Dogs have been a part of our lives for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that almost no matter where you go, people have dogs around them. Across the world, the role of canines is evolving more and more from working animals into companions (and in many cases, dogs serve both roles simultaneously).
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a number of countries, and I’ve found that the “dog culture” of a city or country says a lot about the values and economic standing of a place. Here is a roundup of some of my most memorable experiences with dogs in Latin America.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo is a cozy “hippie” surf town on the east coast of Costa Rica. This is where I met a number of beach dogs who cozied up to me. They appeared well fed and groomed, so I’m not sure if they were collectively owned by the townspeople or simply belonged to owners who let them roam. At any rate, they seemed content to hang out with me and watch the waves roll in.
I was surprised by the number of dogs in sweaters that I encountered in Lima. While there, I stayed close to the boardwalk in the most affluent part of the city, so I’m sure this contributed to the local pups’ impeccable fashion sense. I visited in winter; the climate was humid and temperatures ranged in the low 50s to 60s (not necessarily sweater weather for pups living in more temperate climates of Europe and North America). Whether the sweaters were necessary or not, the dogs were certainly entertaining to see.
Also, if you’re a cat lover, Parque Kennedy, or the “cat park,” is not to be missed. Here, you’ll encounter resident felines sprawled out in the grass and ignoring their human admirers. If you make it here, don’t forget to check out the “man’s best friend” mural across the street.
Salkantay Trail, Peru
I did a four-day hike through the Andes and Amazon totaling more than 70 miles and was amazed that one brave dog followed us through the first three days of the trek. On our third day, in the middle of the jungle, we stopped for a snack at a trail-side rest stop. Here, a puppy approached my group. I was missing my own dogs and so I engaged with the dog, which appeared to be about 6 months old. This was a bad idea because the pup was in its biting phase. It relentlessly play bit me until I eventually had to grab it by the nape of its neck and firmly say “no.” This didn’t deter the dog, however, as it came back to nip me again. We eventually had to pour some water on the poor dog to get it to leave me alone.
Puebla’s dogs also seemed to have their fair share of sweaters. I visited in May, which was fairly cool. Also of note for dog lovers visiting Puebla: Museo Amparo, located near the city center, has its share of pre-Columbian dog artifacts.
Cusco has a lot of neighborhood dogs, but most aren’t strays. It’s more culturally acceptable to let your dogs roam the streets (or so I was told by a tour guide). I stayed in the city for about a week and greeted the same good ol’ dogs as I returned to my hostel each night. Sometimes they’d find a canine neighbor to wrestle with. One rainy day, a buck-toothed dog decided to take a seat under my legs while I was sitting in the park.
So there you have it. These are just some of the dogs I’ve met while traveling. Do you have any memorable experiences with dogs during your travels in your home country or abroad?