05/18/2012 04:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why's Our New Puppy Almost Dead?

I would have stuck around to see if the pup we'd just gotten would make it (or just keep blowing those green things out its nose), but practice (as in baseball) was supposed to start in a minute. Not a New York minute, but still... I really had to get going. The dog was clearly con Dios at this point (the vet was thinking distemper -- they still have that? Gee, I hope it doesn't have polio, too)... and a bunch of kids were, hopefully, waiting to take BP.

A dog (not a dead one) was on the list of things we wanted when we moved from Manhattan to Costa Rica -- a move that took just under 10 months from the night we said, "Let's do it..." till we boarded the plane with our one-way tickets.

East Village apartment? Sold. Everything we (now) own? Mostly still sitting in the (six) travel cases we brought along when we flew down. Sweatshirts? Italian suits? Someone should write a book and call it Dumb Shit White People Bring Along When They Move To Central America. We gave away all but everything we'd acquired over some 30 years, and yet somehow managed to find it impossible to part with... that Country Roads turtleneck?... those red stilettos?... the black motorcycle boots...? Brilliant. Latitude: 9° 39' N. (That's south of Saudi, if you're keeping score at home).


But let's back up to the less unusual scenario: married, 50-somesuch, kids grown and flown... and so what comes next?

We knew we didn't want to live (die?) in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina or anywhere else in the states. We wanted something different, something big and unlike any place either of us had lived (Duluth, Chicago, Atlanta, L.A.)

We'd traveled throughout Latin America in search of what's commonly thought of as "paradise;" Belize (kinda remote, unless you like flying in tiny aircraft); Bolivia ("...just take El Camino del Muerte for 22 kilometers..."); El Salvador was beautiful and ridiculously inexpensive, but kind of a hard sell to family and friends: "Want to come visit us in El Salvador, Mom? You know, the country that had the death squads? And those guys with the Gothic lettering tattooed on their faces? It's nice!" Add Panama, Venezuela and Guatemala to the list of places we investigated... but we landed here. And so far so great...

We hitchhiked into town one night, and the driver thumbed us both into the back seat; when we got in we saw why: there was a four-foot iguana riding shotgun (pet or meat?).

The guys we see spear fishing come out of the water with lobsters shoved in their pants. We were awoken one night because the caretaker in our first rental, a Puerto Viejo version of a "gated community" (two houses behind a wooden gate and a barbed wire fence) came home drunk and decided he needed to fire off a few rounds (no worries, just a .22). We've since moved to a four-bedroom house on eight hectares... we walk from the back patio through the jungle and pop out on a (for all intents and purposes) private beach. The cost? Less than a studio apartment in Bushwick.

We picked the Puerto Viejo area because we didn't want to be in one of those "real" gated communities in which so many American ex-pats on the Pacific Coast live. Might as well be in Boca. We wanted a real "community," where we could get to know not only the American and French and Italian and Hungarian and Swedish and Austrian ex-pats, but also (and mostly) the Costa Rican people. (Our local bar is the nearby grocery/hardware/bike repair/"gas store" where you buy gasoline in plastic jugs, grab your cervezas from the cooler and sit at the picnic tables under the jacarandas).

And here was the rest of the agenda: Gay (who was a fundraiser for a children's arts organization in New York City, after advocating for the homeless for several years) would volunteer her time at the Sloth Sanctuary; I, a largely selfish creature (but who could blame me after a Quixotic two-year stint in the New York City Teaching Fellows program), would attempt to organize a baseball Little League in the land of fútbol. We got our feet wet (and pretty well bitten) on Earth Day, hooking up with the ARA Project, a wildlife organization planting almond trees to help to re-establsh green macaws in the area.

Agoutis cruise through the yard around 4 p.m. every day to eat the fallen figs; a pair of toucans are nesting in the tree above the patio; the poison dart frogs are not easy to find, but do make appearances, along with the Halloween crabs, the Jesus lizards, the hummingbirds, howler monkeys (jeez, the howler monkeys) and... there's also that little dog we scooped up from the guy down the road.

More on it, and us, to come.