It’s time to stop playing dumb

In June, when G and I decided to get Obi neutered, I wrote a blog about the constant reactions I received from MANY (and I mean almost ALL) Chileans with whom we shared our decision to neuter. I surrendered to the fact that my role as a responsible pet owner was once again more proof to Chileans that I was a “bicho raro” (odd duck) and that my poor proper Chilean husband must be the “pobrecito” (poor guy) who had no choice but to let his gringa wife have her way with their little pooch. (Incidentally, this is just one of many examples of gringa wife = bicho raro, Chilean husband = probrecito.) I must have given the speech about the benefits of sterilization dozens and dozens of times and of course, this was met with resistant, then skeptical eyes. In the end I always found myself frustrated and concluding “It’s what we do where I’m from.” It seems that was the only acceptable response that Chileans would accept. “Oooooh, right. It’s a Gringo thing. You crazy, Gringos.” The fact of the matter is that Obi was neutered, yeah it hurt and he was uncomfortable, but almost three months post-op he’s fine! Here’s proof, my dear skeptical Chileans:

Obi lounging in the sun 3 weeks post-surgery.

Obi next to his BFF, Toyotomi, 4 weeks post surgery.

Obi playing in Parque Bicentenario 5 weeks post-surgery.

Obi two weeks ago displaying his deep appreciation for his new toy from Brazil.

I told you guys he’d be fine. And despite one of the RIDICULOUS reasons that many Chileans still hold on to as reasons for not sterilizing their pets, I don’t think he understands the notion that he’ll “never be a father” because, oh, he’s A DOG!

Anyway, the point of of this blog is this: after some researching and reading, I’ve come to learn that there are many entities and people in Chile who actually favor the notion of responsible pet ownership. And because of this, I’ve decided that anyone who gives me ridiculous reasons for not doing so (an example of said ridiculousness noted above), will automatically be labeled as ignorant in my book. Call me extreme, call me rude, call me intolerant. I disagree with all three because the fact of the matter is that Chile, whether behind the times or not, is actually well aware of the need to be responsible … it just seems that said knowledge needs to spread to the masses via communication and education.

Here are links to various interesting articles and websites regarding the topic of the stray animal population and the programs available to help dog owners be the best owners possible to their little furry family members:

  • Sterilization programs in various comunas of Santiago (link)
  • Article on the root of the stray animal over-population in Chile and why sterilization is better than elimination (link)
  • Article on the Canine Sterilization Center in Osorno, Chile (link)
  • Article on initiative to fine those who feed street animals in Valparaiso, Chile. Note that this initiative has since been suspended. (link)
  • Financial Statement and information on campaign to save animals post February’s earthquake “No los dejes atrás, ellos también son víctimas.” (link)
  • The rights granted to animals in Chile (link)

The fact of the matter is that right now the everyday reality I encounter in Chile shows that many people have got to get their act together on the topic of pets and the animal over-population in Chile’s streets. But I have hope for the younger generations because Chileans are a smart bunch, savvy in many ways, forward-thinkers and progressive. Yet in so many ways, also quite antiquated (believe me, G and I run into people OUR AGE who still view the concept of “me man, work – woman, home good) and responsible pet ownership is one of those concepts that continues to just float about without any real place in the culture.

Case in point: G and I took Obi and his kids to Parque Bicentenario last Sunday, where we found ourselves in the midst of the “tiki-tiki-ti” (Independence Day) celebrations and park bustling with stands, activities, rides for the kids and people everywhere. Inside the area designated for pets to run around without leashes, there was a woman who was there with her own bulldog for the first time. We got to talking and in the next five minutes, I about keeled over in astonishment realizing that:

  1. her bulldog was running around like crazy, something she thought was “great” since he spent so much time during the week indoors.
  2. she didn’t have water and because her bully was so thirsty, he was foaming at the mouth
  3. she didn’t have baggies to clean up after him, which was a problem when he suddenly stopped running to proceed to throw up due to over exertion.

Yeah this woman had a bulldog that had been gifted to her and yeah, she seemed to think he was great but the problem was apparent: she was pretty irresponsible as a bulldog owner. 1) bulldogs literally, physically cannot run around for long periods of times, even if they want to. There are many health reasons that back this up which I won’t get into here but any proper bulldog owner would know this even by simple means of something called the INTERNET. 2) Bulldogs are drastically (almost annoyingly) sensitive to the heat and sun, even if it’s not that hot. As a result, when outside, in the sun, an owner must ALWAYS have with him/her some water for the little piggy to drink. They get thirsty and they get thirsty fast. Obi can chug 2 liters of water like it’s nobody’s business on a typical park outing. 3) an owner of a dog (or cat) should be pretty aware of the cues that indicate that their pet is not doing well, in a similar fashion that a mother or father would be attuned to their kid all of a sudden feeling sick. At the very least, notice that you dog is not over exerted so that the poor little guy doesn’t throw up?

