Saturday, January 7, 2012


 When the bus stops at Paso Canoas on the Panama side of the Panama-Costa Rica border, Panamanian soldiers herd everyone and all their goodies off the bus and into a stark white room with a small interrogation closet bumped out of one corner. (Well, what else would you call a 6 x 6 room with a one door and a grilled window?)
We were required to place our luggage in two tidy rows and ourselves against the wall while the soldiers watched us.  Then – O the drama! – a soldier with a beautiful young white dog appeared at the entry door.  Thrilled to see the luggage, the dog plunged, barking madly, against his leash. We passengers sucked in expectant breaths. The TV program I had seen about dogs trained to find drugs indicated they bark to signal a find!  The dog could smell it from the doorway!
Released from his restraint, Señor Canine Inspector made a bee-line to the first suitcase, sniffing it over with gusto, then the next, and the next. The fourth item was a cloth shopping bag, into which poochy's nose plunged deep. The owner remarked that the dog seemed to like the smell of his lunch, and the soldier pulled said enthusiastic snout back out of the bag and directed it to further investigation. So Señor Inspector Perro continued his rounds, lingering at one set of belongings in particular, but never barking.  After checking the suitcase and three shopping bags carefully, he lifted his leg with intent to mark.  Fortunately, his handler was able to stop him before much liquid escaped.  The passengers erupted into laughter. 
After identifying two more lunches, doggy was finished, re-leashed and led away. The soldiers now demanded to know whose luggage had been peed upon.  A bewildered woman with a three month old infant stepped forward and was led into the interrogation closet.
We were not told, but I suspect a combination of soiled baby clothes and a dog at home as the source of our intrepid canine inspector's interest. Mother and child were released fairly quickly, the rest of the passengers collected their belongings, and emptied the room.  One of the soldiers produced a mop and swished it across the semi-circle of urine drops.  Apparently, that kind of thing is not unusual.  Hmm.