Marc Ménard was in love with Mexico. He got married there. He went on vacation there.
But now, friends and relatives of a the Quebec man who mysteriously vanished while driving home from Mexico 10 months ago are still holding out hope he is alive.
But Marc Ménard's loved ones say they need more help on the ground in a very dangerous part of Mexico if they're ever to find out what happened to the husband and father after he disappeared en route to the U.S. border.
Ménard, a bus driver from Laval, was described as a bon vivant who liked to travel and wanted to keep doing so while he was still in excellent health.
He was in love with Mexico. He married there and often vacationed in the country in recent years.
This time, he decided to stay for an extended period, coinciding his trip with the celebrations to mark the end of the Mayan calendar. Some of the distinctive tattoos that adorn his body were depictions of the calendar and of pyramids.
He left Canada in December 2012 and was driving back home after three months of travelling through Mexico and Guatemala by car. His plan was to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at the notoriously dangerous town of Nuevo Laredo, a haven of drug cartel violence.
The state of Tamaulipas, which is home to Nuevo Laredo, is marred by drug-related violence and is subject to a Canadian government warning against non-essential travel. It's home to Los Zetas, arguably Mexico's most feared drug cartel.
In Matehuala, about 500 kilometres south of the border, Ménard last spoke with a family member, using Skype, on March 14, 2013. He was seeking veterinary care for his basset hound, Maya, before crossing into the United States.
There is no record of Ménard ever making it across the border.
Maya was discovered in the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo and has since been returned to Quebec.
Ménard's vehicle, a white Pontiac van, was recovered.
But none of Ménard's personal possessions were found, including a laptop - his only link to home. The French-speaking Ménard was travelling without a cellphone and speaks only minimal English and Spanish.
Supporters say a handful of people involved in the sale of the vehicle have been charged, but the trail ends there.
“We know he was kidnapped, but for the rest, we're unaware,” Jonathan Ménard said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press.
Supporters are hoping to elicit the help of Canadian politicians. A petition is circulating with the hope that Ménard's MP will present it in the House of Commons.
Alexandra Deziel, a family friend, said the petition calls on the federal government to appeal to Interpol so the international organization can ask questions about Ménard's disappearance and conduct a proper search.
Deziel is one of a small group of friends to have worked tirelessly to find Ménard by creating an online buzz through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
None of his friends believe Ménard would voluntarily vanish.
“Absolutely not,” said Deziel. “It's totally out of character. If he's still there, it's because he can't get out.”
“You meet him one time and you never forget this guy - he never has anything bad to say about anything, he always sees the good in everything and that's why he ended up in this situation, always thinking that everybody is good,” said Deziel.
“He's a man very close to his people."
Not having answers has weighed heavily on Ménard's family and friends.
“There are moments that are very difficult, but we have a good group-support system, we are the same people since the beginning and we talk to each other every single day and help each other through this,” said Deziel.
“We keep in mind that what Marc is going through is far, far worse.”
The Foreign Affairs Department says it is keeping tabs on the situation.
“Canadian officials continue to liaise with local authorities,” said a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Canada via email.
In the meantime, Deziel said they've been left to try to communicate with authorities themselves.
"It's very complicated to have communication," she said. "Especially with the Mexican government and Mexican authorities."
With files from The Canadian Press