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Woman Sees Pile Of 'Garbage' In Road — Then Realizes It's Alive

“He sat in my lap in the front of the car, and he put his head on my shoulder, and he trusted me ever since.”

Last December, Alix Mattingly and her boyfriend at the time traveled to Chelem, Mexico, to stay at her parents’ house. Shortly after they arrived, their trip took an unexpected turn.

One morning, Mattingly went out to feed some stray dogs, since she always volunteers for No Mas Perritos, a local rescue group, when she visits her parents. When she and her boyfriend were driving back to the house, they saw something strange on the road.

“I saw this pile in the middle of the road,” Mattingly told The Dodo. “It really just looked like garbage. But the closer I got to it, I realized it was a dog.”

Woman helping dog in the middle of the road
Alix Mattingly

Mattingly only had less than a handful of dog food left, but she got out of the car and tried to offer it to the dog, who looked sickly and skinny. The dog was also skittish and he snarled at Mattingly when she came close — but he didn’t have enough strength to flee.

“He tried to run away, but just collapsed,” Mattingly said. “So I laid some food out for him, went back into the car and gave him a second. Then he started getting up and kind of shifted and came closer to the car.”

Mattingly got a towel and slowly approached the dog again. Then she slowly bent down and wrapped the towel around the dog and carried him to the car.

Dog drinking water out of garbage bag
Rico drinking water out of a garbage bag | Alix Mattingly

“He just looked awful, so we gave him a little bit of water,” Mattingly said. “But we didn’t have a bowl or anything, so we gave him some water in a trash bag.”

Then Mattingly and her boyfriend drove the dog to the vet clinic. The dog, who was only about 6 months old, had other issues besides being underweight and dehydrated — he was riddled with parasites, including heartworms, and he had a bad case of mange.

Someone had also poured gasoline over the dog, perhaps in an effort to cure his mange, Mattingly explained — and it had left chemical burns all over his body.

Person holding dog's head in her hand
Alix Mattingly

“It’s an old wives’ tale, especially in underdeveloped places, that gasoline and diesel fuel cure mange, which is not the case,” Mattingly said.

On top of everything else, there was a rope embedded into the dog’s neck, which led Mattingly and the vet to believe that someone used to keep him tied up, but he’d chewed off the rope and escaped. Whatever happened, it was clear the dog had been grossly neglected — and the rope had dug so deeply into his skin that it needed to be surgically removed.

Person holding dog's face in hand
Alix Mattingly

“The vet told me ... that there was going to be an extensive [healing] process, and if I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I was willing to go through all of this with him that I should probably just put him down,” Mattingly said. “But I wanted to give him a chance at life. I couldn’t just give up on him that easily.”

Dog eating from woman's lap
Alix Mattingly

Mattingly made sure that the dog, whom she named Rico, got every treatment he needed, including a medicated bath, antibiotic shots and parasite treatments. Then Mattingly drove Rico back to her parents’ house in Chelem.

Woman holding stray dog in her arms
Alix Mattingly

It was during this car ride that Rico finally started to relax in Mattingly’s presence.

“He sat in my lap in the front of the car, and he put his head on my shoulder, and he trusted me ever since,” Mattingly said.

Woman holding dog in her arms
Alix Mattingly

Rico wasn’t the only dog Mattingly rescued on that trip — she also saved seven tiny puppies, whom she brought back to her parents’ house as well. Rico immediately took to the new arrivals.

Dog and puppies together on beach
Rico with some of the other puppies Mattingly rescued | Alix Mattingly

“He kind of raised those puppies like they were his own, like he was the mama,” Mattingly said. “He corralled them around, and they all love each other. They’d all sleep in a big pile on the bed, and get along wonderfully. He’s the leader of the pack, and he takes everybody under his wing and makes sure everybody is taken care of. It’s really, really sweet.”

Dog sleeping with puppies
Rico and the puppies sleeping on the bed together | Alix Mattingly

During this time, the bond between Mattingly and Rico grew stronger and stronger, and Mattingly ultimately decided to adopt Rico (as well as two of the other puppies) despite already having another dog in the U.S.

Woman cuddling with dog
Mattingly and Rico cuddling together | Alix Mattingly

However, as the vet predicted, it took a long time for Rico to recover, and he had to remain in Mexico with Mattingly’s parents after Mattingly returned to the U.S. But in April, Mattingly’s parents drove Rico to the U.S. to reunite him with their daughter — and Mattingly couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Dog sleeping in back of car
Alix Mattingly

“He’s the happiest, sweetest dog that I have ever seen,” Mattingly said. “In spite of everything that he’s gone through, he goes up to strangers to get belly rubs. He wants to play with every dog he sees when we’re on a walk. He just sits right on your lap and wants to cuddle all of the time.”

Dog sitting on top of woman
Alix Mattingly

“He’s been a surprise, and it’s been wonderful,” Mattingly added. “To rescue him and bring him home with me, it’s been the most incredible thing.”

To help other dogs living in Chelem, Mexico, and surrounding areas, you can make a donation to No Mas Perritos.