Dogs in Santiago, Chile
Oh, to be a dog in Santiago! Never before have I seen strays looked after so well as in Chile’s capital. Their little doggy faces smile up at you, happy and healthy. Their coats shine and there’s a plumpness to their bodies you don’t normally see in animals on the street.
Woof! A young black labrador has started following me on a walk through the park. He runs through the grass, sniffing the things dogs sniff, but always comes back to my side. He’s adopted me and I enjoy the company and his friendliness. He doesn’t seem distracted by other people and shows me a faithfulness I don’t deserve. When I sit down on a bench at one point he sits beside me, waiting for a pat (and, to be fair, probably some food).
He won’t get any from me this time but there’s no fear of going hungry. One of the reasons the dogs in Santiago are so healthy is because the locals have taken it on themselves to feed them. The animals are part of the community, part of the city’s population, and are treated with respect. Take, for instance, the market at the bus station. It has all the usual stalls… and then one just for dog food so people can pick up some tasty canine treats on their way home.
Speaking to an American guy who now lives in Santiago, he tells me about how he tried to feed the local dogs one evening. “I had some leftover meat from lunch so I went down the street to give it to them”, he explains. “But then a woman came out and started shouting at me. Apparently she likes to feed these ones and they always get the best dog food. She thought my meat wasn’t good enough for them!”
The dogs happily stroll the streets like they own them, they sit underneath your table at al fresco restaurants, and they play with each other in the park. Someone (either residents or the government) has even built kennels in the main park so the animals have somewhere to sleep. The dog bowls in front of the kennels seemed to always be well-stocked.
It’s nice to see a community take such good care of their animals. Too often you see dogs and cats neglected or abused on the streets. I suppose it’s easy to just regard them as pests that a city would be better off without. But that says more about the people than the animals, doesn’t it?