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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Life lessons from Fitz, Yucatán’s most photographed terrier

A conversation with Leanna Staines, who credits her dog with helping her adjust to her new life in Yucatán

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
A spread from “My Days,” Leanna Staines’ passion project to benefit two local animal clinics. Her dog Fitz appears in every photo, and has seen more of Yucatán than most of us. Preview courtesy Russ and Leanna Staines

Fitz has a face and demeanor that suggests he knows everything. But could he have any idea how much he’s helping the dog and cat population of Yucatán?

The 16-year-old terrier is the protagonist in a new photo book whose proceeds will benefit two local spay and neuter operations. The book, “My Days: Inspiration from a Curious Dog” will be introduced to the public with a signing Sunday, June 27 at Hennessy’s Irish Pub. It will also be on sale at the Between the Lines bookshop at Plaza Carmesí.  

The terrier, who looks pretty good for his age, is a natural model. Unlike most dogs, he sits very still for the camera. Whether you pose him in front of a beach, on top of a moto bike, or with strangers in the street, Fitz is a very willing subject. 

For “My Days,” the publishers had 200 photos to choose from. Preview courtesy Russ and Leanna Staines

The book was quickly hailed as utterly charming and belonging on every bookshelf in Yucatán. The concept behind the project appears to have bubbled up naturally.

“I really wasn’t planning a book like this,” says Leanna. “I always think you should leave art up to the people who do it well, but as I was posting photos taken of Fitz as we did our little travels through Yucatán, I would get a lot of response, especially from my friends back in San Francisco.”

Her first thought was a calendar, but a couple of other nonprofits already sell those as fundraisers, and Leanna didn’t wish to step on toes. 

A spread from “My Days.” Preview courtesy Russ and Leanna Staines

She credits Sean Hennessy, of Hennessy’s Irish Pub fame, for spurring her into action as something to keep occupied during the pandemic lockdown. 

The first job was photo selection. In Hennessy’s house, Leanna and her husband Russ spread out about 200 printouts. “We got it down to 67 or 68,” Leanna says. Gina Osorno, the artist and singer, designed the book. 

https://www.facebook.com/NoMasPeritosCommunitySpayAndNeuterProgramThe Staines’ financial contribution was production and printing costs. So all the revenue the book receives goes straight to No Más Perritos and AFAD for their campaigns to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

How did they end up with so many photos of Fitz? 

“Russ is a musician,” says Leanna.  “Immediately when he got here he found his tribe, but it took me a while.”

Her daily outings with Fitz, starting when they arrived 11 years ago, were a way to meet people. And Fitz was a lot more extroverted than his human companion. 

“Fitz engaged with his new surroundings in his naturally confident way,” she writes in the book’s intro.

Some photos are accompanied by some fitting quotes by the likes of Maya Angelou and Dorothy Parker, the latter of whom says: “The cure for boredom is curiosity; there is no cure for curiosity.”

Which is what Fitz seems to be saying in all 67 or 68 photos. 

Follow Fitz on Instagram @fitzstaines.

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