11.01.2012 - 16.05.2012
We spend a lot of time around dogs, as does everyone in Central and South America. Since birth control for dogs is as hard to come by as it is for people, puppies abound and hungry dogs are always around, well, just looking very hungry.
Dogs here are quite different from the dogs we encounter at home, especially set against the leather-jacket wearing, rhinestone-collared poodles of Manhattan. In fact, dog behavior has entered into many conversations we've had with other foreigners here.
One common topic of discussion is: Would you rather... be a dog down here or in the United States?
Pro-South American life, you have miles of mountains, jungles and farmland to explore, and no electric fences to hold you back. You're on your own for food most of the time, which means hunting, if you're into that sort of thing. Life is pure adventure.
Cons are maltreatment: children throw stones at you, men kick you, women hit you on the head with pots, and your mom doesn't even care much about you because she has so many damned puppies already. You probably have scabies, ticks, fleas or all of the above. If you are a female, you are probably pregnant, or nursing and consequently undernourished. Finally, a dog-eat-dog world means defending yourself through brutal fights, day in and day out.
On a separate note, we've shared many stories with friends here about dogs who seemingly have no owner (but don't seem stray), who befriend you:
1. One of our first hikes in South America was outside of Bogota, Colombia, where two dogs became our trekking sidekicks for the day, following us up a few-hour summit and all the way back down, stopping to break whenever we did, napping at our feet, and parting ways where we had met them at the start of the hike.
2. Another afternoon, sitting on my sarong on the beach of Canoa, Ecuador, a golden retriever approached and nuzzled under my arm. I didn't pet it, which we've found is usually a mistake (attachment, scabies, fleas and parasites). It didn't leave, but looked me in the eye and then... it vomited. All over the sarong. Apparently it had just lunched on fish parts, petroleum and kibbles and bits... because after repeated washings, the oil from its regurgitation still shows proudly on my most versatile piece of travel clothing.
At first it began to eat its vomit off of the sarong, and then, when I went to dip the sarong in the ocean, the dog accompanied me, to, in and from, the water. When I resumed my seat on the sarong (now-marked-territory) the golden retrieved made himself comfortable on it with me. Countless attempts at shoo-ing the dog later, T.L. returned from surfing and I related what had happened and introduced him to my new companion.
We both decided to wade into the water, so the retriever followed and swam mostly on top of us the whole time. T.L. was able to coax him out of the water, so he walked up to our small pile of clothing, and planted his sea-water covered self atop our things. This was the start of a relationship that lasted the entire length of our stay in Canoa: whenever we stepped out of our hostel, this Golden found us. People began asking about our dog that wasn't our dog, who continually embarrassed us by relieving himself in all ways around the beach. T.L. suggested it knew I grew up with golden retrievers, a breed of dogs apparently comfortable relieving themselves on my things.
3) Our friend Fabian wins in the adopted-dog-story category: A small mut began following him around San Agustin, Colombia, although Fabian refused to feed or pet it. One day, Fabian trekked out to a friend's farm, hours away from town. The dog followed him the whole way, no matter how Fabian tried to dissuade him. Although Fabian refused to feed the dog during his 4-day stay, the dog remained. On the morning Fabian made to leave, his friends found themselves short a turkey. They searched the farm for the turkey, only to find the messy clues that led to the dog. Fabian summed up for us: “the dog ate the turkey... it was a really small dog, and a really big turkey...I had to pay for the turkey... like 55,000 pesos (around 30 dollars)...I hated that dog.” He shook his head in defeat.