Cast Iron Dog

Here is María Andrea Castañon Villanueva, respectfully known in San Antonio as Madam Candelaria (1803-1899).

She claimed to have been nurse to Jim Bowie at the Alamo. (Some dispute this. I believe she was there, but that’s a story for another day.)

She’s holding a pelon dog. AKA xoloitzcuintli. It was common in San Antonio during the 19th century and much loved.

Sweet and Knox described it in Sketches from Texas Siftings (1882):

“The Mexicans call him pelon. The Americans refer to him as the no-hair dog; while the stranger from the north, who sees him for the first time, calls him a cast-iron dog, for that is what he looks like at first glance.

Although not particularly intelligent, the no-hair dog is susceptible of a high polish, for his hairless hide shines in the sun as if it had recently been touched up with stove-polish.

His body is about the size, and somewhat of the shape, of a watermelon – that is, of one of those small watermelons that is about the size of a pelon dog…

The pelon dog is found in Austin, in San Antonio, and in tamales, the latter being a Mexican dish, the ingredients of which are as uncertain as those of hash…

The pelon dog is a great favorite with the Mexicans in Texas. Every Mexican family owns from one to half-a-dozen of them, according to their means. The poorer the family, the greater number of dogs they can afford to support.”

Many believed the pelon dog cured eased the pains of arthritis, something that Madam Candelaria could have said a thing or two about. The San Antonio Light made light of that belief in 1886:

No matter what the editor of the Light thought of them, people loved their pelon dogs. One of the latest mentions of the dog in the newspaper archives is from 1917.

I hope they found him.

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