Dogs, dogs, dogs

Although I am speaking from a position of extreme ignorance, given I've been in the continent only three weeks and have no knowledge of the mental state of dogs, I would like to suggest that dogs in Peru and Chile are some of the most cheerful in the world. They aren't eaten (as in Vietnam and other places), and they aren't unloved mangy curs with three legs and sores, ready to bite passing tourists (Bali, Thailand). They aren't tortured as in some places in the Middle East. They aren't kept chained up or left unhappily while their owners go out to work. Instead, dogs here appear relatively healthy, and placid and friendly - no grumpy growling or barking as humans go past. Unpampered certainly, and mostly ungroomed, but not unfed. (I stress this is my opinion - I have no scientific support for this view). What is without doubt, however, is that they are free to roam - and appear to enjoy that freedom. OK, sometimes the close contact with traffic isn't ideal for their longevity. But like children in them good ol' days before TV, internet and over-anxious parents, dogs here seem to spend their days cruising, hanging out with friends, stretching out in the sun, watching the world go by from a doorway. It looks like a good life. Reminds me of Hairy Maclary: "Out of the gate and off for a walk". Which would get any dog in Auckland a speedy trip to the pound.

Peru adds a new element to the dog mix - hairless dogs. Relatively hideous to the untrained eye, with their wrinkled skin and sometimes a mohawk, as with the one at the top of the page, this breed dates back to pre-Inca times - you see them on centuries-old ceramics.  They were on the verge of extinction a couple of decades ago, when an Italian-born dog expert named Ermanno Maniero decided they were worth saving and dedicated considerable time persuading Peruvians they were not only beautiful, but could help with health problems like asthma. (Apparently cuddling up with a hairless dog is recommended when you are sick.) 

Interestingly, now the hairless dogs seem often to be the pampered ones - nattily dressed in a little coat, (or less attractively in a baby's vest). I would find it hard to love a hairless dog, I think, but then I'm not a dog devotee. Judge for yourself.