I’m finally back from Peru! DallasDogLife has been updated with new stories, and now I finally get to sit down and write down my thoughts about all the beautiful dogs I saw while visiting Peru. It reminded me so much of Cesar Milan’s descriptions of working dogs from his farm in Mexico, because most of the dogs I saw were not so much “pets” as they were members of the community.
My trip started in Lima, the capital of Peru. Here I saw several dogs with their owners, walking on leashes and dressed in sweaters to shield them from the cool weather. It was very similar to the US, except that every park had doggy-bag dispensers and signage reminding owners to pick up after their dogs. How I wish the public parks here in Dallas had the same things! I did see one dog walking around the Lima streets without a leash or an apparent owner, and it made me very nervous because the traffic in Peru is…well…fast, for lack of a better word. Our tour guide told us that traffic signs are regarded as suggestions, not real commands. For the most part, I just saw normal owners on their daily walks with their pooches.
The next leg of our trip was in Cusco, a city located about four hours away from Lima and much more rustic than the capital. Here is where I saw a majority of the dogs – I’d say probably 150 dogs in total. Of those, maybe two or three of them were being walked on leashes. The rest were walking around the city off-leash, mixing in with the pedestrians. That first day I observed these dogs, I was shocked and acting so nervous that my traveling companions started to worry about me. I mean, the cars were racing through the streets (and here there were no traffic signs, suggestions or otherwise) and even the people were having trouble crossing the streets without getting hit by a car. And there were the dogs, walking precariously close to the edge of the sidewalk, practically in the street, and not flinching at all. On the second day, when I thought for sure I would see an accident or at the very least, a near miss, I asked the tour guide about the dogs and how the city handled the strays.
She told me that these dogs were not strays, and they did in fact belong to someone. The practice is that people bring their dogs in at night so they can guard the house while the owners are sleeping. In the morning, they let the dogs out and they go around the town, hunting for food and sleeping in the sun and just being dogs. They are used to the traffic and the towns people and the tourists and know when to cross the street to avoid being hit. Not once during my ten days in Peru did I see an injured dog or a car accident. I can’t even drive to work some days without seeing a crash on 635! In the evenings, when it got dark and cold and the street activity began to die down, the dogs returned home to get shelter from the cold wind and to guard the house. You could see the dogs arriving at their doorways, stepping inside and lying down – not in dog beds but just inside the doorway so that they could hear or smell anything strange that might be a threat to their owners.
During the day, the dogs walked along the sidewalks with the rest of the pedestrians, and were not aggressive in the least. More surprising to me was the way the people just let them be. People walked around the dogs when they were lying in their doorways and just showed a mutual respect for them in general.
I didn’t see any timid dogs, aggressive dogs, spoiled dogs (at least not in Cusco), or hyperactive dogs. I did see one particularly playful puppy on a pottery school tour, but he was just a puppy and seemed to just be very friendly, as puppies tend to be. I also didn’t see dogs running in packs. Every now and then two or more dogs would approach each other for a brief introduction, but mostly they went on their way after a quick hello.
At Machu Picchu, our third and final destination, there weren’t many dogs in the ruins site but there were several in the markets of Aguas Calientes, the city where Machu Picchu is located. The dogs in the market seemed to know where their owners’ booths were and they wandered around the market, playing with the other dogs they happened to meet along the way but always returning to their owners. The dogs there in Aguas Calientes seemed to be more comfortable hanging around with other dogs. We saw two pit bull puppies playing in the street, wrestling and having a great time. We saw a Rottweiler momma dog taking a break from her pups and having a little siesta in the street and again, people just walked around her and didn’t hesitate. I assume the people could tell she was not trained to be aggressive, she was just a tired mom and I’m sure a lot of people could empathize.
I was so impressed with the way the dogs and people co-existed in this country, and I couldn’t wait to update the blog to share my experiences. While these dogs were not pampered the way most of us pamper our beloved pets, they were happy and healthy and living great lives. I will never forget them!