Dogs in Latin America vs. the U.S.

Posted on 19. Mar, 2014 by in colombia, peru

I have converted to Latin custom in some of the differences between LatAm and Gringolandia. Most of these ways, such as shamelessly showing up late to meetings or giving warm embraces to any old friend, are too trivial to warrant a blog post. But a recent conversation with a gringo pal illustrated that our differing perspectives on dogs present an interesting quirk.

Dog ownership in Latin America vs. the United States is mostly similar. Dog owners across the Americas adore their dogs, and in both regions dogs are sometimes neglected or mistreated. Nowhere in the Americas (that I know of) do people eat dogs, and most citizens of the Americas would be just as horrified as me when I saw dog on the menu in China.

I think Latin dog owners dress their dogs up in shirts, sweaters, and other adornments just as much as gringos do, but I may be biased from my impressions in north Bogota.

Unattended Dogs

One of the first major culture shocks I got in South America was my first day as I turned a corner in downtown Arequipa. Three dogs sat in the middle of this new street with no leashes, no owners in sight. I froze.

My Peruvian escort explained this was normal, and as the weeks went by I quickly learned how normal it was for dogs to prowl the streets alone. In fact, I don’t think I saw a dog on a leash in Latin America until I saw the wealthy areas of Bogota.

A suburban white boy like me immediately thinks, “Won’t the dogs be hit and killed by cars?” And just as quickly we see that dogs learn the streets, they learn about cars, they learn traffic. They don’t run into the street completely ignorant because they haven’t been on leashed or locked in the house every day.

I witnessed packs of dogs running around Arequipa, sometimes as many as 20. Usually when there are a dozen or more, it’s because a bitch is in heat and the other 11 or so males are following her around. Every time she needs a minute to rest, the largest male will start riding her. At the start of the day she probably defended herself. But at the end of the day with all these suitors, she’s spent. The other males wait around in case an opportunity arises and they became the strongest, dominant one. Dogs will wait forever for a bitch. 

When my Peruvian wife and I got two dogs in Arequipa, I thought it my dog-owner duty to walk them every day. And I enjoyed walking my bitches twice a day. But Milagros wouldn’t have cared if they never walked a block. Leaving them on our roof for their entire lives would’ve been just fine for her and all my in-laws. They thought me a little odd for walking them every day. If they want a dog to get some free time outside, they open the door and let him walk himself.

By the time we got dogs, I had four years in Latin America and thought leashes unnecessary. I taught them how to cross the major avenue we lived on. I led and accompanied them, but they were free to explore interesting smells and trash bags, or meet other dogs up close and personal.

I witnessed each of my bitches go through a heat cycle. The first time it happened, for Negra (see videos and pics below), I insisted on walking her as always. The males of the neighborhood smelled her from blocks away. I’d hit them with rocks and even kick them, but they wouldn’t stop following us. They feared me and kept a distance, but they followed. We built entourages. By the time we got home a group would be left outside our door. One or two would wait there for hours. I quickly realized the daily walk isn’t necessary for a bitch in heat.

In north Bogota you’ll see professional dog-walkers walking 10 or even 20 dogs around the city on leashes. The wealthier Colombians with busy jobs pay these walkers to have their dogs walked, a little exercise in the heart of the city. Some of the less honest dog-walkers, however, simply tie them up in the mountains and sit around waiting until it’s time to return them. You can see these dogs during the daytime in the forests around Calle 96 above Septima.

Leash Laws

Then I got back to the U.S. and had to suffer all the gringo beliefs about dogs. Don’t let the dog out of the house, he’ll run away!

Why in the hell would a dog run away?

Step out of your economy of abundance paradigm and think of your dog as a vagrant – a vagrant who will ferociously defend you, your family, and your territory against any intruder no matter how big or armed. A vagrant who will light up and be uncontrollably ecstatic at the sight of you coming home … every day!  A vagrant whose favorite personal item in the whole world is the oldest, unwashed underwear or shirt you’re willing to give him. A vagrant who doesn’t talk, drink, or do drugs.

