Don’t worry, I doubt you’ll see “street people” make it on to the list, or even “street food” for that matter, but don’t get me started on THAT subject!
There are street dogs all over Santiago, and the rest of Chile for that matter. It’s obviously not good that the situation exists, a result of poor pet ownership, abandonment, and a lack of desexing, among other things. Still, I think it’s preferable to see these dogs living on the street, where they at least have a life and a possibility to be adopted, fed or cared for. In Australia, the situation is “sterilized”, removed from our sensitive view, with hundreds of thousands of dogs needlessly put down each year while people go on living their merry lives, happily oblivious to the problem.
Here, the problem is under your nose and many a kind hearted samaritan will take a lucky street dog (or more) into their home. I heard a story from a Chilean friend just today about how he took a street dog into his home who has now assimilated with his other two dogs and is very much a happy, well-adjusted, and very grateful and loving, member of the family.
It’s probably just as well I live in an apartment, otherwise I may have a small collection by now!
The street dogs themselves are generally harmless, and happy to go about their lives without too much bother. They sleep wherever they want, whenever they want, and people seem to move around them without giving it a second thought. I have often had to double-check to make sure a dog is sleeping and not, well, the unmentionable other alternative.
Stay still too long though, and somebody just may put a price tag on you at the flea market! (In fun, of course)
They are often looked after by the general public, with food and water bowls randomly left around, and even kennels left in Parque Forestal for them. In winter, I’ve even seen street dogs wearing little furry coats that someone has bought for them. People buy them “sopapillas” from street vendors, and generally the markets and the rubbish bins are popular feeding spots for them.
Give one a friendly sideways glance at the traffic light and you may find yourself with a new best friend, trotting along beside you for a few blocks, until they get distracted by a potential food source or another dog.
They are often at San Cristobal in the mornings, happy to find company (dog or human) and take their morning exercise climbing the hill. Last weekend, a lovely black mutt followed me up the hill, unfortunately after being kicked at by a less-friendly human who didn’t want her walking within two feet of her.
This beautiful girl “adopted” us during a picnic in the park recently, patiently and peacefully waiting with big pleading eyes, knowing that she would receive a payoff of leftover scraps at the end of our meal. (She didn’t like the camera flash though!)
I know that there are a lot of people who have, or have had, problems with street dogs, like incessant barking at night or, worse, attacks or bites. I know there is a LOT that can be done to improve the situation, starting with education around responsible pet ownership and desexing.
I also know that there are many times when the antics, or just the presence, of a street dog has brought a smile to my face, and that’s why they make my list of things that I love about living in Chile.
Want to see more of Chile’s street dogs? Check out this fantastic video, an initiative by two Chilean college students to raise awareness to their plight.
And, or course, if you have room in your home and heart to responsibly take in a dog, go ahead, it could change your life.