Like its Latin American neighbors, Chile has an overabundance of homeless cats and dogs crowding its streets. Bob Barker would not be pleased. However, although unclaimed strays abound, the Chilean variety is unique in that they are generally healthy, well fed, and graciously accepted within the human community in which they reside.
In other countries we have visited, strays find themselves at the seamy bottom of the food chain, with their presence being about as desirable as finding a dead rat on one’s doorstep. Natural selection is hard at work here: these dogs are comprised of a furtive, skinny, half-feral breed of scavenger that creeps through the streets looking to eat before it is eaten. Cute and cuddly are not competitively advantageous adaptations. (Your average Labradoodle would survive all of five minutes here.) Sadly, life can’t be double rainbows and butterflies for everyone.
Chile differs dramatically in that the existence of the feral mangy dog-beast is more exception than the rule. What’s more, some of the strays we’ve seen near our home look downright…plump. So, what’s going on here exactly?
On numerous occasions, we’ve seen locals playing with, feeding, or putting out cardboard box beds for the neighborhood pooches. On weekends, the puppy adoption tent, strategically located across the street from the mall, teems with people oohing and aahing over the little bundles of fur – – all telltale signs that animal lovers are alive and well here.
On any given day, in Viña del Mar, a half dozen dogs frolic on the beach, chasing seagulls, barking at waves, and generally behaving like happy, well-adjusted canines enjoying a day at the beach. The advantage for dog lovers like us, is that we can essentially foster an animal for short time intervals at a moments notice, enjoying some of the best aspects of dog ownership (the playing) without the onerous and inconvenient parts. Jeff says this is similar to the advantages of being an uncle.
We don’t mean to dismiss the seriousness of the stray dog epidemic in Chile (it does seem like there are close to a thousand of them just in our city alone) and we strongly believe that pets should be spayed and neutered. But setting aside these more serious issues, we are left with frolicking pooches on the beach, wagging tails outside the butcher shops, and our melting hearts just about everywhere. Two paws up for Chile!
PS. We miss our dogs.