Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who let the dogs out? PERU-RU-RU-RU!

One of the first things I noticed after arriving in Peru was the overwhelming presence of stray dogs. During my layover in Lima, we had to leave the airport and reenter before getting to our next gate. In just the minute or two outside I saw at least two stray dogs wandering around. After being in Cusco for about two weeks now, I think I can pretty confidently say that it is nearly impossible to be standing in any spot outside and not be able to see a dog somewhere around you. I was also surprised to see such a variety in the breeds of the dogs: little Chihuahuas to huskies and everything in between. During the day the dogs are more docile: they either roam around mostly staying out of the way or they find a nice spot in the middle sidewalk to lie down (completely unfazed by the people forced to walk around them). At night, it is like the dogs rule the streets. They travel around in packs, playing with each other and patrolling up and down the streets. One night I tried to take a picture of one of these dog friend groups, although it didn't turn out too well it still gets the point across:

5 dogs hanging in the streets of Cusco (plus one behind the planter)

Profe Falconi explained that it is considered inhumane to neuter dogs here so they reproduce a lot. Additionally, many people here get dogs as pets but then once they realize how much work dogs require, they often release the dogs to the streets. The combination of these two points helps explain why there are so many stray dogs. At night it is fun to watch the dogs as they run around in little packs, waiting for each other when one stops to sniff something, like little makeshift families. In the U.S. you don't see many stray dogs and I think overall if someone did, their attitude towards the dog would be one of sadness and maybe sympathy. Here the stray dogs are often treated like rodents. When we were exploring Ollantaytambo we stopped around a few stores and several of us sat along a stone wall. While we were there a stray dog wandered over and sat at my feet. I was not going to pet it or anything but I also didn't try to scare it away. Later when we left, a nearby lady who was selling cow heart skewers went after the dog with her knife out to scare it away and it was in fact scared and left. This difference in perceptions of dogs is similar to the different perceptions of guinea pigs in the U.S. and in Peru. The idea of animals being perceived differently in different countries is something we see all around the world and something that makes each culture unique.

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