A veteran mountaineering dog and a friend to many climbers has had to leave his territory on the slopes of the Pico de Orizaba: the Watchdog of the Mountain has liver cancer.
For the better part of a decade, a dog that came to be known as Citla has tagged along with mountain climbers and on many occasions reached the 5,630-meter peak of Mexico’s highest mountain.
No one really knows when the dog arrived on the slopes of the dormant volcano, but legend has it that one of the many workers hired to build the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano (LMT) on the nearby Volcán Sierra Negra might have brought him along as a companion.
What is known of Citla’s biography is that the dog chose the high-altitude landscapes surrounding the Pico de Orizaba as his home, and was later named after the peak’s original náhuatl name, citlal (star) and tepetl (mountain).
Citla has three favorite places to sleep that alpinists know of: the guardhouse at the LMT, a cave known as La Cueva del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Cave, and a climbers’ shelter located at 4,660 meters above sea level.
Countless encounters with climbers have earned the dog several monikers: Watchdog of the Mountain, the Guardian Angel and Guardian of the Snow.
Climber Hilario Aguilar Aguilar, president of the Ciudad Serdán chapter of the Mexican Mountaineering Club, says Citla knows perfectly well the three routes used to ascend the mountain. The dog has been known to guide lost climbers and seems to sense when someone is suffering from altitude sickness, and watches over them.
And although he accompanies alpinists to the top of the mountain he draws the line at leaving it. Once they have descended to the 4,000-meter mark it’s time to say goodbye. The climbers continue their descent, but Citla remains.
Estimated to be nine or 10 years old, the dog has his quirks. He won’t eat tortillas, kibbles or scraps from the table, preferring instead roasted chicken, tuna and sausages. He has also been known to hunt the odd rabbit on the snow-covered slopes.
When Citla lay down and slept in mid-climb two months ago it became evident something was wrong. Then two weeks ago he stopped eating.
Aguilar took the dog to a veterinary clinic in the Veracruz city of Córdoba where the prognosis wasn’t good: he had a liver tumor for which surgery is planned.
Source: El Universal (sp)