Friday, February 24, 2012

This is for the dogs.

Let's take a look at three dogs I know here in Peru, but before we do that, a quick note on cultural differences:

Culture is often a blend of many aspects of a person's life, and isn't specific to a person's ethnicity, language, or country. These aspects often determine a group's laws, norms, rules, and a person's point of view on various subjects. So when one group's norms are not observed by another, it can lead to some interesting situations. Cultural differences can lead to: Humor (My host mom thinking Jeff is a clown because he likes to wear flip-flops around my site), entertainment (the Gringo being asked to be part of the local beauty queen contests), long discussions ("Why are there beautifully written laws that are never enforced or followed in Peru?"); or conflict. Now with that said, let's take a look at three dogs through my point of view as a dog lover from the United States:

Jeff's Dog:

This is Jeff's new pup, to my knowledge she doesn't have a name yet. He bought her for S/. 60 from a guy standing on a street corner in Huaraz, and is now a over concerned padre (dad). He guesses she's a little over a month old, with a mix between a golden retriever and husky. And when I met him on the 2nd day of having her, Jeff told me stories of her being really sick and hungry, drinking mop water at the hostel, whining on the 2 hour combi ride, and not being sure what would be the best thing to feed her in site (store bought dog food, tuna, milk, and rice were all discussed).

I found this all interesting after I tried to explain exactly the above paragraph to my host-mom. Judging from Dina's comments she found the following interesting: Jeff paid money for a street dog; The dog has identifiable breeds in it; The dog got to ride on the combi with Jeff; He wasn't sure what foods to give the dog; and the kicker... this dog will most likely be going back to the United States with Jeff after he finishes his service. It's pretty clear that there two different cultural lens looking at the same perro (dog).

Gisel's Dog Toby:

The perfect couple.

Puppy love. 

Toby in Gisel's house helping cook.

Ever see a dog and their human have such a connection that you can't help to think that those two were made for each other, or were in love. That's the only way to describe Gisel (A Peru 16 Health Volunteer who is the biggest animal lover I've ever met) and Toby. With Gisel, Toby was assured plentiful food, kisses, tummy and ear scratches, and a safe place to stay. Gisel on the other hand had a loyal companion that would follow her to the ends of the Earth. He was known to go into the municipality with here for meetings, wait for her outside a local hotel while she called her parents, comforted her after those phone calls made her homesick, and even do a 12 mile hike with her while he had a hurt leg. Together they shared a lot, including fleas (Toby and her often enjoy a movie nights together in her bed). They were a great couple.

They were so great that Gisel decided two weeks ago at the regional meeting, right after Jeff bought his puppy, to take Toby home with her. She had been unsure of the idea, as she knew Toby was a campo dog and loved his freedom, and may not adjust well to island life (she's from Puerto Rico), but in the end she and her host family agreed that Toby would surely die of a broken heart if they got split up. So Toby got the green light for a puppy green card. Unfortunately though, no less than a hour after Gisel made up her mind that Toby was going home with her, she got a call from her host sister saying that Toby had been killed (poisoned) and that they were saving his body until she came home to bury it.

Dogs in Peru, and especially in the campo, have very few advocates, and if they cross someone the usual solution to kill them. It's not uncommon to hear stories of people purposefully poisoning a dog, hanging a dog or drowning a dog. Things that are not typically accepted back home and are really hard to hear or see. In the case of Toby, his neighbors did him in. As the story goes: a new litter of 4 month old puppies had been running around Gisel and Toby's neighborhood, and one day a few of the puppies showed up to Gisel's house with their bellies stuffed and faces covered in blood. Toby saw this, and slipped a away to return in a half an hour with blood on his paws. Gisel didn't think much of it, as she figure some one might have killed a pig or sheep, and the dogs were cleaning up. However, later that night her neighbor confronted her, saying that Toby had killed 12 of her cuy (guinea pigs). Gisel tried to explain that it wasn't all Toby's fault, and that it was most likely due to the other dogs. The lady didn't care to listen, and bluntly said, "I going to have my bother poison your dog" (imagine saying that to your neighbor), and true to her word Toby was killed. Crying (and understandably upset with her neighbors and Peru), Gisel took the next bus home to bury Toby in her front yard, on Valentines Day. *  ** ***

* When it rains it pours: Gisel returned home to bury her dog, to also find that her host family's donkey had given birth to a still-born in her front yard. While she buried Toby, the burro was licking and kicking the dead foal trying to get it to wake up. The host-family's solution to the dead donkey: leave it there and let the street dogs take it away in the middle of the night (with the mother still tied up next to it).

**I wasn't going to tell this story, partly because it isn't my story to tell, and because it is hard to write it in a way that isn't me venting on Peru. However, Gisel asked me to blog about Toby saying "please talk about Toby and how dogs can be treating here"... so here you go.

*** When my host-aunt heard this story, she simply said that Toby died from "mal ojo" (lit: bad eye), which she went on to explain as dogs die if you care about them too much... maybe she didn't catch the whole poison part of the story.

Negrita the Family Dog:
A couple of months ago, I had a week of horrible sleep due to Negra being in heat and the local dogs flocking to her. My nights were spent listing to yelps and barks as  dogs from all corners came out to court Negra. It wasn't too much fun. However, I'm now seen the end results: 9 new Negritas (I counted eight, my host-father counted ten).

The process involved Negrita looking like she was going to explode, as she could barely walk or sit. Then about two weeks ago she just disappeared. I was concerned, but my host family wasn't. They've seen it two times before. Apparently Negra has a favorite stump in the chacra where she always gives birth, and apparently she always has ten pups (so this last litter included her 30th offspring). I only mention the 30th pup point as it was my center piece in my discussion on spaying and nurturing (shout out to Bob Barker). Of course my host family thought that was a silly (and overly expensive) Gringo thing ( I guess I can't blame them). They then stated they just wish that most the pups (specifically all the females) don't make it out of the stump, so they have less dogs to "deal with". The good news is Gisel family want's one!

Negra in the stump with her pups and cold soup... kinda hard to see.