There’s no denying it. One of the things that never seems to attract the attention of foreigners to Chile is the omnipresence of its street dogs (quiltros galore!). Guest poster Kathleen Skoczen is no exception. In Part 1 (Santiago by Bike) of this 2-part post, she described what she saw and thought as she rode her rented bike through the heart of Santiago and visited the Museo de la Memoria. She dedicates Part 2 to the life of dogs and, like the good anthropologist that she is, reflects on the human element that weaves the place of dogs into Chile’s cultural fabric.
A dog waits patiently outside a corner store in San Pedro de Atacama
My very good friend in the Dominican Republic, Kim, and I had a discussion one day, as we often do when we are visiting together after months and sometimes even years of absence. She is the patron saint of animals in the Dominican province where she lives. Although not a certified vet, she does more for animal welfare in the province than all the other vets—okay, than the other vet. As an anthropologist interested in human health and well-being, I watch her tenderly and lovingly care and mend animals (homeless, flea ridden, mangy beyond imagination) and think, “there are lots of children who could benefit from this kind spirit.” When I finally gave voice to this observation, my friend assured me that taking care of animals is taking care of people.
It’s been a busy few weeks. My dear friend (and fellow anthropologist) Kathleen Skoczen and her son Alex were just here for 3 weeks (I also had the Annual Wines of Chile Awards thrown into the middle for good measure). We crammed a lot into their time here and I’ll be updating the blog with stories and pictures as time permits. She’s written a couple of guest posts, and as soon as I have some pics to go with them, I’ll put those up too.
But let’s start with her two hands-down major impressions: Chile is not a third-world country (contrary what Chileans will insist on telling you) and Chile is the dog paradise of the world (again, despite what Chileans say).
Just a little scratch behind the ears there please! Alex in San Pedro de Atacama 2010
Quiltros, mutts, and street dogs… we’ve talked about them a lot here at Cachando Chile, and while many people have expressed their opinions, one topic that has not been an issue is that of street dogs being vicious.
A Cachando Chile reader who has asked to remain anonymous sent this story about an experience he had with canine bureaucracy and lack of efficacy in enforcing the few laws that do exist with respect to pet ownership and responsibility, not to mention common decency and the ethics of being a good neighbor.
To be clear, this is not an issue of quiltros, strays, or street dogs, which seldom seem to be aggressive. To be sure there presents the issue of certain breeds that are known to be easily provoked to violence and whether or not they should be allowed in a residential neighborhood, but in the end, this is absolutely a case of a dog with an irresponsible owner.
I have a lab and walk him everyday. No one else in the neighborhood seems to walk their dogs, so some dogs get a bit huffy when my dog cruises by each day. Lots of dogs are out or get out as cars drive in and some days there are some gafuffles. One day a pit bull got loose and, with the owner standing by, it attacked my dog, leaving three wounds needing stitching. I complain then and again the next day when the owner comes by and tries to make nice. I tell him to B off and I want the vet bill paid. I never heard back.
Second attack happens two months later and only two wounds needed stitching but there was a lot more blood. Owner apologizes, refuses to pay up (now 150,000 between two attacks), and insists he was just robbed and needs the dog for protection. It doesn’t seem to me the dog serves much to protect him, and it has endangered the neighborhood twice now.
The parking attendant tells me the next day that the dog gets out every second day, and I am lucky I have only had trouble twice in various months of walks. The dog killed a poodle and attacked an elderly lady the year before. These pit bull dogs are cruise missiles on pattern from when they see the other dog’s neck until they grab on til death do they part. I tried a kids’ baseball bat applied to the dog’s gonads amongst other things and all to no effect.
The police tell me they will speak to the neighbor and that I have no rights without being able to show the animal escaped. One cop tells me to trap the dog outside his domain if the owner is not about the next time this happens.
The third attack happens almost in front of my home. I carry newspaper to burn (even tigers don’t like fire a neighbor has told me). No dice, the dog is too quick. Somehow high on adrenalin watching my dog dying for the third time, I grab the pit bull by the collar and throw him inside my home’s side garden and slam the gate. Now I have only to call the police to come and get him. No dice. They chuckle and say to take the dog back because the killing machine living in my children’s neighborhood is not my ‘property’. I asked the policeman’s badge number and am not given it.
