Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Street Dog Story

A Street Dog Story in Temuco, Chile

Veterinaria Sevilla on Pablo Neruda in Temuco

Street dogs in Chile are just part of life here - at least that is the mindset. Some are well cared for by merchants or people in the neighborhood where they roam and make more street dogs. Some run in packs and menace people and pets. I was walking home from the grocery store here in Temuco today and a big white dog was hit by a car in front of the apartment we are renting. The car didn't stop, of course, why would they? Five people walked by as the dog dragged itself up onto the curb unable to use it's hind legs and twitching painfully. In the picture it looks like a healthy, well-fed dog sleeping. Neither is true.

I tossed the groceries in the kitchen and walked several blocks back to a veterinary office I saw close to the grocery store and explained what happened. Dr. Felipe Lara Gallardo and his assistant at the Sevilla Clinic walked back with me to look at the dog.

Dr. Felipe (left) and Asst. Angel carefully check the dog over on the curb where he crawled after being hit by a car.

Thankfully the dogs' spinal cord and limbs were not broken, but the spinal cord was injured and swollen. Dr. Felipe gave the dog a shot for pain and had his assistant bring a stretcher and we walked the dog to the clinic where he put in an IV of anti-inflamatory meds to bring down the swelling.

Dr. Felipe and Ange load the dog onto a stretcher for the three-block walk to the clinic.

My hand around the dogs back just below the ribs.

The dog will stay at Dr. Felipe's clinic for two days. I'll contribute some food tomorrow and see how it's going. Eventually, he will be released to run the streets and search for food again. Just like all the thousands of street dogs all over Chile.

I am so grateful to Dr. Felipe and his assistant Angel - for making a "house call" combined with a three-block stretcher ride, and medical care for this unwanted dog. I am also grateful because they didn't make me feel like a doofus for behaving differently than the numerous other folks who saw this happen, and walked on.

Note: This was not my dog. I made that clear to Dr. Felipe, and he asked for no money before coming to see the dog. His clinic is not state-of-the-art, and some animal lovers might cringe with his use of a rubber band to tie off the dogs leg to put in an IV, or his use of masking tape for securing the IV in the dogs leg. Or the old equipment and lack of equipment. Vets don't make much in Chile (or in other Latin American countries), but they still do it, and I have to guess it's for love of animals. I paid him for a consult and the medicines gladly. I know that part of the problem for taking care of street animals in Chile is that people don't have the disposable incomes to help out doing this, or to spay and neuter animals. But a big part of it is that, "It's just part of life in Chile". I wonder when they will get sick and tired of this being something they are known for...letting animals starve and be injured and die in their cities and towns. Chile is so advanced and cosmopolitan in so many ways, this is a black eye.

UPDATE: There are a couple of organizations in Chile, grassroots, dedicated volunteers who are working hard to change minds and hearts, and rescue animals. I don't have to look closely to know they don't have many resources or funds, but they are very active and dedicated. This particular organization is specifically in Temuco, however, later I will post more on their future goals...

Someone wrote me an email after reading about the dog and sent me this:

If you are on Facebook (isn't everybody in Chile on it?)
They are very active here. They also do stuff in the Plaza on Saturdays.

I went to facebook and wrote to Jonathan Jara who is listed there as a contact. He wrote back within an hour with this:

Dear Vicky:

Thanks for writing and for taking care of this dog-friend. I have to guess that you got my e-mail address from Felipe, which is fine. In fact we are friends from many years ago and I know he loves animals. I read the whole story there at your blog and I have to say you're right; that is the big picture of the current situation of abandoned cats and dogs in Chilean cities.

Our group is called 'Agrupación Protectora Canes y Felinos' and we take care of abandoned dogs and cats, as far as we can, since we are all volunteers. We don't have a shelter or any such thing, so dogs and cats we help many times have to stay at volunteers' houses for a few days until we get homes for them.

Well, we do many things to help them each day but we are focused in getting in touch and get agreements withas many public and private institutions we can to continue helping them. Our website is not completely functional at the moment, but you can still download our e-newsletter there (at the bottom of the page), the address is www.canesyfelinos.com . I invite you to visit it.

I'll try to get a provisional home for this dog, but I still need to know when is the deadline to take the dog out of the vet's. Is it on Friday??

Well if you have any ideas on how to help us or you would like to talk some more about the subject of abandoned animals, feel free to contact me to canes.felinos@hotmail.com or you can give me a call to : 8 - 271 36 48 (before 7PM)

Best regards, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Jonathan Jara

Jonathan wrote later and added this:

Dear Vicky:

Theres no problem in you posting the letter. In fact, one of my personal interests is that the subject of animal regulation laws is discussed and widespread in the community, so that politicians take regular people's opinion on the subject. I would appreciate more people interacting and taking action on the matter.

Could I get contact info of (deleted), if it is possible? it is important to be in touch. Santiago is organized, but I think southern animal helping groups should be in touch and organised too. The group ' Albergando un amigo' from Puerto Montt was one of the main actors in the rescue of abandoned dogs in Chaitén, but all TV coverage and general coordination came from Santiago. We should be able to take on such work on our own in the future.

