Friday, May 29, 2009

The dog that wasn't there

In Jerusalem there are cats. Everywhere. In the Old City they are in the shops, on the streets, in the houses, alleys, corners, shops. Everywhere. Same in Amman. Same in Ramallah. And people talk about them all the time. "Damn cats. Howled to the point all night where I couldn't sleep." That sort of thing.

In Chile, its dogs. Sort of.

During our four days in Talca, Chile, from the 27th of May to the 30th, I went back and forth from the Hotel Marcos Gamero to the Teatro Regionale about 20 times. They're close by, separated by only about 5 blocks. As with any place you walk that often in that short a period of time, you start to get to know that one tiny stretch of a place. You see the street art, you see the vendors (and the most unusual of which is the little "ID" place right on the corner, where you can get your photo taken, your information printed/imprinted, you ID put to paper and laminated all out there on the corner {though my favorite so far is the little "to go" coffee stand I saw today in Temuco that was built right out of the garage of someone's home -- now THAT's for me{).

But what I really got to know were the dogs.

In Chile, at least in the parts of Chile we have been, there are dogs everywhere. Mostly they are feral. They either don't now or never did belong to anyone. In the States a stray dog is rare, and when you see on it's usually frantic. Not here. There dogs are no only mellow, they are quiet, friendly, walk up to you or more often just ignore you. And they commute.


They commute. Walk past the bodega during business hours and the same two dogs are sleeping (which is their most common occupation) in the same area throughout the day. Walk past after or before hours, and they're gone.

People pay them no notice at all. They just wander around. They cross the street (generally with the light -- which, given they are color blind makes no sense to me at all). They sit at the same spots -- my favorite being the three that sit, statuesque, in front of the Ministry of Agriculture alongside, but not with, the guards. They just -- well -- they just are. They're part of the fabric of the town. And sweet. Gentle.

And commuting.

Watching from my hotel window the other morning to try and take in a bit about the town, I saw the usual things you see in any city or town around 8:30 in the morning -- people going to work. Only here its not just the people. Watch for a few minutes and you realize the dogs are going to work, too. They walk on the same side of the street as the people going one way or another. They wait at the light (I'm not kidding). They pass people, they defer to people. They just, well, commute.

And, as I say, they seem to get along just fine. People step around them, or they around people. They are healthy (in the main), seem well fed (must be good jobs here), and just sort of inhabit their own separate world. The challenge for us is not to take them home with us. They're adorable, sweet and very willing to please. They don't much beg, but if you give them the slightest encouragement its clear they would love your affection (and your lunch, I would imagine).

The dogs of Talca are their own city of inabitants. They sort of have their separate universe from the people. It sounds strange, but its completely charming.

They're the dogs who aren't there. And they commute.

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