The Stinky Save

Apr 3, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Maria Ruiz, Pets, Travel

by Maria Ruiz

Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.

While living in Mexico, I struggled with the language. We lived in a Mexican neighborhood and the kids all knew me as “‘The American Lady.” I was invited to join in all street events and into one home where they spoke a little English. One day, as I was working outside in the small garden, two little boys ran up to my gate. “Lady, lady, bla bla bla” That’s what I understood but their agitation and their pointing down the street, made me want to find out what was so important. I walked down the street and the boys continued trying to tell me something.

At the corner there was a pile of garbage and on top of the garbage was a small animal. It was a puppy. Around the puppy’s neck was a collar and attached was a leash with a chewed end. I looked closely at the animal and immediately the smell was horrible. I don’t know how long she’d been there but I figured she needed water.

I ran home to get water and a little food. Ted asked what was up and I explained what I had found. He returned with me, carrying a cat cage. I put the water down and a small cup with the food. The puppy looked at the food but didn’t make any effort to eat or drink. Ted said we needed to get her to the vet as soon as possible. We put the puppy into the cage and immediately drove to the vet. As we were shown into the exam room, I took her out of the cage and put her on the metal table. The puppy looked up at me, then with all its strength, pulled itself over to me, placing its head on my stomach. That was it. This was MY puppy.

Stinky when they found her

The vet didn’t sugarcoat his ability to save this little animal. He said, first he had to get liquids into her, then remove the biggest of the thousand ticks who were sucking the life right out of her as we stood there. If she could make it through the night, maybe she had a chance but no guarantees. We left a deposit with the vet and promised to return the next day.

At home we had a rescued small mini poodle, Muneca (“Muneca” means doll in Spanish) and a found kitten, Muddy, that had grown to a lovely cat. We didn’t know how they would take to a new pet. The other thing that bothered me was the puppy was probably four months old and we were in our late 70s. I don’t think old people should adopt young animals. I had seen too many cases of trying to find homes if the owners pass away. All my common sense and ideas of young pets and old owners had flown out the window when that puppy had laid her head on my stomach. That puppy had chosen me and I didn’t have a chance.

The next morning we returned to find the vet feeding roast chicken to our starving puppy. The IV tube was still in her leg and she had about 500 fewer ticks; she was eating the meat as fast as the vet could feed her. The vet still wanted to undo the IV and check her out after she had digested the food and told us, if all went well, we could pick her up at 2:00 in the afternoon.

When we did pick her up, we were told that she had a skin infection and that was why she smelled so bad. We were to give her antibiotics and when she was stronger, we could give her a bath in maybe a week. At home, I slowly removed over 500 ticks. She had ticks on ticks, all drinking her blood away. Day by day she was getting stronger. When I went out and returned later, I would ask “Where’s Stinky?” The name stuck and today, ten years later she is still Stinky, in name only.

Stinky after

Our cat, Muddy decided that the forlorn little puppy was her baby. During the day, she watched Stinky get stronger but as we got ready for bed, Muddy would grab Stinky by the head and hold her still as she began licking her from head to tail. This was a nightly routine until Muddy was hit by a car and killed.

When we returned to the states, the pets came with us. The second year we were living in Sacramento and on the fourth of July, two large Pit Bulls attacked her, ripping her throat open as they tried to tear her to pieces. With the help of some neighbors, we were able to get her to the vet and sewn up and slowly she healed. The pit bull owners didn’t think that animals attacking others was a reason to get upset and refused to pay the $2,500.00 vet bill. We ended up on Judge Judy, the vet got paid, and Stinky had her two minutes of fame.

She is one of those shaggy dogs that always looks like they combed their hair in a blender. She can be brushed and groomed, and within two minutes she looks as if she needs combing. One lady in Mexico who owned a small grocery store at the end of the street told us: “If I had known how cute she turned out, we would have saved her.” Her loss is my gain.

Maria Ruiz was born in Santa Barbara, California; her family had been there since the Spaniards first converted the Indians & created small towns. She graduated from the University of San Diego State in 1972 & taught for 8 years before starting her own business. After retiring she began a ten-year odyssey to visit and live in 57 countries around the world. She just recently relocated to California. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever, can be ordered on Smashwords & Amazon. Her blog can be found at


  1. You had me at “stinky”. What a story. I don’t remember meeting stinky when I visited for Ted’s 80th.

  2. loved the stiry. found more of your travel adventures from 2003 i will send them if you want them after if finish rereading.


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