That’s why dogs are infinitely more lovable than vagrants, but their interests are basically the same. You provide them with food and shelter every day, and all they have to do is lay around. Seriously, why would a dog run away?

My unleashed dogs in Peru wouldn’t run away. I tried letting them walk themselves a few times. They waited on the damn sidewalk until I came out to walk with them. The few times I didn’t come out, they finally explored a little but they’d always come back. I couldn’t abandon those motherfuckers – not in the neighborhood anyway. They knew where the free food and shelter was.

There are dogs that run away in the U.S. Everybody had a childhood friend who, when you visited his home, you had to enter the door real fast, defending any openings so the dog didn’t get out. And if the dog did get outside, the family would be out chasing him for an hour or two in fear he’d be hit by a car or never come home. They’d look at you as if you were the asshole.

As described earlier, this never happened in Peru. But there’s a different dynamic with those dogs that escape at any opportunity. It’s not just the leash, but a complete lack of freedom. Imagine a vagrant again, a vagrant who is fed and housed but never gets to leave. Imagine yourself if you could never leave the strict confines of a house and fenced-in yard. What would you do if given the opportunity? Escape and look for other people (dogs), explore the area, run around and be free? Of course. Being in the backyard is “outside,” but it isn’t the same as going out and being free. Meeting others, patrolling, running at full speed.

Neutering and Spaying

In Gringolandia, it’s humane to “fix” your dog so it doesn’t reproduce. The idea stems from the fact that millions of dogs are euthanized every year. Why create more when so many doomed dogs long for an owner and home?

Another belief is that neutering the male dogs reduces their barking and humping of things, the appearance of the red rocket. But is this a humane decision? Or is it just convenient for the owner?

When I suggested spaying our bitches, my in-laws were horrified. They thought of it as cruelty, akin to circumcision.

[poll id=15]

Killing Dogs

The idea for this article was born when my pal told me his dog had been stolen by an ex. He was all bummed out and my suggestion was, “Pretend he’s dead.” It’s not a human. It’s just a dog. Get another one.

Anybody immersed in gringo culture can see how that would offend a sensitive person. Maybe those immersed in Latin America would agree with me. It’s just a dog.

Either way, a dog’s life span is considerably shorter than a human’s. An unavoidable part of dog ownership is losing the dog when it dies. Why make a big deal?

My stepfather was hard up for money last year, when my grandmother had her Golden Retriever “put down.” We learned that she paid $80 to have him injected.

We joked that we could’ve done the job for $40 (not completely a joke, as we were hard up for money). Not only would my grandma have saved $40, we would’ve picked him up. We’d have given him a last meal: chicken bones, hamburger grease, whatever. I could’ve dug the hole while Pops went to pick him up. I’d have been done by the time he got back, and he would’ve shot him in the hole. I’d have topped him off and BOOM, we’re done.

A .22 rifle bullet costs about $1, but he’s already got several of them.

My father-in-law strangles their old, dying dogs. They don’t live on a plot of land that makes shooting them a convenient option.

I used these methods to teach my kid brother about money and budgeting. Here’s the exercise I presented him:

Which option would you choose for your dog if you had to pay your money?

  • Have the dog “put down” by a veterinarian for $80. *
  • Shoot the dog for $1. **
  • Strangle or drown the dog for free.

* The first option includes disposal. Disposal in Latin America can be as simple leaving the bagged carcass with the trash. Or you can bury it wherever you deem appropriate.

** If shooting the dog, cleaning of blood may be required, depending on location.

Those prices are in absolute terms. So to better illustrate the equation for budgeting purposes (and self-examination), adjust your figures to a Latin American laborer’s dilemma.

[poll id=14]

It’s easy to choose he be put down with a painless injection by a vet on a stainless steel table. But when it’s your money, what you are willing to pay for is the true measure of your values and priorities.

