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How to Make Friends in San Miguel

From the SPA

By Paul Schiratti

Years ago, while waiting in line at the Teatro Ángela Peralta, I overheard the stranger behind me say he needed a fourth for tennis. “I brought my racket,” I said. “Great! Here’s where we’re playing…” I’ve been playing with them ever since.

That’s hardly a unique experience in San Miguel. Five minutes in the Jardín, and you’ve already met two new people and received three restaurant recommendations. I’ve met many wonderful people and had many exceptional experiences in San Miguel, but the most fulfilling, the one I hurry back to each year, is walking the dogs at the SPA. No sooner do I unpack, than I head down Canal Street to see my friends. My welcome is deafening: barking, howling, baying—a sweet melody of doggie greeting. I walk through the well-maintained, volunteer-run facility, past each brightly painted cage to see old friends and new faces. There’s Güera, Rita, Shy, and Dipper. I’ve been walking them for years. And years.

I’m delighted to see them, but it breaks my heart they’re still here, year after year, hopefully awaiting their forever homes. No matter how clean and bright their casitas are, they are still restrictive. Dogs need a home of their own and a family—even a family of one. Add a dog, and now you’re two. I volunteer because I love dogs, San Miguel, and walking and making new friends—of both the human and the canine varieties. The SPA satisfies all my passions. I walk the larger dogs, together with other volunteers—strangers one minute, best buddies the next. My wife prefers the smaller dogs, and sometimes “socializes the puppies.” (Read: plays with them.) Cats, too.

Sadly, this year, we stayed home because our older rescue dog had grown too frail to board. And indeed, she crossed the rainbow bridge just before Christmas—too late for us to change our plans and join you in SMA this year. I miss San Miguel, the Jardín, the coffee window, Parque Benito Juarez. I miss Azteca soup and the soulful violin of Pedro Cartas. I miss the music and the dining and the art and the people.

But most of all, I miss the dogs.

Please help feed Güera, Rita, Shy, and Dipper and all the SPA dogs and cats by contributing generously to the Pet Food Money Bank. All donations (100%) go to the cost of food. Read about it on the SPA’s website at


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