Lost Dogs: Quiltros and Heros (Updated)

Vanessa Shulz came to Chile looking for the "Hero Dog" and took home 7 others (Foto from FECIPA- see below)

The topic was Quiltros—dogs—on last night’s Cachando Chile on the Air**. Anyone who’s ever spent any time in Chile knows why. The streets are full of them. Playing in the park, sleeping on the sidewalk, pilfering the trash, and doing just about anything they want to anywhere they want to.

Quiltro (pronounced KIL-troh) is the Chilean (not Spanish) word for “mutt”- a mestizo dog—one of mixed race. Our guest for the evening’s show was documentary filmmaker Vanessa Shulz (thanks to the wonders of technology and Skype). She saw the now famous “Chilean Hero Dog” clip that aired around the world in December 2008 (check it out below if you haven’t seen it). She was so struck by what she saw, that 2 months later she was here and filming.

Chilean Hero Dog:

Vanessa Shulz and the Lost Dog project:

Animal lover and documentary filmmaker Vanessa Shulz didn’t know a thing about Chile when she saw the Hero Dog clip on the news. But it stuck with her. She began to investigate.

She learned that there were 200,000 dogs on the streets of Santiago, and 2.5 million in the country, although it is uncertain how many are abandoned and how many have homes and are free to roam at will. Chile’s leash laws are not enforced, and many clearly well-fed, well-groomed dogs sporting collars wander the streets with their rag-tag buddies by day and night (see It’s a Dog’s World).

Vanessa saw a story to tell in Chile. One that could be told in many parts of the world—throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa—but Chile was calling her name, and in February 2009 the South African born-and-bred filmmaker—now a resident of the US—packed up her gear and headed south. She and still photographer Chris Mortimer (neither of whom speak Spanish) arrived with the idea of tracking down the Hero Dog—a feat that proved impossible—but a walk through the Plaza de la Constitución in front of La Moneda (the Presidential Palace in downtown Santiago) was enough to shift their focus.

“There were all these dogs there playing and running around. We couldn’t believe it!” she says. In fact, few newcomers do. It’s something that strikes everyone that right there, in front of the seat of national government, the park is always—always—full of dogs running loose.

The fact that she was excitedly filming them caught the attention of Chilean dog lover David Gómez, who just had to approach her. The gates of fate were thrown wide and the people who had to meet to make this film happen were drawn together.

They met Gabriela Jarpa of the CDA (Coalición por los Derechos de Animales), who took them to a la Rinconada de Maipú, where she and others care for hundreds of abandoned dogs. They went to the other famous dumping ground in the Cajón de Maipo east of San Juan de Pirque. They went to the Veterinaria Trinidad, where volunteers work around the clock to tend to and sterilize animals. They interviewed Luis Navarro, former director of the Animal Protection Society who was denounced for maltreatment of animals… and then they went to Chaitén, where the residents who were evacuated after the volcano erupted were ordered to leave their animals behind.

Vanessa made the local news when she took 7 abandoned dogs back to Oregon with her. “Lan Chile said I could fly 6 dogs back, and I had 3 from Chaitén and 3 from Rinconada. Then at the last minute, someone from Lan asked me if I would take a 7th dog, one who lived at the airport.” See the “Perros de Chaitén Viajan a Estados Unidos,” which includes a video clip of the news story that aired in Santiago the day of her departure.

She found homes for 6 of the dogs, but Fumarola, who was born in Chaitén after the evacuation and who had therefore never known human contact, remains with her.

Fumarola, being rescued from Chaitén (left) and living happily ever after in Oregon (right)

Why fight for dogs?

When there is so much human suffering in the world, why worry about dogs? It’s not an uncommon question, one she gets asked a lot.

“I fight for the dogs—for animals—because they have no voice; they are not yet part of our moral universe. Women were once excluded from this moral universe, as were children and blacks. But today no one questions that they are a part of it,” she says with conviction. “If we can’t be kind to our best friends (the dogs) then what does that say about us as human beings?”

“Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything,” she says, “and if we each do a little, we can make a difference.”

Education / Adoption / Sterilization, the three pillars of establishing dignity for animals.

Educate people about proper treatment, and get the government to enact laws that prevent maltreatment of animals.

Adopt homeless animals. Quiltros (mixed breeds) are often much better pets.

Sterilize your pets. Prevent the increase of abandoned

Vanessa Shulz is now in the post-production phase of her film Lost Dogs, which involves countless hours of editing as well as the endless tasks of the fund raising necessary to make the project a reality.

If you’d like to help and/or know more about Vanessa Shulz and her projects, see her website 21Paradigm.com.

Or more on the film, see: Lost Dogs Film.