Stray Dogs

San Francisco has one of the world’s leading “no kill” policies in finding homes for stray dogs not deemed dangerous or terminally ill. In Bogota, on the other hand, The Mick described to me how the pound deals with stray dogs. Paraphrased:

The guys look like bee-keepers, well protected. They horde the dogs with big nets in a prison van, a big cage inside the van. They round up all the stray dogs. The dogs feel the energy, they’re howling and barking, and trying to run away. The guys trap them. They haul them in these big cages, cram them in there, and drive off to the compound. They remove the cage from the van and hose down the cage with water, they get all the dogs good and wet. They attach jumper cables to the cage, and they electrocute them. When I saw it some of the dogs didn’t die. There was a horrible smell of burnt hair. Some of the dogs were convulsing so they electrocuted them again until they were all dead.

crueler example of dog death comes from my suegro, who joined the Peruvian police academy in the 1980s. One form of hazing he suffered was having to kill a dog and eat its raw heart.

My Dogs

I miss my bitches. We gave them away. I pretended they died, but I miss them dearly. Once I permanently establish my family in Lima, I plan to be a dog owner again.

In Yura:

In Arequipa:

Pics:

dogs latin america yura dogs latin america cactus dogs latin america collision dogs latin america faces dogs latin america nibble dogs latin america pooping dogs latin america sala dogs latin america searching dogs latin america share dogs latin america sitting dogs latin america sleeping clothes dogs latin america sleeping roof dogs latin america sleeping sala 2 dogs latin america sleeping dogs latin america sniffing dogs latin america trash dogs latin america yura

 

Animal Realism in the Heartland

On another note, not all of the United States has become politically correct and sensitive. I spent several months living with my stepfather, who grew up in a poor rural area. He has eaten his fair share of squirrels, possums, and anything else he could kill as a kid. He loved cuy (guinea pig) in Arequipa. During my stay at his place I video-recorded a couple kills.

Cat Assassination

This cat was killing all the rabbits and doing other things to annoy the residents of the area. He spotted it on his land and announced he was going for his gun. I barely had time to get my camera.

Possum Execution

Pops had a trap on the land to catch all the raccoons and possums that eat all the deer feed and cause a general nuisance. Killing a few prevents them from breeding like crazy.

While not all gringos are pussies, many are. I just published those videos to YouTube at the time of this writing. We’ll wait and see if they get any comments from animal advocates telling me how evil we are.

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Check out Lima Travel Guide by Colin Post and David Lee.

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12 Responses to “Dogs in Latin America vs. the U.S.”

  1. Casey

    19. Mar, 2014

    Growing up in SE Texas I saw my old man take out critters with his shotgun all the time so I am pretty accustomed to the line between man and beast.

    Living in Nicaragua I have only killed one animal, and that was a pesky possum that I chopped with a machete. No less humane than a guillotine, really.

    Down here everybody has dogs but not as pets. They are tools for security. They live in the garage or patio and most get fed only from table scraps so they stay pretty lean and hungry. They are also fiercely loyal to their owners. Try breaking into a house with 3 starving dogs and you had better hope the owners are home to call them off so you don’t get killed.

    No pics of mangy starving street dogs? Super prevalent here…a plague really.

  2. Esteban

    19. Mar, 2014

    One big difference between Latinos and gringos in relationship with dogs: treating them like dogs.

    In the USA, dogs are treated like children. I’ve seen people talk to their dogs like they were another human, feed from the table. These dogs tend to have the worst behavior problems: excessive barking, pulling at the leash, not responding to commands, agressiveness, etc. Dogs are pack animals. In every pack, is an alpha. If one of the pack steps out of line, the alpha snaps at (usually at the neck of) the offender. This establishes the order. It is an important tool to keep a group in order and is essential for hunting game.

    In an American household, the dogs are treated as equals, with no discipline. The dog is confused and acts out, like an immature teenager. In fact, dog experts say that barking is an immature act in many cases. Go out to a farm or ranch and see how work dogs act. They usually are very calm and respond to command.

    I’ve noticed that the roaming dogs in Latin America are usually well behaved and friendly. They interact with other dogs well on the street. This is because those dogs are treated like dogs, not as spoiled children.

    I think any dog that has a large yard to roam in, does not need walks. They get plenty of exercise on their own. As long as they get plenty of interaction in a constructive master-dog relationship, they do fine.

