought we might draw at least a smile or double take at our rag-tag, chaotic situation.

Saying Goodbye

We had already found the little boy the best possible forever home — with my mom!

Her house was our first destination. We stayed a few days with all the puppies, knowing we’d be departing with just two. Seeing them all three together for the last time was emotional.

I don’t know if its better or worse to know ahead of time that something is the last?

But time came, and we were to continue north. The two remaining girl puppies would now have to be “marketed” for adoption in earnest.

I had talked to some shelters in my home town. No one was able to let me foster while they found appropriate homes. Listing them online myself was going to be the best option.

I procrastinated actually doing so, justifying it to myself with “let’s just get there first!”

Meet-Cute Story

As luck would have it, a friend was having a BBQ the day we were due to arrive. She thought it would be a great homecoming and said we should bring the puppies along.

Wouldn’t you know it, within minutes of arriving at the party, the future adopter of both girls would be holding and falling in love with them!

An attendee who I was acquainted with, who I knew to be a great pet owner, had recently lost her fur-baby. She had been “thinking” about getting another dog, and had actually looked at shelters in Mexico as her first option for doing so! It was a perfect fit.

About four days later, after we each had time to prepare, I dropped them off at her house. The sisters got to stay together!

Good Grief

Those four days were terrible, though. I expected it would take a while to find them good homes. Weeks, months maybe? 

Okay, I secretly hoped it would take a while! Maybe one would be left, obviously “unadoptable,” I’d be forced to keep her.

I was simultaneously having the best time and profoundly sad. They were so unbelievably cute and fun to have around. Their romping filled the house with such joy and life! But I would burst into tears, out of the blue!

I knew I was going to miss them so much. And when they left, I would be left dog-less for the first time in 17 years!

No puppies to distract me from my grief.

But, life goes on. The sun came up the next day, and the cat was quick to remind me I still had a needy pet to give love to.

My partner and I continued on with our travels, doing what we could not have done with puppies in tow. While we will be dog-free for a period of time, for travel’s sake, I know that someday, we will plant ourselves again. And I will have a house full of pets in the blink of an eye!

And in the meantime, the kind adopters send me frequent updates. Seeing them grow and thrive in their happy homes is pure joy. Considering how everything worked out, I will get to see all of them again.

I know that friends and family had bets on whether or not I would actually let them go. The majority of them lost — with myself included in the list of those surprised! It was touch and go there for a while!

Giving them all up is in the top 5 list of hardest things I have ever done. But raising them was also top 5 list of best things I’ve ever done. Fair trade, I guess.

Early Retirement Worthy

Who knew that all those many years of saving and investing for an early retirement would pay off in this way. And while it was not the transition into early retirement that I planned, it was actually better than I ever could have imagined.

Had I been working full time, I would not have been able to drop everything and bottle feed puppies. I could not have suddenly changed my plans and spent months on raising and getting puppies adopted.

I will remember this experience far longer than any I could have had “expressing my ultimate time freedom” as I had pictured it. There is no particularly beautiful beach I could have visited, or amazing restaurant meal that could have been so satisfying or changed me so much.

After all, early retirement is about buying your time, especially in the “prime” years. I don’t know if I would have had the stamina and resiliency to do this at 65, the traditional retirement age. Especially if those additional years were spent in a soul crushing cubicle!

To the Doorway Delivery Person

So, to who ever left the puppies in my doorway. Thank you!

I choose to think of you as a kind person who wanted the best for these puppies, and knew that you were not it. Your circumstances were probably not as good as mine, at the time.

And you pegged me correctly — I was just the person who needed some puppies to raise! And we are all doing just great!

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