It’s full of beautiful buildings, leafy little streets, restaurants, bars, cafes, and even has its own little arthouse cinema. It’s close to Parque Forestal, and the metro, making it easy to get around. It’s popular amongst tourists and locals alike, and it’s one of the things I love most about living in Santiago.
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.
This reclaimed piece of park land, previously part of the Mapocho river bed, is one of my favourite places in Santiago. It took me a long time to find my current apartment, partly because my criteria included being in a neighbourhood near this park. The park follows the Mapocho, and joins up with other parks along the way, such as Balmaceda to the East and Parque Bustamante to the South, forming part of a large green belt that runs through Santiago and adds to its charm.
Parque Forestal is my front yard, being just one block small block in front of my house. It is my primary place for running and exercise, my thoroughfare on the way to La Vega Central for my shopping, it’s where I often go to lie and read my book, or the site of an impromptu picnic with a sneaky bottle of wine. Well, actually not so “sneaky”, since nobody is going to bat an eyelid if you are openly sharing a bottle of wine or a few beers in the park (or a joint for that matter, but I’ll leave that to others).
There is often free outdoor entertainment, some planned and others, well, just improvised and, on a hot day, you will see kids playing and cooling off in the fountains. It’s a favourite location among locals for many forms of exercise, from cycling and running, to yoga, and I have seen some pretty impressive slack-lining, an activity where
crazy brave people string a band between trees and attempt to walk across it and perform all kinds of crazy manoeuvres.
The park is extra busy on weekends, with families out in full-force, and a flea market usually set up behind the Fine Arts Museum. There are often exhibits set up in the park, like the current “Visito mi Historia” (“I visit my History”), consisting of large placards explaining many different and interesting aspects of Chile’s history, from the origin of empanadas to the 1962 World Cup and many things in between.
Parque Forestal provides great refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city, and a walk through it always invokes a better, calmer mood. No wonder it’s one of the things I love about living in Chile!