Riding through Latin America we met thousands of stray dogs. As written before there’s children and dogs everywhere. The dogs hang out on every street corner, every petrol station, every plaza and they don’t really belong to anyone, they simply hang out in places where it is most likely that someone will throw some scraps at them. Often they would hang out in in big flocks, especially in the suburbs where they roam the streets with no respect for the intense traffic.
We would always talk to the dogs and share our lunch with them and quickly realized that there was endless love and attention for us if we would give them a few snacks and scratch on the back right there on that spot where they can’t reach. We loved every single dog we met and this is a tribute to all these loving creatures.
Quite often we would be chased by the same dogs. For some reason motorcycles would trigger their hunting instincts and they we go mad. This was incredibly intimidating. Being stuck behind a large truck with nowhere to go and seeing 3 enormous dogs running full speed against you with their teeth exposed and a wild look in their eyes is pretty god damn scary. We would honk and scream at them and kick or pull our legs up to our ears.
But after a while we realized that they were only going for the chase. If you stop, they loose interest in the chase and the mad look would disappear and they would wag their tails and we would be friends!
Some places like Cuzco, Peru there would be hundreds of dogs in the suburbs and they would run through the traffic in and out between the cars and we were terrified to hit one them.
In Caleta Olivia, Argentina I had to walk alone one night through the dark streets around midnight. But I felt completely safe since two large dogs had decided to be my saviors and take me all the way to my door. They never left my side and walked as if they had been trained to do so.
My body guards. The German shepherd was not confident with people but somehow I managed to make him warm up to me and he was very loving.
We made hundreds of friends talking to all the stray dogs we met on our way. If we had leftovers from dinner we would save it and give it to dogs the next day and we even started carrying real dog food.
The dogs in Mexico and Central America were generally is in a very sad state. They were extremely thin, small and often covered in fleas. Further south we saw just as many dogs, but they were generally in a better state.
Often the young dogs, the puppies, would be mauled by the big dogs, and for each little puppy it was probably a matter of surviving its first year on its own. The big dogs were most often roaming the streets in groups, but the puppies were alone.
In Copiapo in Chile a little skinny puppy was sitting shiverring under one of the outside tables at a cafe. The waiter literally kicked him out of there and yelled something bad after him. We called him over and gave him some food. He was so timid and nervous and all alone. In this city there was some very large groups of big dogs and for sure this little fellow was having a hard time getting access to any food before the big dogs ate it all. His fur was in a really bad shape and he was covered in flees. After he had a bit to eat he started behaving like a normal puppy, he relaxed and became playful. He was a lovely little dog and we had a really hard time understanding why anyone would kick it. It seemed to us that a lot of people hasn’t discovered how much devotion you get in return if you treat a dog well.
One day riding on the highway in Chile, we were stopped when in the middle of the road there was a big beautiful black dog. It had been hit by the truck in front of us and was badly hurt. He was desperately trying to move, but only the front of his body reacted. He had broken his back and his rear legs were not reacting and the back was bend in an awful angle. We tried to approach the dog, but couldn’t get very close, since cars were driving by and the dog looked almost crazy. Finally 2 trucks stopped in both lanes and blocked the traffic. The dog was in panic and crapped around in despair and probably in a lot of pain. He moved towards us and we got him out in the ditch. His heart was beating like crazy and he was bleeding from several places and judging from the bad shape of his back we knew he wouldn’t survive this.
The poor dog kept crabbing towards us and leaned his head against us. He looked up at us as if saying, “please save me” but we didn’t know what to do. He would die, but not quickly. Most likely he would die of thirst before his injuries. I sat down close to him and he put his head in my lap and I just cried my heart out.
We couldn’t make ourselves leave him there to suffer. We considered all possibilities and asked people in other vehicles if they had a gun so we could end his suffering. But no one did. After a while we agreed to ride to the next garbinieri and ask them to drive out and shoot the poor creature. It was horrible leaving the dog there in the ditch and I cried like a baby. The closest carbiniere was only about 5 km away and they promised they would take care of it. We will never know if they did, or if they just thought: “Bloody sentimental gringos, dogs get run over everyday in this part of the world”.