  3. Jose

    19. Mar, 2014

    Being Latino myself I have to agree that we do treat our dogs like dogs instead of people. My parents had two dogs when i was a kid and both slept in the garage. To me that was normal. And don’t let me tell you about my uncle in Latin America who shot his dog because he was terminally sick! He shot the dog and buried it in the yard.
    It’s hard to be a dog in Latin America
    Great post!

  4. visitor

    20. Mar, 2014

    Fucking-A right!

    The absolute worst, imho, is that the humans allow their fucking canines to do whatever they want at night (bark, outdoors, incessantly). In the three years that I lived in Latin America, I don’t think I ever got one solid night’s sleep, because of the f-ing dogs. I ultimately bought a dog whistle for immediate combat with the dog acrosss the street. But what a pain in the ass to be woken every morning at 3am to do combat with a dog that should be controlled by its owner. 3 cheers for Latin America.

  5. visitor

    20. Mar, 2014

    Also, the roosters (every 2 hours), horny burros (every 4 hours), and pigs squealing their heads off while having their throats slit at 5am… right in the middle of town! No issue with these sounds in the country side, but in the middle of a popluated town? Was never a fan of US suburbs until that three year experience.

  6. visitor

    20. Mar, 2014

    One last comment, and then I’ll leave your blog in peace. Watching, in every single Latin American city, 5-15 male dogs try to simultanously, on the sidewalk adjacent to a coffee shop, try to mount one female dog in heat, is very eye opening, and made me anyway, reflect on my own reproductive behaviors, for the better.

  7. Chuck

    20. Mar, 2014

    Look at the old man go! He saunters over with the rifle, blasts the cat, then turns and takes a drag from his cigarette as it struggles with the Grim Reaper for its ninth life.

  8. Jorge

    20. Mar, 2014

    Great Post Colin!

    I totally agree with your point on view on the differences between LA and USA regarding dogs. LA is much more relaxed.
    Also, totally agree with Esteban. In USA (and big cities in Mexico) they’re treated as spoiled f-ing brats. A dog is a domesticated wolf, no more. They have a role and we’re supposed to be their masters, not dad/mom.

    Again, great post man!

    Cheers!

  9. 'Reality' Doug

    22. Mar, 2014

    Neutering humane or cruel. lol That little detail on extermination by execution could have skewed the results. I was leaning humane, but I think individual-market freedom works better than institutional solutions.

    How to put down a dog? I think the same way we put down grandma and grandpa. What is convenience for owners now?

    I think there is a profound point in the post. Culture is a free market of action, sometimes violence. That makes for better solutions than top-down institutional solutions. Top-down authority is the precursor to corruption.

    Is the leash on the dog or on the human?

    The NWO, the powers that be, want us divided and unable to handle our own affairs.

    Along those lines, I did a talk radio bit about dogs on leashes. Maybe we are overlapping in what we are getting at. Americans are training to fail their dogs, and I think themselves. It’s only the tip of the iceberg about what disgusts me about post-feminist Western culture.

    My culture is masculine Western culture, even it that means I am a cultural loner. So be it.

    If I may, for anyone’s listening pleasure, “Dogs on Leash”: http://djrealitydoug.github.io/

    Ask not for whom the leash pulls, for it pulls for thee.

  10. Isreal

    05. May, 2015

    Thank you so much for info. I want to visit S. or Central America. What would you say is the absolute most friendly countries, and lastly, the easiest for a guy to get in with his 90lb dog? What I find horrific us the Asian practice of eating dogs, and am looking for a S. or Central American country where people would be very averse to eating mans best friend, even in rough economic times. Your help is greatly appreciated. God bless.

  11. Aly

    05. Jul, 2016

    wow…this is absolutely disgusting. Animals are proven to have feelings and emotions, and should be treated with dignity and respect.

    How would you like it if a species took over the world and was smarter and bigger than you and left your outside to fend for yourself and treated you the same way you treat these poor animals?

    Apparently you have so sense of sympathy or compassion for anyone.

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