by Donald Murray Sr.
on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 8:11am
Ecuador, like other South American countries, has a significant number of “street dogs” who roam and wander the streets of every city, town and village. Packs form around females in heat and vicious fights break out among the males over breeding rights. Along the streets of Bahia, I’ve seen shop owners throw pans of water on fighting dogs in an attempt to break them up. While driving, these dogs present yet another hazard and we see many lying dead in roadways after having been hit by a car or truck.
I’ve kept a dog or two as a pet all my adult life. Our dogs are family members who sleep indoors and are well fed and tended and, I suppose, a bit spoiled. In our enclave here in San Vicente, we have 4-5 dogs who live within the enclave. One has a real name, “Rhone”, and is cared for and well fed by the property manager. Rhone is a largish animal, about the size of a German Shepherd, red in color, short hair, muscular and scarred from many fights. He is sweet as can be and he and Carmine are buddies. One of the other dogs is a female that resembles “Tramp” from the movie Lady and the Tramp. Soon after we arrived a few months ago, this dog gave birth to 4 seemingly healthy puppies. We have taken to calling this dog, Mamasita or Mama. Mama was a great mother to her babies. She gave birth under a hedgerow and hovered nearby her babies providing food and protection. She allowed visitors. Mamasita is terribly undernourished and the added load of producing milk for her babies truly strained her smallish body with ribs clearly showing through thin skin and a wasp-thin waist. We took food to Mamasita every day and when her babies were weening, we provided some mashed up food for them as well. One time, one of her four babies choked, with food lodged in his throat as I took a few seconds to understand what was happening. I quickly snatched the pup up and performed a rather violent Heimlich maneuver, holding the pup head down and compressing his little ribs several times until a wad of food emerged.
I appreciate the efforts of some in larger cities to assist the many dogs without care or home. Frankly, the problem is so enormous and there are so few of us in my area of the coast who may even care enough to do anything at all except swerve slightly if one of these dogs runs in front of you…that I have mostly accepted this issue as part of the culture…mostly but not entirely.
Mamasita is the sweetest, most gentle dog one can imagine. She approaches shyly, her whole body wagging her tail with her head down. She is submissive and perhaps a bit scared…and starving. Sometimes she whines and whimpers. When either Diane or I would extend our hands to her, she softly slipped under our hands to accept the scratches or strokes being offered. Whenever the petting would stop, she provided a gentle head nudge of encouragement. For the last three days, I’ve fed Mamasita. She’s had a blend of dog food, meat scraps and a splash of milk. Although she has been starving, she eats politely, sitting right next to me in a place near our front steps. When she is finished eating, she moves up onto the steps where I have been sitting and talking to her. She slides in close to me and tentatively places a paw on my lap…then the other paw followed by her head and chest. I stroke her head and tell her that I know she’s had a tough life.
Last night, I told her that I would stop at the vet’s office today to see how much it would cost to have her spayed…and get her necessary vaccines and maybe a complete physical. It won’t hurt to ask, right? I wonder where she sleeps at night. Taking on the responsibility of a pet is a lifetime commitment. We have Carmine and he, while traveling, provides more than enough complications. Not sure that we are ready for another. Maybe I should talk to Diane about this. Nah….I’ll just tag her in this note!