And while you’re at it, take a look at the trailer for Lost Dogs:

To help in Chile, contact:

CEFU (Coalición por el Control Ético de la Fauna Urbana)

FECIPA (Federación Chilena de Protección Animal)

CDA (Coalición por los Derechos de Animales)

Veterinaria Trinidad

For more Cachando Chile posts on dogs, see:

19 responses to “Lost Dogs: Quiltros and Heros (Updated)

  1. Pingback: Lost Dogs: Quiltros and Heros « Cachando Chile: Reflections on … | Chile Today

  2. I’ve heard of a piece of land near Con-Con where they export the Viña street dogs. This kid I met said he’d worked there and that there were hundreds of dogs he helped take care of, and that they sterilize them, and feed them and whatnot. I’m pretty sure the kid wasn’t messing with me. Anyone heard of this place? been there? It was fascinating to hear about.

  3. I haven’t heard of this, but spend a pretty fair amount of time in Concón and I’ll tell you… the place is FULL of dogs! Let’s see if we can turn up more info on this.
    There’s also a place on the “other side” of the river going into the Cajón del Maipo that is known for its abandoned dogs… people just leave them there. Others take food out to them. I’ve driven through there and it is other-worldly. Certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone on a bike.

  4. I used to love dogs till I moved to Chile. Back in the UK my family used to breed them.
    Now I kind of hate dogs.

    In Chile, dogs are just not treated well. They are not trained and their owners just let them run free, feed them from the table let them sleep on their beds. Or else they just have them half wild in their gardens.

    Dogs are domesticated animals and need proper training and also to know their place.

    Yet again another example of Chile messing it all up

  5. I think it’s another example of Chileans having more of a live and let live attitude- being less controlling… there’s much to say on this subject and I think tonight’s show is going to be very interesting!
    PS: there are plenty of dog-lovers world round (not just in Chile) that spoil them with food at the table and sharing their beds… (I’m with you on that side!)

  6. Yes it’s that “Live and let live” policy that has messed the dogs up. Unfortunately as domesticated animals they need more than that.
    I agree that it’s not just Chile though where so called “dog lovers abound”

  7. ‘Live and let live’ attitude?? Oh Margaret, they’ve finally got to you, haven’t they.

    ‘It’s more of a not assuming any responsibility’ attitude. This is manifested in their bone-idle laziness. The vast majority of street dogs are second and third generation former pets.

    I know quite a few people who work in this city trying to fix this problem. They have sterilization programs, which is tedious and only scratching the surface. They also rescue and help sick and injured dogs. These people are volunteers and guess what? They are mostly Gringos.

    Matt, don’t hate dogs. It’s not their fault. Do what I do. Hate Chileans. Dogs have souls, personalities and are trustworthy and intelligent. Chileans do not tick any of those boxes.

  8. Matt-I’ll be interested in hearing what others say, but I’m from the same camp–if you’re going to have animals, you need to take care of them, and that doesn’t mean letting them do whatever they want.
    What’s really unfair is that people believe that domestic animals should be allowed to fulfill their “biological needs” and procreate freely, but then there’s no one to take care of the pups… which results in even more abandoned dogs.

  9. Oh c’mon Shark… I just have to ask… WHY in the world are you in Chile?

  10. I guess Chile as a catholic country does not like contraception for people or animals. Every sperm is sacred be it human, dog or louse.

    I agree with Shark that I should not hate dogs, however hating Chileans is a bit extreme, even for me! Though dog owners should be more responsible. I’ll just hate bad dog owners the world over

  11. I don’t know how far the “sacred sperm” argument flies, but I certainly agree that people need to be more responsible about pets!

  12. Wa-ha-ha-ha! Matt! I can’t believe I’d never seen that! And here I considered myself a true Monty Python Fan! Oh the delicious irreverence!

  13. “I know quite a few people who work in this city trying to fix this problem.”

    That IS the point, because for us IS NOT a problem at all.

    For me street dogs are OK, they are not dangerous, people feed them daily, and they survive. Usually quiltros are good company for homeless people as well.

    Many things are VERY strange form me here in the UK, but I think that the best way to cope with these differences is enjoying them (and I that is what Margaret do in this blog).


  14. I think there are 2 different ways to look at the street dog situation… There are certainly those that are living in miserable conditions and that is obviously not good. I do believe that more needs to be done to ensure that there are fewer abandoned, unwanted dogs. The other side that many of the dogs that run loose on the streets do in fact have owners and homes and are just allowed to run free during the day….I have never seen any statistics to know how many of these dogs there are. There is still plenty of work to be done.
    Thanks for adding your opinion… that is the side that I was referring to when I wrote the piece on “It’s a Dog’s LIfe” ( https://cachandochile.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/chile-its-a-dogs-world/ ).

  15. Nico: It IS a problem.

    From the point of humans, the dogs defecate and forage for food. They roam the streets at night causing other dogs to bark incessantly and keeping ME awake. They cause accidents by walking out onto the road without warning.

    For the dogs, well they deserve better. They deserve the love and security of a home.

    For Chile, a solution will allow the nation to take a step further to being recognised as being part of the developed world. A country that allows so many collarless dogs to roam the streets with no vaccinations is not a country that can be called developed.

    As for the homeless people. Well that’s just a whole other topic.

  16. Pingback: Cachando Chile: a Year in Review « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  17. Pingback: Bicentennial Chile Dog: And we have a winner! « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  18. 2011 update: Matt W just sent this link from post-quake Japan:

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