Street Dogs I Have Known: Living With Man’s Best Friend In Viña del Mar
Cecile and I have both written a bit about Chile’s street dogs, but after her visit my mom insisted they deserved their own post. So here it is, sprinkled liberally with pictures and maybe a video or two. As usual, the best stuff wasn’t recorded, including an incident yesterday I’ll discuss shortly. And in case this gets too long, I may divide it up.
Chilean Street Dog Background Info
Street dogs are a well known phenomenon in Chile, they even made the Huffington Post (oh boy) back in 2012. We’re not sure exactly where they come from, but believe that at least in part it’s people who get puppies and then when they get too big just turn them out. And since they generally haven’t been “fixed”, you soon have lots of little street dogs. Except as far as we can see, you don’t. We’ve never seen a street dog puppy, and don’t really want to know the whole story behind that. In her book My Invented Country, Isabel Allende refers to them in Santiago and says that they’ve become a single, brownish type. While I wouldn’t go that far, there are some features that seem common if not universal. They do tend to be black or brownish, though we’ve seen some that have a more yellow lab coloring. They often seem to have some Lab and/or German Shepherd in them, and almost all are medium sized to large dogs, again, lab or shepherd size. We’ve seen a few smaller ones, but not many. In Viña, at least, they’re generally well behaved; we’ve heard that in Valparaíso, that’s not always the case, though our experience with them there has been uneventful. While these are dogs that live on the street, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them wild or feral dogs. They generally appear well fed and some have dog houses that people have built for them. They tend to have their territories, and we can definitely identify many of the common ones in our neighborhood, on the way to Joel’s school, and Cecile knows the group that hangs around on her campus (pickings from the students sound very tasty).
We first began to be acquainted with our local dogs when we were living in our first apartment, which if you’ll recall is pretty much right across the street from this one. We have one we still call the corner dog, as we often see it outside the corner store. It has even been observed barking at the front door of the store if it hasn’t been opened at what it considers the proper time. There are also dogs that congregate right outside our building, and often sleep in the planters that also contain trees. Yesterday we had a chance to feed one of the dogs as we had some leftover fries from our chorillano the day before. We had meant to give it the fries on the way home from the restaurant, but after doing a little grocery shopping I forgot until after we had been buzzed into our building. We really should have taken video, but who knew? The dog was sleeping in its planter as we approached; Cecile whistled to it and it raised its head to look at us. I dumped the fries in the planter, and the dog briefly sniffed them (without actually getting up), looked at us again, and then laid back down. It was as if it was saying to us “You woke me up for cold fries in the middle of the afternoon? I may be a street dog, but I have standards.” Although when we returned from our outing the fries were gone and the dog was looking a little puffier. It had walked down to the next planter though, so at least it got some exercise.
There’s also a dog we used to see quite often, but now rarely see, on the way to Joel’s school. About a block away from the street his school is on there’s a little kiosk, of the kind you see all over the city, that sells newspapers, candies and a few other things. There was a large white dog that used to hang out there, and clearly was connected with the kiosk. It would sleep right next to it and put its paws up on the counter when the woman who works there was opening up. We haven’t seen it much lately, and Cecile asked the woman who runs it what had happened, but was told it just comes and goes. This may confirm something in the Huff Post article that say people just leave their dogs out on the streets during the day, and sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t. It would explain things, especially when we see a dog that seems like a street dog but has a collar on.
Quinta Vergara Park Dogs
I’ve written of Quinta Vergara park, just up Alvarez from us. It also has dogs, although clearly they’re not really street dogs. But they’re not really owned dogs either. We had noticed the doghouses inside the entrance before, but when visiting the park the other day with my parents, I noticed the marker dedicated to one of the previous “guard dogs” of the park.
I think that’s good for now, we’ll continue this another time, because there are always more street dogs and more street dog stories.