Needless to say I almost b*tch slapped the woman for being so dumb and for being so oblivious. I immediately took the opportunity to point all of this out to G’s daughter and told her the following “Having a pet is a responsibility and if you’re going to have a special breed like a bulldog, you need to make sure you know the dog’s limitations so that he can live a happy life.” Even G’s daughter, who is 8, understood that bulldogs can’t run around for extended periods of time.

I don’t know if it’s the culture or if it’s Chile’s obsessive focus on the children’s welfare that makes for the myopic view of topics regarding animals (and the environment, while we’re at it!) Maybe it’s neither and it’s just a geographic obstacle, in that Chile is literally so far away from so many other “developed” countries and that it’s surrounded by geographic barriers (Andes and Pacific Ocean) that the information and tendencies are delayed? Or perhaps it’s none of the above. In any case, if there are people as dumb as those who reprimand me for neutering Obi and people like the woman mentioned above who didn’t have the slightest idea of what it meant to be a bulldog owner, I believe that times are changing and Chile is evolving when it comes to animal rights and education to the masses on the responsibility of pet ownership. It’s time for the masses to stop playing dumb regarding the topic of responsible pet-ownership and the topic of the over-population of dogs and cats in the country. If parents-to-be educate themselves on all things involving children and newborns, if someone who’s about to buy a car will read every article and book about how to care for the car so as to assure it’s longevity, if people study the last financial statement of a company they are interviewing with in order to gain a competitive advantage in the interview process, what would it take for these same people to learn a bit more about the benefits of protecting and enriching the lives of animals?

I wonder.

Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. ~George Orwell, Animal Farm

Ever occur to you why some of us can be this much concerned with animals suffering? Because government is not. Why not? Animals don’t vote. ~Paul Harvey

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. ~Bradley Millar

Here’s an epilogue to ponder:
I never used to be so aware of animals and especially dogs. But ever since I moved to Chile and realized how animals are regarded, both the good and the bad, and became a pet owner myself, I have found that I am quite adamant on the topic of proper pet responsibility and education. In fact, I’m more adamant about pets than I am about children, as controversial as that may sound. I don’t have kids, I have a dog. And in Chile, as well as everywhere else, there about 100 times more people fighting for the rights of children than there are those remotely concerned about dogs and animals. Things will shift when I have kids, I’m sure. But that just means that my focus will then be balanced between kids and dogs and by no means, will that ever mean that my focus on dogs will falter.

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5 thoughts on “It’s time to stop playing dumb

  1. What a good post! When I was on exchange in valparaíso i volunteered with a NGO that was for the protection of animals – which includes sterlization AND domestication. We worked with vets to take dogs off the streets and neuter them so they would live happily without reproducing. The NGO also has co-ops with vets for disounted services and vaccinations plus we would take sick strays, make them better, and then families would adopt them. A great cause – stand your ground and tell people what´s up with neutering your dog!!

  2. When I visited Chile 12 years ago with my Chilean born then fiance, now husband, we were both shocked at the stray dog issue there. It clearly is a problem. My Chilean father in law who has lived in the US for some time, actually brought several stray dogs to be put to sleep because they were in such bad shape, during one of his trips there. I don't know if it is a gringo thing or not, but the treatment of strays is certainly different.

  3. it's so important that we talk about these things – thanks for doing such a thorough post…i've been thinking, maybe you ought to do your blog posts in English and Spanish and then + Chileans woudl read them! i love obi, he's so cute. i'm all about responsible pet ownership – i'm also all about adopting strays (baby was a nearly dead stray when i adopted her)- i'm super proud of all the gringas in chile who have also adopted strays…though i understand that it's nice to have a nice breed of dog, it's also important to take care of the pobrecitos out on the streets. the only place i saw that horrified me more than santiago was buenos aires …EVERY SINGLE park that i went into was FULL of stray cats… it's such a problem that there were signs out in the parks asking people to stop dropping cats off in the parks. why do people think that leaving a poor kitty w/o food/shelter in a park is humane while getting said kitty neutered is so horrible? i guess in the US we just have the luxury (?) of caring more about pets while + developing countries have bigger concerns? no se. but it's super upsetting.

  4. I think in part, it might be a money thing as well. IE a family that's not so well off takes in a stray because it's a cheap way to get a pet for the kids, but then they decide that they can't afford to neuter/spay him/her.

    I've definitely made my fair share of puppy parenting mistakes, I'm sure. But I at least try. If my furball was vomiting at the park, you better believe I'd be all over that shit googling and trying to figure out what was wrong with her!

  5. Andrea, you've got a point there, but I don't think those who don't know how to take care of a pet are everyone, not even the majority. They're just the ones who draw the most attention.
    In my case what strikes me the most is the large number of dog owners who unleash their pets in parks where "dogs must be at a leash at all times" signs are all over the place.
    Or things like this: two weeks ago I was sitting in the Parque Araucano with my kids, who were playing by a small fountain in the middle of a garden of roses (no roses yet). There was a sign in the fountain that said something like "dogs not allowed, there are chemicals in the water that can harm them". Suddenly a woman showed up with a big dirty dog that jumped into the fountain, scared the kids away, bathed and drank for a big while and walked away with his happy owner. As we say here, ¡Plop!

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