Members of the Rotary Club of Ajijic gathered at Yves’ Restaurant in Ajijic for an unusual ceremony during the last meeting of the season.
Outgoing President Norma Tapia-Cannon paused before passing the gavel to incoming President Mike McCarthy to award honorary membership in ARDAT, the club’s dog-assisted therapy program to Vino Blanco, the restaurant’s resident burro.
While placing an ARDAT bandana around the neck of the white burro who is also a local celebrity and art model, Tapia-Cannon commented that Vino Blanco’s sweet and calm disposition makes her the perfect example of a therapy animal. “She constantly makes people smile and brings joy and sparkle to even cloudy days,” said Tapia-Cannon.
Now, at age 16, Vino Blanco is one of the few remaining “expat” donkeys imported from Kentucky by the Mexico government to replenish the dwindling burro population around Lake Chapala. These small, sure-footed animals are called burros in Mexico and donkeys in the United States where they were once pack animals carrying supplies to the wild west.
Vino Blanco gained a good deal of popularity and some notoriety when she was owned by one of recent Lakeside’s most colorful and flamboyant residents, Peter Morse Moir who was better known as Pedro Loco.
Pedro Loco was an oft-photographed local character in amazing ensembles topped by matching elaborate hats. He traveled through the streets of Ajijic in regal splendor in a cart pulled through the streets of Ajijic by his beloved companion, Vino Blanco. When Pedro stayed a bit long during a night on the town, his pals would help him to the cart and Vino Blanco would make sure he arrived safely at home.
As time passed and Pedro aged, he was no longer able to ride in the cart or care for the burro who still spent as much time on the beach near the Ajijic malecon as she did in the days when Pedro languished and held court at the bar perched on the pier.
Yves de Choulot who then owned Yves’ Restaurant on the lakefront was Vino Blanco’s best friend. They’d become acquainted at the tree where Vino Blanco was tied as she waited with the cart until Pedro was ready to go home. Every day de Choulot delivered Vino Blanco’s “doggie bag” of vegetables and grain, and buckets of water to the tree and then stayed to untangle the rope and chat a bit.
Last year, not long before Pedro died, de Choulot purchased Vino Blanco for the grand symbolic sum of one peso and the promise to give her good care. By then he had a pasture where she could spend her nights and he walked her to the restaurant each morning.
Even without Pedro Loco, the flower bedecked cart, and her outlandish hats, Vino Blanco had become the darling of Ajijic. Her fame went, if not viral, at least international when artist Kim Tolleson rented the studio and gallery next to Yves’ Restaurant and began painting and selling primitive scenes featuring Vino Blanco in a variety of scenarios. There was the burro in a hammock reading a cookbook. In another painting,Vino Blanco poses on the edge of a cloud. Others featured her singing with the mariachis, making stew, and munching on Ajijic’s vivid flowers.
By the time de Choulot moved Yves’ Restaurant to a quiet, shady location on the highway west of downtown Ajijic (Next to Dental Express), the paintings were as popular as the burro
Tolleson’s paintings hang and are sold in Yves’ new location and the new coffee mugs emblazoned with delightful portraits of the famous white donkey Blanco are stacked on a table outside the restaurant.
Vino Blanco has inadvertently become a major attraction in Ajijic, Tolleson’s paintings and at Yves’ Restaurant. Now that she is also an honorary therapy dog, she can continue her semi-retired life in the restaurant’s shady garden where her day consists of greeting customers, passersby, and the grey cat who stops by to share Vino Blanco’s daily ration of veggies.
To visit Vino Blanco, stop by for a great breakfast, lunch or dinner at Yves’ Restaurant every day but Wednesday. Call (376) 766-3565 for reservations or information.
For information about the Rotary club of Ajijic or ARDAT, please visit www.rotaryajijic.org or call (376) 766 5025.