The next day, with the dog trapped in my garden, I call the mayor’s office and e-mail all of my local politicians. No dice, no one wants to be an animal hater. I go to see the owner without the dog. The owner, a neighbor tells me, has gone to the beach for the week—ie., with his pit bull in the street, he left for a week. Neighbor confirms that he was worried but couldn’t miss the beach.
After no answer from the mayor I call and call the municipality until someone comes to inspect. They tell me they can solve the problem, but I have to take the dog to their trash collecting facility. I say no. The press arrives. After I tell the press to go away, I ask the municipality once more to solve the problem and take the carcass with them. And they did. And I am grateful to them for assuming with me the responsibility of solving a problem that needed solving.
I am sad for the dog who was taken into the home of someone so irresponsible, but my children are not going to be the poster children for a decent law about dangerous guard dogs. Full Stop.
Again. This is not a quiltro (mixed breed dog). This is not a street dog. This is not an abandoned dog (although we could argue that is it neglected). Take a look at the comments that developed after the announcement of the Bicentennial Chile Dog winner, especially the one Marmo left on January 13 with these important links:
Chile has a thing about its dogs, especially its quiltros!
Dog representing Central Chile on mural outside old Diego Portales building on Alameda
Love ’em–or not–they’re part of the national culture and landscape and will have their place in the limelight during Chile’s 2010 Bicentennial celebrations.
Remember the government-sponsored search for the Bicentennial Chile Dog ? The National Mutt photo competition? Pitching for the perfectly pictorial pooch project? The hunt for the Quiltro del Bicentenario? Well the results are in and the winners declared.
The judges (members of the Bicentennial Commission, the Photographic Heritage Corporation, and several photographers) poured over the 700 photos of canine candidates to find just the one that represented the concept of “quiltro” in Chile, guided by the DRAE definition: a dog of mixed breed… and have found their mutt of the hour:
And the winner is…… Cachupín!
1st Prize: "Si para ser felices" by Oscar Fuentes, Chillán
Oscar Fuentes of Chillán won first prize (a Nikon Reflex Digital Camera d-40 w/ 18-55 lens) with his image “Si para ser felices” of a dog he calls “Cachupín” and its master, both of whom appear a bit down and out, but the judges appreciated the shot for the story it seems to relay: the pup’s cocked head and perked ears showing attention to his master, who appears to be counting change, while the dog waits patiently for a bit of attention. Fuentes explains that “the dog is not observing the money, but rather the intentions of being fed… and his only means of payment are faithfulness, happiness, and in cases like this one, the enormous need for companionship.” He goes on to say that “among the many facets of this particular chapter in our culture, it is important to emphasize this other side of the exacerbated contempt of street dogs.”
Like the photo?
Is this a shot that should represent Chile and Chileans in its bicentennial hour of glory?
Should we be celebrating its street dogs?
Should Chile be spending money on this kind of project?
Got something else on your mind?
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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.
Chile Dog! OH Chile Dog! Wherefore art thou Chile Dog?
Dogs—they’re pretty high on the list of big first impression makers for newcomers to Santiago—maybe all of Chile. I’ve written about them before (See It’s a Dog’s World). Now the search is on for the First National Chile-Dog (no… not chili dog– CHILE DOG!)
Dogs. Some people love ‘em, others hate ‘em, and most just seem to accept that street dogs are a part of everyday life in Chile. And that, indeed, they are. So much so, in fact, that not only is a nice big dog represented on the mural that depicts the most representative elements of national identity (see: Street Art Chile) where this friendly looking guy shows up:
but they will have their own special place in the 2010 Bicentennial!
The Bicentennial Committee has announced a photo competition devoted to the ever-present “quiltro chileno” ( pronounced KIL-tro, the word comes from the Mapuche language Mapudungun and means mongrel or mutt). These uninhibited four-legged creatures like to be in the thick of things and show up just about everywhere.