I'll do my best to get a home for this dog, unfortunately I can't promise that I will actually get one, given the current situation (all provisory homes are full of dogs).

Let me know how everything goes with Felipe. I'll try to reach him on the phone during the afternoon.

Thanks again for taking care of this dog-friend. I hope to continue in touch.

Best regards,


[UPDATED HERE to include the other post about the White Dog]

The dog is allegedly doing better, and he is so big and intriguing looking. He's been sedated a bit, and doesn't seem to respond much to me. Frankly, the old guy is just ready for an old folks home. I have to admit that I've fallen in love with him. I'm a sucker for sweet, old men. I am hoping that Jonathan Jara with the local humane society can find a "provisional" home for him in the next several days. As tough as he is, I don't think he would do well even if I could take him on the trip back to Futalandia. Eight hours from here to the ship that would take us another eight hours to Chaiten, then another four to Futa. While my heart hurts to leave him, my head knows it is unrealistic, and it would not be fair to him, or to me.

Nothing wrong with his eye, he's just getting some really great pain killers

My mother and her round-table of dog-lover friends compiled a list of names for the dog. Here they are:
Canall 9 gaelic for Strong Wolf
Fuerte Lobo (also Strong Wolf - Spanish
Mr Fuzzy

Very sweet! I can't pick! But I'm hoping that someone will adopt this brute and give him some name. I have avoided naming him because when you name a critter, you own them. We've had Chief, a boxer Greg had for almost 13 years. He died of old age. We had Stinky, who was the mother of all street dogs. She died from a poisonous snake bite in Panama, and then Max, who went out of his mind and had to be put to sleep. Alfie the cat ran away, and Minky is at the vet's house in Futa. She doesn't care who houses her, so I feel confident she will be just as pleased when we come back, as not!

Please support Spay and Neuter programs. Please support Humane Societies in your area. Please thank those local vets who donate time to organizations that help promote responsible pet ownership.


June 2nd, Greg and I took a walk to the veterinarian clinic to check up on the White Dog, which we decided should aptly be named Andes after choosing from the list my mothers friends compiled. It felt good to name the old guy and know that he passed on not being nameless after all. He had developed kidney and liver failure, and all of the terrible complications and hurts that go with it. Considering his age, there really was no other logical conclusion but to put the old guy asleep and let him be out of pain. It's never easy. And even had the vet told me that first day on the street when he looked at Andes that it was the best thing, I would have been just as difficult and sad. I do feel good that he had a chance, had there been one. I also feel good that other people several thousands of miles, and several countries away shared this street dog story with me, and cared enough to think up a name for him.

There doesn't always have to be a lesson in stories and incidents that happen in our lives. But if there is one in this story, it is that it truly does matter if you do something to make a difference. Doesn't matter if the story doesn't end as you wished it, it is just when not knowing the ending, you reached out and did it anyway. It is that in those moments when you have a second to decide on an action, you do what you think is right instead of thinking it through..."maybe I should walk on and not get involved...", or "this dog isn't going to make it anyway..." or "someone else will probably carry that old lady's bags". And no one does, and everyone walks on.

I had truly hoped that Andes would recover and make a wonderful pet for some family. Live whatever remaining time he had snuggled under a warm wood stove with someones toes working into his fur. I appreciate all the good thoughts and concerns from the Weim Ladies. And to Jonathan Jara who took the time to translate for me, and who does un-thinking acts of kindness each and everyday. And Dr. Felipe.

Now everytime I look out onto the snow-capped Andes, it will have an additional meaning. Soar on you old dog, Andes!


ResidentExpat said...

NICEST STORY I've heard today! Thank you for sharing.

Thank you also for stopping and doing something about it.


Vicki Lansen said...

Thanks Res. I have so many thoughts about the street dog situation that I can't keep them all straight. Especially when so many children go without basic medical and dental care. I guess it's just a "do what you can as you see it situation".

Vicki Lansen said...

I hate that I can't edit my bad spelling and punctuation...bad enough I miss it on my posts, but here it's utterly cut in stone!

bdwillet said...

Hi Vicki,

Great to hear what you did with that nice, friendly looking dog. I have the opposite story in Nueve Imperial a couple of years ago, but that's another story. Temuco does have a Protectora. I went to one of their first meeting in Temuco. They seem pretty active:



Sara said...

That's a sweet story. When I was Chiloe I saw a puppy get hit by a car. At that time, I was an ideological study abroad student with a group of similarly minded students. We yelled at the car who did it, but because we were tourists we didnt know what to do. A lady came out of her house and took the puppy inside with her. He was still alive and hopefully okay, just jarred.

Anonymous said...

Glad you were there, Vicki :-).

> Vets don't make much in Chile (or > in other Latin American countries)

Really? My poor sick (1.5 year old) cat has cost me 200 lucas in the past month :-(.


Vicki Lansen said...

Hi James. I understand what you are saying, but people who can afford 200 lucas - I think - are few and far between. Maybe I should say that people who SPEND 200 lucas on a pet are few and far between.

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