The Dogs of South America

white dog contentedly sleeping on the sand with ocean and boats in the background

Stray or pet? Hard to tell. But living an enviable life.

“Human cranial capacity has actually decreased by at least ten percent since the beginning of the Holocene period, approximately ten thousand years ago. While some of the reduction in size can be ascribed to the efficiency of the cerebral folds, archaeologist and anthropologist Dr. Colin Groves, from the Australian National University in Canberra, believes this reduction may also be the result of the strengthening of the relationship between man and dog. As man began to rely on the acute senses of his canine partner, he no longer needed to dedicate as much brain space to his own senses, ultimately leading to a decrease in mass.” – Jennifer Arnold, Through a Dog’s Eyes

I think dogs are awesome. Besides being the embodiment of joy, they are incredibly interesting creatures. There is probably no other animal on earth who’s history and fate is more interwoven with humans than the dog. They are, in a way, an extension of our senses; a happily evolved complement to our existence.

I think it’s fun to imagine what experiencing the world would be like through the dog’s perspective. Eyesight and color recognition are poor, however, smell and hearing are greatly enhanced.

Owning a dog is not conducive to long term travel, for a multitude of reasons that I won’t get into here. Suffice it to say that I do not own my own dog, however, I do enjoy playing the low-commitment grandparent role when a friend needs someone to watch their dog for the weekend.

Before leaving for South America I was quite curious to see how dogs are treated in Latin American countries. I had heard stories and had imagined large packs of wild dogs roaming the streets at all hours of the day and night.

It’s said that the final step in a societies development to “first world” standards is to address the stray animal situation. Although I found plenty of stray dogs down there, there were also a bunch of well taken care of, awesome dogs around. Some were obviously pets while others could best be described as ‘tolerated residents’. Some wanted to play and others just wanted to beg. I believe one dog even tried to warn me before I was mugged in Colombia. There was a dog in Colombia we nicknamed Tarzan after watching him swim across a raging river to follow us on our jungle trek. And another tiny dog in Cusco that seemed to follow the foreigners around, viciously fighting off other stray dogs as well as the local humans trying to sell us things.

I took a bunch of pictures of the dogs down there and I wanted to share those with you here:

two dogs, nose to the ground, tied to a tree in the jungle

Two of my favorites, Luna and Gaia in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. And yes I know that Panama is not technically in South America.

This guy wanted to play a fetch - a lot. I threw that stick into the water about 10 times.

This guy wanted to play fetch – a lot. I threw that stick into the water about 10 times. Guatape, Colombia.

Pretty much your average, mangy old South American dog.

Pretty much your average, mangy old South American dog.

Beautiful dog enjoying the sunset, running free up and down the beach harassing crabs. Santa Catalina, Panama

Beautiful dog enjoying the sunset, running free up and down the beach harassing crabs. Santa Catalina, Panama

Killer eyes, chewed up frisbee. Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

Killer eyes, chewed up frisbee. Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

This guy was playing with his pups outside of his shop in Cusco, Peru.

This guy was playing with his pups outside of his shop in Cusco, Peru.

The Peruvian Hairless Dog. One of the ugliest dogs I've ever seen. Cusco, Peru.

The Peruvian Hairless Dog. One of the ugliest dogs I’ve ever seen. Cusco, Peru. 

Obviously not a dog, but pretty damn cute.

Obviously not a dog, but pretty damn cute. Near Cusco, Peru.

There were six of them at this hostel in Colombia. This shot took longer to get than I care to admit.

There were six of them at this hostel in Colombia. This shot took longer to get than I care to admit.

If that’s not enough cuteness for you, check out the video below. This was shot in Guatape, Colombia. This hostel was overrun by six puppies. The people running the hostel were having a hell of a time cleaning up after all these little guys but I left there thinking every hostel should have six puppies. It was awesome.

 

  • theFIREstarter

    Love the dog pics!

    It was a great memory from our (myself and the now wife) trip over there as well, they even ended up having an acronym named after them: RD (Random Dog). As in “Oh look, there’s another RD” 🙂

    Great fun RD spotting on long coach trips or just while walking around the towns. We went to Turkey a few weeks ago and were delighted to find the small town we stayed in overrun with friendly dogs. The dogs of Kalkan are legendary (I recommend you go there if you like dogs!!)