I’ve always been pretty easy-going about Santiago’s street dogs. They tend to keep to themselves for the most part, and they do seem to sleep a lot–pretty much any time and anywhere they feel like it:
They take part in everyday life. I’ve seen them wait for a green light before crossing the road and even crossing at the specially designated zebra-striped pedestrian crosswalks. They even use public transportation on occasion (as does this guy who hopped on an ascensor in Valparaíso (left) or the other one who hung around an open-air seafood restaurant (right) waiting for patrons to toss him a bite (which of course they did).
Quiltros can also be very playful–watch for them in the Plaza de la Constitución, right in front of La Moneda. There’s a group that often runs past my house, and
I always liked watching them play—until of course, the night that a canine Ocean’s Eleven decided to hang out under my bedroom window, growling and barking and playing and fighting and yelping and following the every move of one particular female, as dogs are wont to do. When I discovered at a sleepless 3:30 AM that the carabineros won’t do anything, that Seguridad Ciudadano won’t do anything, and that apparently there are no dogcatchers or anyone else who can/will do anything and that the only viable option was earplugs, I was not quite as open minded about their right to public space anymore.
But they seem to have since moved on to someone else’s window, and I can now go back to enjoying their antics. And so can you. Catch your favorite street dogs doing their favorite street dog things, and send a picture (just one per person)
to the search for the Chile’s emblematic canine (the national Chile Dog!). You might even win a prize (cameras for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and cash for the honorable mentions). Entries will be accepted through November 23, and all the details and fine print can be downloaded from the Bicentennial site (El Quiltro del Bicentenario).
The Bicentennial Committee organized this competition not only as a way to recognize the emblematic role the ever-present quiltro plays in our daily lives, but also to encourage their adoption and responsible pet ownership.
And for just a bit more inspiration, here’s a video made as part of the “Chile con mis ojos” (Chile through my eyes) series: “Mi Quiltro Chileno.”
19 Responses to Santiago de Chile Part II: Of Dogs and Men…
Margaret – You are a blogaholic and I enjoy every minute of it. My understanding was that “you would not be able to post as often this week”, and here you are, blogging away.
Well, technically it’s Kathleen doing the work (and on the firing line) right now!
Oh the dogs.
My personal take on the matter is:
1.- We are lazy about it. If it doesn´t affect us directly, we´ll have 100 other things to think or do before worring about street dogs that don´t belong to us in the first place.
2.- Should we control EVERY animal that shares space with us? Should we sterilize and/or provide shelter the pigeons, rats, flies, cats or anything that live around us? This obsession with controlling somehow everything around us is sick. I´ve been in other countries, without any dog in sight on the streets. Those cities are clean, but I´ve also seen how most cats and dogs live there, and I don´t like it. Castrated, in cages, or forever confined inside little yards, to be ignored and left alone, until their masters remember them for some reason. (Of course, there are a lot of people that love their pets too, but what I described first is sadly acceptable and also somehow expected).
3.- Can´t we just share the space we took by force from nature? Is the only acceptable place for an animal a cage or the meat display of a supermarket?
4.- If those dogs, that are everywhere, are fat and seem happy, is because they have food, (and now you can call me crazy) so they are helping somehow to recycle part of OUR OWN waste of energy and resources, that otherwise would end up in a pile of trash.
5.- I´ve read that in some places in NorthAmerica, my fellow groundhogs are poisoned and killed like a plage, for eating flowers in some old lady´s yard. If that´s the right way to deal with animals around us, I don´t want it.
6.- Those dogs have a function that you can only understand after spending a few months or so in Chile. They are everyone´s and no one´s pet. They can belong to a street, or a yard, or a plaza, and live their lives peacefully there.
7.- If we had the same population of stray dogs and cats, but sick and aggresive, then I would understand there´s something really wrong in all of this.
Being a city groundhog myself, this subject gets personal xD
Wow Marmo! (have you noticed how often I start a response with “Wow Marmo”?) I see this really hit home, but rest assured that I have neither seen nor heard of any plans for attempting to control urban groundhogs in Chile!
