A Mexican street dog, a British adventurer, 1,000 miles - and eight pairs of shoes
First, there were the eight pairs of women’s shoes, chewed beyond recognition. And the disappearance of the uncooked dinner steaks, as well as the ripped-up sofa pillows. Then there were the escapes, the 70-pound lab-golden retriever mix either jumping over the fence or digging under it.
Monica Kiy of Carmel Valley had had enough. She admitted that Pancho, a Mexican street dog that her family adopted, enlivened her home. “Everybody loves Pancho,” she said. But she just couldn’t deal with chasing him down the street in her high-heel shoes, trying not to be late for work.
“He was house-broken, but he broke the house,” said Monica.
“He was a high-energy dog,” said Richard Kiy, Monica’s husband.
The Kiys began searching for a new home for Pancho, interviewing potential adoptive families until they found the Hamiltons of Alpine, who had children, a one-acre property and loved to go out on long runs.
“It was a perfect match,” said Richard. “He’s happy as a clam.”
A couple of weeks ago, the Kiys held a homecoming at their Carmel Valley house, for Pancho, the Hamiltons, a bunch of their neighbors, and British author and adventurer Tom Fremantle, the person who actually brought Pancho into their lives after walking 1,000 miles with the dog from Juarez, Mexico, to San Diego in early 2013.
The June 11 event was both a book-signing in honor of the young adult novel that Fremantle penned, called “Pancho’s song,” which was inspired by Fremantle’s walk, and a chance for the Kiys and their neighbors to spend some time with the irrepressible spirit that is Pancho.
Pancho is no slouch - he has his own Facebook page (Pancho the canine border ambassador), and now reportedly has a girlfriend at the Hamilton’s home. And, of course, his likeness adorns the cover of Fremantle’s novel.
“He’s really nobody’s dog,” said Monica Kiy. “He belongs to everybody now. He has a story and everybody feels part of that story.”
Fremantle’s 1,000-mile walk, accompanied by Pancho and volunteers from a Juarez-based nonprofit ambulance service, wasn’t his first escapade. In the 1990s, after working for a while as a journalist, he decided to travel by bicycle and boat from his native England to Australia, peddling through Iran, Afghanistan and Syria along the way.
Later trips included a walk with a mule from Mexico to New York, and a canoe paddle along the River Niger in West Africa.
“Pancho’s Song,” which is available on Amazon.com, is Fremantle’s fifth book, and all proceeds will go to Juarez charities through the El Paso Community Foundation, which published the book.
Fremantle, 49, spent 53 days on his walk along the U.S.-Mexico border, covering 20 to 25 miles per day. Some of the trek took place on the U.S. side, and some on the Mexican side. Along the way he camped or stayed with families who welcomed him and his canine companion. Many people offered food, or even tequila, to sustain him along the way, Fremantle said.
The entire trip went smoothly except for one night, when he and the ambulance volunteers were sitting around a campfire, and a pickup truck roared up, containing drunken men waving military assault rifles. The men were curious about the “Cruz Verde” ambulance, but once they found out that Fremantle was trying to raise money for charity through his walk, they offered to help, and then drove off.
“That was the one time when my heart did a bit of a jump,” he said.
Fremantle also met a Mexican migrant coming across the border who asked for food and water, which were provided.
Fremantle met Richard Kiy, who was then CEO of a San Diego-based nonprofit, the International Community Foundation, through the El Paso Community Foundation. Richard helped with some of the logistics of Fremantle’s walk, and then his family adopted Pancho.
Richard Kiy also helped Fremantle edit his book, assisting him with translating British English into language more friendly to an American audience.
The book is about a British teenager named Hal, who comes to Mexico with his father, a documentary filmmaker, and then gets embroiled in a series of adventures along the border, and meets a drug lord’s daughter. Hal also, of course, takes up with a certain street dog. The book touches on serious subjects such as gangs and the border fence, through a lively story laced with humor, and a “redemptive ending,” Fremantle said.
Fremantle said he is convinced presidential candidate Donald Trump - who advocates building a wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border - would hate his book, which he counts as a marketing plus.
“Sticking up a great bloody wall and asking Mexico to pay for it is not good for international relations,” Fremantle said.
Richard Kiy agreed.
“At a time when people are talking about building walls, Pancho and his story... are helping people see that we need to build more bridges,” Kiy said.