I Saw My First Hummingbird in Panajachel

By Harry Burrus

For years I wondered what it would be like to encounter one. I had seen photographs and videos; nevertheless, I fancied the live experience. Finally, it happened on the shores of Lake Atitlan. I was dazzled by its effortless movements, the ability to fly upward, downward, in reverse, and to even hover. I was mesmerized, delighted by the immediacy of the occurrence.

For several days as I approached a dog casita, I noticed Shadow watching me. I decided to really know this black lab mix with the effervescent cocoa-colored eyes. We begin our walk in the field west of the SPA. A yellow butterfly, the size of a five-peso coin, passes me on my left and muscles in front of Shadow. The tiny lepidopteron appears to slow its zigzag pattern, as if leading Shadow by the nose. Puzzled, curious, and tentative at first, Shadow complies. The sun is smack in between the broad bands of altostratus clouds stretching out across San Miguel. We make our way through the tall, wet grass, picking up beads of water. We follow the flaxen pilot for a good 25 yards. The buses bellow and groan below us on Calzada de la Estación. Shadow’s focus is tack sharp. She’s in the zone. Time dissolves. Nothing else exists. There is only this moment. I crave these tender flashes. Shadow looks back at me, her alluring eyes smiling, as if to say, “Pretty neat, huh?”

As we leave the grass and step onto a dirt path, the butterfly hovers like a hummingbird on the tip of Shadow’s nose. Shadow doesn’t flinch. They’re eye to eye. I’m tucked in the stillness of movement. And then the twinkling ends—the butterfly off on another expedition.

I greatly value these first time happenings: seeing a hummingbird and being part of Shadow’s pas de deux with the butterfly. They are treasured moments. The only first experience that left me underwhelmed was a family trip to Colorado when I was in second grade when we went to the Petrified Forest. A major disappointment. Seeing rocks two to four inches high. Hardly a tall forest frozen in time, which I had been primed to see.

Shadow possesses qualities I hold in high regard. She’s curious, attentive, alert, patient, intelligent, and, as a bonus, she’s beautiful. We have many wonderful dogs at the SPA that share Shadow’s qualities. Each day I walk with them (which is every day), I look forward to a new beginning. Do yourself a favor and visit us (Los Pinos 7, Monday–Saturday, 11am–2pm, 152 6124).

Our clinic is open 9am–3pm, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 9am–4pm, Tuesday and Saturday. Join us in welcoming our new veterinarian, Dr. Arturo Estrada, a fabulous addition to our SPA team. The clinic is ready to meet your needs, from conducting routine exams and providing vaccinations to diagnosing and treating medical issues with your pet, taking x-rays as needed (we have a fabulous x-ray machine), performing sterilizations, teeth cleanings, other surgeries, and providing emergency care.


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