Your opinions are very interesting… and you KNOW there are plenty of dog lovers out there who are going to call you out on them!
Personally, I’m on the fence. For me the bottom line is responsibility. People need to take responsibility for their pets…and that also means taking responsibility for any pups or kittens (or marmotitas) that result from “nature’s way” need to be cared for and not just dumped on the street or worse.
They also need to be responsible for any damage they do–whether that is biting someone or tearing the trash apart–if your dog did it, you need to take care of it.
That said, I love that there are fat & happy dogs on the street that coexist with people… and I loved the whole idea of the Bicentennial Quiltro as something that Chileans (granted no all) identify with.
What’s everyone else think?
I agree, if you do own a dog, you have to anwer for what it does. Strangely enough (I don´t know if in Santiago they have the same “culture”) but dogs here in Temuco rarely destroy the trash bags or cans. They seem to do pretty well from restaurants and groceries leftovers. Maybe helps that meat and milk are way cheaper here (I was talking to my dad a few days ago, he lives in Santiago and said that filete or lomo, I can´t remember, cost around 8 lucas there, meanwhile the same cut can be found at 4,5 lucas here in Temuco).
I think that the dog population somehow self regulates; there are plenty of food, but even if they reproduce, I´ve never seen in any city that they breed to the point of have dozens of hungry dogs around, I think they should have a self regulated system (as animals, they are naturally balanced in that way) to not get pass the point of sustainability.
I’ve seen dogs trashing the trash more times than I want to remember–but people throughout Chile tend to put their trash in high baskets or hang it from high hooks so the dogs can’t get at it. It may have to do with food, but I think it’s also related to canine curiosity.
I also think that many of those dogs really do have homes to go to as the sun goes down (or comes up, as the case may be).
I’m not so sure about the self-regulating theory. The dogs are not left to their own devices in the wild, but co-existing with humans who interrupt their ability to self-regulate. Furthermore, there are places outside of Santiago that people go to dump their unwanted dogs, and it is an incredible (and scary) experience to go through there even in a car (and I shudder to think of anyone trying it on a bike!)
I guess I’m just looking for a happy medium!
I tend to agree with Marmo’s take on this issue when he talks about controlling things. I personally think that, particularly in North America, we have gone nuts! For example, here in Canada it feels there is very little one can do that DOES NOT violate some bylaw, city regulation, or human right code. In an effort to create a more orderly society we have gone overboard and have overregulated everything.
We cannot control humans to the extent that society would like to see. I don’t think I am alone when I feel like screaming: “please leave me alone” and stop complaining. I just want to go back to Chile, buy a small piece of land in the middle of nowhere, raise chickens, and hopefully NOT violate anybody’s space or rights.
In Malawi you will be arrested for passing wind, (Malawi Government Proposes Fart Ban) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/04/malawi-bill-proposes-fart_n_818674.html
Give me a break!!! and leave those happy Chilean dogs alone.
Well I´m not an expert on the matter, and caould be wrong, but stray dogs in Chile are different in many ways to those I´ve seen in Mexico and Peru. At least here in the south, we never see them have demographic explotions. It´s true that people interfere with them all their lives, but I don´t think they ask for permission or advice whether to reproduce or not, and yet, there they are, fat and lazy, waiting for the green light to cross on a corner, behaving better than some humans.
Hahahah, John Carr, you would be a wonderful groundhog!
I am a groundhog! The picture you see of me has been carefully photoshopped to resemble a human being.
@John- good point about governmental regulations–there are always 2 sides–while they take care of you on one hand, but they do it by placing limits on your freedom…now THERE’S a topic I have a lot to say about (note to self: write up THAT post!)
@Marmo- So what do you think is happening differently here than in Perú and Mexico–AND, as Kathleen has mentioned, in the D.R.? Kathleen attributes it to something in Chilean culture. Makes sense to me…!
Help us stop Big Brotherism, PLEASE. It is stifling all of our lives! Let’s hear what you have to say, soon. It may help lower my blood pressure.
hajaja- no, sorry, it’ll probably RAISE your BP. I probably haven’t written it yet so it doesn’t raise MINE!
