Thursday, December 27, 2012
A man and his adopted street dog have walked nearly half the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, from Ciudad Juarez to Tijuana, for charity.
I caught Tom Fremantle and his retriever-labrador mix named Pancho by phone as they were walking through Tijuana’s financial district en route to the city's northwestern-most point, where the border fence meets the Pacific Ocean.
Fremantle is British, but for the last two years he worked with a charity in Ciudad Juarez. He decided a walking trip criss-crossing the U.S.-Mexico border would be fun, and a good way to raise money for nonprofits on both sides of the border.
He enlisted the help of Pancho, a street dog who was pretty weak when the trip began, but after the roughly thousand-mile trek, Fremantle said, is "like a lion."
After his time in Ciudad Juarez, which has suffered a reputation for incredible drug-related violence, Fremantle wanted to promote an image of the border as a place of goodwill, a sentiment he says he’s encountered countless times. And as a place where people are solving problems, not just creating them.
“If you’re a soldier or a policeman, or a narco or the president, or living in a slum or you have a business that can suffer from extortion, then of course it can be a very dangerous place," he said. "But I think what I also wanted to show was there’s an awful lot of very positive initiatives going on.”
Fremantle wants to raise $25,000 to split between several charities working with youth and to address other social issues along the border. As of his arrival in Tijuana on Wednesday, he’d raised a little more than half of that.
He said reaching the end of his nearly two-month trek is bittersweet. He’ll fly back to Ciudad Juarez from San Diego next week, and then on to England. His last task will be to find Pancho a good home.
“I am very tempted to take him back to England because I do love this dog. But he is a Juarez street dog. I think he wouldn’t like the weather much in England.”
Fremantle's travel blog is here.