We will never forget this poor dog and feel bad about our inability to help it or end it’s life. We later talked about how we would have handled it if had been an even larger animal like a deer or horse. What would we do if we hit an animal and needed to kill it to end its suffering? I don’t know. For sure none of us could make ourselves slit the dog’s throat and a larger animal would be even harder.
R.I.P. pretty dog.
Another dog got to us really badly. In the city Caleta Olivia in Argentina we saw a small puppy outside a butcher store. He was so thin and desperately searching for food. I went inside and bought some food for him, and when I got out it took a while before he realized I was trying to feed him. I could hardly get contact with him. He seemed almost dizzy. Finally he realized I had food and he ate and ate. We got a bottle of water and he drank it all. Soon after he fell asleep on Lars’ lap.
I stayed with him while Lars was having an oil change and he didn’t leave my side. I saw that he was completely covered in big fat blood sucking tics. Several hundreds of them. His ears was almost black with them. It was disgusting and I wondered if this many blood sucking creatures would kill him in the end.
When Lars was done and we finally had to move on the poor dog became so unhappy and confused and started whining. We left him there alone with several big dogs on every street corner, something we deeply regretted.
The next morning when we headed for Ushuaia, we couldn’t stop thinking of this little dog and wondering how long he would survive being alone. We talked about him non stop and I made up my mind that I would find him again when we got back to Caleta Olivia. We started researching what it would take to bring a dog to Europe from Argentina. and it turned out to be a complicated matter. The dog would have to go through several test over a period of 3 months and would need an official dog license, plus there was a lot of rules for flying with a dog. Nevertheless we still wanted to find him. At the least we could take him to the vet and have the tics removed.
When we finally returned to Caleta Olivia after riding to the end of the world we started searching the streets looking for him. We named him “Tango” which seemed to be an appropriate Argentinian name and even made a “lost” poster and started putting it up everywhere and asking everybody in the streets. We also bought dog food and a collar and I seriously dreamed about bringing him home with me even if it seemed pretty impossible. Somehow I just felt that if we didn’t find him, I would leave a piece of me there.
On the second day riding around the streets looking for the puppy I saw a little dog through a narrow door to a backyard. The door was only open a few seconds and I quickly got off the bike and ran over to the door and knocked.
A mother came out with her baby on her arm. Then came another child and another child and another…. She was the single mother of 7 kids! I asked about the dog and we were allowed into the backyard.
And right enough there was TANGO! He was living with this family and looked much better. Less hungry but still covered with the blood suckers. He was happy and playful and more interested in the other dog than us, which was a good sign. We gave him his collar and some food.
The kids were surprised to see these two weird strangers in their home and it took a while before they understood why we were there. They saw our posters and laughed because the dog’s name wasn’t Tango, it was Fido. They explained to us that tango was not a name but a dance 🙂 I explained the best I could that we had found him alone in the street and thought that he was a stray dog. They told us that he had run away and had been gone for several days.
The family had two other dogs and a kitten and they all looked healthy and well fed. We think that Fido’s problem was the tics. I tried to explain this to the mother, but judging from the state of the home and her situation I really don’t think they had the resources to give this any priority.
We spend quite a bit of time there. The kids were thrilled about the exotic entertainment and very loving. They borrowed our camera and made a million pics and we let them sit on the motorcycle and start it and try our helmets.
After hanging out there for a while I asked if I could come back and bring something to remove the tics. We agreed that I would come back Sunday two days later.
When I came back the kids were thrilled to see me, but Fido wasn’t there. He had run away again! I gave them the treatment that would kill the tics and hoped that they would use it. It was a quite poisonous treatment and I was actually a bit nervous leaving the stuff there with all the kids.
The kids asked if I wanted to go to the beach with them and it wasn’t hard to persuade me. I had an amazing time with these wonderful kids playing on the beach and at the play ground. On the way back they showed me their school and we had ice cream.
Fido didn’t come back before I left, but I hope he’s back with the family now and that they have treated his tic problem. They don’t have any access to the Internet so I can’t write them – I will of course send them a letter and these wonderful pictures.
Our Latin American best friends