Sounds like there may be fireworks coming up here.
I have no idea of what could be different here. And is something across all Chile, dogs are 99% friendly.
Maybe Peruvians and Mexicans use more chili in their foods, so that ends up affecting their dogs, xD
haha- as in the revenge of the chili dog? Naw- I’m sticking with culture and how people feel about and treat animals! As in the place of animals in the culture…
Any else have ideas?
Oh, the dogs. I’m a bit torn on the dogs. I lived in in Pirque, near Puente Alto and dogs were often dumped out on the road. They hung out around the trash dumpster and looked far from well fed. Everyone around already had several dogs and the strays kept coming. It was really sad to me-here we have a couple dog parks which I could not possibly explain to a Chilean. Also, on the road to cajon de maipo, many, many stray dogs, sadly looking for the car that left or might pick them up. And pregnant females, often no more than puppies themselves-and people are generally against spaying and especially neutering. There are many dogs that aren’t dangerous-indeed look like Tramp but there are others who have mauled folks.
As much as I hate unnecessary laws, they need some. Vaccination, spaying, neutering, licenses.
But the dogs all disappeared. No idea what happened but I would guess it’s not good. And since you can’t tell which are pets, I would guess some roaming pets disappeared too. Different municipalities are different-I heard of one that actually has a dog pound type facility.
One last note-I was raised in a rural area in 1950s Montana-before all the laws. And if your pet roamed, it was quite legal for a neighbor to shoot it. Probably still is, but people keep their pets home. Things change. If people don’t behave responsibly on their own, then we have more (many times stupid) laws.
Many of the street dogs were real cute and smart. I would like to see adoption encouraged and identifying collars for all pets. And spaying and neutering.
Yes, Laura, when I mentioned the dumping grounds for dogs, I was specifically thinking of the area between Pirque and El Cajón del Maipo. Both sad and scary out there! And volunteers take enormous bags of dog food out there just so they don’t starve to death. No one can convince me that this is better than neutering. Each animal should be a wanted pet, not some burden to dump on the side of the road… who DOES that kind of thing?
Dog and animal consciousness, (is there such a term?) are part of the evolution of a society. Here is an example that Laura mentions, “I was raised in a rural area in 1950s Montana-before all the laws. And if your pet roamed, it was quite legal for a neighbor to shoot it”. I am not aware of any state in the US where shooting animals is still permitted.
It is easy for Americans or anyone else to take their current values and try to ‘export’ them to another country without taking into consideration that that other country has not reached the same level of development or evolution.
Many foreign visitors who arrive from a more advanced society will find fault with many aspects of Chilean society. However, as Annjie mentioned, it will put things in perspective when we make ‘apple to apples comparisons’ and realize that, as recently as the late 70’s, Chile was truly a third world country. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”
John- I bet it’s pretty common to shoot an errant dog in the Chilean countryside too. Part of protecting your own animals. That pretty much looks like apples and apples to me.
But the real discussion has more to do with urban culture, and this isn’t about exporting anyone’s laws to Chile or even about whether or not Chile is 3rd world (not this post anyway). But rather a reflection about (1) how/why it is that in Chile (unlike elsewhere) so many dogs share the public space with relatively little friction, and (2, which came up in the comments) the contradictory flip side of this laissez-faire-live-and-let-live attitude that results in so many abandoned dogs left to fend for themselves in certain sectors just outside the city.
Obviously other countries have dealt with the roaming dog & irresponsible owner problems by creating pet control laws. Chile needs to (1) decide if it has a problem (there seems to be some internal debate on this), and (2) what it’s solutions will be.
The bottom line in any peaceful society is respect and responsibility. Spontaneous social norms are the first step toward instilling culturally defined standards in the members of said society, and then laws are created as recourse to enforcing those standards. So in the end, it’s a matter of defining the place of dogs in Chile’s urban culture, getting people to agree on that role, and making them responsible for their actions in order to respect the rights of others.
Hmmm- I’m thinking out loud here… am I convincing you?